The exciting landscape of modern life has been built with the aid of powerful computers. They have done dazzling things, from making the trains run on time to helping to build skyscrapers. Now, imagine a discontinuity in computing in which these capabilities are suddenly expanded and enhanced by orders of magnitude.
You wont have to imagine too much longer. It is in the process of happening. The fascinating thing is that this change is based on quantum science, which is completely counter-intuitive and not fully understood, even by those who are harnessing it.
Todays computers are binary, meaning that they are based on bits that represent either a 1 or a 0. As fast as they go, this is a basic, physical gating factor that limits how much work they can do in a given amount of time. The next wave of computers uses quantum bits called qubits that can simultaneously represent a 1 and a 0. This root of the mysteries that even scientists refer to as quantum weirdness allows the computers to do computations in parallel instead of sequentially. Not surprisingly, this greatly expands the ability of this class of computers.
The details of how quantum computers operate are more or less impossible to understand. A couple of related points are clear, however: Harnessing the power of quantum mechanics to create incredibly powerful machines is not a pipe dream: Companies such as IBM, Microsoft and Google, as well as startups and universities, dont sink billions of dollars in flights of fancy.
The second point is that the payoff is here, or at least quite near. The world of computing wont instantaneously change once quantum actions are proven. It is still a long road to being fully commercialized, bypassing classical approaches and, finally, living up to the most extravagant promise.
In late May, Microsoft and Purdue University announced research on quantum computing that focuses on one of the key challenges, which is the extraordinarily fragile nature of the qubits. Indeed, the subject of the research is a good example of the amazing complexity of the field and how far it has to go.
In quantum mechanics, the mere act of looking at the system makes it choose between the 1 and the 0 and exit the quantum state. The task of the Microsoft/Purdue research is to develop topological qubits that are stable enough to function in the real world.
In essence, according to Professor Michael Manfra, the university’s Bill and Dee O’Brien Chair Professor of Physics and Astronomy, stability increases as the quantum properties are spread out.
The quantum variable that houses information is really a property of the quantum system as [a] whole, he wrote to IT Business Edge in response to emailed questions. More particles may be needed to define the qubit, but this complexity has an advantage while a local disturbance or perturbation can flip an individual spin, it is much less likely to change the state of the entire quantum system that comprises a topological qubit.Therefore these topological qubits are expected to be more robust.They do not couple well to the commonly occurring noise in the environment.
Preparing for the Quantum Future
There is an angle to all of this that is refreshingly straightforward and accessible, however: Great change is coming and companies need to prepare for quantum computing. Indeed, even assuming that the high-profile changes are down the road a bit, they will be massive when they do arrive.
The bottom line is that planners need to think about quantum computing. A logical first step in assessing the impact is identifying the tasks it will most likely perform. In responses to emailed questions, Jerry Chow, the manager of Experimental Quantum Computing for IBM, told IT Business Edge that four areas likely to be affected are business optimization (in areas such as the supply chain, logistics, modeling financial data and risk analysis); materials and chemistry; artificial intelligence and cloud security.
Things may not be quite as clear cut, however. David Schatsky, the managing director of Deloitte LLP, told IT Business Edge, in response to emailed questions, that risk management, investment portfolio design, trading strategies, and the design of transportation and communications networks will be affected. Quantum computer, he wrote, could be disruptive in cryptography, drug design, energy, nano-engineering and research.
Thats an almost intimidating list. However, Schatsky prefaced it with a disclaimer: Quantum computing will entirely transform some kinds of work and have negligible impact on others. The truth is, researchers dont yet know all the types of problems quantum computing may be good for.
There Is Still Time to Prepare
Luckily, planners have time. Quantum computing will be a massive change, but one that will be gradual. It makes sense to think of quantum computing as a new segment of the supercomputer market, which is a small fraction of overall IT spending, Schatsky wrote. Annual supercomputer server sales total about $11 billion globally by some estimates. I suspect quantum computing revenues will be a very small fraction of that for years to come. So Im not sure its going to become common anytime soon.
Though it clearly will be quite a while before people are buying quantum computers on Amazon, organizations need to be thinking about quantum computing today. The power of quantum computing is so extreme, especially when coupled with artificial intelligence and other emerging techniques, it is clear that all of that time must be put to good use.
IBMs Chow said that quantum-driven platforms such as Watson will be able to find patterns that are buried too deeply for classical computers. This will open new frontiers for discovery, he wrote.
It is a new age, not a new computer.
Corporations should ask: How do I learn about quantum computing to get a feel for where it might make a difference? Now is the time to realize its enormous potential, and that this is a field ripe for innovation and exploration that goes beyond simply just an end application. Becoming quantum-ready is about participating in a revolution within computing. People need to learn the details enough to open their minds up about what could be possible.
And, eventually, quantum mechanics may go beyond computing.
In general terms, I believe the development of quantum technologies is inevitable quantum computing is perhaps just the most visible example, Manfra wrote. It is not hard to imagine that certain businesses in which innovation may be enhanced by dramatic improvement in computational capabilities will need to have long-term plans which exploit quantum machines once they become available.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.
- How Quantum Computers Work - May 3rd, 2018
- This is what a 50-qubit quantum computer looks like - January 15th, 2018
- Inside Microsofts quantum computing world | InfoWorld - January 1st, 2018
- Microsoft Takes Path Less Traveled to Build a Quantum ... - December 13th, 2017
- Researchers create new type of quantum computer | Harvard Gazette - December 12th, 2017
- Microsoft releases quantum computing development kit preview ... - December 12th, 2017
- Intel moves towards production quantum computing with new 17 ... - October 11th, 2017
- Quantum computer a possibility in 10 years - News.com.au - NEWS.com.au - September 7th, 2017
- Scientists Propose a New Kind of Quantum Computer, But What ... - Gizmodo - September 7th, 2017
- Quantum detectives in the hunt for the world's first quantum computer - Phys.Org - September 7th, 2017
- Scientists Just Found A Use For The Hashtag In Quantum Computing - Gizmodo Australia - September 4th, 2017
- The Future of AI: From Quantum Computing to the Internet of Things - Outer Places - September 4th, 2017
- We're About to Cross The 'Quantum Supremacy' Limit in Computing - ScienceAlert - September 2nd, 2017
- Explaining the Most Recent Record for Quantum Computing: A 51-Qubit Quantum Computer Array - All About Circuits - September 2nd, 2017
- USRA Upgrades D-Wave Quantum Computer to 2000 Qubits - insideHPC - September 1st, 2017
- Quantum encrypted box hints at unhackable communication - Wired.co.uk - September 1st, 2017
- Quantum Computer Programming: What You Need to Learn to Get ... - TrendinTech - September 1st, 2017
- Google's John Martinis Believes Quantum Computing Threat to Be Long Way Off - Bitcoin News (press release) - August 31st, 2017
- Australian quantum computing outfit goes commercial - Networks Asia - August 31st, 2017
- Elusive Majorana Particle Takes Major Step Towards Quantum Computing - IEEE Spectrum - August 29th, 2017
- Australia gets quantum computing company - ACS (registration) - August 28th, 2017
- Quantum Computing and Financial Trading - LeapRate - August 28th, 2017
- Russians Lead the Quantum Computer Race With 51-Qubit Machine - Edgy Labs (blog) - August 28th, 2017
- Bitcoin vs. The NSAs Quantum Computer Bitcoin Not Bombs - August 26th, 2017
- qBitcoin: A Way of Making Bitcoin Quantum-Computer Proof? - IEEE Spectrum - August 26th, 2017
- Hype and cash are muddying public understanding of quantum ... - Phys.Org - August 26th, 2017
- Silicon Quantum Computing launched to commercialise UNSW ... - ZDNet - August 23rd, 2017
- IEEE Approves Standards Project for Quantum Computing ... - Business Wire (press release) - August 23rd, 2017
- Introducing Australia's first quantum computing hardware company - CIO Australia - August 23rd, 2017
- What is quantum computer? - Definition from WhatIs.com - August 22nd, 2017
- Hype and cash are muddying public understanding of quantum computing - The Conversation AU - August 22nd, 2017
- Finns chill out quantum computers with qubit refrigerator to cut out errors - ZDNet - August 22nd, 2017
- UNSW joins with government and business to keep quantum computing technology in Australia - The Australian Financial Review - August 22nd, 2017
- 'Tools of DESTRUCTION' Quantum computers WILL wreak havoc ... - Express.co.uk - August 19th, 2017
- Quantum computing comes of age - Alphr - August 14th, 2017
- No, Quantum Teleportation Won't Let Us Send Instant Messages to Alpha Centauri - Air & Space Magazine - August 12th, 2017
- Google on track for quantum computer breakthrough by end of ... - August 11th, 2017
- Closing In On Quantum Computing | WIRED - August 11th, 2017
- World's Leading Physicist Says Quantum Computers Are Tools of Destruction, Not Creation - Futurism - August 10th, 2017
- Will you be able to trust a quantum computer? - Digital Journal - August 9th, 2017
- New Methods of Controlling Electrons Could be Major in Quantum Computing - TrendinTech - August 5th, 2017
- Exactly what could quantum computers do? - Electronics Weekly - August 4th, 2017
- What is quantum computing and why does the future of Earth depend on it? - Alphr - August 2nd, 2017
- The Age of Quantum Computers is upon us! - Gizbot - August 2nd, 2017
- Ultracold molecules hold promise for quantum computing | MIT News - MIT News - August 1st, 2017
- Clarifiying complex chemical processes with quantum computers - Phys.Org - August 1st, 2017
- When Will Quantum Computers Be Consumer Products? - Futurism - August 1st, 2017
- Quantum Computers Just Moved a Step Closer to Reality - NBCNews.com - August 1st, 2017
- A New Breakthrough in Quantum Computing is Set to Transform Our ... - Futurism - August 1st, 2017
- Quantum computers compete for supremacy - Salon - July 10th, 2017
- Quantum Computers Compete for "Supremacy" - Scientific American - July 5th, 2017
- Less is more for Canadian quantum computing researchers - ITworld - July 4th, 2017
- New method could enable more stable and scalable quantum ... - Phys.Org - July 4th, 2017
- Volkswagen buys D-Wave quantum computers which sell for $15 million each - Robotics and Automation News (press release) (registration) - July 2nd, 2017
- 6 Things Quantum Computers Will Be Incredibly Useful For - Singularity Hub - July 1st, 2017
- Quantum Machine Learning Computer Hybrids at the Center of New Start-Ups - TrendinTech - June 20th, 2017
- Israel Enters Quantum Computer Race, Placing Encryption at Ever-Greater Risk - Sputnik International - June 20th, 2017
- Prototype device enables photon-photon interactions at room ... - Phys.Org - June 20th, 2017
- The Quantum Computer Factory That's Taking on Google and IBM - WIRED - June 20th, 2017
- Toward optical quantum computing - MIT News - June 17th, 2017
- Get ahead in quantum computing AND attract Goldman Sachs - eFinancialCareers - June 16th, 2017
- KPN CISO details Quantum computing attack dangers - Mobile World Live - June 16th, 2017
- Quantum Computing Technologies markets will reach $10.7 billion by 2024 - PR Newswire (press release) - June 14th, 2017
- From the Abacus to Supercomputers to Quantum Computers - Duke Today - June 13th, 2017
- Quantum Computers Will Analyze Every Financial Model at Once - Singularity Hub - June 13th, 2017
- Scientists May Have Found a Way to Combat Quantum Computer Blockchain Hacking - Futurism - June 13th, 2017
- Microsoft and Purdue work on scalable topological quantum computer - Next Big Future - June 13th, 2017
- Doped Diamonds Push Practical Quantum Computing Closer to Reality - Motherboard - June 3rd, 2017
- Team develops first blockchain that can't be hacked by quantum computer - Siliconrepublic.com - June 3rd, 2017
- D-Wave partners with U of T to move quantum computing along - Financial Post - June 2nd, 2017
- Telstra just wants a quantum computer to offer as-a-service - ZDNet - June 1st, 2017
- Microsoft, Purdue Tackle Topological Quantum Computer - HPCwire - HPCwire (blog) - June 1st, 2017
- MIT Just Unveiled A Technique to Mass Produce Quantum Computers - Futurism - June 1st, 2017
- Here's How We Can Achieve Mass-Produced Quantum Computers - ScienceAlert - June 1st, 2017
- Research collaborative pursues advanced quantum computing - Phys.Org - June 1st, 2017
- AI and Quantum Computers Are Our Best Weapons Against Cyber Criminals - Futurism - June 1st, 2017
- Scientists claim to have invented the world's first quantum-proof ... - ScienceAlert - June 1st, 2017
- Google Plans to Demonstrate the Supremacy of Quantum ... - IEEE Spectrum - May 25th, 2017
- Top 5: Things to know about quantum computers - TechRepublic - May 25th, 2017
- Is the US falling behind in the race for quantum computing? - AroundtheO - May 25th, 2017