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Economic advantage: Preparing for lift off

Talent poaching within industry first warning of things to come

JPMorgan Chase announced on Jan. 22, 2020, the hiring of Marco Pistoia from IBM. A 24-year IBM employee with numerous patents to his credit, Pistoia most recently led an IBM team responsible for quantum computing algorithms. Algorithm development will be key to developing soundly engineered quantum computing systems that can deliver the business outcomes enterprises seek at a faster and more accurate pace than current classical computing systems.

A senior hire into a flagship enterprise in the financial services industry is the proverbial canary in the coal mine, as TBR believes such actions suggest our prediction of quantum achieving economic advantage by 2021 remains on target. Quantum executives discuss the three pillars of quantum commercialization as being:

  • Ongoing scientific discovery to improve the overall fidelity of quantum computing systems; discovery is not the same as a technology road map. These advancements are not easy to predict given the limited supply of individuals skilled in the topics as well as the challenge of pursuing breakthroughs solving the known unknowns.
  • Great advancements have been made in curating scientific discoveries into system components able to generate sufficient yield quality in manufacturing.
  • Application discovery has early activity, most notably in academic research institutions but also within blue chip establishments in the areas of financial services, healthcare, materials science and native cloud companies.

Scientific and engineering obstacles persist, bottlenecking progress. The fluid nature of IP sharing and innovation through ecosystem participation across the above three pillars means businesses that have a trusted track record around groundbreaking innovations will be first to gain the aforementioned economic advantage. As advantage nears, the early adopters will require senior talent with the vision to look across the landscape of technologies and potential use cases and prioritize efforts to gain advantage. Pistoia’s remit will be as the lead researcher for JPMorgan Chase’s Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering, which seeks out commercial use cases around emerging technologies such as quantum, edge computing, 5G and IoT to create market distinction.

What lessons can be learned from this strategic hire in a domain with acute skills scarcities?

Losing a valued contributor to scientific innovation can certainly hinder an organization such as IBM and decimate smaller firms more reliant on a few key executives. The movement, however, is neither uncommon in industry nor unexpected. Leading technology companies and the professional services firms that translate their capabilities into business results are in the same situation as JPMorgan. Most companies in the industry have focused more on science and engineering than on translating these technical advancements into business value. As economic advantage nears, TBR expects:

  • Talent poaching between technology companies and the leading-edge enterprises they support will accelerate.
  • Advisory services and road maps will be built out rapidly. Smaller, quantum-specific firms will seek to establish these road maps out of necessity, while the advisory firms will likewise seek to find repeatable frameworks to scale across their existing account base. For example, IBM helps enterprises with early exploration through its QStart program while startup Xanadu has built a services team focused on executive education, early corporate preparations or prioritizations, and then the requisite technical training and technical diagnostic services to partner with first-mover enterprises.
  • The ecosystem will be further developed for the cross-sharing of algorithms and best practices as they pertain to the early use cases where economic advantage will appear first.
  • Industry hype and impatience around expected investment returns from enterprise leadership and venture capitalists will continue to present challenges.

Quantum is not a short-term opportunistic investment. In TBR’s opinion, it remains a necessary long-term investment where diligence coupled with patience situate enterprises to exploit first-mover advantage as well as mitigate the risks of falling victim to an economic extinction event brought about by competitor advancements in determining where, and in what sequence, quantum can yield economic advantage.

TBR’s next Quantum Computing Market Landscape will explore the professional services offerings in place or being established by the key market entrants and is due for publication in June 2020. We welcome input on the topical questions our readership would like to see addressed.

Other recent quantum-related publications:

Quick quantum quips: Cloud players are now looking for a piece of the quantum pie

Quantum Computing Market Landscape 4Q19 company rankings

Translating quantum science into business value: Tradeoffs between precision, speed and cost

Quick quantum quips: Hardware entrances gain VC funds while established innovators partner across architectures to secure a place in the broader quantum ecosystem

Traditional ports and quantum computing: The now and the future

Quick quantum quips: A call for quantum supremacy sends ripples through the market

Key findings from TBR’s Quantum Computing Market Landscape

While quantum computing continues to make strides, market limitations and technology exploitation are ongoing concerns

Quantum computing vendors continue to make major strides in the technology. Decoherence and qubit quality remain ongoing challenges for which vendors continue to research enterprise-grade workarounds. However, there are challenges facing the quantum computing market landscape that even the smartest physicists and engineers cannot counteract. The first is the looming skills gap that will exist when quantum computing becomes more mainstream. Many customers and vendors alike do not see quantum computing taking off in the near term, despite evidence to the contrary. As such, a majority of organizations are not investing in quantum capabilities, which will lead to a massive influx of demand for quantum-skilled workers once these organizations all begin to rapidly adopt quantum after an adequate number of proofs of concept have convinced the skeptics. Some skills can be retooled from existing capabilities, but others need to be taught through years of schooling. TBR believes this is an opportunity for professional services vendors such as Accenture and Atos, but also for quantum-centric vendors, to invest in the education of future generations. IBM recently announced education-centric investments in Africa, suggesting vendors are recognizing the skills gap that looms and the opportunity that will emerge by investing ahead of the curve.

Determining how to secure both quantum and classical compute instances against bad actors remains a persistent challenge. There are ways to mitigate this persistent threat by adapting cybersecurity capabilities, but the challenge is that, as with other skills shortages, many organizations do not believe this threat is close enough to worry about. Given that TBR research has shown it can take three or more years to adapt current security measures to be quantum safe, organizations, especially those with highly sensitive information in their possession, should begin to monitor this challenge.

The quantum computing market will achieve economic advantage in the next two to five years, one algorithm at a time. Once this is initially achieved, developments will be swift as customers are likely to find ways to repurpose existing algorithms for new uses. While quantum computing brings with it the promise of great, positive change, it also brings the threat of malicious players leveraging this technology for negative purposes, increasing a focus on quantum-safe security developments in line with quantum computing developments. The swift impact of quantum computing will be a key factor in determining who wins and who loses in this technological transformation.

Teetering on the edge of economic advantage

Insights from TBR’s 2Q19 Quantum Computing Market Landscape

The quantum computing market will evolve from research-centric to commercial use cases in the next two to five years as the technology reaches economic advantage. This will be achieved one algorithm at a time, and once it begins, the developments will be swift as customers are likely to find ways to take existing algorithms and repurpose them for new uses. While quantum computing brings with it the promise of great, positive change, it also brings the threat of malicious players leveraging this technology for negative purposes, increasing a focus on quantum-safe security developments in line with quantum computing developments. The swift impact of quantum computing will be a key factor in determining who wins and who loses in this technological transformation.

Will algorithm patents replace economies of scale as the most critical barrier to entry?

Manufacturing scale matters less as we pivot to a knowledge economy

Economies of scale as a barrier to entry have been a fundamental precept taught for years in economics classes worldwide. Capital had to be invested ahead of being able to create value, and then people could be hired to staff the capital equipment to produce goods. Having both capital assets and existing volume gave companies a distinct competitive advantage. It drove both vertically integrated companies as well as horizontal holding company models, with the latter made famous by Jack Welch’s oversight of U.S. blue chip company General Electric.

Technology today has greatly reduced scale as a competitive advantage. Virtualization and abstraction have led to business theorists talking increasingly about asset-lite business models and asymmetric competition. Clouding this pivot is the emerging discussion around consumer scale. This is a competitive edge gained not necessarily from capital scale, but by capturing consumer brand loyalty that generates the scale. This concept is often discussed as the “force multiplier” or the network effect of the ecosystem. It is giving rise to additional new terminology, such as multi-enterprise business networks, in which partnering and the joining of complementary assets enable all participants to benefit from the aggregation of intellectual property, which is fed to the entire ecosystem of loyal customers.

Humans have the big ideas; curating those ideas into scalable advantage requires technical skills, automation and patent protection

When consumer loyalty generates cash, that cash can be deployed to fund projects, such as small-scale, smaller-dollar-volume projects akin to becoming an internal venture capital (VC) arm for any future product and service innovations. This concept manifests itself in the notion of fast failure and rapid iterations that are anathema to scaled manufacturing best practices. Being successful requires having people who are insightful about what businesses or consumers want and how to turn those wants into an automated piece of software — in short, algorithms.

As virtualization and software abstraction move the economy ever closer to utility computing, first discussed in the late 1980s by technology futurists, and as quantum nears economic advantage, the mission-critical business competency will be writing algorithms to apply against the ubiquitous data traffic being generated and stored throughout the computing utility network. Faster compute leads to faster exploration and discovery. Faster discovery leads to shorter product and service cycles and therefore shorter competitive advantage windows.

As such, algorithms that generate these new insights will increasingly become the way enterprises generate wealth, as well-skilled individuals push the limits of conventional wisdom and then deliver these new insights. Preserving that ever-shortening advantage will come from increased vigilance in protecting intellectual property. Thinking and creativity provide the advantage. We hear time and again at analyst conferences about how skills are in short supply and how people are a firm’s greatest asset. TBR expects to hear more frequently about the patent protections around these automated ideas.

Clean blockchain data fed to quantum will accelerate the value of algorithm patents

Accurate data will be available in real time for these algorithms to run against to generate real-time decision-making guidance. As automation removes more and more human toil from the economy, only individuals at the point of creation or the point of consumption will be critical to the business, with the algorithms mining the consumer demand to test against the next big idea to come from well-skilled humans and converted into competitive advantage through an automated algorithm run against real-time, accurate data.

As explored further in TBR’s Quantum Computing Market Landscape, in the quantum computing realm, where insights and actions can be obtained exponentially faster, the IP advantage is also exponentially greater. Think of the traveling salesman example that comes up regularly in quantum conversations: If a delivery company can patent an algorithm that speeds up delivery rounds and makes deliveries more efficient overall, that could swiftly create extinction events in the delivery market. If we extrapolate this, emerging technology has the potential to fundamentally alter competitive landscapes by generating faster and more accurate insights.

TBR analysts will be attending the Quantum.Tech conference Sept. 10-11 in Boston. Please contact your account executive to coordinate a conversation with TBR analysts at the event.

Quantum computing leaps into customers’ transformation-centric conversations

The quantum computing market will evolve from research-centric to commercial use cases as the technology reaches economic advantage — algorithm by algorithm — in the next two to five years. Once this occurs, developments will be rapid and organizations with the foundation built to take advantage of quantum computing will quickly reap the rewards of their early investments. Quantum computing, as a transformation-inducing technology, will impact multiple aspects of the IT environment, including power consumption, data generation, security and classical computing tie-ins. The swift impact of quantum computing will be a key factor in determining who wins and who loses in this technological transformation.

Join Stephanie Long and Geoff Woollacott as they dig into key findings from TBR’s new Quantum Computing Market Landscape.

Don’t miss:

  • The state of the market
  • TBR’s predictions about the quantum computing market
  • Key vendor spotlights
  • Potential economic disruption due to the emergence of this new technology

TBR webinars are held typically on Wednesdays at 1 p.m. ET and include a 15-minute Q&A session following the main presentation. Previous webinars can be viewed anytime on TBR’s Webinar Portal.

For additional information or to arrange a briefing with our analysts, please contact TBR at [email protected].

Do not concern yourself with quantum supremacy; the opportunity is in ‘economic advantage’

Economic advantage is a key, repeatable milestone for quantum computing

TBR defines “economic advantage” as the point at which there is a significant benefit, either in time to insight or the ability to obtain an insight, that makes it cost-effective to pursue a given problem with the help of quantum computing. This does not mean that the benefit needs to be achieved exclusively with a quantum computer. In fact, TBR believes that initial economic advantage will be achieved by disaggregating a complex problem from classical computing to quantum computing and then back to a classical computer to maximize the cost efficiencies of gaining a given insight. Just as quantum computing will hit the market algorithm by algorithm, so will economic advantage.

It is not necessary for quantum computing to reign supreme across the IT space in order for value to be abstracted from the technology. It is also not necessary for quantum computing to take the place of a classical computer in order to provide value. This is a key factor that many vendors in the market are overlooking. Just as cloud is not all or nothing, neither is quantum computing. Cloud, as it currently exists, works in partnership with on-premises environments. In fact, customers prefer the consumption of cloud in this hybrid manner. This is a similar consumption-type model we foresee quantum computing taking, in which classical computing and quantum computing work together to fully harness the power of quantum computing.

As the prevalence of quantum computing continues to increase in the IT realm, there are many different views on the technology. Some believe the technology is so far from being relevant that it is not worth worrying about. Others believe the technology is already here, while still others believe the technology is on our doorstep and the wealth of knowledge it will release for society is almost upon us. Here is one thing we all can agree on: Quantum computing has not achieved quantum supremacy. However, TBR believes there is a far more important metric to concern ourselves with as a society that is much closer than we think: economic advantage.