Atos CEO Thierry Breton discusses Quantum Computer project

Atos plans for the future with the development of a Quantum Computer

In a recent interview the CEO of Atos, Thierry Breton, talks about the reasons that led his group to develop supercomputers and their work on a quantum computer project. (translation from French original)

Why is Atos developing supercomputers?

With our 100,000 engineers, we are creating a huge amount of data, from extraction to processing through to storage (big data). The amount of data is increasing exponentially, to the point that we speak of a “data deluge”. By 2020, we will reach 40 Zettabytes (40 thousand billion billion) of usable data in the world. This is more bytes than the number of grains of sand on Earth.

We’ll need to be able to fetch a specific grain of sand in order to relate it to another. To achieve this, computing power is key. Atos is one of three or four global players who have the knowledge to design and manufacture such computers today, and the only European one.

Who will need such power?

Manufacturers are already making use of this technology – to invent the car or aircraft wing of the future. SMEs do this by making use of computing power for specific needs. But, more broadly, all sectors have a need for modelling – manufacturing, banking, insurance, agriculture. In the future, to develop medical treatments that are adapted to the needs of each user, the molecules of medicines will be individualised and developed by a super computer.

It is no longer just about productivity gains. Digitisation and the arrival of collaborative platforms such as Uber have transformed all trades, which must now reinvent themselves and change their business models. The mastery of technology and proximity to innovation again become critical. Computing has re-found its place as a local resource, through regulatory and strategic necessity.

Why is it important to have a European player in this market?

When it comes to critical and sensitive information, it is essential that they are treated in a European territory, controlled by our own standards and not those of others. For our largest customers it’s important to be close, as we work with them to develop super machines in accordance with their future big data requirements.

Your rivals are heavily subsidised by their countries, are you sufficiently supported?

We are supported. Although the large international powers sponsor their high-tech companies significantly, and much more than us. Thanks to our outstanding research and development teams this does not stop us from being in the race.

I hope, however, that we are able to benefit from more funding in the coming years, particularly from Europe as we are a European company. I would like to create a European subsidiary which creates closer links with the academic world. I talked to Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission as it is in Europe’s best interest to create a powerful and independent ecosystem.

What is the next step?

The machine we are announcing today will enable us to deliver next year the most powerful supercomputer in the world, 30 petaflops, or more than thirty billion, billion transactions per second. It allows us to move towards the exaflop, a billion billion operations per second, which we will reach by 2020.

But this is only the beginning. We are already working with the CEA (The French Alternative Energies Commission) on the computer their scientists will need in 2025. As current technologies reach the physical limits of the equipment, especially in terms of heat and the speed of light, we will need to overcome these, to go beyond a technological breakthrough and develop a quantum computer for 2030 and beyond.

In collaboration with the CEA, we are the only ones in Europe competing against IBM, Google and a Canadian team. For those who claim that they have invented nothing since the arrival of electricity, Quantum physics has already given us the laser, GPS and superconductivity and this is only the beginning. For security, it will be a revolution. No current password will be able to resist its computing power. But quantum cryptography is here and, being unbreakable, shall secure, with absolute certainty, any transaction.

The original article was published in French by Les Echos. To read the original article click here.

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