Investors like the appeal of Quantum computing, but reward comes with risk

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Investors like the appeal of Quantum computing, but reward comes with risk

The announcement last night that Canberra based QuintessenceLab had completed a $25 million Series B capital raising demonstrates the interest in the emerging field however, like all venture investments, it comes with risk, especially in an immature field such as quantum computing.

The fundraising was led by CSIRO founded Main Sequence and TELUS Ventures, with participation from Mizuho Financial Group-backed InterValley Ventures and Terry Snow’s Capital Property Group. 

According to business statistics site Statista, revenues for the global quantum computing market are projected to exceed $US1.76 billion by 2026 up from $472 million this year, an average compound annual growth rate of a tick above 30 per cent. By way of spurious comparisons, the size of the global for loot boxes (basically lucky dips inside competitive computing games) in 2020 was $US15 billion.

The discipline's novelty means it comes with significant risk for investors owing to the nature of the impediments which need to be overcome to ensure widespread commercial deployment.

Despite the aspirations of entrepreneurs and investors, and the often gimlet-eyed assessments of industry commentators, quantum cyber security and quantum computing more generally remain relatively new fields commercially, despite decades of lab research. 

Steady on

A paper by Deloitte authors Itan Barnes, Bartosz Czaszyriski and Ruud Schellekens, called Quantum computers and their impact on Cyber Security argues that building the hardware for a quantum computer is a formidable challenge.

"Qubits (in loose terms quantum-mechanical analogue of a classical bit) in their nature are very fragile and can lose the information encoded in them very quickly (the decoherence problem)." 

In their paper, they write that the major challenge is to keep the qubits completely isolated from the environment while allowing high precision control and readout of the qubit state. 

“To effectively decouple qubits from any noise source, and therefore sustain longer coherence times, these systems are typically cooled to extremely low temperatures using liquid helium.”

This, they say, puts a heavy burden on the size of the system and results in high running costs. 

“There are many different ways to realise qubits, e.g trapped ions, superconducting rings and many others. Each architecture has its advantages and drawbacks and it is not yet clear which qubit material is the most scalable one.”

Still, proponents argue that quantum computing is the next great threat to data and information.

In its funding announcement, QuintessenceLab claims, “Quantum computing capabilities and power transcend that of current computing, making today’s information vulnerable to quantum computing attacks and data breaches. Organisations need to start assessing their cybersecurity posture from a quantum-safe perspective.”

“As computing power increases exponentially, the tools needed to secure critical data and assets must stay several steps ahead,” said Bill Bartee, Partner at Main Sequence. “Dr. Sharma and the team at QuintessenceLabs are global leaders in developing quantum-based cybersecurity tools that help protect sovereign and commercially sensitive information. We’re excited to support the QuintessenceLabs’ team as they scale their business and provide customers with a critical layer of protection.”

Define soon

In its funding announcement, QuintessenceLabs says quantum cybersecurity will soon become mainstream and will be one of the critical pillars of a robust cybersecurity strategy for most organisations. 

Writing in Telefonica earlier this year Gonzalo Álvarez Marañón noted that presently, “only 1 per cent of organisations are investing in quantum computing and quantum computers,” although he does note an expectation that in a decade or two we will be enjoying error-free quantum computers of thousands of qubits."

In the current world of real things, the largest quantum computer is IBM's Quantum System One at 65 bits. It still has aspirations to launch a 127 quantum bit computer this year, although the clock is ticking.

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