“Quantum-Interested”: Potential Use Cases Across Sectors

There has been an acceleration in interest from potential corporate users of quantum computing in the past few years, driven by three main factors: technical advancements, increased timeline clarity, and practical use case scenarios.

The 3 Main Factors

1. Technical advancements. Since 2019, there have been two highly publicized demonstrations of “quantum supremacy” – the threshold where a quantum computer can perform a calculation that is practically impossible with classical computing. Google and University of Science and Technology of China are the two institutions that have achieved this technical milestone.

2. Increased timeline clarity. Major quantum computing technology providers have released roadmaps laying out critical milestones over the next decade.

3. Practical use case scenarios. The first two factors above have spurred businesses to begin identifying ways quantum computing could help their businesses and budgeting for related investment. According to Gartner, only 1% of companies actively budgeted for quantum computing in 2018; this number is expected to rise to 20% by 2023.

Aside from the full-stack large-cap companies (IBM, Microsoft, Google, Alibaba, et al.,) and startups dedicated to quantum, there is a diverse set of “quantum-interested” parties that foresee a future where quantum computing is transformational to their businesses. A representative, though not exhaustive, list includes the industries and companies below:

  • Aerospace: Airbus, Lockheed Martin
  • Automotive: Daimler, Toyota
  • Chemicals: Dow Chemical, JSR Corporation
  • Consulting: Accenture, Deloitte
  • Finance: Citi, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan
  • Pharmaceuticals: Merck, Pfizer

Quantum Computing Research Use Case Categories

Currently, quantum computing research is focused on a select number of use cases that can be categorized as follows:

  • Simulations, particularly those with complex relationships that cannot be practically handled by classical computers. Examples include processes that occur in nature (e.g., determining how molecules might interact with other molecules) or finance (e.g., how market participants interact with one other). Simulations have enormous implications for advancements in pharmaceuticals (drug discovery), aerospace (computational fluid dynamics), chemicals (materials design), and finance (derivative and option pricing).
  • Optimization, or identifying the best solution among a set of feasible options. The use of quantum computing for optimization would have broad application in industries from finance (portfolio and risk optimizations, risk management) and logistics (network optimization), to aerospace (route optimization) and e-commerce (placement of robots on the warehouse floor).
  • Machine learning to identify patterns for training algorithms. Applications include advancements in the automotive industry (automated vehicles), finance (anti-fraud, anti-money laundering), and technology (search ad optimization).
  • Cryptography is a major usage case as governments and corporations will look to quantum to bolster encryption and decryption standards.

“Quantum-interested” activity

Companies are gearing up for a future where the power of quantum computing can be harnessed for practical application. For example, Goldman Sachs has a dedicated quantum research group tasked with figuring out high-value use cases. To stay on the vanguard of developments, this group partners broadly with startups, full-stack tech providers, and academic institutions on research, making their findings public (e.g., in late 2020, Goldman Sachs and IBM published their research on pricing financial derivatives using quantum computers).

Willis Towers Watson is another example of a financial institution partnering with leaders in quantum. The firm is working with Microsoft to explore ways that quantum computing might assist with its work in the areas of insurance, financial services, and investing.

Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Novartis, and others are also exploring in-house efforts to assess quantum. In the meantime, Pfizer has partnered with XtalPi, a Chinese tech startup, to develop and model small-molecule drugs as part of its discovery and development efforts.

Given the potentially transformative impact of quantum computing, businesses should be closely monitoring developments. Those who want to be at the forefront of their industries need to invest the time and resources to position their firms to take advantage when the time comes.

Which Public Companies Are Leading the Way?

By Heng Yang, Pathstone

Setting the stage in 2016, IBM was the first company to provide the world with the opportunity to access a quantum computer by putting it on the cloud. From 2019 through 2020, registered users have grown over 42%, from more than 200,000 to more than 285,000 users. IBM introduced a 53-qubit computer in 2019 and by 2023 plans to produce a quantum processor with more than 1,000 qubits.[1]

Mercedes-Benz has been using quantum computing to design better lithium batteries to create a more sustainable energy future. The development is intended to boost charge capacity, increase battery life, diminish energy loss from heat, and dramatically lower costs.

In the aerospace industry, Lockheed Martin utilizes the D-Wave Two, a 512-qubit quantum computer, to verify and validate solutions. D-Wave Two is one of several quantum computing systems developed by D-Wave Systems, a Canadian quantum computing company. Within milliseconds, D-Wave Two can review all potential trajectories a spacecraft might take and determine the most efficient path.[2]

Alibaba formed a quantum lab called the DAMO Academy with the intention of using cutting-edge technology to integrate science and industry. The goal is to accelerate the speed with which information is shared between the two disciplines. The DAMO Academy has applied the technology to computed tomography (CT) imaging analytics to understand the differences between COVID-19 pneumonia, common pneumonia, and other conditions. As early as March 2020 the academy had reviewed over 240,000 CT images, the equivalent of 13,000 results per day.[3]

During Tesla’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) event, held in August 2021, the company unveiled the Dojo A1 chip and its first functional computing tile. These developments are significant for the Tesla Dojo, the company’s version of a supercomputer. With these components Tesla anticipates the Dojo will be fully operational by 2022. The Tesla Dojo seeks to achieve best-in-class AI training performance and create larger and more complex neural net models, while being power-efficient and cost-effective to run. Although this is not a quantum computer, there is no denying the value such computing power and speed offers to tackle today’s complex issues.


This article is one section of the report, “Quantum Impact — The Potential for Quantum Computing to Transform Everything.” Click here to learn more and access the full report.

Please see the PDF version of the full report for important disclosures.


[2] https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/2017/quantum-computing-spot-checking-millions-lines-code.html

[3] https://www.alibabacloud.com/blog/speeding-up-ct-scans-to-detect-covid-19_596124


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