Will Quantum Computing Make the Leap to Wall Street?

Rob Daly, Sell-Side Technology

Lately I've been doing a lot of research around quantum computing and its applicability to the Wall Street market. I have to admit that this will be a somewhat shameless plug for a much longer feature on the topic that will appear in the October issue of sibling Waters magazine.

I really started taking notice of quantum computing during our Toronto Financial Information Summit, which took place in July. One of the presenters, who was discussing the role of disruptive technology, cited quantum computers being able to do Monte Carlo simulations in fractions of second. Such a claim will instantly generate buzz in the community and I'm probably as guilty as anyone in the press of jumping on the bandwagon.

However, if someone is throwing down such a large performance gauntlet then there has to be benchmark numbers behind it. Through my research, I've only come across one vendor offering a commercially available quantum computer, British Columbia-based D-Wave Systems, which isn't discussing performance numbers publicly. That makes comparing the performance of its platform to mainframes or compute clouds impossible.

Speaking with academics and researchers, the common belief is that true quantum computers are still decades away. While D-Wave Systems sold aerospace vendor Lockheed-Martin one of its platforms, researchers in the leading academic institutions are asking their quantum computing testbeds to find the factors of 15.

There is always a gap between the ivory tower and applied technology for business, but it seems that this gap is much wider than most.

One thing that the academics and the vendors agree upon is the sweet spot for quantum computers. These systems won't replace the x86-based infrastructure that we all know and love -- it will augment it.

Quantum computing does two things incredibly well -- in theory. First, it can factor very large numbers like those used in modern encryption. The other is optimizing system performance. This latter quality could be used from network performance to trading strategies. The big question is whether governments will allow easy access to this technology for the latter because of the former.

Right now it's probably too early to get that answer.

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