PLC is boosting its quantum-computing consulting practice as more companies express interest in the budding technology.
Although commercial-scale quantum computers haven’t been built yet, Accenture could begin selling quantum consulting services within the next several years, based on client demand and the maturity of the technology, a spokeswoman said.
In April, the Dublin-based consulting firm was granted a patent for an algorithm that a business client could use to determine whether a quantum computer or a classical one would be best suited to solving a mathematical problem. About 100 Accenture employees around the world are involved in quantum-computing work.
“We see quantum computing as a technology that has potential applicability across the board for many of our customers,” said Carl Dukatz, principal director of Accenture’s quantum-computing practice.
Experts say quantum computers capable of sorting through a vast number of possible solutions in as little as a fraction of a second have potential use in pharmaceuticals, finance, transportation and other sectors. While traditional computers store information as either 0s or 1s, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, which represent and store information as both 0s and 1s simultaneously. That makes them able to process information much faster than classical computers.
The Trump administration has made quantum computing a priority. Companies including
’s Google and
are racing to roll out the world’s first commercial-grade machine over the next few years.
Interest among Accenture clients has ramped up over the past two years because companies including IBM now let people experiment with their early-stage quantum-computing machines via the cloud, Mr. Dukatz said. Such machines can solve only small-scale problems because the quantum bits are delicate and can be prone to errors.
Boston Consulting Group also has a quantum-computing consulting practice that has ramped up over the past two or three years, said Amit Kumar, a managing director and partner. Consultants at the firm provide strategy and recommendation services for vendors, including companies selling access to early quantum computers, and for business clients in industries such as aerospace and finance, he said.
Accenture’s work in the area began in 2015 in its research and development division with four researchers focused on exploring quantum computing’s potential impact on business problems.
In 2017, the firm teamed up with quantum-computing vendor 1QBit Information Technologies Inc. to map out more than 150 use cases for the technology in various industries. Those range from finding the most cost-effective route for shipping goods to speeding up drug discovery for diseases.
The U.S. patent that Accenture received in April is for a method that uses artificial intelligence to evaluate the complexity of a specific mathematical problem. An AI-based recommendation engine determines whether to solve that problem on a classical computer or one of the early-stage quantum-computing platforms via the cloud.
A telecommunications company, for example, could use the method to determine which computing platform is best to solve a problem related to the placement of cellphone towers to provide the appropriate amount of coverage for a specific area, Mr. Dukatz said.
Accenture has also been leading daylong workshops on quantum computing and other emerging technologies at innovation centers around the world for hundreds of clients.
Executives from German energy company
which has about 20 million customers across Europe, helped Accenture develop a quantum-computing-focused workshop in February in the Netherlands.
Quantum computing could be used in conjunction with artificial intelligence to predict in near-real-time when power is needed in a specific area in order to balance supply and demand, said Andreas Heinen, head of information technology at Innogy’s retail energy management unit. Such problems would take too long to solve with classical computers because they can have billions of variables, he said.
Mr. Heinen and Alexander Verwey, an IT executive at Essent, a Dutch energy subsidiary of Innogy, are considering how to best move forward with a quantum-computing strategy, even though it’s early days.
“We’d rather start this exponential learning curve early on,” he said.
Write to Sara Castellanos at [email protected]
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