For years, quantum computing has been the preserve of academics. New advances, however, are pushing this potentially revolutionary technology toward practical applications.There is still no one who can make a scalable qubit, or a quantum computer that speeds up some classical algorithm.
At the Q2B conference this month, quantum computer makers Google, IBM, Honeywell, IonQ and Xanadu detailed specific steps they expect by 2024 that will push their machines further down the road of commercial practicality. Those achievements include increasing quantum computers' scale, performance and reliability. Private sector spending on quantum computing products and services will likely more than triple to $830 million in 2024, up from $250 million in 2019, according to a forecast from Hyperion Research.
"We're in the early industrial era of quantum computing," said Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor who helped found the field in the 1990s. He says the "huge advances" are comparable to the early use of steam engines to power factories, ships and trains.
One of the most bullish voices is Eric Schmidt, who in his former job as Google's chief executive and executive chairman approved that company's long-term quantum computing program. That work produced last year's "quantum supremacy" experiment that showed quantum computers could surpass classical computers for at least one narrow (though not practical) computing chore.Where are those self-driving cars?
"We know this stuff is going to happen six to eight years from now," Schmidt said. "It's going to be incredible when it happens."
That technology has also been a lot slower than promises and expectations. But there are prototypes that prove that self-driving can be done, even if they are not quite reliable enough for commercial use.
We still have no such proof for quantum computing.