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The Known, The Unknown and The Possible: The Art of the Quantum Algorithm


Posted on: February 13, 2017 by Frederik Kerling

People know that quantum computers can do wonderful things, what is often forgotten though is that hardware is only one part of the story. The nature of quantum computing makes it particularly powerful for solving complex mathematical algorithms with real world applications. Even now, at this early stage, we already have quantum algorithms that can break encryption, speed-up database queries, improve pattern recognition and offer a variety of analytical speed-ups.

It is not just the computers, but the algorithms that they execute which do the useful and interesting work. Neglecting algorithms in your quantum business strategy is a huge risk to take. Likewise, anticipating and working in the algorithm market today can give businesses a clear head start in the exploitation of Quantum Computing potential.

It may be five to ten years before Quantum Computing can be applied to more general problems and so it is important to focus on areas where it is likely to demonstrate early benefits compared to classical computing techniques. There are three areas to be recognized; the Known algorithms, the Unknown algorithms, and the Possible algorithms.

The Known

As you might expect, Known Algorithms are ones with proven application and benefit. This includes anything from data analysis and database searching through to physics simulations. Anything that requires considerable compute power is a candidate. One of the most famous example, Grover’s algorithm, will be able to be used to prevent the searching gap in Internet of Things applications – ensuring that unstructured data can be analysed quickly, maintaining real-time operations.

The Unknown

Similarly, Unknown Algorithms have already been discovered but have been kept confidential by their developers. Covert project such as the NSA’s Penetrate Hard Targets initiative and other

data-breaking algorithms often fall into this category, allowing traditional encryption to be unlocked through brute force attacks. For obvious reasons, most companies will be reluctant to go public with the fact that they would like to use quantum computers to break into encoded data!

The Possible

Quantum computers offer a world of possibilities, and the algorithms developed so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Possible Algorithms could be described as a wish list – the problems organisations would like to solve using the power of quantum computing. The list is endless but includes algorithms for everything from high frequency trading platforms to the optimisation of manufacturing or chemical processing. For example, IBM’s Quantum Experience is a project to develop new quantum algorithms using free to all crowd developers.

Ultimately, the power of quantum computing lies with the algorithms they are capable of running. The potential applications are incredibly broad, with implications for sectors as diverse as mathematics, material science, and engineering. And although it is likely to be at least a decade before quantum technology has a noticeable impact on mainstream IT, it’s advisable that organizations begin to factor preparations into their current technology strategy. The ability to produce and patent quantum algorithms prior to the advent of quantum computing will provide a large head-start for businesses when they become more commonplace.

The critical period for this will be the next five years; beyond that point, the safety of encrypted data transfer cannot be guaranteed, as the advent of quantum computing will be imminent at this point. Any data that must remain confidential for longer than this period is at risk, and without quantum encryption, businesses can do little to protect their assets. Quantum computing is coming – will you be ready?

Take a look at our latest whitepaper for an in-depth view on how the current and emerging trends within quantum computing will influence the future of the Financial Services sector.

In November 2016, we launched Atos Quantum, the first quantum computing industry program in Europe. We will be responsible for the development and marketing of solutions for quantum computing, as well as quantum safe cyber security products. It’s an exciting project, and something that will be increasingly important to the IT landscape of the future.

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About Frederik Kerling
Head of FinTech, Senior Quantum Expert and member of the Scientific Community
Frederik Kerling is head of FinTech within the Financial Services & Insurance industry at Atos, where he is part of the portfolio and partnerships team. Frederik started his career as theoretical physicist specializing in Quantum engineering, moved through 7 years of cybersecurity consulting, and now focusses on business development for the financial sector. He is internationally active within the quantum community, develops patents, and teaches a course bridging the gap between business and technology at the university of Amsterdam. In his spare time he can be found exercising, gaming, teaching, and discussing quantum fundamentals.

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