Reading the Book of Informatics recently, I realized that, sooner or later, our present-generation computing will reach the limit of its processing capabilities. The black and white of computing may give way to a grey amalgam. The super-computing of the future—quantum computing—once thought to be an impossible technology, is slowly gaining some level of acceptance.
While currently primarily experimental, quantum supremacy will be a reality in a matter of years. The big question I see: How is quantum computing different and what does it offer for the utilities industry?
How is quantum different?
I describe quantum computing as a concept which can perform calculations exponentially quicker than even the fastest computers known today. We all are aware of how classical computing uses binary bits - 0 or 1, true or false, or positive or negative. In a quantum computer, the fundamental bit is called a “quantum bit” or “qubit”. Contrary to Classical computing, a qubit can represent states as 0 or 1 or a “superposition” of both (partly 0 and partly 1) at the same time. Another key feature of quantum computing, “entanglement”, describes a strong correlation between two or more particles linked together in a way that a change in the state of one particle is reflected instantly in the other, even at great distances. The combination of superposition and entanglement enables a quantum computer to process a massive number of calculations simultaneously.
Also, Optimization and exponential scaling are the two primary aspects of quantum that enable them to make much more precise predictions than classical computers.
What does quantum offer for utilities?
Let’s explore some areas where the power of quantum computing can help address complex business challenges such as grid stability and reliability, predictive modelling and grid security.
- Quantum grid: Advanced technology research has considered using the qubit as a solar cell. A quantum dot is a nanoscale particle of semiconducting material that can be embedded to make quantum batteries. This, coupled with quantum communication to encode and decode information in physical systems, could provide energy providers with greater efficiency for input and output of energy, eliminating energy losses and achieving higher goals for renewable energy.
- Grid cybersecurity: Power grid infrastructure in today state is vulnerable towards security breaches. If utilities don’t apply quantum encryption to the grid, hackers will be easily able to penetrate it. Adding quantum keys to encryption could make it possible to create hack-resistant algorithms. As a large-scale cyber-attack on the US power grid could lead to losses of up to $1 trillion, the quantum cryptography market is expected to grow at a CAGR of more than 38.72 percent over the next few years.
- Quantum load pattern monitoring: Using quantum computing could help achieve precise knowledge of energy consumption. Quantum calculations can bring almost infinite accuracy to understanding smart meter consumption and event data in developing non-intrusive load monitoring capabilities, as well as providing load analysis and harmonic spectrum analysis to improve the efficiency of power consumption and spot inefficiencies.
- Customer analytics: Quantum computing can build on insights by assuming new data sets as well as working on intense number crunching using the data explosion from smart meters, digital channels and smart homes. Customer analytics will enter a new phase when machine learning on an entire customer analytical record (CAR++) is executed on a quantum computer. Deep insights that are currently difficult to predict, owing to the complexity of data sets, will become possible. Utilities could be able to increase the accuracy of their predictions by more than ~20-30 percent.
As if artificial intelligence was not transformational enough on its own, the power of quantum computing in AI could create a new era of competitiveness – and it’s clearly one of several disruptive technologies expected to usher in the “5th generation” of computing where mass parallel processing will be done using AI and intricate mathematical models.
I’ll share more about how we can build the technology expertise to work in the new era of quantum computing in a future blog post.