Near-Term Quantum Use Cases
Ian Hellström | 19 November 2022 | 4 min read
What are possible use cases for quantum computing in the current NISQ era? And who’s already using quantum technologies today?
With reports of $850b value generated annually in the next 15–30 years and a compound annual growth rate of more than 30%, the hype around quantum computing at its peak. So, how do you separate the hype from reality?
General quantum advantage is not expected before 2030, although it will take considerable time to build a qualified workforce who can tackle problems with quantum computers. In the NISQ era, that is up to 2030 or thereabouts, when quantum computers are still relatively small and noisy, a more modest annual value of up to $10b is expected, with most of that passing on to end users in industry.
With that in mind, how can companies claim their slice of that $10b pie?
Most use cases are in aerospace, automotive, chemicals, finance, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals. Of all current applications, 47% are in the prototype stage, 31% exist as products, and only 22% are in the R&D stage. Specifically, a quarter of Fortune Global 500 companies are active in the quantum field.
Let’s take a closer look at key industries and the top use cases for the Fortune Global 500.
Cryptography (Raytheon and General Dynamics) and optimization (Boeing and Airbus) are the key use cases in aerospace and defence, followed by material simulations (Boeing), machine learning (Airbus), and basic research (Lockheed Martin).
Outside of Global 500, Rolls-Royce are working on using quantum computing for computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Quantum sensing is the focus BAE Systems.
Rather unsurprisingly, drug discovery is the key use case for pharmaceutical companies: Roche, AbbVie, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca.
The simulation of even a relatively simple molecule such as penicillin requires more classical bits than there are atoms in the universe. A quantum computer only needs 286 logical qubits, which with the current error correction techniques means at least 5,000–286,000 physical qubits, which may be achievable within a decade, depending on the qubit modality, gate fidelity, and error correction scheme used.
Beyond the Global 500 list, companies such as Amgen, Biogen, Boehringer Ingelheim, Menten AI, Merck, and many more are also exploring quantum computing as a strategic advantage.
Quantum key distribution (QKD) and cryptography are the key uses in telecommunications: AT&T, Verizon, SK Telecom, China Telecom, Vodafone, Cisco, and Telefonica.
Deutsche Telekom and Orange are still in the exploration phase.
Outside the Global 500, BT, Ericsson, and Telecom Italia are all working on quantum-enabled technologies.
The top use case within the automotive sector is material simulations for EV batteries. This is pursued by Volkswagen, Bosch, Toyota, Mercedes–Benz, Hyundai, and Denso.
Beyond batteries, automotive companies focus on optimization (e.g. Volkswagen, Ford, BMW, and Denso), exploration and prototyping, fault detection, and machine learning.
Many financial services companies are still in the exploration phase, followed by QKD and quantum computing for Monte Carlo simulations, machine learning, and (portfolio) optimization.
Both JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs stand out in the breadth of their applications for quantum computing. The former is probing machine learning, QKD and cryptography, portfolio optimization, optimization, and Monte Carlo simulations. The latter works on research, algorithms, Monte Carlo simulations, data loading, and derivatives pricing.
Outside of the Fortune Global 500, the Bank of Shanghai, Barclays, BMO, CaixaBank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Danske Bank, Mastercard, Nasdaq, NatWest, Nomura, Protiviti, Rabobank, Scotiabank, and Visa are also active in the quantum space with more companies to expected to follow. In fact, the global expenditure of financial services companies on quantum computing is expected to exceed $630 million by 2027 and $2.2 billion by 2030.
Both BASF and Dow Chemicals are using quantum computing for materials science innovation. BASF are also using it for machine learning, CFD, and optimization.
Fujifilm and Shin Etsu Chemical are chemical giants outside the Fortune Global 500 who rely on quantum computing for near-term applications.
76% of HPC data centres plan to offer quantum computing by 2023. All the major cloud vendors already offer access to quantum computers: Alibaba, Amazon, Baidu, GCP, IBM, and Microsoft. OVHCloud only offers an emulator at the moment. That means anyone is only two clicks away from exploring quantum computing.
Though rare, as quantum computing systems are very expensive with estimates of $10k per physical qubit, some research labs (e.g. Fraunhofer, NASA, USC, VTT) as well as a few organizations (e.g. Cleveland Clinic, DLR, US Air Force) have on-premise quantum computers.
Fewer than a third of companies have strategic plans in place for quantum computing, although more than 60% of executives believe it will play a significant role in their industries by 2025. Moreover, only 20% of companies are expected to account for quantum computing in their 2023 budgets, and 15% of organizations are even deterred from starting their quantum computing journeys due to talent shortages. While the highest concentration of quantum talent is in the EU, followed by India, China, US, Russia, and UK, many organizations have difficulties attracting the right talent, or they do not invest in the future quantum computing workforce. That is why it is important to get ready for the revolution now.