IEEE Quantum Podcast Series: Episode 8
A Conversation with Reena Dayal
Technology Leader & Innovation Management Expert
Listen to Episode 8 (MP3, 14 MB)
Part of the IEEE Quantum Podcast Series
Brian Walker: Welcome to the IEEE Quantum Podcast Series, an IEEE Future Directions Digital Studio Production. This podcast series informs on the landscape of the quantum ecosystem and highlights projects and activities on quantum technologies. In this episode, we are joined by Reena Dayal, technology leader and innovation management expert, to discuss how she is working to advance quantum. Reena, thank you for taking some time to contribute to the IEEE Quantum Podcast Series. To start, can you share some details on your background and how you got involved with the IEEE Quantum Initiative?
Reena Dayal: Yes, I'm an electronics and communications engineer from IIT Roorkee. I've spent close to 28 years in the IT industries working as a technology leader and in the space of innovation management. I've had a penchant for incubating new technology-based businesses in the corporate world that I was in. Then I was looking to enable the ecosystem for quantum in India and I felt that IEEE is the right platform to leverage. I have been volunteering with IEEE for several years. Around two years ago, I started the Quantum Special Interest Group within the Hyderabad section of IEEE and I quickly realized that it needs to be aligned to the Quantum Initiative overall. That's how I started participating in the initiative and I'm now on the steering committee as well.
Brian Walker: So, Reena, what impact and at what scale do you see the IEEE Quantum Initiative advancing the technology space?
Reena Dayal: IEEE is a global organization and its mission is technology for humanity. Now, quantum is a new and an evolving area and it requires global cooperation as well as collaboration, both from the perspective of accelerating the technological progress and also from the perspective of standardizing aspects related to quantum technology that make it more open to everyone. Also to drive interoperability. This is true for all aspects of quantum, whether it's hardware, software, centers, or communication and security systems. There is also a strong need for education and workforce development in the area of quantum technologies. The quantum initiative is already bridging these gaps by bringing in the right stakeholders together and running programs in several areas. The impact is going to be global.
Brian Walker: So, you instituted the initiative known as Quantum Talks. What are its goals and how is it helping to advance quantum technology development?
Reena Dayal: I talked about the programs associated with IEEE Quantum Initiative and the Quantum Talks is one of those programs. This is our attempt to bring the latest and best of the research, innovation, and business progress in quantum to the folks who are interested in this space. The idea is to provide access to the global knowledge base and enable connects that can fast-track work relation and collaboration. We have already seen instances of connect and collaboration getting initiated through the Quantum Initiative Quantum Talks.
Brian Walker: So, Reena, what are some of the use cases that are being addressed and are they global in scope?
Reena Dayal: Let me start by giving some background on the topics that will be covered by the Quantum Talks. These are quantum hardware, quantum software stacks, quantum algorithms, post-quantum security, quantum internet, and quantum sensors. Our first talks were on 20th of February and were on the topic of quantum photonics. Now, as we go forward, we will have a series of these talks every two months. Now let's discuss a use case in quantum. Let's examine the applicability of quantum to the healthcare sector, for example. Drug discovery could benefit from using quantum-inspired computing. That's a global use case. Post-quantum security, which is an attempt to find solutions to security of digital data once we have a scalable quantum computer. That's a global use case as well. Quantum sensors already have applications in meteorology and that, again, is a global use case. A lot of the work that is happening in quantum and the use cases that are being addressed, they are global in nature. And, hence, there is a stronger need for a global addressal of these problems and solutions.
Brian Walker: How would you define the quantum space today versus, say, five to ten years from now?
Reena Dayal: Today, we are looking at rapid advancements in various kind of quantum hardware technologies, whether they are semi-conductor-based, photonics-based, or leveraging the force in diamonds. There are also approaches to trying to build a scalable quantum computer. And, in other cases, people are building specialized quantum circuits to address very specific problem statements. Most companies who are in the software space are building quantum stacks, which tie down to multiple hardwares and expose programming language or programming interface for people to write quantum algorithms. There is a lot of use of simulators also at this stage. There is an open question at this point in time as to which technology is likely to be most promising and scalable as those people are following multiple approaches. If you look at the quantum internet, there's a lot of work happening around the world to set up test beds and do more experiments, and, more recently, in quantum satellite communication. There is progress in quantum cryptography as well in the form of QKD and also to adoption of algorithms in current security systems with quantum proofs. These algorithms, for example, are lattice-based algorithms. On the quantum algorithm front, quantum-inspired algorithms and quantum annealing devices are helping to solve some of the binary optimization problems with better approximations and with more accurate results.
In a nutshell, a lot is happening already and definitely significant amount of progress on all fronts, which sort of accelerated in the last two years. As we look forward, five to ten years from now, I would extrapolate that the momentum that has been built in in all areas quantum will not just continue. It will accelerate. We need to remember that there are big investments being planned in this space by the governments around the world. The private sector and now the end-user industries are getting involved as well. As a computing technology that has the potential to change this world for the better, quantum is poised for being the future.
Brian Walker: What advice would you offer students and/or young professionals about pursuing a career in quantum computing?
Reena Dayal: That's an interesting question and an oft asked one by students. My advice to them would be that if you want to think about the technology careers of the future, you need to be thinking quantum. You need to be thinking engineering physics, space technologies, new materials, blockchain, etcetera. And quantum will impact all of these areas. So, this is the right time to invest in a career in quantum computing and be a part of that future that we are projecting.
Brian Walker: Thanks again, Reena, for your time today. Any final thoughts on quantum you'd like to share with our listening audience?
Reena Dayal: So, the IEEE Quantum Initiative actually makes available a wide range of resources. You can go to the Quantum Initiative website and check out all those resources. There's a technical community that you become part of. There are conferences coming up, which are global in nature. There are talks that are happening. All of that is available on the Quantum Initiative website. And I would encourage you to go have a look and then join and contribute in whichever area is meaningful for you.
Brian Walker: Thank you for listening to our interview with Reena Dayal. Learn more about the IEEE Quantum Initiative by visiting our web portal at quantum.ieee.org.