• Alexander Rau, Author |
4 min read

​If you’re still thinking of quantum computing as a dream of science fiction, it’s time to take a closer look. Around the globe, tech leaders and innovators are continuously honing quantum computing technologies that will profoundly alter how we process, understand and share data. The potential for quantum computers to transform industries and reshape lives cannot be overstated—and nor can the security risks they pose if they are wielded in bad faith.

Quantum computers leverage the principle of quantum superpositioning—that is, the ability of subatomic particles to exist in multiple states until measured—to solve complex problems in the blink of an eye and hold vastly more information than traditional computing devices. The science alone is fascinating, as are the implications. Yet for all the good this massive leap in computing will bring to the world, the technology also has the power to give cyber attackers a seismic edge over organizations that haven’t factored quantum computing into their cyber posture.

Consider the possibilities. On one side of the coin, quantum computing can solve immensely complex mathematical problems, accelerate the development of vital medications and vaccines, vastly enhance financial modelling, and take our ability to share and communicate to new levels. Conversely, bad actors will no doubt wield the power of quantum computing to make short work of our digital defences, leaving organizations open to debilitating cyber attacks or jeopardizing public safety and security.

Closing the gap

As quantum computing products and services begin to find their place within Canada's industries, it will be vital for organizations to gain awareness of both the opportunities and threats they will bring. A recent KPMG in Canada poll of both Canadian and American companies offers some insights into how organizational leaders, data scientists and IT directors currently regard both factors. The results indicate a need for Canadian organizations to catch up to our global peers.

For one, we’re only moderately attuned to the power of quantum computing. While almost 60 per cent of Canadian respondents to our poll say their organization clearly understands the benefits that quantum computing offers, not all of them (only 58 per cent) are intrigued about its potential for their organizations. As for the inherent risks, 55 per cent of Canadian respondents say they have fully assessed the risks that quantum computing poses on their organizations, and only 53 per cent believe they are prepared to handle those risks. By comparison, awareness rates among the poll’s US respondents indicate a substantially higher acknowledgement of the positive and potentially threatening impacts that quantum computing poses.

Consider our domestic adoption rates, as well. Only 16 per cent of the Canadian companies we polled currently leverage quantum computing or quantum computing simulators in some capacity, while a third (30 per cent) are still designing their quantum computing strategy and more than half have yet to take their first steps. Here again, adoption and usage rates among US respondents are nearly double that of Canadian organizations, and our willingness to invest in quantum computing technologies in the near future is equally lagging.

Still, these numbers are only a snapshot in time. And while they may indicate a reluctance on Canada’s part to embrace quantum computing right now, there are strong signs that these attitudes will change. After all, in recent years we’ve seen the rise of quantum computing hubs across the country. We’ve also seen quantum computing innovations find their way into the operations and back offices of an increasing number of companies. At KPMG, we’ve been actively working with clients on quantum risk assessments and educating management and Boards, as well as working with our strategic alliance partners to launch quantum-inspired optimization projects in sectors such as finance and telecom.

True, we may be trailing our US peers, but there’s reason to believe Canada is intent on closing the gap.

Making the leap

Bringing quantum computing into the mainstream is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are real barriers holding Canadian companies back. These include a lack of in-house skills and capabilities, compelling use-case samples, and buy-in from C-suites and Boards. Costs and lack of access to quantum hardware—either on-premises or via cloud computing—also stand in the way for some. But these barriers can, and will, be overcome as awareness builds and Canada's homegrown quantum computing innovations and advancements begin to make their mark.

Ready or not, quantum computing is en route to impacting your organization. You may be the one expected to leverage quantum’s advantages, or perhaps you’re tasked with defending against bad actors. Either way, start with a fundamental acknowledgment: this isn’t a dream, and your success depends on a willingness to form a quantum computing game plan and begin executing that plan as soon as possible. The race is on. Let’s not get left in the dust.

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