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Value of quantum computing uncertain for at least 10 years - research

Significant obstacles will challenge quantum computing developers in the coming years, despite the technology's increasing importance as part of the broader wave of digital transformation, according to  Lux Research.

The research firm says over the next 10 years, it is uncertain if quantum computing will consistently outperform today's supercomputers for useful business-related problems, if at all. 

In the new report Preparing for Quantum Computing, Lux Research looks at what businesses need to know about quantum computing, including why it is better, when it will become available, and how a company should engage with it.

"As innovation continues to accelerate, quantum computing has become an increasingly important technology to monitor as part of the broader wave of digital transformation. Quantum computing aims to solve complex problems that are impossible to address with todays supercomputers and has strong potential across multiple industry sectors, including pharma, energy, finance, logistics, manufacturing, and materials," the company says.

"Today's supercomputers tackle difficult problems including weather modelling, genomic analysis, and computational fluid dynamics, but even the best supercomputers will always be limited in specific areas," says Lux Research lead report author Lewie Roberts. 

"They are still unable to handle some important problems in areas like chemical product design, protein folding, or supply chain optimisation," he says. 

"It is our belief that quantum computing will one day enable multiple industries to address some of these key problems, moving past todays barriers and enabling further innovation," explains Roberts.

"Today, the main problems being targeted by quantum computing are the simulation of quantum systems, machine learning, and optimisation."

Currently, quantum computing faces many barriers that limit its near-term development. Roberts says there are major challenges in hardware development, which severely limit further software development. 

"Quantum bits, or qubits, are inherently unstable, thus reducing the accuracy of any computation that relies on them; this is the first major obstacle to commercialisation," he says.

"For this reason, problems that lack clearly defined answers (like machine learning) but still benefit from improved solutions are the best problems to target with quantum computing. 

"Hardware developers hope to increase the stability of qubits but will ultimately have to build fault-tolerant quantum computers that can correct any errors that result from this instability."

Roberts says Lux Research does not expect a fault-tolerant quantum computer to become available for at least 10 years.

"Quantum computing is not currently providing business value that could not be achieved with today's existing computers, and it is not clear when it will," he says. 

"For this reason, we advise companies not to make it a priority right now, unless your work is already bottlenecked by today's supercomputing.

"For companies that must pursue quantum computing now, research projects that estimate when quantum advantage can be achieved will be key. We advise forming partnerships for these projects based on the level of internal expertise, as this greatly affects which players will be most helpful for your unique projects."

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