Category Archives: Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is a marathon not a sprint | VentureBeat

If you watch the technology headlines you might think something called quantum computing is the Next Big Thing. In January, USA Today declared IBMs new quantum computer one of the four most wow worthy announcements at CES, the annual gadget fest in Las Vegas. Gartner also listed quantum computing as one of the top technology trends for 2019, joining fan favorites like blockchain and virtual reality.

Ive spent more than 25 years as a physicist researching quantum computers machines that store and process information on individual atoms or particles, like photons and Ive started a company that is building them. I am convinced quantum computing is in fact a breakthrough technology that offers the only known way to attack some of the worlds hardest problems in medicine, transportation, computer security, and other areas we havent yet foreseen.

We must be clear, however, about what is and isnt happening next. The big quantum computing discoveries that will most impact society are still years away. In the meantime, we will see breathless announcements of records broken as the technology rapidly develops. These incremental advances are important for government, which has a role in encouraging this research, as well as for industries that need to start developing ways to use quantum computers as they become more powerful. But too much hype risks disillusionment that may slow the progress.

The first thing to know about quantum computers is that they are not a faster, better version of the computers we have now. Youll never trade in your laptop or smartphone for a quantum version. Quantum computers almost certainly wont run social networks, animate Pixar movies, or keep track of airline reservations. They solve different problems in different ways.

Quantum computers were proposed in 1982 by Richard Feynman, the Nobel prize winning physicist, who worried that conventional computers could never tackle problems in quantum mechanics, the well-established theory that predicts the behavior of small isolated particles such as atoms or electrons. Today, we do use conventional computers to simulate quantum models of material and chemical processes, but these simulations grind to a halt when faced with all the possible arrangements of electrons in even a small molecule or chunk of material.

Feynmans idea was simple: build a computer that stores information on individual particles later named qubits that already follow the very rules of quantum mechanics that seem to perplex conventional computers.

Whats the difference? Ordinary computers think in certainties, digitizing every aspect of the world to well-defined numbers. Quantum computers probe all possibilities, constantly updating the probabilities of multiple scenarios. Add more qubits, and they can consider exponentially more scenarios. A quantum computer is programmed to consider all these possibilities and narrow them down to just a few, and then when the output is measured, it can tell us information about all those scenarios. It is critical that a quantum computer not be measured or looked at while it considers the uncountable number of possibilities. For that reason, qubits are like senators before a controversial vote: They shouldnt reveal their position until they are forced to.

Our world is filled with uncertainty, and quantum computers can be very helpful in selecting the best of several options. Thus a bank wouldnt use a quantum computer to track checking accounts. When you look at your balance, you want a single answer you can count on. But the bank might use a quantum computer to estimate how much money you will have in your account a year from now, based on the probability you will get a raise or get fired, whether your teenager will crash the car, if the stock market will crash, and how these factors interact.

To be clear, nobody has yet written a program that makes financial projections on a quantum computer. One reason is that, until now, there havent been any quantum computers to try them out on. But after a lot of work, thats changed. Over the last few years, corporate, academic, and government groups have built machines that can isolate and manipulate particles or other types of qubits well enough to handle basic programs.

It takes exacting precision and extreme conditions to isolate and control qubits. Some quantum computers freeze solid-state circuits to close to absolute zero. Others uses electric fields to levitate atoms in a vacuum that is more pure than deep space, while using lasers to manipulate them with an accuracy of 1/10,000 the width of a human hair. These atomic qubits in particular can scale to much larger systems because they are all the same isolated atomic element, perfectly replicable, and they are so well isolated that they never reveal their qubit states until forced to.

In 3-5 years, these machines will perform certain calculations that would not be possible using ordinary computers. But it may be 5-10 years before any of these machines have the capacity and accuracy to solve useful problems. Along the way, I worry that some who read about quantum computing being the next big thing will feel let down and lose interest. We cant let that happen. Government needs to continue to support basic research, as Congress did passing the National Quantum Initiative Act last year. And the industrial community needs to start working with the current generation of quantum computers so they can develop the know-how and the software that will give them an edge as the technology improves.

Even then, you wont have a quantum computer on your desk or in your pocket. But you may start to see better drugs, more flexible materials, and organizations running more efficiently. All that will definitely be wow worthy.

Christopher Monroe is the Bice Zorn Professor of Physics and Distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland and co-founder and CEO of IonQ, a quantum computing startup.

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Quantum computing is a marathon not a sprint | VentureBeat

The CIO’s Guide to Quantum Computing – Smarter With Gartner

It makes sense that sci-fi-level myths might surround a technology that must be stored in a container colder than interstellar space and has the potential to solve some of the worlds most challenging problems.

CIOs have been inundated with quantum computing hype: Quantum computers will operate faster than the speed of light, or Quantum computers will replace conventional systems or Quantum computing will render all security encryption algorithms obsolete.

Quantum solutions could revolutionize the entire IT industry

The truth is that quantum solutions could revolutionize the entire IT industry with major economic, industrial, academic and societal impacts. But they wont operate faster than light travels or replace current computing systems, and although theyll challenge some security encryptions, they wont render them all obsolete overnight.

Quantum computing is heavily hyped and evolving at different rates, but it should not be ignored, says Matthew Brisse, VP Analyst, Gartner. It holds great promise, especially in the areas of chemistry, optimization, machine learning and AI to name a few. Todays data scientists simply cannot address key opportunities in these areas because of the compute limitations of classic computer architectures.

Taking the Quantum Leap: Fact, Fiction or Fantasy

Align quantum computing with business needs

Some of these problems may take todays fastest supercomputers months, or even years, to run through a series of permutations, making it impractical to attempt, says Brisse. Quantum computers have the potential to run complex calculations that classical systems could literally never complete. This potential for compute acceleration, as well as the ability to address difficult and complex problems, is what is driving so much interest from CEOs in a variety of industries.

Quantum computing is a type of nonclassical computing based on the quantum state of subatomic particles. Quantum computing is fundamentally different from classic computers, which operate using binary bits. This means the bits are either 0 or 1, true or false, positive or negative. However, in quantum computing, the bit is referred to as a quantum bit, or qubit. Unlike the strictly binary bits of classic computing, qubits can, strangely, represent a range of values in one qubit. This representation is called superpositioning.

Superpositioning is what gives quantum computers speed and parallelism, as each qubit can represent a quantitative solution to a problem. Further, qubits can be linked with other qubits in a process called entanglement; each entangled qubit adds two more dimensions to the system. When combined with superposition, quantum computers can process a massive number of possible outcomes at the same time.

The number of high-quality qubits necessary to make a viable quantum computer depends on the problem.

The ability for a quantum computer to outperform a classical computer is called quantum supremacy. While it may sound like a sci-fi dream, experts believe that for a limited number of computing problems, quantum supremacy will be a reality in a matter of years.

Applications for quantum computing will be narrow and focused, as general-purpose quantum computing will most likely never be economical. However, the technology does hold the potential to revolutionize certain industries. Quantum computing could enable breakthroughs by:

Researchers have shown how quantum computing could kill, or at least significantly weaken, current cryptography systems. If true, this would jeopardize any business that relies on encryption. If a sufficiently powerful quantum computer becomes available within 10 or so years, any data that has been published or intercepted is subject to cryptanalysis by a future quantum computer. Most security professionals speculate that quantum computing will eventually render RSA cryptography and ECC useless but will not be able to effectively counter hash, code, lattice-based or multivariate-quadratic-equations cryptography. Symmetric key cryptographic systems like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), SNOW 3G, 3GPP and Kerberos are resistant to a quantum computing attack if they use a large-enough key size. The problem is, researchers keep coming up with new key cracking algorithms. For this reason, governments are investing in a cousin to quantum computing quantum key distribution.

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The physics, materials and control systems of quantum computers remain uncertain, but the potential for disruption is driving large organizations like IBM, Google, Intel and Microsoft to heavily invest in quantum hardware and software. Startups in multiple industries are emerging, alongside new skill sets from quantum algorithm experts and designers to quantum circuit engineers and applied physicists.

CIOs should view quantum computing as a competitive advantage, as new quantum-inspired algorithms could bring innovative solutions and approaches to product development. It could also reduce time to market and optimize customer delivery.

Additionally, waiting or ignoring quantum computing might place intellectual property (IP) and patent portfolios at risk. Early organizations will have the competitive advantage by patenting quantum algorithms within their specific domain. For example, a rival company could develop a quantum algorithm patent that improves Monte Carlo simulations by 1,000% or a pharmaceutical company could shorten the time to market for new drugs.

As with any new technological innovation, there is a risk that the hype outpaces product development, which could negatively impact perceptions and investments. In the case of quantum computing, this is called quantum winter. Hype in the media is creating awareness and advancement, but also setting unrealistic expectations for timing and capabilities. This level of hype inevitably leads to disillusionment, which is dangerous, as quantum computing requires sustained, focused investment for the long term.

The hype around quantum computing makes it interesting as an investment. However, the fundamental physics are still in development, and consistent results wont appear for at least 5 to 10 years and possibly much longer. Therefore, any investments made in pursuit of quantum computing opportunities must pay off in monetizable discoveries.

By 2023, 95% of organizations researching quantum computing strategies will utilize QCaaS

Logistically, quantum computers are difficult to maintain and require specialized environments cooled to .015 Kelvin. The quantum processor must be placed in a dilution refrigerator shielded to 50,000 times less than the earths magnetic field and placed in a high vacuum to 10 billion times lower than atmospheric pressure. It will also need calibration several times per day. For most organizations, this is not feasible. Gartner recommends that organizations interested in quantum computing leverage quantum computing as a service (QCaaS) to minimize risk and contain costs. By 2023, 95% of organizations researching quantum computing strategies will utilize QCaaS.

Overall, it remains safer to underinvest in the technology or to invest in skilled personnel who can be fully productive as product managers in revenue-bearing areas. As quantum computing opportunities arise, these product managers will have the skills to address them. Gartner has found surprising numbers of degreed quantum physicists in product management roles.

Gartner projections should be used to manage expectations inside the organization. Take this time to identify opportunities to provide support to clients or customers, or leverage industry breakthroughs. Consider looking to the R&D group for support and ensure you have access to a resource who can help you translate quantum technology into opportunities in your business.

By 2023, 90% of enterprise quantum computing investments will engage quantum consulting organizations to help shape problems that can leverage quantum algorithms. Knowing how to identify and extract business value from a quantum computing initiative is a key skill to develop. IBM, Microsoft and others have customer engagement services for organizations interested in identifying potential business opportunities that quantum computing could someday address.

Gartner predicts that by 2023, 20% of organizations will be budgeting for quantum computing projects, compared to less than 1% today. CIOs should look for potential opportunities from quantum computing and be ready to help the business leverage them.

By 2023, 20% of organizations will be budgeting for quantum computing projects

These opportunities will need to be fully integrated with traditional IT, and will require new cross-collaboration from research scientists, computational data scientists and quantum data scientists. This new development paradigm is critical to the success of any quantum program.

It is time to learn more about quantum computing.

This article has been updated from the original, published on November 29, 2017, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

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The CIO’s Guide to Quantum Computing – Smarter With Gartner

This Startup Just Raised $21 Million To Bring Quantum …

Zapata Computing’s initial team.

Zapata Computing, a quantum computing software startup that spun out of Harvard, announced Wednesday that it has raised $21 million in a Series A round. The round was led by Prelude Ventures and Comcast Ventures, and included participation from Pillar VC, The Engine, BASF Venture Capital, Pitango Ventures and Robert Bosch Venture Capital. The raise will bring the companys total funding to about $26.45 million.

Unique among quantum computing startups, Zapata Computing isnt interested in building quantum computers. Instead, its building software applications for those systems, as well as helping large enterprises find solutions where quantum computing makes sense, no matter what hardware that customer is using.

Were creating an enterprise-hardened software platform that allows the domain experts to go as deep as they want, as well as abstract to a certain level, Zapata CEO Chris Savoie explained to me. This is not for the faint of heart. Were not out there trying to teach an undergraduate computer science major how to program a quantum computer. Were years away from that.

Zapatas focus right now is on applications where quantum computing can offer some advantages over traditional supercomputing, particularly in three key areas: simulation of chemical reactions, machine learning and optimization problems, which are of particular interest in areas like logistics and planning.

The startup was founded in 2017 and spins out of the work of Aln Aspuru-Guzik, who has been working to apply quantum computing to chemical simulations. In his lab were four postdocs, physicists Peter Johnson and Jonny Olson; computer scientist Yudong Cao; and chemist Jhonathan Romero Fontalvo. All of them were working on different applications of quantum computing, and it was their work in Aspuru-Guziks lab that grew into the basis for the company.

To run Zapata, the cofounders tapped Savoie as CEO. A serial entrepreneur and tech company executive whose PhD research had focused on molecular simulations. Apart from the companies hed previously founded, hed also worked at Verizon and Nissan. His previous startup, OLED materials company Kyulux, had licensed AI technology developed in Aspuru-Guziks lab, which began the relationship between the two.

After expressing frustration to Aspuru-Guzik over his twice-monthly commute from Boston to Japan (Which my wife said was not a tenable business plan, Savoie joked), Aspuru-Guzik invited Savoie to meet with the Zapata founding team.

They convinced me by lunchtime that there was a there there, Savoie said. And after lunch he introduced me to IBMs quantum group and a couple of other quantum groups as the CEO of Zapata Computing.

Infographic explaining Zapata’s model.

With the current round of funding, Savoie intends to position Zapata as the primary quantum software solution for large enterprises. To that end, he intends to use this infusion of capital to hire talent on both the quantum physics side and the computer science side. It will also be seeking out international talent by expanding its existing footprint in Toronto and establishing an office in Barcelona in order to attract European talent.

We want to be global, and we want to have enough gasoline in the tank to do this right and hire the right people, Savoie said.

As it works to expand its position in the market, Savoie said that hes inspired by the way Oracle initially worked with large enterprises in its early days. Zapatas revenues will be largely driven initially by consulting fees as it helps to develop unique software solutions for enterprises and trains people to use them. Its long-term goals are also inspired by OracleSavoie notes that the company wants to build out the SQL of quantum software.

Not only the language, he said. But all of the stuff that makes that work in an efficient, enterprise-hardened situation.

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This Startup Just Raised $21 Million To Bring Quantum …

What is Quantum Computing ? Top 18 Quantum Computing …

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What is Quantum Computing ? Top 18 Quantum Computing …

The promise of quantum computing – businessinsider.com

About ten years ago, Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president of Microsoft Quantum, was working on Kinect, the groundbreaking motion-sensing accessory for the Xbox 360.

It was the first time in his career that he used artificial intelligence and machine learning. It excited him enough that he would tell his own children that AI would be the most in-demand field in the tech industry.

“I told my kids that you should do what you’re passionate about, but if you want a job, you can always get a job in machine learning and AI,” Holmdahl told Business Insider in a recent conversation.

Today, he would have different advice for his kids, or any other kids who needed career advice.

“I really think today where people are in quantum computing, it is going to happen,” says Holmdahl. “I would tell them today to get into quantum computing.”

Quantum computers have special properties that allow them to process exponentially more information than a regular, also called “classical,” computer. With a classical computer, data is represented as a binary string of 1’s and 0’s. Quantum computers, however, can represent data as 0, 1, or both at the same time, which for complicated mathematical reasons means that they can process a lot more data at once.

Potentially, quantum computers could be used for predicting the stock market, finding more efficient shipping routes, food production, chemistry, drug discovery, cryptography and more.

“Quantum computing is the opportunity to take a classic problem like health care and climate change and to be able to solve them in hours or seconds on a quantum computer,” Holmdahl said. “The way a quantum computer works is that it can look at a multitude of different dimensions.”

At the same time, experts have told Business Insider that we’re still 5 to 10 years away from the point at which quantum computers will surpass their classical brethern at most tasks.

Read more:Quantum computing could change everything, and IBM is racing with Microsoft, Intel, and Google to conquer it. Here’s what you need to know

In 2018, less than 1% of organizations budgeted for quantum computing projects, but analyst firm Gartner estimates that by 2023, this will rise to 20%. And according to the analysts at Forrester, VCs invested $85 million into quantum computing in 2015. Two years later, that had skyrocketed to $400 million.

Krysta Svore, general manager of quantum software at Microsoft Microsoft

“We’re really at a moment when many businesses are starting to think about the promise of quantum information sciences and the promise of quantum computing for solving the world’s most challenging problems,” Krysta Svore, general manager of quantum software at Microsoft, told Business Insider.

Currently at Microsoft, Holmdahl is leading the team in building a topological qubit, which fragments electrons to store information in multiple places at the same time. This is a different way of thinking about it than the approach other companies are taking: Intel, IBM and Google are using superconducting circuits to build quantum computers, similar to the basic ways classical computers are made today.

Although analysts say Microsoft’s approach is a major risk, if it works, it could put Microsoft ahead of its competitors with a much more powerful quantum computer. Holmdahl says Microsoft is aiming to finish its qubit by the end of this year.

Quantum computers are still in their early stages, but Holmdahl expects more jobs to open up for people to conduct research and to build quantum computing hardware and software. In fact, Microsoft just helped launch a summit to bring more talent itoquantum computing, and started a quantum programming course for undergraduates.

“Microsoft’s focus is producing a scalable quantum computer and bringing that forward for our customers and for our future,” Svore said. “To do that, we need to be able to accelerate the progress in quantum computing. We need to be able to educate a whole world of quantum developers.”

Microsoft quantum computing project in Copenhagen, Denmark Microsoft

It may be too late for Holmdahl to tell his kids to get into quantum computing a decade early, but he says that there’s still a lot of opportunity there for anybody who wants to get in on the ground floor.

“It’s a field that’s going to grow,” Holmdahl said. “We need a number of people to sustain and staff it and you can see Microsoft is putting a bunch of efforts to invest in the quantum workforce. This will be the biggest thing in our generation. This is going to be able to do amazing things in the future.”

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The promise of quantum computing – businessinsider.com

Quantum computing is coming: Heres why we need to get our …

University of Washington graduate students Katherine McAlpine and Daniel Gochnauer work in the Ultracold Atoms Groups lab to study ultracold atoms and quantum gases. (UW Photo / Dennis Wise)

Editors note: Tom Alberg is a co-founder and managing director at Seattle-based venture capital firm Madrona Venture Group. He is a member of Challenge Seattle and sits on the Amazon board of directors.

Commentary: This week I had the opportunity to speak at the Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit, co-sponsored by Microsoft, the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Labs. The Summit brought together, for the first time, the large network of quantum researchers, universities and technology companies working in quantum information science (QIS) in our region to share quantum developments and to work together to establish the Pacific Northwest as one of the leading quantum science centers in the world.

Quantum computing has the potential to transform our economies and lives. As one of the Summit speakers said, we are on the cusp of a quantum century. Quantum computers will be able to solve problems that classical computers cant solve, even if they run their algorithms for thousands of years. Quantum computers are not limited to the on-or-off (one-or-zero) bits of todays digital computers. Quantum computers manipulate qubits that can be one-and-zero simultaneously, which allows exponentially faster calculations.

Quantum computers are expected to be able to crack present-day security codes, which is already causing scientists to work on devising new encryption protocols to protect consumer and business data and national security. Applications developed for quantum computers likely will help us overcome existing challenges in material, chemical and environmental sciences, such as devising new ways for sequestering carbon and improving batteries.

Even though the Seattle area is one of the top two technology centers in the U.S., along with the San Francisco Bay Area, we have to make investments now to ensure we become a leading quantum center. To achieve this goal, I argued that we will need to substantially increase financial support to build up the UWs quantum research capacity and equally important, to create an extensive quantum information science curriculum. The UWs Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering began this year to offer a course teaching Microsofts Q# language, but one course is not enough if we are to make our area one of the major quantum centers of the future.

Fortunately for our region, Microsoft is one of the acknowledged leaders in quantum computing and is committed to building our regional network. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gives credit to former Microsoft chief technology officer and research leader Craig Mundie for launching Microsofts quantum initiative 10 years ago.

Microsofts goal is no less than to build a general-purpose quantum computer the holy grail of quantum computing. In the meantime, they are supporting efforts to build a cadre of researchers who are familiar with quantum and capable of writing quantum programs. They have developed and launched a quantum computer language, Q#, as well as a quantum development kit and Katas, which are computing tasks that classical computer scientists can use to learn quantum computing skills. They are also building an open source library of quantum programs and have launched the Microsoft Quantum Network to provide assistance to quantum startups and developers.

The federal government has recently launched the National Quantum Initiative, which will provide $1.2 billion over the next five years primarily to quantum researchers. The president signed the new law in December after the bill was approved by unanimous consent in the Senate and a 348-11 vote in the House. Among the purposes are to build a quantum-smart workforce of the future and engage with government, academic and private-sector leaders to advance QIS.

This federal funding is welcome, even though its less than required for a Manhattan-style project equivalent to Chinas national quantum initiative. It will be highly important to our region that our congressional delegation, several members of whom are particularly tech-savvy, advocate our case for a fair share of this funding. Our Washington State Legislature should support this by making appropriations for quantum computing and education at the UW as a down payment showing local support.

There is also a role for private companies to support our quantum efforts beyond what Microsoft is already doing. I am reminded of the grants by Amazon to the UW in 2012 during the Great Recession, engineered by then-UW computer science chair Ed Lazowska to recruit two leading professors, Carlos Guestrin from Carnegie Mellon and Emily Fox from the University of Pennsylvania, to strengthen the UWs machine learning expertise. The two $1 million gifts created two endowed professorships. Inflation has certainly raised the price for endowed professorships, but perhaps this could be repeated.

Another way to build our regions quantum expertise would be for a local tech entrepreneur to follow the example of Paul Allen, who endowed five $100 million-plus scientific institutes, one of which is the Allen Institute of Artificial Intelligence, headed by former UW professor and current venture partner at Madrona, Oren Etzioni.

Building a quantum workforce begins in K-12 schools with teaching computer science, which is a stepping stone to quantum information science. K-12 schools in the U.S. are woefully deficient in teaching basic computer science. Nationally, only 35 percent of high schools offer a computer science course, according to Code.org. And in low-income and minority schools this is even lower since the 35 percent reflects a lot of suburban schools which are more likely to offer computer science courses.

We are beginning to address this gap in high schools, but a much larger commitment is needed. Private companies can help fill part of the gap. Amazon recently announced its Future Engineers program, which includes a $50 million investment in computer science and STEM education for underprivileged students. As part of this program, a few weeks ago, Amazon announced grants to more than 1,000 schools in all 50 states, over 700 of which are Title 1 schools. Studies have shown that if a disadvantaged student takes an advanced computer science course in high school, they are eight times as likely to major in computer science at a university.

In addition to Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies have programs to increase the teaching of computer science. One of those programs, backed by Microsoft, is TEALS, which organizes employees and retired employees as volunteers to teach computer science in schools. Amazon, Microsoft and other tech companies are big financial supporters of Code.org, which is having a significant effect on increasing the teaching of computer science in public schools.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer science related jobs needing to be filled, but only 400,000 computer science graduates with the skills to apply for those jobs. Only a tiny percentage of the 400,000 are minorities or from low-income families. A similar need exists in Washington state, with a gap of several thousand between the jobs to be filled and the number of annual graduates.

In Seattle and other tech centers in the U.S., we have been fortunate that we have been able to attract and retain a very substantial number of computer scientists from other countries to fill these jobs. But with immigration and trade uncertainties, this flow is uncertain and may not be as robust as needed.

Even more important, by not providing the opportunity for our kids, particularly disadvantaged children, we are short-changing them. The best way to close the income gap is to improve our public educational system so a broader segment of our population can qualify for the jobs of the future. Organizations such as the Technology Access Foundation are attacking this problem head-on by creating curriculum, recruiting minority teachers and building schools. We need to support these organizations and implement their approach broadly.

At the university level, we are also deficient in educating a sufficient number of computer scientists. Even at universities such as the UW, with large and high-quality computer science schools, we are unable to fill the demand for computer scientists. The Allen School graduates about 450 undergraduate students annually. Although this is double what the school produced a few years ago, it is woefully short of the several thousand needed annually in our state. This needs to be doubled again, but funding is lacking.

In short, our region needs to recommit to building our computer science workforce beginning in our K-12 schools, and undertake a new effort to build our quantum expertise and workforce.

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Quantum computing is coming: Heres why we need to get our …

Quantum computing will break your encryption in a few …

Modern public-key encryption is currently good enough to meet enterprise requirements, according to experts. Most cyberattacks target different parts of the security stack these days unwary users in particular. Yet this stalwart building block of present-day computing is about to be eroded by the advent of quantum computing within the next decade, according to experts.

About 99% of online encryption is vulnerable to quantum computers, said Mark Jackson, scientific lead for Cambridge Quantum Computing, at the Inside Quantum Technology conference in Boston on Wednesday.

Quantum computers those that use the principles of quantum entanglement and superposition to represent information, instead of electrical bits are capable of performing certain types of calculation orders of magnitude more quickly than classical, electronic computers. Theyre more or less fringe technology in 2019, but their development has accelerated in recent years, and experts at the IQT conference say that a spike in deployment could occur as soon as 2024.

Lawrence Gasman, president of IQT, compared the current state of quantum computing development to that of fiber-optic networking in the 1980s a technology with a lot of promise, but one still missing one or two key pieces.

Optical amplifiers were what got optical networking going, he said. Without them, theyd really have never turned into what they are today.

Pure research, the military, and the financial sector are the prime movers behind quantum computing in general and quantum security in particular, according to Gasman. The latter, in particular, has been an enthusiastic early adopter of the technology.

If you look at the amount of money lost to credit card fraud, thats a huge driver, he noted.

A shift to either different types of classical encryption some algorithms have proven to be resistant to quantum computing or to quantum computing-based security is going to be necessary.

Quantum computing-based security technology is effective because it relies on two of the best-known properties of quantum physics the idea that observing a particle changes its behavior, and that paired or entangled particles share the same set of properties as the other.

What this means, in essence, is that both parties to a message can share an identical cipher key, thanks to quantum entanglement. In addition, should a third party attempt to eavesdrop on that sharing, it would break the symmetry of the entangled pairs, and it would be instantly apparent that something fishy was going on.

If everything is working perfectly, everything should be in sync. But if something goes wrong, it means youll see a discrepancy, said Jackson.

Its like a soap bubble, according to Brian Lowy, vice president at ID Quantique SA, a Switzerland-based quantum computing vendor mess with it and it pops.

At some point, youre going to have to factor [quantum computing], he said, noting that, even now, bad actors could download encrypted information now, planning to crack its defenses once quantum computing is equal to the task.

The precise day of the shift will vary by industry, according to Paul Lucier, vice president of sales and business development at quantum computing security vendor Isara.

Devices that have short usage life like smartphones arent in immediate danger, because quantum security technology ought to be sufficiently miniaturized by the time quantum codebreaking is powerful enough to undercut modern public-key encryption.

Its verticals like the automotive industry and the infrastructure sector that have to worry, Lucier said. Anything with a long service life and anything thats expensive to repair and replace is potentially vulnerable.

Thats not to say that its time to rip-and-replace immediately. Standards bodies are expected to approve quantum-safe encryption algorithms at around the same time experts are predicting that quantum-powered decryption threatens modern security, so a hybrid approach is possible.

But the threat is very real, so much so that the National Quantum Initiative Act became law in December of last year. The act calls for official advisory groups to be formed by the executive branch, and directs research funding for further exploration of quantum computing technology.

So be prepared, the experts at the IQT conference all agreed.

We think by 2026, if youre not ready with your systems prepared, youre taking a giant risk, said Lucier.

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Quantum computing will break your encryption in a few …

Microsoft has formed a coalition to promote quantum computing …

Microsoft and some big research institutions are hoping to turn the Pacific Northwest into a hotbed for quantum computing.

On Monday, Microsoft Quantum, the company’s research team devoted to the field, announced that it’s getting together with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington to form a coalition called the Northwest Quantum Nexus. The coalition plans to promote the development of quantum computing in the Pacific Northwest region, as well as in parts of Canada.

The partners are also hosting a two-day summit at the University of Washington on Monday and Tuesday that will bring together researchers and officials from universities, government agencies, and businesses. The goal is to encourage attendees to collaborate on quantum-computing projects and research.

“We’re really at a moment when many businesses are starting to think about the promise of quantum information sciences and the promise of quantum computing for solving the world’s most challenging problems,” Krysta Svore, general manager of quantum software at Microsoft told Business Insider.

Standard computers such as PCs and smartphones process and store information in the form of binary bits, either zeros or ones. Quantum computers, by contrast, process and store data as “qubits,” which can hold the values of zero and one simultaneously. That design difference could allow them to perform exponentially more calculations in a given amount of time than traditional computers, giving them the potential to solve immensely more complex problems.

Because of that, quantum computing is considered one of the most promising new technologies, with potential applications in areas ranging from discovering new drugs to cryptography to making stock predictions to calculating more efficient routes for airlines or the military. But the technology is still in its early stages, and analysts don’t expect quantum computers to outperform traditional ones for another five to ten years.

Read more:Quantum computing could change everything, and IBM is racing with Microsoft, Intel, and Google to conquer it. Here’s what you need to know

In December, Congress passed and the president signed the National Quantum Initiative Act, which provides $1.2 billion for research in the field. Since then, there’s been increased interest from government agencies and businesses, said Nathan Baker, a director at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Krysta Svore, general manager of quantum software at Microsoft, is helping lead the company’s efforts in the field. Microsoft “The Northwest is known for its outstanding physics and outstanding work in computing,” Baker said. “We need to be thinking about how can we deliberately move it forward to do something bigger.”

Although business and investor interest in quantum computing is growing, there’s a shortage of people with skills in the field, Svore and Baker said. That’s something they hope the Northwest Quantum Nexus will help address.

“There’s a huge gap between quantum information sciences and all of the skills you need to bring together to make it a functioning technological platform,” Baker said. “We’re going to have to be deliberate in how to build that out.”

In addition to helping form the Nexus coalition, Microsoft and the University of Washington are teaming up to teach students how to program quantum computers.

“Microsoft’s focus is producing a scalable quantum computer and bringing that forward for our customers and for our future,” Svore said. “To do that, we need to be able to accelerate the progress in quantum computing. We need to be able to educate a whole world of quantum developers.”

Microsoft is developing both quantum computing hardware and software. Its effort focuses on fragmenting electrons to store information in multiple places at once.

That’s different from the approach of companies such as IBM, Intel and Google, which are working on creating quantum computers that store data using superconducting circuits.

“Having devoted my life to this field, I’m overwhelmingly giddy with the prospect of the type of output we’ll see with the Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit,” Svore said. “I really do believe this can start the quantum revolution.”

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Quantum computing for everyone | Michael Nielsen

Can you give me a simple, concrete explanation of how quantum computers work?

Ive been asked this question a lot. I worked on quantum computing full time for 12 years, wrote 60 or so papers, and co-authored the standard text. But for many years the question stumped me. I had several pat answers, but none really satisfied me or my questioners.

It turns out, though, that there is a satisfying answer to the question, which anyone can understand if theyre willing to spend some time concentrating hard.

To understand the answer, lets back up and think first about why big media outlets like the New York Times and the Economist regularly run stories about quantum computers.

The reason is that quantum computer scientists believe quantum computers can solve problems that are intractable for conventional computers. That is, its not that quantum computers are like regular computers, but smaller and faster. Rather, quantum computers work according to principles entirely different than conventional computers, and using those principles can solve problems whose solution will never be feasible on a conventional computer.

In everyday life, all our experience is with objects which can be directly simulated by a conventional computer. We dont usually think about this fact, but movie-makers rely on it, and we take it for granted special effects are basically just rough computer simulations of events that would be more expensive for the movie makers to create in real life than they are to simulate inside a computer. Much more detailed simulations are used by companies like Boeing to test designs for their latest aircraft, and by Intel to test designs for their latest chips. Everything youve ever seen or done in your life driving a car, walking in the park, cooking a meal all these actions can be directly simulated using a conventional computer.

Because of this, when we think in concrete terms we invariably think about things that can be directly simulated on a conventional computer.

Now, imagine for the sake of argument that I could give you a simple, concrete explanation of how quantum computers work. If that explanation were truly correct, then it would mean we could use conventional computers to simulate all the elements in a quantum computer, giving us a way to solve those supposedly intractable problems I mentioned earlier.

Of course, this is absurd! Whats really going on is that no simple concrete explanation of quantum computers is possible. Rather, there is an intrinsic quantum gap between how quantum computers work, and our ability to explain them in simple concrete terms. This quantum gap is what made it hard for me to answer peoples requests for a concrete explanation. The right answer to such requests is that quantum computers cannot be explained in simple concrete terms; if they could be, quantum computers could be directly simulated on conventional computers, and quantum computing would offer no advantage over such computers. In fact, what is truly interesting about quantum computers is understanding the nature of this gap between our ability to give a simple concrete explanation and whats really going on.

This account of quantum computers is distinctly at odds with the account that appears most often in the mainstream media. In that account, quantum computers work by exploiting what is called quantum parallelism. The idea is that a quantum computer can simultaneously explore many possible solutions to a problem. Implicitly, such accounts promise that its then possible to pick out the correct solution to the problem, and that its this which makes quantum computers tick.

Quantum parallelism is an appealing story, but its misleading. The problem comes in the second part of the story: picking out the correct solution. Most of the time this turns out to be impossible. This isnt just my opinion, in some cases you can mathematically prove its impossible. In fact, the problem of figuring out how to extract the solution, which is glossed over in mainstream accounts, is really the key problem. Its here that the quantum gap lies, and glossing over it does nothing to promote genuine understanding.

None of my discussion to now actually explains how quantum computers work. But its a good first step to understanding, for it prepares you to expect a less concrete explanation of quantum computers than you might at first have hoped for. I wont give a full description here, but I will sketch whats going on, and give you some suggestions for further reading.

Quantum computers are built from quantum bits, or qubits [1], which are the quantum analogue of the bits which make up conventional computers. Heres a magnified picture of a baby quantum computer made up of three Beryllium atoms, which are used to store three qubits:

The atoms are held in place using an atom trap, which you cant see because its out of frame, but which surrounds the atoms, holding them suspended in place using electric and magnetic fields, similar to the way magnets can be used to levitate larger objects in the air.

The atoms in the picture are about three micrometers apart, which means that if you laid a million end to end, they wouldnt quite span the length of a living room. Very fine human hair is about 20 micrometers in diameter itd pretty much cover the width of this photo.

The atoms themselves are about a thousand times smaller than the spacing between the atoms. They look a lot bigger in the picture, and the reason is interesting. Although the atoms are very small, the way the picture was created was by shining laser light on the atoms to light them up, and then taking a photograph. The particles making up the laser light are much bigger than the atoms, which makes the picture come out all blurry; the photo above is basically a very blurry photograph of the atoms, which is why they look so much bigger than they really are.

I called this a baby quantum computer because it has only three qubits, but in fact its pretty close to the state of the art. Its hard to build quantum computers, and adding extra qubits turns out to be tricky. Exactly who holds the record for the most qubits depends on who you ask, because different people have different ideas about what standards need to be met to qualify as a genuine quantum computer. The current consensus for the record is about 5-10 qubits.

Okay, a minor alert is in order. Ive tried to keep this essay as free from mathematics as possible, but the rest of the essay will use a little high-school mathematics. If this is the kind of thing that puts you off, do not be alarmed! You should be able to get the gist even if you skip over the mathematical bits.

How should we describe whats inside a quantum computer? We can give a bare-bones description of a conventional computer by listing out the state of all its internal components. For example, its memory might contains the bits 0,0,1,0,1,1, and so on. It turns out that a quantum computer can also be described using a list of numbers, although how this is done is quite different. If our quantum computer has n qubits (in the example pictured above n = 3), then it turns out that the right way to describe the quantum computer is using a list of 2n numbers. Its helpful to give these numbers labels: the first is s1, the second s2, and so on, so the entire list is:

What are these numbers, and how are they related to the n qubits in our quantum computer? This is a reasonable question in fact, its an excellent question! Unfortunately, the relationship is somewhat indirect. For that reason, Im not going to describe it in detail here, although you can get a better picture from some of the further reading I describe below. For us, the thing to take away is that describing n qubits requires 2n numbers.

One result of this is that the amount of information needed to describe the qubits gets big really quickly. More than a million numbers are needed to describe a 20-qubit quantum computer! The contrast with conventional computers is striking a conventional 20-bit computer needs only 20 numbers to describe it. The reason is that each added qubit doubles the amount of information needed to describe the quantum computer [2]. The moral is that quantum computers get complex far more quickly than conventional computers as the number of components rises.

The way a quantum computer works is that quantum gates are applied to the qubits making up the quantum computer. This is a fancy way of saying that we do things to the qubits. The exact details vary quite a bit in different quantum computer designs. In the example I showed above, it basically involves manipulating the atoms by shining laser light on them. Quantum gates usually involve manipulating just one or two qubits at a time; some quantum computer designs involve more at the same time, but thats a luxury, its not actually necessary. A quantum computation is just a sequence of these quantum gates done in a particular order. This sequence is called a quantum algorithm; it plays the same role as a program for a conventional computer.

The effect of a quantum gate is to change the description s1, s2, of the quantum computer. Let me show you a specific example to make this a bit more concrete. Theres a particular type of quantum gate called a Hadamard gate. This type of gate affects just one qubit. If we apply a Hadamard gate to the first qubit in a quantum computer, the effect is to produce a new description for the quantum computer with numbers t1, t2, given by

t1 = (s1+s2n/2+1)/ 2

t2 = (s2+s2n/2+2)/ 2,

t3 = (s3+s2n/2+3)/ 2,

and so on, down through all 2n different numbers in the description. The details arent important, the salient point is that even though weve manipulated just one qubit, the way we describe the quantum computer changes in an extremely complicated way. Its bizarre: by manipulating just a single physical object, we reshuffle and recombine the entire list of 2n numbers!

Its this reshuffling and recombination of all 2n numbers that is the heart of the matter. Imagine we were trying to simulate whats going on inside the quantum computer using a conventional computer. The obvious way to do this is to track the way the numbers s1, s2, change as the quantum computation progresses. The problem with doing this is that even a single quantum gate can involve changes to all 2n different numbers. Even when n is quite modest, 2n can be enormous. For example, when n = 300, 2n is larger than the number of atoms in the Universe. Its just not feasible to track this many numbers on a conventional computer.

You should now be getting a feeling for why quantum computer scientists believe it is infeasible for a conventional computer to simulate a quantum computer. Whats really clever, and not so obvious, is that we can turn this around, and use the quantum manipulations of all these exponentially many numbers to solve interesting computational problems.

I wont try to tell that story here. But if youre interested in learning more, heres some reading you may find worthwhile.

In an earlier essay I explain why conventional ways of thinking simply cannot give a complete description of the world, and why quantum mechanics is necessary. Going a little further, an excellent lay introduction to quantum mechanics is Richard Feynmans QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter. It requires no mathematical background, but manages to convey the essence of quantum mechanics. If youre feeling more adventurous still, Scott Aaronsons lecture notes are a fun introduction to quantum computing. They contain a fair bit of mathematics, but are written so you can get a lot out of them even if some of the mathematics is inaccessible. Scott and Dave Bacon run excellent blogs that occasionally discuss quantum computing, and their blogrolls are a good place to find links to other quantum bloggers.

Finally, if youve enjoyed this essay, you may enjoy some of my other essays, or perhaps like to subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading!

Thanks to Jen Dodd and Kate Nielsen for providing feedback that greatly improved early drafts of this essay.

Michael Nielsen is a writer living near Toronto, and working on a book about The Future of Science. If youd like to be notified when the book is available, please send a blank email to the.future.of.science@gmail.com with the subject subscribe book. Youll be emailed to let you know when the book is to be published; your email address will not be used for any other purpose.

[1] Ben Schumacher, who coined the term qubit, runs an occasional blog.

[2] Motivated by this observation, in my PhD thesis I posed a tongue-in-cheek quantum analogue of Moores Law: to keep pace with conventional computers, quantum computers need only add a single qubit every two years. So far, things are neck and neck.

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Ask a Techspert: What is quantum computing? – blog.google

Editors Note: Do you ever feel like a fish out of water? Try being a tech novice and talking to an engineer at a place like Google. Ask a Techspert is a new series on the Keyword asking Googler experts to explain complicated technology for the rest of us. This isnt meant to be comprehensive, but just enough to make you sound smart at a dinner party.

Quantum computing sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. But its real, and scientists and engineers are working to make it a practical reality. Google engineers are creating chips the size of a quarter that could revolutionize the computers of tomorrow. But what is quantum computing, exactly?

The Keywords very first Techspert is Marissa Giustina, a research scientist and quantum electronics engineer in our Santa Barbara office. We asked her to explain how this emerging technology actually works.

What do we need to know about conventional computers when we think about quantum computers?

At a first glance, information seems like an abstract concept. Sure, information can be stored by writing and drawinghumans figured that out a long time ago. Still, there doesnt seem to be anything physically tangible about the process of thinking.

Enter the personal computer. Its a machinea purely physical objectthat manipulates information. So how does it do that, if its a physical machine and information is abstract? Well, information is actually physical. Computers store and process rich, detailed information by breaking it down. At a low level, a computer represents information as a series of bits. Each bit can take a value of either [0] or [1], and physically, these bits are tiny electrical switches that can be either open [0] or closed [1]. Emails, photos and videos on YouTube are all represented by long sequences of bitslong rows of tiny electrical switches inside a computer.

The computer computes by manipulating those bits, like changing between [0] and [1] (opening or closing a switch), or checking whether two bits have equal or opposite values and setting another bit accordingly. These bit-level manipulations are the basis of even the fanciest computer programs.

Ones and zeros, like “The Matrix.” Got it. So then what is a quantum computer?

A quantum computer is a machine that stores and manipulates information as quantum bits, or qubits, instead of the classical bits we were talking about before. Quantum bits are good at storing and manipulating a different kind of information than classical bits, since they are governed by rules of quantum mechanicsthe same rules that govern the behavior of atoms and molecules.

Whats the difference between a bit and a qubit?

This is where it gets more complicated. Remember that a classical bit is just a switch: it has only two possible configurations: [open] or [closed]. A qubits configuration has a lot more possibilities. Physicists often think of a qubit like a little globe, with [0] at the north pole and [1] at the south pole, and the qubits configuration is represented by a point on the globe. In manipulating the qubit, we can send any point on the globe to any other point on the globe.

At first, it sounds like a qubit can hold way more information than a regular bit. But theres a catch: the rules of quantum mechanics restrict what kinds of information we can get out of a qubit. If we want to know the configuration of a classical bit, we just look at it, and we see that the switch is either open [0] or closed [1]. If we want to know the configuration of a qubit, we measure it, but the only possible measurement outcomes are [0] (north pole) or [1] (south pole). A qubit that was situated on the equator will measure as [0] 50 percent of the time and [1] the other 50 percent of the time. That means we have to repeat measurements many times in order to learn about a qubits actual configuration.

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