Following the news that the British government has purchased its first quantum computer, and will be working alongside Orca Computing to explore future applications for quantum technologies within the defense sector;
Robert Stoneman, Service Director at GlobalData, and Tristan Sauer, Land Domain Analyst at GlobalData, offer their views:
Stoneman comments: "The purchase of Orca's PT-1 quantum computer marks a crucial, if small, step towards the practical application of quantum computing across UK public sector organisations. GlobalData's analysis of contract awards shows that this is one of several recent quantum opportunities across the UK public sector. For instance, UK Research and Innovation-the non-departmental body that directs research and innovation funding-has already allocated two contracts worth a total of £390,000 in the past year.
"These contracts, on behalf of the National Quantum Computing Centre and its technology roadmap to deliver an early-stage quantum computer by 2025, are part of a series of technical work packages suitable for delivery by external suppliers. The most recent, awarded to NPL Management, relates to developing open standards for emerging quantum processors. The other, awarded to River Lane Research, regards a practical benchmarking suite.
"Though still a proof of concept that will not be taking on any direct computation, the PT-1 is the first to operate at room temperature without the need for sub-zero cooling for the qubits underpinning the technology. This marks an important step in making commercially viable quantum computers for use across the public sector over the coming two decades."
Sauer comments: "As demonstrated by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the ability to rapidly assimilate, process, and distribute information across a battlefield is key to success in the age of network-centric warfare. Consequently, military superpowers such as China, Russia, and the US have increasingly looked to quantum computing technology for its potentially transformative capabilities to address several challenges.
"Indeed, the potential applications and benefits of effectively integrating quantum processing into existing military infrastructure are numerous, with analysts highlighting possibilities such as revolutionizing digital encryption protocols and facilitating data fusion in complex sensor networks, as well as optimizing MRO, logistics and other standardized procedures. However, despite the growing media hype around the potential of quantum computing, this technology remains at a nascent stage and currently provides few tangible benefits to military commanders.
"One of the main challenges in the development of quantum technology is ensuring coherence, as modern quantum computers remain highly susceptible to external stimuli that hinder the superposition of subatomic particles on which these computers rely to function. Furthermore, current quantum computers are typically designed to conduct niche tasks and scientific calculations such as boson sampling and thus have limited practical applications in the defense sphere.
"Nevertheless, the market for quantum computing technologies is expected to grow exponentially over the coming years, with an estimated global market value of anywhere between $1 billion to $5 billion by 2025. As countries continue to strive for technological independence, due to growing concerns over the national security, producers, governments, and institutions are increasingly funneling additional investment into this field of expertise, with Germany's pledge in May 2021 to invest €2 billion in developing quantum computing technologies and skillsets over five years constituting the most recent example of this global investment trend.
"Although government investment in this sector continues to grow, major technological developments have been primarily driven by commercial initiatives. Major technology firms such as IBM, Google, and Microsoft continue to lead the way with regards to research and development in this field, as their ability to rely on inherent professional expertise and consistent funding streams have allowed the commercial sector to truly spearhead technological breakthroughs."