The promise of quantum computing's unprecedented power has yet to be fully realized but this once-futuristic concept continues to demonstrate its potential as a true game-changer for businesses and society.

As quantum computing matures, interest and investment in its remarkable capabilities are growing. Early adopters include organizations in finance, healthcare, telecommunications, energy, logistics, pharma, government and the defence.

Global positioning systems, magnetic resonance imaging in healthcare, and evolving laser-based technologies today rely on the capabilities of the first quantum revolution. As advances continue, the first quantum revolution is merging with the second quantum revolution, where new applications and capabilities are unlocked. In some countries, for example, 5G networks are being protected by quantum solutions.

The emerging quantum-computing industry has made enormous advances in recent years and as more organizations focus on what quantum can deliver, the global market is expected to hit US$50 billion by the end of this decade.1

According to KPMG research, an overwhelming majority of businesses say the quantum-computing journey is now on their agendas. Thirteen percent of businesses surveyed have invested in quantum computing or plan to invest in the next six months, while one in four say they plan to invest in the next six to 12 months. Another 34 percent plan to invest in one to two years, while 27 percent expect to invest in quantum in three to five years. Just 2 percent have no plans to invest in or explore quantum's capabilities.2

What exactly is quantum computing? Quantum computing is an entirely new computational paradigm that allows us to exploit the effects of quantum physics. Simply put, quantum computers use quantum bits or 'qubits' instead of classical computing's traditional bits of 'ones' and 'zeros' to revolutionize digital communication and problem solving.3

Quantum technologies are positioned to transform many sectors

Quantum technologies are usually divided across three main categories: computing, sensing and communication. Quantum sensors can bring a higher level of sensitivity to sensor technology used in healthcare, manufacturing, construction, energy and the military. Meanwhile, quantum-based digital communication can provide new paradigms of cyber security – via quantum ‘random number generation’ and quantum ‘key distribution’ – that can vastly improve data privacy and consumer protection in the digital economy.

By analyzing extraordinary amounts of data, variables and outcomes, quantum computing can help solve complex business problems that remain out of reach for today's classical computers. As quantum computing gains momentum, more businesses are discovering its remarkable potential.

As it evolves, quantum computing will likely be cloud-based and available everywhere - toppling complex problems with unprecedented speed and scale.4 Quantum computing can transform medicine - assisting researchers working on tomorrow's drug discoveries and the efficient global delivery of life-saving medicines. In financial services, it could unlock valuable new capabilities that include fraud detection and portfolio-risk optimization.

The ability to analyze unprecedented amounts of data across countless variables will likely also transform today's weather and climate modelling, deepening our understanding of climate change in order to anticipate extreme climate events and enhance public safety.

Solving complex problems with unprecedented speed

What are the main challenges for adoption of quantum capabilities? Quantum computing remains a few years away from being commercially available amid complex hardware and software requirements. In the short term, the full potential of quantum computing cannot be unlocked by today's computers given their limited size and scalability.

With classical computing, we developed the hardware first and then moved to software. Now, learning from that evolution, we can start developing software and algorithm compilers in a hardware-agnostic approach, so that once computing hardware catches up, we can deploy new algorithms and fully exploit the advantages of quantum computing.

The current key question is: 'What are the use cases?' We have unlocked a few but there is still significant ground to discover and companies exploring this remarkable new computing frontier can expect to generate unprecedented applications and advantages.

Along the way, the need for new skills poses a significant challenge. Quantum computers are radically different from classical computers and require specialized skills that are in short supply. Applying quantum computing's full capabilities requires people who understand physics, mathematics and statistics.

At the same time, however, today's hardware is improving exponentially as providers enable existing machines to apply theoretical algorithms and try to achieve business-relevant quantum advantages. Solving optimization problems using traditional methods is a challenge for organizations in every industry. With traditional optimization algorithms being reimagined and accelerated using quantum principles, new efficiencies and business value are being realized today.

Quantum annealing, meanwhile, uses quantum physics to identify the low-energy states of a problem and provide potential solutions. This approach can address common business challenges and help to optimize processes in areas such as logistics, for example  - using physics-based computing to frame business needs as energy-minimization problems in transportation scheduling and route planning.

Staying ahead of the curve as progress accelerates

KPMG is working to stay ahead of the curve as quantum computing emerges to reveal its true potential. Our primary focus is to address each client's business needs and explore use cases that can move them forward and unlock new competitive advantages, without showing a preference regarding hardware solutions that are emerging and showing promise.

While working with clients to help them understand quantum computing and what it can deliver to their organizations, KPMG professionals are collaborating with an array of leading businesses such as IBM and Microsoft to explore the quantum space and how it can help tackle today's most-complex business challenges.5

It remains early days for the broad potential of quantum computing's applications to emerge and it's safe to say that what we are seeing today is just the 'tip of the iceberg' on what the future holds.

The journey toward computing's 'holy grail' is poised to accelerate and unlock exciting new possibilities that were perhaps unimaginable for businesses and society. Organizations investing today to build revolutionary capabilities for tomorrow can expect to generate significant advantages over their competitors.

For more information, contact us below, read our other articles around emerging technology, and make sure to visit our Future of IT webpage to explore how IT can evolve its operating model, culture, skills, relationships, and ways of working to deliver value in a digital world.

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