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IBM Quantum Is Helping Businesses Prep For A Quantum-Powered Future

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Stephanie Ricci contributed to this story.

Though quantum technology has been developing for some decades now, its emergence from laboratories to the market is gradually coming into existence.

Leading the way toward the future of computing is IBM Quantum, which has been the leading innovator in the quantum computing ecosystem. While there is still much work to be done, this emerging technology is gradually getting closer to radically transforming the world of business.

“It’s like science fiction come to life,” says Scott Crowder, Vice President of IBM Quantum Adoption and Business Development.

Crowder first got into quantum computing when he became the chief technical officer at IBM Systems in 2015. At the time, there was no such thing as a quantum coder or quantum developer, and among his tasks was keeping an eye out for emerging tech.

“If you wanted to use a quantum computer, you had to build it yourself,” he recalls.

With $35.5 billion in government and business investment globally, the technology is bolstering, and its potential across industries is unprecedented.

So, how is quantum computing different from classical computers?

“A quantum computer uses completely different information science than classical,” says Crowder. “It’s not just faster than a regular computer, it uses quantum mechanics to do computation.”

While classical computer bits store information as either a 0 or 1, quantum computers use qubits, subatomic particles that can exist in more than one state at once. And so, every qubit added to a system doubles the number of states in an equation. Quantum power scales exponentially, whereas classical computer power can only increase linearly.

This means that quantum computers may be able to scan through a tremendous number of possibilities for potential solutions to a problem much more efficiently than their traditional counterparts.

“The quantum computer with 260 to 270 qubits would have the same number of states as the number of atoms in the known universe,” said Crowder.

IBM, which first announced its roadmap to achieving large-scale practical quantum computing in 2020 and delivered each of its targets on its timeline, currently operates more than 20 quantum computers, with its largest system at 127 qubits. According to Crowder, this represents more than could hold the world’s largest supercomputer.

Earlier this year, the company unveiled its updated roadmap which outlines plans for new modular architectures and networking, allowing its quantum systems to have up to hundreds of thousands of qubits.

Part of its main goals is to simplify the technology and guide business leaders in understanding quantum computing, so they may position themselves effectively to leverage its industry potential once the technology comes of age.

“Our industry partners are understanding what practices the technology will have and building their skills to get there,” says Crowder.

However, diversity issues persist in this field and the talent shortage may be a barrier to a quantum breakthrough.

The World Economic Forum’s State of Quantum Computing: Building a Quantum Economy recent report reveals a quantum skills shortage despite the global excitement over the technology’s possibilities.

The study also found that more than half of quantum companies are currently hiring and struggling to find people with the right skills for new positions in an emerging market.

But according to Crowder, this represents an opportunity to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the field.

“We have a really interesting opportunity here to leverage the coolness of quantum to pull in a new workforce in STEM that represents more of the global diversity,” he says.

According to him, the nascent technology could also allow a clear path toward tackling the climate crisis.

For example, DaimlerChrysler–Mitsubishi has partnered with IBM to explore quantum computing for battery chemistry, while Boeing is looking at optimizing composite materials through quantum, says Crowder.

“Industry is engaging with us today because they see that this computational method could have massive impacts to them in reducing their cost, time, or to develop new materials,” he says. “All of that has direct applicability for climate change.”