Quantum technology has enormous potential for science, industry, and society. The research in this area has gained strong momentum in recent years, sparking a mini startup boom. Quantum computing is of particular importance here. With the rise of quantum computing we might be able to solve complex tasks in the future that even the most powerful supercomputers fail at today.

The most discussed use cases for quantum computers are the ones where complex models that require enormous combinatorial computation power are applied to a problem. This includes combinatorial optimization problems such as supply chain logistics, where coordinating and identifying the most efficient route for goods to travel to market has been one of the most sought-after goals for both business and science.

Another domain of application could be financial services, where market prediction models are used for predicting important, disruptive events to the broader economy to drive portfolio decisions. Quantum computing is also expected to enhance machine learning, which may accelerate for instance the training of neural networks.

Still in Early Days, but Advancing Fast

Quantum computing is a multi-year journey. While the quantum computing market is expected to reach $1.7 billion by 2026, nobody yet knows when we will see widespread adoption at an enterprise scale. Companies including IBM, Google, Honeywell, and IonQ are making progress harnessing quantum-computational units (qubits) for early-stage computers.

However, it is still unclear when a general-purpose quantum computer superior to classical computers in solving business-relevant problems will be available. Several major technical and conceptual challenges need to be overcome first including increasing the number of qubits, while keeping or extending their coherence-time (useful time) and their inter-connectivity.

SAP’s approach is to work with leading experts and quantum technology players in academia and industry on developments in this field. We are assessing the timescale as well as potential domains of application and how they might impact the future of SAP and our customers.

Now Is the Time to Prepare for the Quantum Era

While quantum computing opens many new doors in a wide variety of fields, it can also be a security threat. With the advances in quantum computing, conventional cryptographic schemes are becoming more vulnerable. That’s why it’s critical for businesses to prepare for post-quantum cryptography today that is resistant to attacks by both classical and quantum computers. The SAP Security Research team in the SAP Innovation Center Network is highly engaged in quantum security and currently works on benchmarking post-quantum cryptography algorithms and more.

Cryptography is the last line of defense against data breaches. When all other security measures have failed, encryption provides the last barrier that protects company secrets against unauthorized access. The current progress in the development of quantum computers and their ability to break conventional encryption schemes requires companies to act now. Considering the longevity of sensitive information in government affairs or the pharmaceutical industry, this data could be collected today and stored until a powerful quantum computer is available to decrypt them.

To be prepared once a quantum computer becomes available, businesses need to think ahead. A good starting point is a relevance and impact analysis to help plan for the inevitability of consequences and their cost. This analysis also includes identifying uses cases that could benefit from applying quantum computing. The better equipped businesses are to recognize and prepare for the opportunities and risks posed by quantum computing, the more likely they are to be able to continue doing business in the future. Businesses are then well advised to work closely with industry leaders and academic partners to exchange research results, build strategic road maps, and find common applications and use cases in different areas.

No Business Can Do It Alone

SAP works with industry leaders and top research centers and participates in several initiatives to explore quantum technology and potential use cases. For instance, SAP has been involved in the EU Quantum Flagship from the beginning and is a founding member of the European Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC), and others.

Most recently, SAP joined the new Quantum Technology and Application Consortium (QUTAC) along with global corporations such as BASF, BMW, Bosch, and others to advance developments in quantum computing for practical application. Within QUTAC, SAP will drive the use of quantum computing in logistics, production, or procurement. Our focus is on developing software applications to optimize transport routes, supply chains, or production plans. This can help companies reduce costs, improve delivery reliability, or avoid empty runs.

At SAP, we work to leverage the advances in quantum tech for our customers while protecting their business-critical data. I’m excited for the quantum future ahead of us — stay tuned for more to come!

Martin Heinig is head of New Ventures and Technologies at SAP.
This piece was originally published on LinkedIn.