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2024 Quantum Forecasts: Computing, AI, Cybersecurity

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2024 is poised to be a pivotal year for quantum technology, with advancements in hardware, software, and applications expected to accelerate. Here are some key predictions from industry experts:

In 2024, quantum industry experts from technology companies and analyst firms predict a year rich in quantum technology and hardware advancements and deployments, focusing more on securing the digital landscape against quantum threats.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) expects to complete its post-quantum cryptography (PQC) standards by 2024. Colin Soutar, managing director of risk and financial advisory at Deloitte, predicts that 2024 is the year “PQC comes of age.” This sentiment was echoed by industry leaders from Forrester, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, NTT Research, Raytheon and others, who emphasized the importance of crypto agility.

Quantum vendors and experts also saw the potential intersection of quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI), as highlighted by executives from Dell, NVIDIA and D-Wave.

Here are the quantum computing predictions for the coming year from these organizations:

Post-quantum security predictions

Forrester’s 2024 predictions report for tech infrastructure: At least 10% of enterprises will publish post-quantum security plans. Even the most optimistic scientists say practical quantum computing is ten years away. In 2021, IBM crossed the 100-qubit-per-processor barrier with Eagle; project Condor is targeting 1,121 qubits by the end of 2023, followed by Kookaburra with more than 4,158 by 2025. Organizations like CERN, Cleveland Clinic, Mercedes-Benz, Exxon Mobil, JP Morgan Chase and Mitsubishi Chemical are all experimenting with quantum-inspired technology. This progress instills confidence that quantum is plausible (although potentially a decade away).

But concern quickly surpasses excitement for this advance because it threatens today’s encryption. Preparing for this reality (i.e., post-quantum security) requires a Y2K level of effort, and enterprises must be ready. In late 2022, President Biden signed the Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act; in July 2023, the European Policy Centre published a quantum cybersecurity agenda for Europe. Expect a big push toward post-quantum security in 2024 with 10% of companies creating formal remediation plans.

Ray Harishankar, fellow of IBM Quantum Safe: “Harvest now, decrypt later” attacks to become more common with quantum advancements: Quantum system performance continues to scale closer to the point of being cryptographically relevant, with studies conducted by World Economic Forum, National Security memorandums and timelines published by Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) suggesting quantum computers could have the ability to break the most widely used security protocols in the world by as early as the 2030s. And even before then, today, classical systems are vulnerable to “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks — where bad actors steal and store data for later decryption on the chance of accessing such future quantum computers. With quantum computing advancing rapidly, we believe these attacks will become more common over the next several years.

Recognizing these risks, NIST has already begun developing new quantum-safe cryptography standards and is expected to publish its first official standards in early 2024. In anticipation of this, organizations should start the process today of identifying cryptography used in their environments to prepare for the transition to quantum-safe cryptography to ensure their data and systems remain protected from threats posed by quantum decryption. With bad actors already carrying out “harvest now, decrypt later” attacks, and some estimates showing this transition could take as long as 15 years, the earlier organizations start the better.

Michael Sikorski, VP and CTO of Unit 42 at Palo Alto Networks: Attackers will stockpile encrypted data for the quantum era. While quantum computing may be in the distant future, cunning threat actors will be harvesting stolen encrypted files for when quantum computing can crack the encryption of these files. Organizations should take stock of what data they have that can be decrypted, and what has been stolen in the past, and understand your source code and where it could resist quantum threats.

Kazuhiro Gomi, president and CEO of NTT Research: While the timing of threats posed by scalable quantum computers is still speculative, the need to prepare for this threat is real. With NIST’s expected release of more PQC standards in 2024, industries, governments and others are expected to ramp up their migration planning efforts. This is based on the concern that malicious actors collect ongoing communication data and could compromise security once scalable quantum computers become available. In this regard, it’s important to note that cryptography researchers are working on fortifying the security of advanced cryptographic methods, such as attribute-based encryption, for PQC readiness.

Torsten Staab, principal technical fellow at Raytheon: With the rapid progression of quantum computing and associated cybersecurity risks, we can expect to see a heightened focus on quantum-resistant cryptography, also referred to as post-quantum cryptography (PQC). With the NIST’s much-anticipated standardization of its first round of PQC algorithms in early 2024, we can also expect to see more organizations starting to develop their quantum security strategies. As a result, associated concepts such as crypto agility will also gain more attention over the next few years. Crypto agility refers to an information security system’s ability to quickly adopt an alternative to its original encryption method or protocol without requiring a significant change to the system, its infrastructure, or connected systems, services, or applications. The next generation of IT/OT solutions must be crypto-agile to successfully transition from today’s classical encryption to tomorrow’s post-quantum cryptography. Being crypto-agile is also important because nobody can provide a 100% guarantee that their encryption algorithm, including NIST’s new PQC algorithms, is unbreakable.

Jon France, CISO of ISC2: We’ll see increased activity around quantum-safe cryptography and key distribution. Quantum computing tends to get the most attention in quantum technology discussions, but we likely won’t see it become commercially available for the next three to five years. What I have seen and anticipate we’ll continue to see is increased activity around quantum-safe cryptography. For example, NIST has been executing competitions to find efficient quantum-resilient algorithms, and they’ve now qualified the first set of four to be used. So, the research community’s focus on quantum-resistant algorithms is strong. I anticipate we’ll see more of that activity and search for improved algorithms in 2024 from NIST, The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and others.

We’re also starting to see quantum-safe key distribution emerge from the quantum dialogues. Networks using quantum-safe key distribution are starting to be deployed, which is vitally important to counter the threat of compromised key distribution when quantum computers become more commercially available. These areas are largely still in the research phase, but I think we can expect to see lots of activity and discovery in these areas in particular.

Rebecca Krauthamer, co-founder and CPO of QuSecure: Quantum resilient encryption adoption will be on every CISO’s cyber roadmap in 2024. Quantum decryption by Shor’s algorithm is a known threat, but going further, both AI and quantum advancement pose “unknown unknowns” to the world of secure communications. In the face of an ever-changing threat landscape, the concept of cryptographic agility — or the ability to control and swap encryption algorithms, entropy and more — will no longer be a “nice-to-have” but will be a core component of cybersecurity strategic roadmaps. “Crypto agility orchestration” will become the buzzword for its promise of taking us beyond this cryptography upgrade to resilience in the face of evolving threats to encryption.

Wider adoption of quantum technologies expected in 2024

John Roese, CTO of Dell Technologies: Quantum computing and generative AI (genAI) become “entangled.” Looking out a bit further, it is now very clear to some of us that quantum computing and AI are two parts of the same story. Today we are seeing explosive growth in AI use cases and early adoption. We see no signs of this slowing down. However, one of the major issues with genAI and most large-scale AI is the extreme demand for computing resources. Transformers, diffusion models and other new techniques under genAI are extremely resource-intensive probabilistic functions. It turns out that quantum compute is exceptionally good at highly scaled optimization problems where the goal is to find the best answer to a question over an almost infinitely large set of options. In fact, you could call a quantum system a probabilistic computer.

While we still have work to scale quantum systems beyond the 1000-qubit range we are in today, it’s now very clear that as quantum systems scale, the mathematics they do is ideal to take over some of the core processing of advanced AI systems. It will be several more years before we see real impact but taking a long view, it’s clear to me that the computing foundation of modern AI will be a hybrid quantum system where the AI work is spread across a set of diverse compute architectures and one of those architectures will be quantum processing units. When that happens, we are likely to see many orders of magnitude increase in the ability of AI systems. If you were surprised by the massive leap forward when genAI emerged in late 2022, you should expect that a possibly bigger jump forward in AI will happen when quantum and AI intersect in our not-too-distant future.

Ian Buck, VP of hyperscale and HPC at NVIDIA: Enterprise leaders will launch quantum computing research initiatives based on two key drivers: the ability to use traditional AI supercomputers to simulate quantum processors and the availability of an open, unified development platform for hybrid-classical quantum computing. This enables developers to use standard programming languages instead of needing custom, specialized knowledge to build quantum algorithms.

Once considered an obscure niche in computer science, quantum computing exploration will become more mainstream as enterprises join academia and national labs in pursuing rapid advances in materials science, pharmaceutical research, subatomic physics and logistics.

Alan Baratz, president and CEO of D-Wave: The US government’s usage of annealing quantum computing will increase given the anticipated passing of legislation including the National Quantum Initiative and the National Defense Authorization Act. 2024 will see a rapid uptick in the quantum sandbox and test bed programs — with directives to use all types of quantum technology, including annealing, hybrid and gate models. These programs will focus on near-term application development to solve real-world public sector problems, from public vehicle routing to electric grid resilience.

The global quantum race will continue to heat up, as the U.S. and its allies aggressively push for near-term application development. While the U.S. is now accelerating near-term applications, other governments like Australia, Japan, the U.K. and the E.U. have been making expedited moves to bring quantum in to solve public sector challenges. This effort will greatly expand in 2024. Top public sector focus areas will likely be sustainability, transportation and logistics, supply chain and health care.

Raj Hazra, president and CEO of Quantinuum: In 2024, we expect to see more adoption and integration of quantum technologies in real-world scenarios, as well as more collaboration and standardization among different stakeholders. We also anticipate more challenges and opportunities arising from the coexistence of classical and quantum systems, such as interoperability, compatibility and security.

Forecasts on quantum computing supremacy and hardware developments

Alan Baratz, president and CEO of D-Wave: The industry will achieve a proven, defensible quantum supremacy result in 2024. Ongoing scientific and technical advancements indicate that we are far along the path to achieving quantum supremacy. 2024 will be the year where quantum definitively outperforms classical, full stop. There will be clear evidence of quantum’s ability to solve a complex computational problem previously unsolvable by classical computing, and quantum will solve it faster, better and with less power consumption. The breakthrough we’ve all been pursuing is coming.

Román Orús, co-founder and chief scientific officer of Multiverse Computing: Quantum hardware may start becoming more ready for industry-wide applications, thanks to powerful error-mitigation techniques and scalability experiments. Also, artificial intelligence will get a dramatic boost thanks to quantum-inspired methods, which will bring further memory efficiency, speed and accuracy.

Markus Pflitsch, CEO and founder of Terra Quantum: In 2024, I think we’ll see a shift away from the focus on the qubit race and a broader perspective on the ability of quantum computing to expand the capabilities of other technologies. In the next 12 months, quantum hardware companies will achieve even closer integrations between classical and quantum hardware and software to achieve the highest performance from each technology. It will also be increasingly clear that quantum computing is the gateway towards artificial general intelligence based on quantum mechanics’ non-local, non-causal and non-deterministic nature.

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