quantum computing chip representation with blue and purple colors

Quantum computing and its impact on business: opportunities and challenges


Quantum computing is a rapidly developing technology that has the potential to revolutionize many aspects of today’s world. It is a complex field that makes use of quantum physics to create computational systems, making it challenging to understand but also incredibly fascinating. While this technology is still at an early stage, understanding how quantum computing works can help people and companies prepare for the future advancements it can unlock. One of the most important transformations in the near future is cybersecurity and many intelligence service agencies are already taking steps to prepare (Kirsch & Chow, 2015). Additionally, quantum computing will offer various business optimizations that could result in more efficient, faster, and cheaper services that could lead to substantial profits (Ruane et al., 2021). However, there are still limitations and challenges that need to be overcome before quantum computing can reach its full potential (Gomi, 2020). Governments are also planning to adapt to the potential disruptions that quantum computing may bring and to maintain global competitiveness in this rapidly advancing field (Kania & Costello, 2017). Lastly, the scientific breakthroughs that could be unlocked will reshape human civilization, revolutionizing fields such as medicine, pharmaceutical, materials and chemical research, and artificial intelligence.

How quantum computers work

In the past decades, there has been an exponential growth of the computational power that people have at their disposal. However, seems inevitable that with the constant miniaturization, speed and power increases the technology advancements might come to a halt. Although the architecture of the current computers allowed the build of powerful machines, the same architecture presents a great limit that could dramatically stop technological progress (Lidar & Brun, 2013, p2). Quantum computing promise to push the boundaries of what is deemed impossible today. Modern computational technology relies on the ability to store data and to perform calculations by using a binary system composed of zeros and ones. The zeros and ones are called bits and the concatenation of multiple bits allows to store, transfer and calculate pieces of information. The bits are a convenient way to define presence (1) or absence (0) of an electrical current in a circuit. Since it is possible to know at any moment whether an electrical current is present or not, it is possible to utilize deterministic algorithms to be able to process data.

Quantum computers operate differently than classical computers as they use the spin (up or down) of quantum particles, such as photons or protons, to represent information. These spin states are called “qubits” and they allow quantum computers to perform calculations that are not possible with classical computers. One of the key advantages of a qubit is the ability to exist in multiple states simultaneously in a phenomenon known as “superposition”. This allows quantum computers to perform multiple calculations at the same time, greatly increasing their computational power. To take advantage of this property, quantum computers use probabilistic algorithms that rely on the probability of a quantum element being in a particular state before it is observed. It is important to note that the act of measuring a qubit causes the superposition to collapse revealing the state of the qubit. To illustrate its power, a 300 qubits quantum computer is equivalent to a classical computer with 2300 bits - the same number of particles present in the entire universe (Veritasium, 2013, 03:09 - 04:17). With such incredible computational power, today’s most complex problems could potentially be solved in seconds.

Quantum problem solving

While understanding the science behind quantum computing is certainly useful, the real value of this technology lies in its potential to solve complex problems and drive business value. Many companies and financial institutions face challenges that could be addressed with the help of quantum computers. As such, this technology has the potential to drive significant value for these organizations. In his book, Kommadi B. (2020), outlines a number of these problems, and we will explore a couple of them in more depth.

UPS and the traveling salesman problem

One of these problems that could be solved with quantum computing is the “traveling salesman problem“, which involves finding the shortest and least costly route between multiple points. This is considered an exponential problem, meaning that its complexity increases exponentially with the number of points. For companies like UPS, solving this problem is a key goal, leading to the development of ORION (BSR, 2016).

ORION is a system developed by UPS that runs an algorithm to calculate the most efficient route for a parcel delivery, taking into consideration multiple variables to guide each driver to their delivery destination. Although UPS did not disclose the costs of development, it is estimated that ORION could save the company up to $50 million per year (Konrad, 2013) and save the cost of drivers’ inactivity that could reach up to $15 million annually (Holland et al., 2017, p. 12). Quantum computers would vastly outperform classical computers for this task because they become exponentially faster as the complexity of the calculation increases (Veritasium, 2013, 06:09 - 06:31). To achieve superior performance in terms of speed, the “quantum annealing” process will be used to find a global minima in the set of all possibilities. This process leverages the quantum tunneling phenomenon which allows a quantum state to propagate through energy barriers and explore the whole landscape of results without simulating every point in the curve (Wikipedia contributors, 2022). This process is an example of quantum-assisted optimization and will not only contribute to solve logistics problems but could be used in finance and engineering where finding the optimal solution to a problem yields significant benefits.

Quantum Security

A second issue and a major concern for every company with an online presence is security. A report from IBM (2022), shows that the average global cost of data breaches reaches $4.35 million, while in the US the cost is more than double at over $9.44 million. The most common attack vector is stealing or compromising credentials, and these attacks are also the most difficult to identify, with an average detection time of 327 days. However, companies that use AI and automation are able to identify breaches faster, saving an average of $3 million per year. In the future, quantum computing could potentially enhance security, reduce costs, and enable companies to provide better and more secure services to users.

In the field of security, quantum computing also poses a threat to the cryptographic algorithms currently in use (Mavroeidis et al., 2018, p. 8). For this reason, there are ongoing efforts to develop quantum-resistant algorithms and the US National Security Agency (NSA) have already begun planning the transition to post-quantum cryptography algorithms (Kirsch & Chow, 2015, pp. 9-11). One way to achieve this is to make symmetric and asymmetric encryption methods, commonly used today, resistant to quantum attacks. The symmetric encryption method uses one key to secure some data, shared among the parties in communication, and a long enough key length will ensure quantum resistance. In asymmetric encryption, a combination of public and private keys is used, and hashing these keys – that is, transforming them into a different encrypted value – would ensure quantum resistance. Another approach is to use a pure quantum system, such as Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), to guarantee the security of communications. With QKD, the parties involved could immediately detect if the credentials have been intercepted, allowing them to abort the communication before any sensitive data is lost (Portmann & Renner, 2022, pp. 13–14).

Challenges and Limitations

Although quantum computing holds great promise, it is not yet ready for commercial use. One of the challenges facing quantum computers is the difficult task of manipulating quantum particles, as well as the need for specialized hardware that operates at extremely low temperatures and uses superconducting circuits. Another important problem is quantum decoherence, which is the process by which a quantum system loses its coherence, or ability to maintain a defined state, due to interaction with its environment. In other words, it loses the ability to maintain a defined state, similar to a bit in classical computing (Durham, 2012).

To reduce quantum decoherence is necessary to have a quantum error correction (QEC). QEC is essential for preserving the integrity of quantum information and for the practical realization of large-scale quantum computers. Without a reliable QEC system, errors and decoherence can lead to incorrect results or failure of quantum computations. This would limit the usefulness of quantum computers and make them unreliable for practical applications. (de Leon et al. 2021) discuss various solutions for achieving a reliable QEC in quantum computers, as well as the challenges associated with implementing these solutions. However, implementing these solutions requires significant efforts and a collaboration between quantum scientists and materials scientists to develop materials capable of reducing decoherence and noise in quantum hardware, which can cause errors. By overcoming these challenges, it will be possible to build more reliable quantum systems and unlock the full potential of quantum computing.

International challenges and competition

As for government involvement, the United States have established the National Quantum Initiative to boost the development of quantum technologies and maintain its global leadership (National Quantum Coordination Office, 2022). Meanwhile, the European Union aims to build pilot quantum computers by 2023, with an estimated investment of €100 million (European Commission, 2022). The governments of superpowers are taking this technology very seriously and there had been an ongoing global competition between these countries for years (Kania & Costello, 2017). While the United States seems to focus on building a full quantum infrastructure, China’s strategy appears to be focused on building quantum communication networks. Ultimately, both countries are seeking to strengthen their defensive and offensive capabilities for their national defense interests.

Quantum future

Quantum computers not only hold great potential to revolutionize cybersecurity and travel optimization for delivery companies, but they could also enable numerous breakthroughs in various other fields. As Mohseni et al. (2017) discuss, quantum simulation and quantum-assisted optimization could enable companies to conduct research and development into new materials, conduct more accurate financial and portfolio analysis, and more. For example, in medicine, quantum-powered machine learning systems could lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses of various diseases. In the pharmaceutical industry, companies could use quantum simulations to study billions of protein shapes simultaneously and develop drugs and vaccines for a wide range of diseases. Additionally, quantum simulations could help discover novel chemical compositions and new materials that could have applications in space exploration, nanotechnology, and other fields.

For artificial intelligence, quantum computers have the potential to greatly advance the field by allowing for more efficient processing of data. By using the principles of quantum mechanics to encode and process information, quantum computers enable performing certain computations faster than classical computers. This could be particularly beneficial for machine learning algorithms, which often requires large amount of data to be processed in order to make accurate predictions (Moret-Bonillo, 2015). Furthermore, as quantum computers become more reliable and powerful, they will enable the development of more advanced quantum algorithms that could significantly advance the field of AI. Overall, the unique capabilities of quantum computers could have a significant impact on the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, leading to new and exciting developments in these areas.

To make quantum computing accessible to a wider audience, companies like Microsoft are already offering cloud-based quantum computation known as “quantum as a service” (QaaS) (Microsoft, 2022). In the future, offering quantum cloud services could be a smart business strategy for companies to capitalize on their large investments in this technology. By offering quantum services, they could provide significant gains to companies and universities in terms of computational speed, power, and quality, which could improve their products and increase profits, or facilitate researchers to make ground-breaking discoveries.


In conclusion, quantum computing is a complex but fascinating technology that has the potential to unlock numerous scientific discoveries and business opportunities. Although many companies and governments are investing heavily in the research and development of quantum computers, the field is still in its early stages of development. However, significant progress is being made every year, and the technology continues to advance and maintain its status as a highly promising and potentially revolutionary field. IBM estimates that quantum computing will reach maturity within the next 10-15 years (IBM Institute for Business Value, 2022, but predicting when a commercially viable product will be available is difficult. Nevertheless, quantum computing has the potential to transform human civilization in ways that are difficult to predict, and its impact on society could be even greater than that of computers in the last century.


BSR (2016). Looking Under the Hood: ORION Technology Adoption at UPS. Case Studies | Sustainable Business Network and Consultancy | BSR. bsr.org/en/case-studies/center-for-technology-and-sustainability-orion-technology-ups

Gomi, K. (2020, September 14). Quantum Computing: Limits, Options And Applications. Forbes. forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/09/14/quantum-computing-limits-options-and-applications/

Ruane, J., McAfee, A., & Oliver, W. D. (2021, December 14). Quantum Computing for Business Leaders. Harvard Business Review. hbr.org/2022/01/quantum-computing-for-business-leaders

Lidar, D. A., & Brun, T. A. (2013). Quantum Error Correction. Cambridge University Press. arxiv.org/pdf/0905.2794.pdf

Konrad, A. (2013, November 1). Meet ORION, Software That Will Save UPS Millions By Improving Drivers’ Routes. Forbes. forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2013/11/01/meet-orion-software-that-will-save-ups-millions-by-improving-drivers-routes/

Veritasium. (2013, June 17). How Does a Quantum Computer Work? [Video]. YouTube. youtube.com/watch?v=g_IaVepNDT4

Kommadi, B. (2020). Quantum Computing Solutions: Solving Real-World Problems Using Quantum Computing and Algorithms. APress. doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4842-6516-1

Holland, C., Levis, J., Nuggehalli, R., Santilli, B., & Winters, J. (2017). UPS Optimizes Delivery Routes. Interfaces, 47(1), 8–23. doi.org/10.1287/inte.2016.0875

Wikipedia contributors. (2022, August 4). Quantum annealing. Wikipedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_annealing

IBM. (2022). Cost of a data breach 2022. IBM. ibm.com/reports/data-breach

Portmann, C., & Renner, R. (2022). Security in quantum cryptography. Reviews of Modern Physics, 94(2). doi.org/10.1103/revmodphys.94.025008

Mavroeidis, V., Vishi, K., D., M., & Jøsang, A. (2018). The Impact of Quantum Computing on Present Cryptography. International Journal of Advanced Computer Science and Applications, 9(3). doi.org/10.14569/ijacsa.2018.090354

Kirsch, Z., & Chow, M. (2015). Quantum computing: The risk to existing encryption methods. cs.tufts.edu/comp/116/archive/fall2015/zkirsch.pdf

Mohseni, M., Read, P., Neven, H., Boixo, S., Denchev, V., Babbush, R., Fowler, A., Smelyanskiy, V., & Martinis, J. (2017). Commercialize quantum technologies in five years. Nature, 543(7644), 171–174. doi.org/10.1038/543171a

Moret-Bonillo, V. (2015). Can artificial intelligence benefit from quantum computing? Progress in Artificial Intelligence, 3(2), 89–105. doi.org/10.1007/s13748-014-0059-0

Durham, I. T. (2012). What is quantum decoherence? Quora. quora.com/What-is-quantum-decoherence

de Leon, N. P., Itoh, K. M., Kim, D., Mehta, K. K., Northup, T. E., Paik, H., Palmer, B. S., Samarth, N., Sangtawesin, S., & Steuerman, D. W. (2021). Materials challenges and opportunities for quantum computing hardware. Science, 372(6539). doi.org/10.1126/science.abb2823

National Quantum Coordination Office. (2022, August 10). National Quantum Strategy. National Quantum Initiative.quantum.gov/strategy/

European Commission. (2022, November 28). Quantum. Shaping Europe’s Digital Future. digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/policies/quantum

Kania, E. B., & Costello, J. K. (2017). Quantum technologies, U.S.-China strategic competition, and future dynamics of cyber stability. 2017 International Conference on Cyber Conflict (CyCon U.S.). doi.org/10.1109/cyconus.2017.8167502

Microsoft. (2022, November 30). What is Azure Quantum? - Azure Quantum. Microsoft Learn. learn.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/quantum/overview-azure-quantum

IBM Institute for Business Value. (2022). The Quantum Decade. In IBM. ibm.com/downloads/cas/J25G35OK

Word index

Asymmetric encryption – A cryptographic strategy that relies on a public and private key. The public key is shared among parties in communication. The private key, which is secret, is used to decrypt the message.

Binary system – A system composed by two values.

Bits – Basic unit of information in computing systems.

Classical computer – Computers in use today that manipulate bits to perform calculations.

Deterministic algorithms – Algorithm that, given an input, will always return the same result.

Exponential problem – A problem where the complexity grows exponentially as the number of elements increases.

Global minima – The global minimum value in a function.

Hashing – Transforming a value to another by using an encryption method.

NSA – National Security Agency: An American intelligence agency.

Post - quantum cryptography – Cryptographic methods that are secure against quantum attacks.

Probabilistic algorithms – Algorithm where the result obtained depends on chance.

QaaS – Quantum as a Service: a cloud service that can be offered to clients.

QKD – Quantum Key Distribution: a quantum cryptographic method.

Quantum-assisted optimization – The process to find the optimal solution to a problem with the use of quantum computers.

Quantum annealing – Quantum-assisted optimization process aimed at finding a global minimum of a given function.

Quantum decoherence – The loss of the ability for a qubit to maintain a defined state.

Quantum simulation – The simulation of quantum systems (atoms, molecules, etc.) that can be used to study the properties of materials and chemical reactions.

Quantum tunneling – The quantum phenomenon of a quantum particle to propagate through energy barriers.

Qubits – Basic unit of information in quantum computing.

Superposition – A phenomenon in quantum mechanics where a quantum particle can hold multiple states at the same time measured by their probability. When observed, the state will collapse and can be known with certainty.

Symmetric encryption – A cryptographic strategy with two or more parties having a shared key used to decrypt messages or data.

Travelling salesman problem – The problem used to calculate the most efficient travelling path amongst multiple points.