The trend of Quantum Computing is a computing paradigm that utilizes quantum technology to reach unprecedented levels of processing power millions of times faster than existing supercomputers. The trend of Quantum Computing includes related fields like quantum communication and the quantum internet.
Over the past 2 years, the trend of Quantum Computing has steadily advanced, with processors calculating with more qubits (the quantum equivalent of bits) than ever before, at lower rates of error and at decreasing cost. In almost a race, companies like IBM and Google have publicly announced quantum roadmaps to reach 1 million qubits by 2030, a number many experts say is necessary for most commercial purposes like supply chain-related operations.
The ability to analyze and potentially optimize operations on a large scale instantaneously, as well as provide unhackable information communication, makes the Quantum Computing trend moderately impactful to logistics. The technology is too nascent for practical commercial use in supply chains at scale, but commercial interest is growing and technological milestones are continually being achieved.
Quantum computers need more improvements before they can be practically used in everyday commercial operations in supply chains.
Relevance to the Future of Logistics
- Fleet & Route Optimization
- Container Optimization
- Rapid Simulation & Digital Twin Support
- Quantum Internet & Data Protection
With last-mile delivery costs accounting for 53% of total shipping costs, logistics service providers focus keenly on optimizing this segment of the supply chain – especially by adjusting routes and delivery fleet size. While an optimized route with a handful of delivery stops can be determined relatively quickly by a desktop computer, it would take years for even a supercomputer to calculate an optimized route with dozens of stops and maybe additional parameters to be considered.
Quantum computers, however, use special properties from quantum mechanics to optimize an individual route with hundreds of stops within mere minutes. They can also calibrate routes across entire fleets to ensure deliveries are made in the best ways with the least number of vehicles. This means quantum computers can help lower delivery costs for logistics organizations, reduce CO2 emissions in last-mile travel, and improve the customer experience.
It is relatively easy to maximize shipment loads in a rectangular container when the parcels and pallets are of uniform size. But this is challenging when the container is oddly shaped like an aircraft unit load device (ULD) and even more complicated when each item varies greatly by shape, volume, weight, and fragility.
Quantum computers will be able to optimize almost instantly the placement of thousands of parcels and pallets in containers headed for various destinations. And when each container is fully utilized, this lowers the cost and emissions per shipment and reduces the overall number of containers required for all shipments.
An advanced simulation of a complex digital twin or model requires an incredible amount of processing power but provides extremely useful information for decision making. Running several simulations to compare outputs can take days or even years using current computers, depending on the complexity. Instead, quantum computers can deliver in minutes, unlocking opportunities that benefit the supply chain both directly and indirectly.
On a microscale, quantum computers will enable the simulation of molecular-level chemical interactions and physical processes, spurring development and the manufacture of new materials and products like better vehicle batteries and biodegradable packaging that can impact and change the logistics industry. On a macroscale, quantum computers can help support digital twins and simulations of complicated supply chain networks with thousands of elements in a single model. Empowered by this technology, logistics planners can evaluate almost in real time various alternative scenarios, such as the unexpected closure of a warehouse, and support well-timed, informed decision making.
As logistics organizations store valuable personal and private information, like names, addresses, signatures, and orders, data protection is a high priority. But with malicious software and tools, hackers can intercept and read emails and other forms of digital communication travelling through fiber optic cables and other channels. Quantum computing can provide an extra layer of digital privacy and security to counteract hacking.
Due to inherent physical properties that differ from those of regular computers, quantum computing messages and keys are theoretically unhackable, with the mere act of interception immediately destroying the information and potentially raising an alarm. Fiber optic cable networks utilizing quantum keys have already been established in China and the US and are growing, establishing the beginnings of a quantum internet. In one step further, China has already launched a quantum satellite that can pass quantum encrypted messages between Beijing and Vienna and plans to launch more in the near future. With these communication developments in quantum computing, logistics providers can better protect customer data.
Quantum Computing is advancing in a way that is similar to desktop computers in the second half of the 20th century, moving from laboratories to personal desks and subsequently into the cloud. Meanwhile, logistics organizations are starting to understand the potential supply chain benefits and use cases of the Quantum Computing trend. When quantum computers are ready for commercial use, supply chains will be able to unlock a new level of optimization, one that was previously unachievable.
Need support prioritizing high impact trends for your business?
Request a complimentary Trend Radar Mapping session at your regional DHL Innovation Center and prepare for the future today.Request a Session
- Insider Intelligence (2022): The challenges of last mile delivery logistics and the tech solutions cutting costs in the final mile
- Scientific American (2020): China reaches new milestone in space-based quantum communications
- Jülich Forschungszentrum (2022): Europe’s first quantum computer with more than 5,000 qubits launched at Jülich
- Science (2020): IBM promises 1000-quibit quantum computer – a milestone – by 2023
- The New Stack (2021): Google’s quantum computer can exponentially suppress errors