Another day full of appointments. And of course you want to be on time. But rush hour traffic, as always, lets start the morning with a stress test of the nerves. According to the “stop and go” principle, you torture yourself with your vehicle from traffic light to traffic light. Passing road works, lane narrowing and overloaded crossings. You wonder if traffic flow through the city couldn’t be managed more smartly – but you also recognize that traffic planning professionals face an almost superhuman challenge to the complexity of urban road networks. Is there a solution anyway? Yes, in the near future. Quantum computing makes it possible …
Today, quantum computing (QC) is the topic of conversation wherever high-performance computers are involved – especially since the Bavarian Minister President Markus Söder described the technology as a “warp drive for the research of the future”  and the Bavarian State Government provided a total funding program of 300 million euros for QuantumTech Vision Bayern in its Hightech Agenda Plus . But even today, many people still have very diffuse ideas about how quantum computers work and its potential applications – and that includes business and industry, even though the new technology could revolutionize our world in the midterm in much the same way as Konrad Zuse’s “Z1” and today’s omnipresent personal computer.
QAR-Lab: Systematic buildup of quantum expertise from the research to the user level
Our goal as QAR-Lab is to research the potential of quantum computing, to test the existing hardware and to bring quantum computing into application. Business and industry should have the most easy possible access to the new technology.
The QAR-Lab was founded in 2016 by Prof. Dr. Claudia Linnhoff-Popien at the Chair of Mobile and Distributed Systems at LMU Munich. “Our goal,” says Prof. Dr. Linnhoff-Popien, “is to conduct basic research on the one side and to make quantum technology usable for practical applications on the other side.”
Our mission at QAR Labs is to:
To evaluate different QC systems, we use several quantum computers and have access to computers from IBM, Fujitsu, D-Wave Systems and Rigetti via the cloud. We conduct “Challenges” with practical application scenarios, in which different hardware and programming strategies are tested to solve specific tasks.
QAR-Lab „Quantum Computing Optimization Challenge”
In spring 2021, we organized a QC Programming Challenge in the QAR Lab, in which five use cases of the companies BASF, BMW, SAP, Siemens and Trumpf were calculated on four quantum computers. The goal was to find out which computer delivers the best results for which use case. A second challenge followed in November 2021 with the companies E.ON, Evonik Industries and BAYER.
The following gate-model or annealing-based computers were used:
Before starting the experiment, the participating students from LMU Munich had to familiarize themselves with the operation of the quantum computers in an intensive way. Due to the fact that there was no standardization, this also included familiarization with the various software development kits (SDKs) for the individual computers.
Making quantum computing usable for non-specialists as well
The aim of the challenge was, among other things, to gain insights into performance, noise and user experience when accessing the quantum computers in the context of the various use cases. Prof. Dr. Linnhoff-Popien comments: “There are no other comparable experimental projects in Germany where students can gain such comprehensive experience with programming quantum computers – the QAR-Lab is currently the leader in this field. Our goal is to make quantum computing more accessible and widely commercially usable, even for non-specialists, to give companies and institutions an early quantum advantage.“
The challenge: Raising awareness of the range of possible applications
” So far, quantum computing has been a matter for specialists who intervene very deeply in the systems with hardware-near programming,” says Prof. Dr. Linnhoff-Popien. “We currently are in a similar situation with quantum computing as we were about 50 years ago with the personal computer. And just like the PC, the quantum computer will also be operable for non-specialized users in the near future. Software developers are already looking for ways to make working with a quantum computer more intuitive. The primary task now is to raise awareness of where quantum computing can show its advantages.“
The five QC levels of the QAR Lab: When will companies be able to achieve a quantum advantage?
Our QAR Lab scientists expect that companies will be able to realize their first economic quantum advantages in the next five to ten years. To evaluate where a company already stands, the individual company and its use cases are classified according to the QAR Lab model of five QC levels. In this way, it is possible to gradually identify the need for specific use cases and the expected timeframe for achieving the quantum advantage:
QC-Level 0 (Thinking)
There is an awareness that quantum computing could significantly increase performance and efficiency for certain processes.
QC-Level 1 (Classification)
There is an awareness that economic advantage can be achieved with QC in the areas of optimization, simulation, and artificial intelligence.
QC-Level 2 (Discovery)
The company has already collected a list of potential use cases for QC.
QC-Level 3 (Selection)
According to the QAR Lab’s four categories (severe, important, appropriate, and early use cases), the potential use cases are weighted and a favorite is determined.
QC-Level 4 (Implementation)
The favorite use case is implemented on several different quantum computers. Then, the results are compared with each other in terms of runtime and quality of the solution..
QC-Level 5 (Prediction)
After evaluating the comparison of different QC systems and determining the qubit requirements, our QAR Lab experts predict when the necessary hardware will be available and an early quantum advantage can be achieved.
Who can benefit from quantum computing?
In the future, quantum computing will have an impact on almost all economic and industrial sectors as well as social areas and will make a significant contribution to efficiently solving the most complex processes, such as the urban traffic planning scenario described at the beginning of this article. For many companies and institutions it is already possible today to position themselves for an early quantum advantage – and the QAR Lab is working on this:
Specific use cases: In which sectors will quantum computing revolutionize our world in the future?
Quantum computing is of interest for all applications where our current computers are reaching the limits of their capabilities. In research, we are currently focusing on the following topics
A typical use case where quantum computing proves to be extremely powerful is in solutions that require an enormous amount of calculations due to the many parameters that need to be considered.
Quantum pilot project at Volkswagen AG
Volkswagen AG, for example, already launched the world’s first quantum pilot project for optimizing traffic flow (Capacitated Vehicle Routing Problem) in Lisbon in 2019: Nine vehicles in the city’s MAN bus fleet were integrated into a QC system based on a quantum computer from D-Wave. The idea was to detect traffic jams and disruptions in time and choose the fastest route to the destination almost in real time . In another project, Volkswagen succeeded in using quantum computing to significantly shorten the travel times of 10,000 cabs in traffic in the Chinese mega-metropolis of Beijing . So quantum computing is an application that promises enormous benefits not only for metropolitan transportation planners, but also for the logistics, transportation, and travel sectors in general.
Quantum computing in the automotive sector at the BMW Group
The BMW Group is also exploring the possibilities of quantum computing in the automotive sector and set up a challenge with four focal points with the involvement of the global quantum computing community in the summer of 2021 :
Particularly interesting in the environment of industrial production: optimizing the positions and paths of robotic arms along production lines, as well as new possibilities for automated quality control and predictive maintenance.
The other potential applications of quantum computing range from imaging processes in medical technology and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries to data protection solutions and cryptography or systems for high-precision metrological recording of electric, magnetic and gravitational fields, seismic vibrations or changes in velocity. Even stock portfolios can be optimized to maximize profits using quantum computing.
Innovations need partners: Politicians have recognized the future potential of quantum technology
Anyone who wants to advance quantum computing needs strong partners not only in research and industry, but also driving forces in politics.
In January 2021, the Bavarian state government announced the merger of the five major players in the Munich quantum scene to form the Munich Quantum Valley initiative. The Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max Planck Society, the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Technical University of Munich are members of the association. The purpose is to expand Bavaria’s leading position in the field of quantum technology research, not only in relation to the other German states, but also in relation to international high-tech nations such as the USA and China.
In a five-point future plan , the Bavarian state government also aims to give additional impulse to quantum technology by promoting start-ups and cross-industry innovations.
The QuantumTech Vision Bavaria, whose framework was defined by Bavaria’s Digital Minister Judith Gerlach, Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger, and representatives of universities, research institutions, and industry, plays an essential role in this context: The intention is to implement the extensive findings from Bavarian basic research into quantum technology directly into industrial value creation.
The QAR Lab and Bayern Innovativ: Efficiently implementing technological change with quantum computing
As LMU’s QAR Lab, we focus on basic research, user expertise education, and on identifying concrete use cases together with partners from industry and business. Our partner Bayern Innovativ also wants to implement quantum computing as a future technology with concrete applications as quickly as possible. Dr. Andreas Böhm, Technology Project Manager and Head of Quantum Technology at Bayern Innovativ, commented: „We have seen in digitalization that many companies put off important innovations and transformation steps until an emergency situation such as the Corona pandemic forces them to act. We should avoid this mistake with quantum technology and take action in time. Because other states are at a similar stage of research as we are in Bavaria, but are already taking a much more application-oriented approach to this subject.“
Start with quantum computing
Read more about our cooperations with industry and about possible application possibilities in the field of quantum computing.