Quantum computing could herald a breakthrough for Middle East innovation and security, according to experts.
A quantum computer would use quantum mechanics to process huge amounts of data through its ability to be in multiple states, and perform computations in powerful new ways not possible with today’s conventional computers.
According to Simone Vernacchia, partner of digital, cyber security, resilience and infrastructure leader at management consultants PwC Middle East, quantum computing could be applied to research challenges across the Gulf.
“Quantum computing has applications in almost every industry and could help boost the performance of artificial intelligence (AI) technology across the board,” says Vernacchia.
Manufacturing plants, energy research, weather research, energy efficiency and investment optimisation are just some of the sectors that could benefit from the near real-time automation of complex decision making.
“In a world in which major companies and governments across the world are benefitting from real-time AI insights, the region must ensure it stays ahead of the curve,” say Vernacchia. “The development of data analytics and AI is critical… lagging behind in this disruptive technology would potentially strongly undermine the competitiveness of local companies."
Embracing Quantum Computing
Universities in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE have already launched quantum computing research groups to help cultivate homegrown knowledge of the technology that is set to transform the world.
However, Vernacchia believes much more needs to be done to ensure the Gulf fully embraces quantum computing and all the benefits it can bring.
The expert says the region must continue to invest in quantum computing research, post-quantum cryptography and quantum computing applications to maximise the advantages of the new technology for the region and protect it from potential risks.Vernacchia also urges regional governments to equip native professionals with the necessary skills to drive quantum research across strategic, commercial and technical applications.
The PwC expert believes ‘striking the right alliances with global pioneers of quantum computing’ is another critical step to building a viable technology strategy for the region.
While the global quantum computing ecosystem is still in its infancy, the UAE is reaching out to global technology giants to form early-stage partnerships. Big US IT companies such as IBM, Google and Microsoft are investing in Gulf research into quantum computing.
The UAE minister for artificial intelligence recently partnered with Canadian company D-Wave to house the region’s first quantum computer in the Museum of the Future in Dubai.
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in June 2018 announced plans to work with Microsoft to develop quantum-based products to address energy optimisation where classical computers have limitations, making it the first organisation outside of the US to participate in the Microsoft Quantum Programme.
“Undoubtedly, quantum computers will bring unprecedented computational power for solving complex problems million times faster than high powered computers today,” says Anas Haj Kasem, senior consultant of ICT and digital transformation, at consulting and research firm Frost & Sullivan.
Kasem compares the development of the quantum-computing sector to ‘the moon race’.
“The race will be won by countries that build the most complex encryption and decryption methods. The leaders will be those who revolutionise industries and boost economies,” he says. “It is imperative that Gulf governments adopt the power of quantum computing to maintain national cybersecurity, because quantum computers could eventually crack traditional encryption methods."
The GCC countries will be some of the first countries to launch 5G and will open up their countries to innovations like autonomous vehicles, internet of things (IoT) devices, and industrial control systems in the coming years.
As first movers, the GCC countries will be well placed to become pioneers in commercialising security solutions based on quantum technologies.
“Many quantum computing use cases will only become apparent once the technology is deployed. In the GCC, there is a real fear of missing out because the possibilities are at the same time endless and unknown,” says Wes Schwalje, chief operating officer at research firm Tahseen Consulting. “Lagging behind could lead to counterfactual risk – if a country does not embrace quantum computing, there is a real chance that their leaders will be asking ten years down the road what would have happened had they moved earlier.”
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