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Quantum Breakthrough From Microsoft Could Shorten Technology’s Go-to-Market Timeline

quantum computing, innovation, technology

Change happens slowly, and then all at once. And often, the biggest changes are the easiest to miss — particularly as they are happening all around you. Call it the eye of the storm phenomenon.

This, as Microsoft and Quantinuum say that they’ve reached a new quantum computing milestone.

That’s because, from enhancing security to optimizing transaction processing, improving fraud detection and beyond, quantum computing’s applications within payments and financial services — once the technology has sufficiently matured for commercial adoption — represent a truly foundational phase shift in capabilities.

And that phase shift is only moving closer to becoming a reality as on Wednesday (April 3) Microsoft and Quantinuum announced that they had achieved a key step in making quantum computers a commercial reality by making their calculations more reliable.

Per the announcement, by using Quantinuum’s ion-trap hardware and Microsoft’s new qubit-virtualization system, the two firms were able to run more than 14,000 experiments without a single error.

“This is such an exciting milestone on our path toward unlocking the scientific and commercial progress that will come from reliable quantum computation,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) in response to the news.

“For the first time on record as an industry, we’re advancing from Level 1 Foundational to Level 2 Resilient quantum computing … entering the next phase for solving meaningful problems with reliable quantum computers,” Jason Zander, executive vice president, strategic missions and technologies at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

Read alsoQuantum Computing Could Change Everything

Navigating the Upcoming Quantum Transformation of Payments and Financial Services

Quantum computers are super-powered computers that use the principles of quantum mechanics to speed up calculations — performing operations that might otherwise have taken billions of years to run in mere minutes by taking advantage of parallel processing capabilities.

As PYMNTS has reported, quantum computers do this by harnessing the unique properties of the subatomic world, driven by qubits (quantum bits) that break down information across fundamentally different planes and allow quantum processors to tackle complex problems in fundamentally different — and more advanced — ways by placing the quantum information into a state of superposition.

“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.”

The recent breakthrough from Microsoft and Quantinuum has to do with reducing the “noise” when performing quantum calculations. Contemporary quantum exercises have been taking place against the backdrop of what’s been termed the era of Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) computers, where even infinitesimally small changes can lead to decoherence across a quantum system and break down calculations. 

“Over the long-term, if we are able to scale closer to ~1,000 reliable logical qubits, we will be able to unlock the commercial advantages that can ultimately transform the commercial world,” said Ilyas Khan, chief product officer at Quantinuum, in a statement.

Read moreSeizing Quantum Computing’s Opportunities Within Payments and Finance

Q-Day is Coming Up and Cybersecurity Experts are Worried 

“Q-Day,” or quantum day, is the term some experts use to describe when large-scale quantum computers are able to break the encryption codes protecting much of today’s payments and financial data.

Michael Jabbara, global head of fraud services at Visa, told PYMNTS last March that in this fast-approaching “post-encryption world, authentication becomes king … knowing that each person is who they say they are is going to be absolutely key.”

Underscoring the impact that being able to crack today’s strongest encryption protocols using quantum computing power will have, Jabbara explained, is the fact that bad actors are already starting to steal and hold onto encrypted data in preparation for the just-around-the-corner quantum computing tools to enter the market and allow them to decrypt that illicitly obtained data using quantum processing power.

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.

But it is possible — and necessary — to fight fire with fire, and in order to prevent quantum attacks, firms must turn to 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.