Quantum’s time is now—well, almost

June 28, 2022
For decades, quantum has been the technology ready to commercialize in the next five years; the science behind it appears to be ready for the main stage.

The move from science to technology is always tricky. In my years covering technology innovations, the various scientific advances often create excitement, but the initial excitement can quickly fade when it becomes evident that commercialization will not come easy. It’s the true instance of flash and fizzle.

Of course, there have always been a few intriguing focus areas with tremendous staying power, even if the technology’s promise remains in the distant future without a clear timeline. Quantum technology is a prime example.

Quantum has always had a “one day” vibe with its biggest proponents talking about the many problems it will eventually solveeven if we do not currently know what those problems are. I’ll admit I have had a healthy amount of skepticism around the feasibility of quantum ever making it to the big stage.

Yet, as Bob Dylan wrote, “The times they are a changin’.” Quantum is finally hitting its “prove it” point.

How so? Take a quick look at recent industry events, and it is clear the investment levels in quantum technologies are intensifyingand whenever investments increase, the demand for return is never far behind.

Tradeshows and conferences like LASER Munich, Optica’s Quantum 2.0, and the upcoming SPIE Photonics West each have a noticeable dedication to spotlighting quantum advances. Also, when we attended the Quantum.Tech event in Boston in mid-June, the vibe was a little differentmore centered on reality. There was a fresh excitement around the technology, discussions around actual use cases, and examples of recent successes.

The dust is finally clearing, and real applications are surfacing. From my perspective, it appears quantum encryption and communications are on the verge of becoming meaningful and commercially viable applications with true benefits over existing (traditional) approaches.

Being able to connect with some of the leading researchers in this space helped outline the methodologies behind the technology. It’s no longer just magic dust. It actually makes sense. The discussions around the role photonics could ultimately play in bringing quantum applications to the forefront are also quite intriguing. While there are definitely a few different camps on which path or enabling technology will ultimately commercialize the quantum, my money is on photonics.

After all, recent inroads in advancing high-performance computing involving integrated photonics could prove to be a tipping point for light-based technologies. Plus, quantum could undoubtedly benefit from the photonics community’s proven track record of turning a technology many doubted (or failed to understand) into something dynamic enough that other technologies rely on photonics to achieve their lofty goals.

About the Author

Peter Fretty | Market Leader/Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military

Peter Fretty began his role as the Market Leader, Laser & Military in June 2023; the group encompasses the Laser Focus World, Military & Aerospace Electronics, and Vision Systems Design brands. He also serves as Group Editorial Director, Laser & Military (effective spring 2023) and served as Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World since October 2021. Prior to that, he was Technology Editor for IndustryWeek for two years.

As a highly experienced journalist, he has regularly covered advances in manufacturing, information technology, and software. He has written thousands of feature articles, cover stories, and white papers for an assortment of trade journals, business publications, and consumer magazines.

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