8 minute read 21 Nov 2022
Women seeing glass

Quantum computing: 5 steps to take now

Authors
Beatriz Sanz Sáiz

EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader

Game-changer, thought leader in analytics and customer centricity. Named a Top Talent Executive Under 40 by AMROP, IESE and Royal House. Mom, film lover, champion for women in tech and the workforce.

Richard Watson

EY Global and Asia-Pacific Cybersecurity Consulting Leader

Public speaker. Trusted advisor on cyber risk and digital trust. Golfer, traveler and dad.

Piotr Ciepiela

EY Global Consulting Cyber Architecture, Engineering & Emerging Technology Leader

Industry leader in business-oriented critical infrastructure protection. Innovator, believer of “from thought to finish” approach. Father of two.

8 minute read 21 Nov 2022

Quantum computing promises to transform the world. Organizations are moving now to harness quantum and assess its opportunities and risks.

In brief
  • The accelerated and enhanced computational power of quantum is revolutionizing a range of use cases, from clinical trials to inner city transportation systems.
  • Some critical forms of cryptography will be vulnerable to quantum. Savvy organizations are assessing their potential exposure to quantum cyber hacking now.

Quantum computing is poised to be a leading driver of global transformation within the next five to 10 years, with 81% of UK businesses already anticipating widespread industry disruption from quantum by 2030, according to the EY Quantum Readiness Survey 2022.

This pace may surprise some, considering quantum’s current lack of maturity, but with the combination of recent quantum successes and a clearer path toward commercialization, it has vast transformative potential.

Quantum disruption

81%

of UK businesses anticipate disruption from quantum by 2030.

For example, quantum is already surpassing the most advanced conventional supercomputers for specific use cases, solving problems that would take binary devices thousands, if not millions of years to process. The technology will not only help solve challenges currently beyond our reach, but it will also open completely new and previously unimagined areas of science and commerce.

“The most exciting aspect of quantum computing is that it has the potential to touch at the very heart of every sector,” says Beatriz Sanz Saiz, EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader. “Quantum may not be here at scale yet and there is still much that is not completely understood, but nevertheless, powerful use-cases are emerging almost every day.”

Quantum is set to disrupt the global economy in areas that are not only ripe for change, but are already attracting start-up activity, significant preliminary investment and the growth of ecosystems of quantum partners. 

The most exciting aspect of quantum computing is that it has the potential to touch at the very heart of every sector.
Beatriz Sanz Saiz
EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader

In this article, we will explore some quantum use cases already reshaping several industries. We will also discuss the five steps leaders should take to prepare for the quantum revolution.

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Chapter 1

Three use cases that are already starting to realize quantum’s huge potential

Several industries are using quantum computing to optimize processes and reach new markets.

Healthcare, life sciences and pharmaceuticals industries

Healthcare, life sciences and pharmaceutical industries are restricted by clinical trials processes that protect patient well-being, but are also expensive and slow time-to-market.

Quantum’s potential to simulate complex systems and processes could fast-track clinical trials, helping to deliver new products and treatments more quickly and improving patient outcomes in a more cost-effective manner. A recent collaboration between Quantum Computing (QCI) and IPQ Analytics, for example, did exactly that, resulting in a new technique that enhances the efficiency and outcomes of clinical trials and diagnostics.[i]

Piotr Ciepiela, EY Global Consulting Cyber Architecture, Engineering and Emerging Technology Leader, lists clinical trials alongside drug discovery, disease prediction, gene sequencing and patient diagnosis as just some of the areas ripe for exploitation by quantum.

“We won’t necessarily use quantum to create a digital twin of a human, at least not yet, but there will be an opportunity to simulate key systems within the human body — for example the immune system,” says Ciepiela. “It may then be possible to test the efficacy and potential side effects of new drugs using that digital simulation and do this faster than conventional clinical trials and with reduced risk.”

It may then be possible [with quantum] to test the efficacy and potential side effects of new drugs using that digital simulation and do this faster than conventional clinical trials and with reduced risk.
Piotr Ciepiela
EY Global Consulting Cyber Architecture, Engineering and Emerging Technology Leader

Quantum’s ability to analyze multiple scenarios simultaneously also promises to speed up research into high-impact diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s, HIV or AIDS, Alzheimer’s, malaria and cardiovascular disease. 

Logistics, supply chain and travel

When it comes to route optimization, quantum’s ability to run multiple calculations at the same time makes it a perfect fit for logistics, supply chain and travel industries.

While conventional computers analyze each possible route between set points one-at-a-time until they identify the best option, quantum computers can analyze all paths simultaneously, flagging the best route available in a fraction of the time.

The world’s first quantum route optimization pilot project is already underway in Lisbon, Portugal, where a D-Wave quantum computer is being used to calculate the fastest route for nine of the city’s buses between 26 stops. The quantum computer constantly monitors traffic conditions and other variables and generates individual routes for each of the nine vehicles in near-real-time between the 26 stops.

The algorithm also predicts and factors in passenger numbers, adding temporary links to the buses’ scheduled services to serve stops with the greatest demand.

Lisbon’s quantum route optimization pilot has been designed in a fully scalable way, so that it can be transferred to any city and used by vehicle fleets of any size. For example, the use-case could also be extended to optimize final-mile parcel delivery, fleet operators and taxi services.

The emergence of autonomous vehicles opens the possibility of entire smart-city traffic networks managed and optimized by quantum computers. The benefits could include reduced congestion, improved energy efficiency and sustainability at great scale, and a step-change in road-user safety.

Meanwhile, in the wider field of logistics, quantum could help organizations double down on their efforts to meet customer demand while minimizing total supply chain costs. This could include ensuring assets are in the optimum location, maximize the simultaneous preparation of shipments and further enhance predictive ordering to speed up final-mile delivery.

The emergence of quantum cloud services, such as Amazon Braket, could prove to be a powerful tool for companies looking for similar end-point solutions to complex challenges around autonomous transport, logistics, smart-city design or any data-heavy use case involving solutions with a massive range of permutations.

The financial sector: banking, asset and wealth management 

“We can expect banking, wealth and asset management industries to be completely disrupted by quantum computing,” says Sanz Saiz. “The sector already relies heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning, but quantum will take these and other computing capabilities to a whole new level.”

The financial sector has already identified quantum use-cases in the following three areas:

  • Risk profiling: Financial institutions face increasing demands from regulators to balance risk, hedge their trading positions and stress test their activity to achieve compliance. However, existing simulations, using conventional computers, have a wide margin for error. Quantum computing promises greater precision, faster simulation and the ability to test a significantly wider spread of outcomes at speed.
  • Trading optimization: Asset and wealth managers can expect to use quantum to optimize their clients’ investment portfolio mix thanks to the technology’s ability to process large and previously unwieldy data sets. In an increasingly complex trading environment, they will also be able to harness quantum to understand and factor in real-life variables, such as market volatility, and then simulate large numbers of scenarios to accurately estimate predicted returns. 
  • Personalization: It’s estimated that a quarter of financial institutions lose clients because they are unable to tailor their offering to the individual. Understanding customer needs in real time, however, is a daunting challenge and the analytical models and data processing required are huge. Quantum computing promises to be a game changer thanks to its superior ability to identify and extrapolate patterns in complex customer behavior data to predict individual customer needs.
  •  Financial crime detection: Quantum could also be used to detect the tell-tale data patterns and transaction flows associated with corporate and financial fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. Fraud detection systems remain highly inaccurate, returning 80% false positives, causing financial institutions to be overly risk averse. To help ensure proper credit scoring, the customer onboarding process can take as long as 12 weeks. 
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Chapter 2

Managing the cybersecurity threat

Along with its advantages for companies, quantum could grow cybersecurity risks.

While not all cryptography will be vulnerable to quantum, some critical forms will be at risk. In fact, there is a real risk that hackers have already started to intercept and retain encrypted data so that they can decrypt and exploit this information when quantum computing is readily available.

Within three to seven years, quantum computers will be able to crack the algorithms behind the encryption keys that protect our data and the internet’s infrastructure.
Richard Watson
EY Global and Asia- Pacific Cybersecurity Consulting Leader

The guidance from Richard Watson, EY Global and Asia- Pacific Cybersecurity Consulting Leader  is stark. “Within three to seven years, quantum computers will be able to crack the algorithms behind the encryption keys that protect our data and the internet’s infrastructure,” he says. “Quantum computers will also successfully use trial-and-error 'brute-force' attacks to crack the passwords and login credentials for corporate networks.”

The RSA algorithm, for example, provides encryption for much of the $4 trillion e-commerce industry. It relies on the fact that the product of two prime numbers is difficult to factorize. It would take conventional computers trillions of years to break RSA encryption. Within the next decade, however, there are likely to be quantum computers capable of cracking the code in just seconds.

“The EY organization is targeting the cybersecurity risks associated with quantum right now, both internally and externally,” says Watson. “It has already signed alliance agreements with a network of quantum cybersecurity start-ups and is having active conversations with clients, predominantly from the financial services sector.”

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Chapter 3

Actions: five steps leaders should take to become quantum ready

Leaders should act now to position their companies for quantum success.

1. Explore the intersection of quantum and strategic business goals

Managing strategic business transformation with classical digital technologies can be hard enough without adding quantum computing into the mix. While it is important for business leaders to think about the impact of quantum computing in isolation, attention should also be focused on the intersection with organizational imperatives, such as environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG), talent and the future of work, and ongoing digital transformation. 

2. Assess your organization’s readiness

Leaders should create a pilot team — preferably reporting to the board — to gauge where quantum computing could enhance future products, services and business operations; the maturity of current ecosystem relationships; and availability of relevant skills.

3. Strengthen cyber defences

Organizations are advised to start the process of assessing their potential exposure to quantum cyber hacking now, according to Watson. He says this process involves identifying high-value assets, establishing where they are located, understanding what these assets are used for and how they are stored and transmitted. Equipped with this information, organizations are then able to plan the best way to deploy quantum-resilient encryption technology – protecting at-risk, high-value assets first.

4. Develop a quantum ecosystem of partners

Considering the cost, complexity and speed of quantum’s evolution, organizations are well advised to tap into this fluid landscape and develop their own partnership ecosystems in order to successfully develop their quantum play. Close working with trusted third parties will ensure organizations are quantum aware and quantum ready during what is expected to be the dawn of an exciting new era of computing.

5. Scan the horizon for quantum disruption

The future of quantum is still uncertain. To deal with this ambiguity, organizations can monitor the broader societal, technological, economic, environmental and political landscape for signals of progress and disruption. Technical developments and breakthroughs in quantum computing are often reported in the technical and trade press, and experiments carried out by competitors may be announced in corporate press releases. Analyst firms provide comprehensive views of the quantum landscape and ecosystem, and technology partners and suppliers can provide bulletins and training relating to their own capability. 

Summary

Quantum computing is set to transform every sector of the economy – to an extent that is not entirely predictable. Among the many innovations accelerated by quantum are risks, including greater cyber threats and industry disruption. The best way to harness quantum’s benefits and prepare for its risks is to act early and take decisive, collaborative action.