IBM’s mission is to help their clients change the way the world works. There’s no better example of that than IBM Research’s annual “5 in 5” technology predictions. Each year, we showcase some of the biggest breakthroughs coming out of IBM Research’s global labs – five technologies that they believe will fundamentally reshape business and society in the next five years. This innovation is informed by research taking place at IBM Labs, leading edge work taking place with our clients, and trends we see in the tech/business landscape.

Later today, they’ll introduce the scientists behind this year’s 5 in 5 at a Science Slam held at the site of IBM’s biggest client event of the year: Think 2018 in Las Vegas. Watch it live or catch the replay here. Science Slams give their researchers the opportunity to convey the importance of their work to a general audience in a very short span of time — approximately 5 minutes. They have found this to be an extremely useful exercise that makes our innovation more accessible by distilling it down to its core essentials.

Here’s one of the five predictions IBM scientists will present this year.

Today, quantum computing is a researcher’s playground. In five years, it will be mainstream.

In five years, the effects of quantum computing will reach beyond the research lab. Quantum computing will no longer be exclusive to the scientific community, but instead will be used extensively by new categories of professionals and developers looking to this emerging method
of computing to solve problems once considered unsolvable.

Quantum will be ubiquitous in university classrooms, and will even be available, to some degree, at the high school level. From computer science courses to chemistry and business classes, students will become familiar with this technology and pursue career paths rooted in quantum computing. Quantum computing will be deeply embedded in a range of curricula, and learning about it will be a pre-requisite for science and engineering programs worldwide. No student will graduate without having been exposed to quantum-related education. Every university globally will have a quantum computing program, and will teach their students through real, practical experiments, run on working quantum computers, accessed through the cloud.

A new community of developers will emerge. The concept of “learning to code” will have a quantum track in computer science curricula. Quantum algorithms will be taught alongside classical algorithms in information theory.

This explosion in general public knowledge will, over the next five years, help initiate the dawn of the commercial quantum era – a formative period when quantum computing technology and its early use cases develop rapidly. Early use cases will potentially utilize quantum computers to exactly simulate increasingly large molecules and chemical reactions, which could help accelerate research and in the future lead to the creation of novel materials, development of more personalized drugs, or discovery of more efficient and sustainable energy sources.

IBM Researchers are already reaching major quantum chemistry milestones, having recently used a quantum computer to successfully simulate atomic bonding in beryllium hydride (BeH2); the most complex molecule ever simulated by a quantum computer. In the future, quantum computers will continue to address problems with ever-greater complexity, eventually catching up to and surpassing what we can do with classical machines alone.

Within five years, the industry will have discovered the first applications where a quantum computer (used alongside a classical computer) will offer a benefit to solving specific problems. A clear advantage will be awarded to early adopters in the era of quantum computing.

In the future, Quantum computers will no longer be seen as mysterious. The general public will embrace this new era, as our collective understanding of quantum computing continues to grow and touch every industry and every educational institution. Concepts and vocabulary rooted in quantum computing will no longer be vague or misunderstood, but instead part of the mainstream vernacular.  Conversations around quantum computing will be normal. Everyone will know what a qubit is – or be familiar with the idea.