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2023 serves as a pivotal point in the emerging quantum technology ecosystem. The promising technology is rapidly maturing, with an ever-growing number of governments and businesses launching strategic initiatives and collectively investing more than $35.5 billion around the world.
But, still nascent, it is still hard to predict the exact time horizons and applications for quantum, and this has led to distinct beliefs and bets in the market.
Most quantum applications with a provable advantage over classical methods require a large-scale quantum computer to realise.
And while hardware platforms for quantum are being pursued internationally, they are yet to reach the required scale, speed and quality of computation to demonstrate an advantage over classical computers in a practical, real-life application.
Despite uncertainty over when quantum computers will be ready at scale, the current state of quantum provides a unique moment in modern history where everyone can prepare for technology as it is being shaped and matured.
At Economist Impact’s Commercialising Quantum Global, EM360’s Ellis Stewart spoke to Anant Sanchetee, Head of Marketing and Communications at IonQ, about the current state of the quantum industry and how quantum computing is shaping the future of the enterprise.
Ellis: What is IonQ here at Commericalising Quantum Global talking about today?
Anant: “We'll be discussing a bunch of different things. I think aside from the fact that we are introducing and sharing the value proposition that IonQ brings in terms of ion trap quantum computing and how we work across a bunch of our customers, whether it's like Hyundai, GE, Airbus, fidelity, AFRL, we are also introducing a bunch of different use cases and stories over there that come with just actually working in the industry.
“We also want to share to this particular audience that you have to actually get prepared and get started on this quantum journey early enough to be able to build a future of what you want to be able to integrate into your ecosystem right now from a quantum technology perspective.
Ellis: What are some of the challenges that the quantum industry is facing at the moment?
Anant: “I think, there might be multiple rounds of it. If you just look at it from a technology perspective, you're looking at scalability and miniaturisation, which are typical with all the new technology that you're working on. How can you make it smaller, faster, better, more powerful, and so on and so forth?”
"There are [also] a lot of misnomers in terms of benchmarking and how people are actually seeing things because it's the industry is still maturing and a lot of players have their own voices in terms of how they want to benchmark different ways their computers perform.
“IonQ’s belief is not focusing on speeds and feats. It's not just about the number of qubits that matter, it's actually the fidelity of the qubits itself.
"So there are a lot of schools of thought that actually apply to this and we are seeing a lot of different competitors across the board now move towards fidelity and pushing more towards getting the result right at the right percentage.
"You're looking at the coherence of the qubits themselves because these are very sensitive, sensitive ions and unlike qubits in general. So I think you have to make sure that you're creating the right environment for them and, and scaling it in a way where you can actually build a quantum computer that would be useful from an application perspective.
"I think the third [challenge] is just applications and building those. And I think that will take time as the developer ecosystem comes into play as well as these systems becoming more and more performant.
"If I have to add a last one that's more to do with, a broader perspective on education. The market is still nascent and people need to understand what a quantum computer can do for you before you even think and start thinking about other things that come as a part of buying or working with a quantum computer."
Ellis: Quantum still is an emerging technology, but how can businesses make use of quantum today in 2023?
Anant: "There are multiple ways we're seeing it. I think one is actually looking at a bigger problem and then taking pieces of it and solving the smaller pieces now so you can actually build toward the bigger future.
"And those are companies we see are at the cutting edge. Hyundai is a very good example. Airbus is a very good example. These companies actually are working on, not only building the workforce for it but also at the same time looking at real problems that they can solve. So whether it's a chemistry application, whether it's ML focused, whether it's logistics, all of those are areas that these companies are actually tackling using quantum.
"The other bit of it is actually getting your workforce ready. If I look at IonQ in general, obviously, we have physicists, researchers, and engineers, and we’re moving from a company that is going from more research mindset, moving out of the lab to engineering and then moving into the product.
4/6: Overall, we are seeing increasing demand for IonQ computers, excellent commercial progress, and hitting our technical roadmap milestones. We continue to demonstrate why the future is bright for IonQ and the commercialization of #quantumcomputing
— IonQ (@IonQ_Inc) May 11, 2023
"I think we are seeing that happen with a lot of companies on the customer side too; where they're building that workforce and bringing in the right kind of talent so you can build the ecosystem for it and the right tooling that is needed in order to get these things activated at big companies."
Ellis: If you could use one word to describe the current state of quantum, what would it be and why?
"It's got its ups and downs In terms of just exactly where the industry is moving and obviously they're naysayers and people actually call it hype and all of those things. But I've seen this happen with AI in my career.
"There are companies that actually overhype it early in the game and but we have to wait till we get to it and it has taken a few years for us to get to where we are.
"But also we have ups and downs because these are very sensitive quantum computers. These are not like calculators that you are creating or computers that you're running through. These are significantly insensitive systems.
"There is a down that comes with it and the rise that comes with actually building these and shipping these out and, and working with our customers and finding solutions.
"For anybody who's coming into this industry right now, I think that's what I would probably call it; it's exhilarating."