Quantum State of Mind: Observations in Sydney

5 min readMar 8, 2024

By: Murray Thom, Vice President, Quantum Technology Evangelism at D-Wave

Dr. Cathy Foley, Tony Murphy, Wilson da Silva, and I finally get a chance to meet in person to discuss how to help more port operators and Australian organizations engage with quantum computing to see transformational impact today.

When visiting Australia, you’ll notice the warm and casual vibe of the people there. On my return trip from the recent Quantum Australia conference in Sydney, I was in the international terminal on my way to the gate. Scanning the Departures board, I found my flight and looked across to see that the flight status was listed as “Relax”. Just the thing I needed to ease my mind and my walking speed.

Just like the smooth operations at the complex Sydney airport that day, we all seek to find logistical conditions that reduce frustration. I took this trip to share how quantum computing can help businesses meet onerous day-to-day logistical challenges.

My Role as D-Wave’s Evangelist

As an active professional in the quantum computing field for over two decades, I’ve seen the industry evolve dramatically. As I watch it grow, I see a storm of new discoveries, a recurrence of past discoveries rediscovered, and a fair amount of noise. With so many voices offering a wide range of perspectives, it can be challenging for businesses to grasp the potential of this technology. This is why I love attending industry events — it helps me cut through the noise and identify crucial patterns that are shaping the commercialization of quantum computing.

Quantum Australia 2024

While attending Quantum Australia 2024, I had the honor of participating in a panel to discuss how quantum technologies are demonstrating business value today. There was a keen interest in how D-Wave’s quantum solutions can benefit industries like logistics, and I shared insights into how quantum computing can transform transportation, even prompting a discussion with Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Cathy Foley, about applications in busy shipping ports. Key among the observations was the need to raise awareness of quantum solutions among port operators, and to work in concert with the rail, trucking, and shipping businesses operating in Australia.

Read the recent announcement about our joint services with NEC Australia that introduces quantum computing cloud and consulting services to organizations in Australia.

Great crowd out for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast panel to discuss quantum computing applications in transportation and logistics with Wilson DaSilva and Vinayak Dixit.

How Businesses See Value in Quantum Computing

A recurring question I heard at the conference was: “how to help business customers see value in quantum technology?” My answer? We need to reframe the question. It’s about the solutions built, not just the technology itself. In time, most people will come to associate quantum computing with the applications it serves, not with its sophisticated components. Take companies like Pattison Food Group, a large Canadian grocery chain, which is reducing the time it takes to create driver schedules from 80 hours to just 15 hours each week. Or SavantX, which helped the Port of Los Angeles increase the amount of cargo handled each day by 60% at Pier 300. These are just two of the many applications demonstrating quantum’s tangible impact today.

The Mindset of Commercial Quantum Adoption

Another question I encountered repeatedly was: “How to prove to customers that they must use quantum computers?” This is a topic worth taking some time to unpack. I sort customers on an adoption spectrum from early to late adopters, and the two ends of the spectrum represent radically different mindsets.

The early adopters are looking for success stories from their peers to affirm that they can use quantum computing. So, when they learn that Momentum Worldwide generated optimized promotional tours in less than an hour, an early adopter can see that quantum computing is ready for commercial applications and can generate quantifiable value.

Late adopters, on the other hand, have a different question: “Do I have to use quantum computing to be competitive?” Implicit in this question is a desire to avoid change. When it comes to revolutionary technologies like quantum, it may feel more comfortable to postpone the decision, but that’s not usually synonymous with a business growth plan. Those evaluating quantum computing need to evaluate the possible opportunity costs as they consider when to act.

Quotables from Quantum Australia

The conference was full of insightful discussions and a touch of humor. Here are a few of my favorites:

Bernie Hobbs, the conference emcee, delighted the audience with her self-proclaimed geek-out moment, saying, “I get to reach peak nerd at Quantum Australia.”

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Cathy Foley, made an important observation: “We need to make sure that businesses are aware that quantum computing could be of use to them.”

In a surprising moment, Dimitri Kusnezov, Under Secretary for Science and Technology (U.S. Department of Homeland Security) commented, “I like quantum mechanics because it’s simple… it’s conceptually simple. Just write the [Schrödinger] equation on one line and the rest flows from that.”

Meeting ahead of the breakfast panel with the great team at NEC Australia.

The Path Ahead

The potential for quantum computing is undeniable. We’re now seeing tangible benefits gained by early adopters of the technology. The recent progress made by D-Wave, including our partnership with Zapata AI, is turning heads. We’re entering an age where quantum-powered AI will successfully reshape entire industries, not just organizations.

I’m excited about upcoming events like the Global Quantum Symposium in Basel, the Reuters Supply Chain USA conference in Atlanta, and D-Wave’s very own Qubits conference in June. If you’re attending any of these, reach out to me on LinkedIn to connect.

About D-Wave

D-Wave is a leader in the development and delivery of quantum computing systems, software, and services, and is the world’s first commercial supplier of quantum computers. Our mission is to unlock the power of quantum computing today to benefit business and society. We do this by delivering customer value with practical quantum applications for problems as diverse as logistics, artificial intelligence, materials sciences, drug discovery, scheduling, cybersecurity, fault detection, and financial modeling.

Discover more about D-Wave.