Future Decoded: welcome to the quantum age

By Rob Fraser, Senior Director of Commercial Software Engineering at Microsoft


Sitting on the desk next to me as I write this is a small, red and black glass valve. Loaned to me by the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, it’s a part of one of the original Colossus computers that helped win the Second World War. To a geek like me, living a few miles away from the site of the Codebreakers at Station X, it’s a sacred relic. I’ve been looking at it a lot since Satya Nadella’s keynote at our Ignite Conference in Orlando, Florida.

For those who haven’t seen the event, I encourage you to take a look here. At Ignite and in his book, Hit Refresh, Satya talks about the deep transformative impact that Mixed Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing will have on our lives. During the keynote, Leo Kouwenhoven, a physics professor and key researcher at Station Q (our quantum computing research group named in homage to Bletchley Park) presented Satya with a prototype quantum processor. Designed to be chilled to just a tad away from absolute zero – colder than deep space – its purpose is to store and process information in a completely new way. If the glass valve next to me was the start of the digital age, then the chip that Leo gave to Satya is very much the start of the quantum age.

Quantum is a very different form of computing. A quantum computer uses the physics of the very small, individual atoms and particles like electrons, to create a way of computing that can work on specific kinds of problems that are currently intractable even with today’s supercomputers. A way to visualize this is to think of solving a maze puzzle. Computers today would explore one path in the maze, then the next, and the next until it finds the exit. A quantum computer would explore all possible paths at the same time. There are problems in science, chemistry, genetics, medicine, the environment, finance, big data and machine learning that, theoretically, could be solved much faster with a quantum computer – and that is a big deal if you are in business in any of these areas.

No one has built a scalable quantum computer yet, but progress has recently been made in labs at Microsoft and all over the world. There is lot of work to do, but Microsoft envisions a future where customers use Azure for both traditional and quantum computing.

I am delighted to announce that, for the first time, we will be discussing quantum computing in depth at our Future Decoded event in London on Tuesday, October 31 with key members of the Microsoft Quantum team:

  • For all attendees at Future Decoded, both business and technical, there will be a keynote from Krysta Svore and Leo Kouwenhoven from Station Q. Leo will talk about what quantum computing is, how we are looking to build a quantum computer, and Krysta will talk about the software that will run on it and the opportunities there will be in different industries to use quantum computing.
  • There will also be a breakout session with business development director Dr Julie Love that will look more deeply into the likely impacts of quantum on different industries, this talk being suitable for business, technology and research leaders.
  • For attendees with existing knowledge or interest in quantum computing, or specific interest applications of quantum computing such as machine learning, chemistry and biotech, world-leading expert Dr Matthias Troyer will run deep-dive breakout sessions on Microsoft software stack and simulators that you can use, and potential industrial applications of quantum algorithms.

All attendees on October 31 can attend the keynote. If you wish to attend the breakout sessions, register for the “Industry Insights & Futures” track on October 31 and select the quantum sessions in the session builder.

The quantum age is coming. The quantum economy is coming. Find out more at Future Decoded.