As quantum computers evolve, SAP is among the leading companies exploring how this technology can disrupt business norms for unparalleled innovation and opportunities.
While it might be early days given hardware limitations, SAP experts are in full-on discovery mode, working with customers and partners at quantum-related industry associations.
How Quantum Computers Can Solve Real-World Problems
SAP experts are spearheading several working groups as members of the Quantum Technology and Application Consortium (QUTAC). QUTAC is a German-based group focused on applying quantum technology for business value in various industries. In one group, the team is modeling potential use cases using quantum computing for optimization and machine learning in production and logistics. In another, they are researching various quantum computing systems to compare strengths and weaknesses for use case consideration.
“We’re trying to understand how quantum computers can solve real-world business problems,” said Andrey Hoursanov, head of Quantum Exploration at SAP. “In collaboration with other QUTAC members, we’re identifying which next new quantum computing use cases will be most valuable for organizations, sourcing information from external research and our own expertise.”
Working Groups Take On the Quantum Challenge
Quantum computers can speed up computationally intensive tasks, promising the delivery of better and faster solutions for specific classes of problems. Much of this exploratory phase consists of benchmarking available quantum technologies, such as available machine capabilities by qubit size to handle industry-specific problems. Questions include what special properties each kind of quantum system offers, as well as their suitability and scalability to address business relevant challenges. For example, some teams are focused on applying the unique advantages of quantum computers to speed up and improve anomaly and fraud detection, cost optimization for cloud providers, image recognition, and data synthesis.
“Through open discussions with different companies that are participating in these working groups, we’re discussing potential road maps for innovation,” said Peter Limacher, leading researcher of the Quantum Exploration team at SAP. “People are very interested in quantum computing, and we want to make sure that we prioritize use cases that have the greatest potential to deliver business value.”
Limacher was involved in a working group that recently published a peer-reviewed paper based on a study of quantum computing approaches for multi-knapsack optimization, meaning one recurrent task that several industries face. In addition to the high demand for better quantum hardware, the paper concluded that the industry needed more and improved quantum optimization algorithms for multi-knapsack and other problems.
SAP Is Committed to Meet Enterprise-Grade Expectations
To be clear, there’s a significant gap between the performance of current quantum computer hardware and the many variables that require scaling quantum-driven solutions in actual industry settings. Forward-thinking innovators are moving ahead despite the chicken and egg conundrum.
“To meet our customers’ expectations, we cannot wait until full-fledged quantum computers are completely operational,” said Hoursanov. “Through collaborative use case discovery and testing, we’ll be prepared to provide customers and partners with access to the latest technology as soon as it makes sense for them.”
Just as standardized frameworks for classical computers evolved, so will quantum computers. There are no standards yet, and every quantum computer design has advantages and disadvantages. For example, superconducting quantum computers require low temperatures and protection from electromagnetic waves to prevent qubit degradation. Eventually, researchers will be able to match targeted use cases to the best-suited quantum systems and software application developers will apply quantum programming to any machine.
Collaboration Unlocks the Quantum Advantage
SAP is also a member of the European Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC), a non-profit organization focused on developing the quantum industry and ecosystem for the region and others including North America, Japan, and ANZ. In addition to her role as research project director at SAP, Laure Le Bars is president of QuIC.
“Our members consist of companies of all sizes that create and use quantum technologies, including hardware manufacturers and software developers. They’re working together with members in government policymaking, academia, standardization bodies, and others to help spark market growth from quantum advantage,” said Le Bars. “In the future, we’ll have hybrid architectures with a combination of classical and quantum computers using their respective strengths to achieve business objectives.”
Susan Galer is a communications director at SAP. Follow her @smgaler.
Photo courtesy of SAP employee Renan d’Avila