For years, quantum computing has been touted as the future of cutting-edge technology. In fact, a report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that equity investments in quantum computing nearly tripled in 2020, and is expected to become even busier in 2021. The interest isn’t solely from the financial sector; governments, research centers, and universities are entering “discovery acceleration” partnerships, while potential corporate investors are also actively budgeting for quantum computing — with 20% expected to do so by 2023. The BCG also estimates that quantum computing could create a value of $450 billion to $850 billion within the next 15 – 30 years.
However, many people have yet to fully grasp the concept behind quantum computing. For a simple explanation, most organizations and individuals are still using classical computers programmed in binary. This type of computer works with bits as data units (zeros and ones), so they can only handle one set of inputs and perform one calculation at a time.
Quantum computers, on the other hand, use qubits that have a unique quality of “superposition.” Superposition means that qubits can represent a combination of both zero and one at the same time; this quality enables qubits to perform multiple calculations with multiple inputs simultaneously. In short, quantum computers have the potential to be exponentially faster at certain types of computing than today’s mainframes and servers.
At the present, quantum computers are still being developed and improved, for the most part. As we mentioned in our article on ‘What’s up at QED-C?’, we’re focusing on launching quantum research projects this year and expanding research on the use of quantum computing resources. In the meantime, quantum computing can eventually benefit more businesses by:
Optimizing processes through forecasting and pattern-matching
Business leaders often grapple with questions on how to optimize their processes and reduce costs. Where should supply chain facilities be located for efficient material distribution? What is the shortest route for a delivery truck? How many robots should be deployed on the factory floor? Classic computing is often used to try and address these problems, but it’s often a time-consuming, hit-or-miss process. The number of variables that can be shifted in the calculations is limited, so companies have to make one complicated calculation after the other.
Quantum computers can dramatically narrow the range of possible answers in a very short time, as they can work with multiple variables simultaneously. Once other possibilities are eliminated, classical computing can zero in on the precise answer. Aside from faster decision-making, quantum computers can also forecast various scenarios by finding patterns in large, complex data sets. The technology would be able to predict factors like the weather and traffic conditions, which normally throw businesses off during planning.
Strengthening cybersecurity through cryptography
Quantum computing is most commonly associated with advanced cryptography, the protocol used to encode a piece of data sent from one person to another, in a way that only the intended recipient can decode. It’s not feasible to break current encryption with classical computers, but quantum computers can definitely do so. As ZDNet’s feature on quantum computing highlights, this technology can pose a threat to security protocols that currently protect most of our data, as hackers can utilize quantum computing to read information that is encrypted using existing standards. However, cybersecurity teams can also use quantum computing to better encrypt data; for example, quantum computing can even eliminate threats like ransomware because you would no longer need to pay a ransom fee for the decryption key of malware-encrypted files.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has initiated a process to create and standardize quantum-resistant public-key cryptographic algorithms. Working with experts worldwide, NIST is starting to develop cryptographic systems that are secure against both classical and quantum computers, but can still interoperate with existing communication protocols and networks. At the same time, next-level cryptography projects are being advanced as well. According to a post on high-speed circuit design on Altium, devices with fast edges need hardware components like a high-speed printed circuit board (PCB) for a powerful performance. The PCB allows the devices to switch states quickly so that the transition is complete before a signal can travel along the route and reach its target pin. Otherwise, imperfections in signal isolation will unintentionally cause small control signals to appear for some qubits, leading to errors in their qubit state.
Speeding up research through quantum mechanics
In a review published by the Future Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, researchers discuss how the process of discovering a new drug can be a complicated, arduous scientific journey. Scientists who want to develop new substances need to identify and examine different molecules to create a drug with enhanced potency, minimal unwanted effects, and improve patient outcomes. Determining each molecule’s properties is no easy task, however, as they cannot be modeled accurately with classical computers; each atom interacts with other atoms in complex ways, so it’s almost impossible for today’s computers to simulate even basic molecules with few atoms. — EDIT START Likewise, QED-C and the Pistoia Alliance have formed a community of interest that is working to educate the pharmaceutical industry leaders and identify use cases of quantum computing for life science and healthcare R&D. Under the Pistoia Alliance’s Emerging Sciences and Technology’s strategic theme, the project aims to support companies that need help navigating quantum computing, while informing the quantum computing sector of the needs of the biopharmaceutical industry.
Instead of using synthetic chemistry to physically measure what happens when molecules simultaneously work on the human body — and across billions of people with varying biological makeup — quantum computing can boil it all down to simple calculations. This is because the interaction of atoms inside a molecule is a quantum system in itself, so it can best create a model that can drive faster development of new products. Quantum mechanics is also being tapped into by NASA to analyze the data they collect about the universe and research better methods for space travel.
Exclusively written for quantumconsortium.org by Jane Lesley
Jane Lesley is a freelance writer, covering technology news and trends. She works on various topics, such as artificial intelligence, IoT, blockchain and more — although she is particularly fascinated with quantum computing. The views expressed in this blog entry are those of the author, and do not constitute a legal opinion and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the QED-C or SRI International. Any content provided is not intended to malign any country, ethnic group, company, organization, or individual.