\u00a0[This article was co-written by Michael Hickins.]\nIn an industry constantly looking over the horizon for the \u201cnext big thing,\u201d quantum computing (QC) is hands-down the winner when it comes to magazine covers and breathless reporting. \u00a0But, unlike many overhyped technologies, QC already exists \u2013 albeit in very limited scope \u2013and it may surpass current computing paradigms by many orders of magnitude for some types of computation. While many researchers are looking into how QC can be applied to real problems in the future, some areas are already in the crosshairs, and should be on the radar of CIOs.\nOne of those areas is in the field of cryptography, where QC may be capable of breaking modern cryptography by 2030, rendering existing encryption protocols obsolete. While even that may seem like a long way off, \u201ca decade is not a long time,\u201d Sir Peter Knight, chair of the Quantum Metrology Institute at the United Kingdom\u2019s National Physical Laboratory, told the Wall Street Journal last year.\nOr as the CIO of one multinational chemical company put it, \u201cit's no longer science fiction\u2026 rather, it\u2019s \u2018Big Bang Theory\u2019 moving towards \u2018Modern Family.\u2019\u201d\nNot waiting for NIST standards\nThe National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has already instituted a formal working group charged with developing new cryptographic standards that will withstand QC\u2019s charge.\nNIST is expected to issue draft standards for post quantum cryptography that will be available for public comment sometime between 2023 and 2025, says Daniel Southern, Information Security Senior Manager, Global Information Security, at Oracle, who is participating in the working group. \u201cBut that doesn\u2019t mean we\u2019re just going to wait seven years until these new algorithms become available,\u201d says Southern.\nIn the meantime, he says, Oracle is already working on security measures that help strengthen its position on QC. \u201cProactive solutions are always the goal when it comes to information security, and in order to prevent issues you have to understand them\u2026 Our board has considerable experience dealing with these types of risks, and while modern cryptography is severely impacted, there are ways it can be used to bolster our resistance in the meantime.\u201d\nEven academics are suggesting companies start taking action. \u201cBy investing in the proper defenses now, those who plan ahead can keep their cool and protect their critical data when everybody else is either panicking or drowning in a sea of quantum disruption,\u201d writes Alan Usas, program director and adjunct professor of computer science for the Executive Master in Cybersecurity program at Brown University.\nQuantum computing will impact more than just cybersecurity\nQC will also have an impact in fields where extremely large data sets can be used to predict future outcomes \u2013 think weather forecasting and the health sciences. It\u2019s unclear, however, where else QC will have an impact on business, which is why vendors are in many cases partnering with academic and other specialists.\nOracle, for example, has begun working with USC\u2019s Daniel Lidar, one of the leading QC experts in North America. Lidar has directed research and development at the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computation Center (QCC) since 2011.\nThe strategy is to \u201cleverage the work of a specialized partner in ways that benefit Oracle\u2019s customers,\u201d says Alan Wood, senior research director of Oracle Labs.\nLidar will be responsible for studying aspects of QC scalability and \u201cthe time frame in which quantum computing may become relevant to business applications,\u201d says Kresimir Mihic, who along with Michael Delorimier, is Oracle\u2019s principal investigator for the project. Mihic and Delorimier, meanwhile, will try to determine which of Oracle\u2019s applications could be enhanced by QC.\nThis is very much the position most CIOs are in today.\n\u201cI think we are really trying to understand what this really is from a laypersons perspective and will then look for business application - but in the world of AI, AR, VR this tech can move us forward quickly,\u201d noted the chemical company CIO.\nBut a significant number of hurdles remain before QC can become a factor, even in the hands of very large companies or even nations.\nQC will become valuable when it comes to predicting future outcomes based on enormous data sets but doing so means being able to harness significantly larger numbers of qubits (the QC world equivalent to classic binary bits) than anyone has managed to date.\nTo put this into perspective, consider that it would take the world\u2019s fastest supercomputer more than a thousand years to perform the number of calculations needed to break modern cryptography; a quantum computer could do it in under a minute, provided, however, that it had over 4,000 qubits. The most anyone has harnessed as of this writing is still under 100 qubits.\nFor most computing functions, traditional computers will work just fine. The way Mihic sees it, the Space Shuttle can be driven by the Commodore 64. \u201cYou need quantum computing to go into warp drive,\u201d he says.\nEssentially, the way QC works is that all the qubits in a computer perform the same calculation at the same time and reconcile the \u201ccorrect\u201d answer between themselves. While these calculations could be considered nothing more than educated guesses, the number of qubits, the speed with which the calculations are performed (microseconds), and the number of repetitions possible in a very short interval of time practically guarantee a correct outcome.\n\u201cWhen NIST says it'll take a few hours to solve for an encryption key in 2030, they aren't necessarily saying it'll be a single attempt that will take a few hours to run,\u201d Southern says. \u201cRather that they might have run several attempts and will average one correct solution in a few hours. Having more qubits increases your probability of being right, so once you have a few hundred thousand [qubits], it's more likely I'll teleport home today after work rather then giving you a wrong answer,\u201d he says.\nThe challenge of harnessing that many qubits is that \u201cin order to keep a superposition over large numbers of states we need error correction,\u201d Delorimier says. Error correction offsets interference from external factors, which becomes inevitable when dealing with very large numbers of qubits. \u201cWithout error correction, whenever a quantum computer interacts with the outside world, its quantum state collapses. That is, the exponentially large state that it uses to go so fast is no longer exponentially large.\u201d\nMore hurdles to QC loom\nAnother challenge is power and cooling \u2013 familiar to engineers of contemporary computing, but at a much greater scale. Running a quantum computer today requires keeping the qubits at near absolute zero degrees.\nOther challenges that must be solved before QC can be brought into the computing mainstream include: quantum circuits and control logic, problem and algorithm reformulation to fit the quantum paradigm, and manufacturability.\nCosts will eventually come down, the cooling requirements will probably become slightly less onerous, but QC will still probably only be useful for arriving at answers to questions involving enormous data sets, such as the huge number of variables involved in weather forecasting or simulating the human brain.\nMichael Hickins is director of strategic communications at Oracle. Previously, he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal\u2019s CIO Journal, the editor of WSJ.com\u2019s Digits blog, and executive editor at eWEEK. He is also a noted fiction writer.