Microsoft and consultancy KPMG are working to solve common business problems by using quantum-inspired optimization via the Azure Quantum cloud service.
Powerful quantum computers capable of solving tricky computing problems (and maybe undermining today's encryption algorithms) are still years away, but progress is being made by Google, IBM, Honeywell Quantum and Cambridge Quantum, and many other efforts.
Microsoft and KPMG are teaming up to solve quantum optimization through software by using the emulation of quantum computing on today's hardware in the Azure cloud. KPMG calls it Quantum-Inspired Optimization or QIO.
"Emulating these quantum effects on classical computers has led to the development of quantum-inspired optimization (QIO) algorithms that run on classical hardware," Microsoft noted in a blog post.
"These algorithms allow researchers, developers, and solution providers to benefit from quantum approaches on classical hardware today, providing a speed-up over traditional approaches."
Microsoft claims Azure Quantum is a full-stack, public cloud for quantum computing that allows consultancies like KPMG to test quantum computing optimization tools to solve business challenges.
"The Azure Quantum platform allows us to explore numerous different solver approaches utilizing the same code, helping to minimize re-work and improve efficiency," said Bent Dalager, global head of KPMG's Quantum Hub.
"The shared goal for these initial projects is to build solution blueprints for common industry optimization problems using Azure Quantum, which we can then provide to more clients at scale."
The two companies said initial work will focus on benchmarking solutions for financial services portfolio optimization and telecommunication service fleet optimization, with results expected in the coming months.
Microsoft is in the quantum supercomputer race along with Amazon, Google, IBM, IonQ, Nvidia, and many others: Over 240 companies have attracted $8.512 billion in investments, according to Constellation Research.
And there is plenty happening: consultancy Accenture is also working with IonQ to bring quantum computing to more businesses, for example. IBM launched the 127-qubit Eagle quantum processor this month. It beat Google's 72-qubit quantum computer, which is spearheaded by its Quantum AI campus in California and its Sycamore processor.
Quantum computing, which defies the classic computer logic 0 and 1, holds promise in numerous domains because it could solve certain problems that classical computers simply can't manage. But it's still early days.
Cryptographers are worried that quantum computers will break encryption as it's known today, forcing a new era of quantum-proof encryption, but that would necessitate a far more powerful quantum computer than those from IBM or Google.
The UK's chief of spy agency MI6 was sufficiently concerned about quantum computing to flag it as one of the greatest threats the nation faces from enemies like Iran and China.
"Our adversaries are pouring money and ambition into mastering artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and synthetic biology because they know that mastering these technologies will give them leverage," said Richard Moore, chief of MI6, this month.