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Google Launches Competition to Find Quantum Computing’s Real-World Utility

quantum computing technology

A problem without a solution presents more opportunity than a solution without a problem. 

That’s because it is easier, in many ways, to solve for a need than it is to try and sell the existence of one. And while both sides certainly have their adherents, innovations built atop the former tends to stand the test of time best. 

This, as quantum computing — one of the 21st century’s frontier technologies — finds itself caught between the two definitions, and increasingly in need of real problems to solve. 

“There’s a lot of rather abstract mathematical problems where we can prove quantum computers give very, very large speed-ups. But a lot of the research community has been less focused on trying to match those more abstract quantum speed-ups to specific real-world applications, and to try to figure out how quantum computers could be used,” said Ryan Babbush, head of quantum algorithms at Google, in a Monday (Mar. 4) blog post.

That’s why, as announced Monday, Google Quantum AI and Google.org are joining XPRIZE and the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator (GESDA) to launch XPRIZE Quantum Applications, a three-year, $5 million global competition to apply quantum computing to solve real-world challenges and prove quantum computing’s potential for practical utility. 

“While there are many reasons to be optimistic about the potential of quantum computing, we’re still somewhat in the dark about the full scope of how, when, and for which real-world problems this technology will prove most transformative,” Google stated. “We hope launching this prize will help to shed light on these questions — by incentivizing the community to advance and more thoroughly anticipate the positive impact of quantum computing on society.”

The competition is closely aligned with Google Quantum AI’s focus on building a large-scale, error-corrected quantum computer, and developing useful quantum computing applications. 

Read moreThe Impact Quantum-Powered AI Could Have on Payments 

Existing Quantum Applications Have Little Practical Use 

The utility of quantum computing is an area that PYMNTS has been tracking for several years, monitoring its potential to transform the financial services and payments sectors. 

Most quantum algorithms have been studied primarily in the context of abstract mathematical problems. For example, a quantum experiment by Google performed a calculation in just 200 seconds that would have been unfeasible on the world’s fastest supercomputers. 

But these demonstrations, while exciting, represent technological benchmarks and hold little potential for practical and specific real-world applications. 

Still, the broader marketplace is beginning to realize that, in order for quantum computing to progress from the lab to the marketplace, it will need to start solving business problems, not just abstract mathematical ones. 

“The physical world is defined by quantum mechanics,” Chris Hume, senior director of business operations for AI-quantum computing firm SandboxAQ, told PYMNTS in February. “The more effectively we can understand those interactions and then model those interactions, the more efficiently and effectively you can build predictive models.

“With the algorithms that we’re developing, combined with the classical computer hardware that’s available today, you can build better predictive models, and that’s the exciting part,” Hume added. “And that’s the opportunity at hand.” 

SandboxAQ presented a paper at The World Economic Forum in January, detailing some of the changes the technology could bring to the financial services industry.

Read alsoQuantum Computing Could Change Everything

The Upcoming Hyper Computing Payments Landscape  

Quantum computers are super-powered computers that use the principles of quantum mechanics to perform sophisticated operations by taking advantage of parallel processing capabilities. They will likely become commercially available within the next decade. 

As PYMNTS reported, one immediate area for quantum computing to influence payments is through quantum encryption algorithms that enhance the security of financial transactions. Quantum key distribution (QKD) can provide unbreakable encryption, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of payment data. This could significantly reduce the risk of cyberattacks and data breaches. 

Already, in a move to improve the security of its iMessage app, Apple announced in February that it is upgrading its encryption system to fend off potential quantum computing attacks.

Quantum computing’s ability to process huge amounts of data instantaneously could also make it invaluable across areas like risk analysis and credit underwriting.

As a sign of both the resources needed to win within the quantum computing landscape and the computing technology’s disruptive potential, quantum computer firm Quantinuum has been valued at $5 billion following a $300 million fundraising round that included participation by JPMorgan

Google will be presenting more information about its Quantum Competition during a Thursday (Mar. 7) Q&A session at the 2024 March meeting of the American Physical Society (APS).