• Quantum computing is still nascent technology, but top corporations like Delta Air Lines and JPMorgan Chase are already exploring how it could be used within their operations. 
  • The supercomputers can process calculations deemed impossible by today’s standards, so the use cases could be immense. 
  • Ford Motor Company, for example, is testing out how to use the technology to help users navigate around big cities. 
  • “If you pay attention to it and engage in it during this early stage, when it matures you’ll be advantaged,” Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington said on the “Modern CTO” podcast
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Quantum computing is still in its very early days.

But top companies are already exploring how they could harness the advanced systems to quickly process calculations deemed impossible by today’s standards.

Delta Air Lines, for example, announced a partnership with IBM to use its quantum computer — though details on what the carrier is experimenting with are sparse. And it’s the same with JPMorgan Chase, which is tapping Honeywell’s quantum platform.

Researchers are even teaming together to try to use the technology to try to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Ford Motor Co. is also thinking about ways it can harness the supercomputer. One is mass navigation, according to Chief Technology Officer Ken Washington.

So think of when you might have tried to use Google Maps in the heart of New York City (or another metropolis). Oftentimes, the navigation goes crazy because it is exceedingly difficult for the system to catalog the immense amount of data present.

Just the number of pedestrians alone in a location like Times Square can make what is typically a reliable system largely useless.

One limitation is the computing power that would allow the application to quickly analyze all the potential routes and factor in the movement of the hundreds or thousands of other individuals around a user.

Ford is trying to use quantum computers to solve that. The carmaker has a partnership with Microsoft and is experimenting with using the technology to quickly process that data — which would currently be too large for traditional systems.

“We did a couple simple test cases showing that instead of taking hours to run a simulation that gets to an optimal solution, we can do it within a matter of seconds,” Washington told the “Modern CTO” podcast. “If you scale that up to a real-size problem, you move it from you can’t solve it to you can solve it.”

Investing early 

No commercial-grade quantum computer exists, though companies like IBM, Google, and Honeywell are rushing to try to make it happen.

Still, the early results of Ford’s efforts are strong enough that the company is “double-clicking” on the effort, said Washington.

“If you pay attention to it and engage in it during this early stage, when it matures you’ll be advantaged,” he added.

That’s a belief held by other tech leaders — that while quantum computing might not currently have any real-world applications, investing in it now is paramount because the technology will be a significant advantage once it develops further.

The reason companies are so bullish on quantum is because the technology allows users to run very sophisticated applications at immense speeds. Algorithms can scale much faster because the systems rely on qubits that — unlike a standard bit that can act only as a one or a zero — can be both of those values at once.   

And the early adoption shows how corporations are rethinking digital investments.

Retailers, for example, were slow to realize the competition posed by Amazon and the need to invest in ecommerce platforms. Now, many are finding it difficult to even stay in business — let alone compete against the online behemoth.

But as technology becomes more ubiquitous, corporations are eagerly investing in next-generation tools like artificial intelligence, blockchain, and quantum computing so they aren’t left flat-footed by the competition.

Washington used the example of the internet and the fact that many companies — Ford included — were in operation well before its creation.

“Imagine we knew then what we know now about the power of the internet. How would we have designed the companies that we all work in differently if we knew that advertising would be done through social media networks, if we knew you could do all your banking online?” said Washington.

“Take that, fast-forward it 20 years, and apply it to the moment in time we are at now with quantum computing,” he added.

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