How Quantum Computing Helps Businesses Achieve Their Goals
Johannes Oberreuter, Quantum Computing Practice Leader and Data Scientist at Reply, told Information Age how quantum computing helps companies achieve their goals.
Quantum is emerging as a new vehicle for solving business problems.
Quantum computing is an evolving technology that promises to improve a range of business operations. Based on quantum mechanics which focuses on the smallest dimensions of nature – molecules, atoms and subatomic particles – quantum computers are designed to provide faster solutions to complex business problems, by simultaneously testing several possible solutions for a problem .
The basis of quantum computing is a unit of information known as a “qubit”; unlike bits, which can only have the values zero or one, can take the form of anything in between, which allows this new approach to become possible, and is called “overlay”. Combined, multiple qubits can produce multiple results at the same time. Each additional qubit doubles the search space, which therefore grows exponentially.
Many companies are exploring how quantum can empower industries and provide new use cases for businesses. One organization exploring this space is Reply, which develops solutions for optimizing logistics, portfolio management, and outage detection, among others.
Possible commercial value
Discussing how Reply helps provide possible use cases for its customers, quantum computing expert Johannes Oberreuter said: “We are working at a level that translates the problem into as universal a quantum language as possible, and which doesn’t go too far in hardware.
“The first thing we’ve found that brings value now is the area of optimization problems. An example is the “traveling salesman problem,” which has many applications in logistics, where complexities and constraints also need to be considered, such as during the pandemic.
“Very often, problems deemed too complex to be optimized on current hardware are addressed by certain heuristics. Usually there is a team or someone with experience in the field, who can help with this, but they don’t know yet that there are better solutions now. Quantum computing makes it possible to present problems in a structured way similar to a wish list, containing all the complexities of the business. They are all encoded in a so-called objective function, which can then be solved in a structured way.
“Companies have used all kinds of algorithms and intellectual resources to try to solve optimization problems. Finding the optimum with an objective function is still a difficult problem to solve, but here a quantum computer can come to the rescue.
According to Oberreuter, once a quantum computer is involved in the problem-solving process, the optimal solution can truly be found, allowing companies to find the best arrangements for the problem. While current quantum computers, which are suitable for this type of problem, called quantum annealers, now have more than 5,000 qubits, many companies that use Reply’s services often find that their problems require more than 16,000 to 20,000 variables, which requires further progress. made in space.
“You can solve this problem by making approximations,” commented Reply’s data scientist. “We wrote a program that determines an approximate solution of this objective function, and we tested it beyond the usual number of qubits needed.
“The system is configured to prevent the execution time from increasing exponentially, resulting in a user-friendly execution time of seconds. This lowers the quality of the solution, but we get a 10-15% better result than what commercial heuristics typically provide.
Through proof of concept, Reply was able to help its customers overcome the challenge of a lack of quantum expertise. By using and building on field experience, a ‘side-by-side’ approach helps clarify how solutions can be developed more effectively.
Quantum machine learning
Machine learning has risen to prominence over the past few years to make it easier to automate business processes with data and help organizations achieve their goals faster. However, machine learning projects can sometimes suffer from a lack of data and computational expense. To combat this, Reply looked at the problem-solving capabilities brought about by quantum computing.
Oberreuter explained, “What we have discovered with quantum machine learning is that you can find better solutions, even with the limited hardware that is currently accessible. While there will probably never be an end-to-end quantum machine learning workflow, integrating quantum computing into today’s machine learning workflow is helpful.
“Some cloud providers are now offering quantum processing units (QPUs). In a deep learning setup for complex tasks, you can easily rent it from cloud providers by individual calls to experiment, if it improves your current model.
“What we found interesting in our contribution to the quantum challenge undertaken by BMW and AWS was the marriage of classical machine learning models with quantum models. The former is really good at extracting attributes from unstructured data such as images, which is then joined by a quantum representation which provides an advantage for classification.
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Quantum for cybersecurity
Additionally, quantum technologies are being explored for cybersecurity, with the view that quantum computers will soon be able to solve problems that are currently insurmountable for today’s technologies. One particular algorithm that was cited by Reply, which could be solved by quantum computing, is the one used for RSA key cryptography, which, although reliable to be secure now, is estimated to need 6000 error-free qubits to be cracked within two weeks.
“Quantum technology for cybersecurity is now available, and we are offering it to our customers to defend against this threat,” Oberreuter said. “Quantum mechanics has a so-called ‘no-cloning theorem’, which prevents users from copying messages sent through a communication channel. The crucial point is that for this to work, you need a quantum channel specialized.
“We have cybersecurity experts who have led efforts to develop an offer for this.”
Reply is a network of highly specialized industrial companies, which helps customers from various sectors to optimize and integrate processes, applications and devices using the latest technologies. Founded in 1996, the organization offers services for capabilities including quantum, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT). You can find more information about the services provided by Reply here.
This article was written as part of a paid content campaign with Reply