Top 5 Quantum Trends to Look for in 2021

2020 has been an unpredictable year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as is the case with many industries, the world of quantum technologies still saw a handful of advancements, hiccups, and everything in between. Last year, we published a blog covering our top five quantum technology predictions for 2020, and have been inspired to give a recap of what worked, what didn’t, and where we see the industry moving towards in 2021. Let’s break it down!

Prediction 1: Competition for Achievement in Quantum Computing Will Intensify.

2020 was a year filled with plenty of talk surrounding Google’s achievement of quantum supremacy — a year where our team at Quantum Xchange was relentless in reiterating the need to deploy quantum-safe data protection now. We predicted that companies competing with Google, such as IBM, would also make strides in the quantum computing field in order to get a leg up as an industry leader. 

Lo and behold, IBM did achieve a major quantum computing milestone this year. The company announced its road map to construct a quantum computer containing 1000 qubits by 2023. As a reminder, qubits, or quantum bits, are basic units of quantum information that allow quantum machines to perform calculations. In short, the more qubits presented, the quicker a quantum computer can “do the math.” And if a simple road map doesn’t sound very threatening, think again. IBM’s director of research, Dario Gil, reinforced the company’s plan to remain on-schedule, deeming the strategy an “execution.”

Prediction 2: Consolidation in Quantum Computing Hardware Space

Speaking of IBM and Google, it’s no surprise that these big industry leaders have the expertise to continue to make headway in quantum computing. Not to mention, they also have the funds. We predicted a joining of forces between major companies and smaller ones in the form of acquisitions for 2021. The smaller quantum computing hardware companies we mentioned last year (Rigetti and IonQ) continued to march to the beat of their own drums in 2020. There are a multitude of explanations to back up why these companies weren’t acquired by major industry leaders in 2020, including everything from a notable increase in competition to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. But don’t hold your breath! Chirag Dekate, research vice president at Gartner, noted that acquisitions may occur in 2021 as quantum computing investment continues to emerge.

Other major hardware vendors have entered the quantum ecosystem this year.  In October, Toshiba Corporation formally announced its Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system business, aiming to generate $3 billion in revenue from its advanced cryptographic technology for data protection by 2030. 

Prediction 3: Investment Dollars Will Flow Towards Improving Quantum Computers and Supporting Technologies.

We believe in the quantum computing hype — and investors certainly do, too. Take startup PsiQuantum, for example. With only five years in the businesses, the company raised $215 million to build a quantum computer with one million qubits with plans to deliver in the next few years. Not only did PsiQuantum receive funding from Microsoft, but also from a handful of major venture capitalists looking to get in on the fun. We envision investor interest will also apply to keeping industry safe from the power of a quantum computer — predicted to break today’s encryption standards in a matter of minutes.  Industry pundit and Cryptography Apocalypse book author Roger Grimes predicts 2021 will “likely see the first public acknowledgment of the quantum crypto break, where quantum computers are capable of breaking traditional public key crypto.” 

Prediction 4: Investment in Developing Talent in Academia Will Continue to Increase.

Progress in quantum technologies is impossible to achieve without the knowledge to back it up. The Quantum Initiative Act, signed into law in 2018, was passed to advance quantum technology in the U.S. — but this was only the beginning. In July of 2020, The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Science Foundation introduced the establishment of three new Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes. In summary, this was an initiative to dig a little deeper in the R&D of quantum computing, with promises to delegate $75 million to these three institutes. 

Prediction 5: Quantum-Enhanced Encryption Will Play a Potentially Significant Role in 5G.

An effort to boost 5G is nothing new, but as networks continue to strengthen, so does the need for security. Our theory that QKD would play a role in 5G this year was backed perfectly by Verizon’s deployment of QKD to enhance security. A series of trials was performed by the major telecommunications company in September to test out heightened 5G security via QKD. The success of these trials deems Verizon one of the first carriers in the United States to protect data via QKD deployment. Learn more about securing the emerging 5G global infrastructure in the TAG Cyber report.  

More in Store for 2021?

2020 certainly presented a handful of breakthroughs in the world of quantum technology, but as we enter the new year, our team of experts will continue to spotlight the need for businesses to act now to protect their data from a quantum encryption break. 

As 2021 unfolds, we’re expecting to see businesses absorb information on the threat of quantum computing, but more importantly, we’re adamant in continuing to drive home the message that there’s no time to wait for a post-quantum cryptographic world. While pundits debate the actual arrival time of a quantum computer, the quantum era is fast approaching and could arrive much sooner than anticipated. Any organization deploying a network infrastructure today should ensure it is quantum-safe now or risk its premature obsolescence. Waiting is nothing less than shortsighted and could have major long-term consequences on the organization including the loss of revenues, customer trust, critical data, and IP, as well as exposure to increased risks. Quantum Xchange can help.

While a quantum attack gets all the headlines, a bug in the library you are using today may pose just as big a threat—and sooner. Follow the blog series to learn how to avoid single points of failure in cryptography.

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