PHOTO BY Steve Jurvetson from Menlo Park, USA; CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71232867

 

Companies need to have an overview of the implications of the arrival of quantum technologies.

This is my attempt at summing up my work on all this so far:

1. SECURITY: The largest companies as well as governments are working on protecting themselves from quantum disruption of existing security systems – whether they are working as efficiently and effectively as they should is a different question! But it is not clear to me that less-large companies are doing much to prepare for quantum disruption of their existing security systems. Whether your company is large or not-so-large, if you need (free) help with this matter, in terms of an outline of the sorts of things your company can do, drop me an email and I will send it to you for no charge and no obligation: prabhusguptara@gmail.com

2. PRODUCTS: The largest telecoms companies and other large providers would have been expected to have got into the field by now, but (so far) there are only a very few companies that are involved – for good reasons, as well as not-so-good reasons. What that means is that less-large companies (if they have the will, and a 5-10 year horizon) can get into the field for a relatively small budget.

3. SERVICES: Very few companies are offering services in the field of quantum technologies, so this is also a field which companies (large and not-so-large) can start eyeing, if they have a 3-5 year horizon.

4. INVESTORS: quantum technologies are a field about which you certainly do *NOT* need to inform yourself if you are a short-term investor. I expect those who are NOT short-term investors to include governments, large companies, pension funds, reinsurance and insurance companies, but also *individual* investment analysts if they expect to work, of if their investment horizon is, beyond the next 3 to 5 years

5. EXECUTIVE DEVELOPMENT: If quantum computing is not already part of your curriculum, then you are programming your organisation for obsolescence in something like 5 years. If you want to avoid such obsolescence, do ensure that you include at least the following: the basics of quantum physics, an update on the current state of development in quantum technologies, and a discussion of the implications for your company.

6. RECRUITMENT INTERVIEWS: Do you already establish whether ALL potential recruits (including those who are intended NOT to work in IT) are at least somewhat up to date on quantum technologies? If not, do ensure that your company trains everyone involved with recruitment for your company both in the minimum they need to know, and for the best ways of checking on the level of knowledge and awareness of potential recruits.

7. TRAINING: Are basic modules on quantum technologies (quantum physics, and an update on the current state of development in quantum technologies) included in your training programmes for every recruit? Let me emphasise that that includes not only everyone working, and expected to work, *in* IT, but also everyone working, and expected to work, *outside* IT.

8. BUSINESS PROCESSES: Though some companies have indeed worked out the security-related implications of quantum technologies for each business process, I am concerned that very few seem to have done thought through the implications for each business process itself. The least your company can do is some scenario-planning in the light of developments in quantum technologies, given that it will probably take your company at least 3-5 years to implement changes in key business processes.

9. GOVERNANCE: There is huge discussion about relatively unimportant things like diversity in Boards, when essential developments such as AI and quantum technologies are being ignored. Adequate attention at Board level means asking at least the following:

9a. Do Board members have regular briefings (at least once a year) on latest developments in what I call “horizon technologies”? These include quantum technology and AI, though of course companies in different fields need to keep other specific business-portfolio-relevant “horizon technologies” on their radar.

9b. Has the Board created a mechanism for ensuring that there is an up to date dashboard of the portfolio of technologies in the company which are fully-integrated, those which are partially-integrated, those which are experimentally-integrated, those which are being evaluated for integration, and those which are being watched on the horizon? Is the key person responsible for each of these named, with at least 3 successors in line for each? Are the budgets for each of these adequate?

9c. How does the Board currently benchmark against key competitors the company’s level as revealed by the dashboard?

9d. Is the dashboard regularly vetted (at least every 6 months) by a qualified external board of experts?

9e. Is “technology-competence” adequately defined for members of the Board, members of the top Executive Committee, other senior executives, mid-level executives, and tech professionals? Are these definitions regularly vetted (at least every 6 months) by a qualified external board of experts? Are Board members and other members of the company regularly assessed in relation to the definitions of competence required at those levels? Are proper incentives in place to encourage company executives to keep up with the increasing levels of competence required? Are appropriate training and development opportunities in place?

I’ve probably missed at least one or two things in my summary and overview above.

Happy to have corrections/ amendments/ additions/ caveats/ questions. Best via an email to me: prabhusguptara@gmail.com

A friend writes that “FinTech is about enabling greater customer-centricity, while digital currencies are about faster and near-free exchange globally”.

In that sentence, one claim is made about FinTech, while two claims are made about digital currencies.

These claims are simultaneously true and not true.

Let’s take the first claim, about FinTech. Customer-centricity is certainly touted as a key reason for adopting Fintech.  However, in my experience, as customer-centricity can’t be measured, actual business cases for the adoption of Fintech rest on its potentially enabling economy, speed and reach.  In that sense, it is not true that Fintech is about customer-centricity.  In fact, the experience with Fintech so far is that it may even impede customer-centricity, in the same way as most customers don’t like automated voices when they ring in to any office.  It is far more customer-centric to provide human receptionists.

So let’s take the two claims about digital currencies.  One claim is that digital currencies are going to be “faster”.  Well, faster than what?  Presumably, faster than Dollars, Pounds, Euros, etc.

Let’s think about that a moment.  Are Bitcoins (or any other digital currency) really going to be transmitted faster than dollars, pounds or Euros across whatever means of transmission exist in say a year’s time (or ten or a hundred)?

Extremely doubtful, since the transmission of any two digital objects of the same digital size has little relevance to the speed of their transmission – and Dollars, Pounds and Euros have already become primarily digital themselves.

The next claim is that digital currencies will provide near-free exchange globally.  Hmm.  So far, advances in technology have certainly make it possible for digital objects to be moved more and more cheaply.  It is possible that further technological advances will continue to make it still cheaper to transport digital objects and information.  However, I doubt that digital currencies (whether of the Bitcoin variety or of the Dollars and Pounds variety) will ever be “nearly free”: legislative mechanisms always need to be paid for, regulatory arrangements need to be paid for, the cost of generating Bitcoin or any other electronic currency will not be markedly different from the cost of generating electronic Dollars or whatever, and the cost of transmission will depend on the cost of energy as well as the cost of the hard and soft infrastructure involved.

Lastly, we already have experience of things that cost nearly nothing to produce, but we have found that that is not usually in our world good reason to let people have those things for nothing.  Consider water, which is freely given by God, but everything involved in getting water from wherever it is to my location and indeed to my lips costs money. Further, everyone involved in the supply chain needs to be paid something – and usually wants to be paid as much as possible.  If all that is not organised nationally through the taxation system, it will be organised at greater cost to citizens (if for no other reason, than for reasons of economies of scale) by individuals, groups or corporations.

So the reason to use Blockchain and Blockchain-related products (whether FinTech in general or Digital Currencies in particular) is simply, solely and exclusively:  security.  Other reasons are piffle.

Oh and I should say that Blockchain-related products are not yet as secure as they need to be.