What will the advent of quantum technology and computers bring to the world?

Current information and communication systems based on silicon semiconductors are gradually reaching their limits. While chip companies will be announcing new technological advances in transistors and miniaturization for some time to come, while processors will become more sophisticated, they will eventually reach a limit beyond their physical laws, according to Moore’s Law. In the world of information technology, therefore, there is more and more talk about the possible advent of quantum computers, which could bring new opportunities in various fields. Quantum computers represent a new paradigm that can be compared to the transition from analog to digital computers or from electronic computers from the 1950s to modern digital computers based on semiconductors.

Quantum technologies

The theoretical foundations of quantum sciences were laid at the beginning of the last millennium and describe the behavior of atoms, electrons, photons and other particles of the microworld, and this knowledge is currently moving from research (roughly 1930-1980) to first uses (2000-2030). The transition to wider commercial applicability is expected after 2030 (2030 – 2050). Quantum technologies will be used not only in the field of computers, but also in the field of communications and imaging, respectively. data collection. (Table 1)

The greatest progress has been made so far in the field of quantum computers, which today are making their way from research to practice where even the fastest high-performance computers are not enough to solve various problems. (In June 2021, IBM installed the first 20-qubit IBM Q System One for commercial use in Germany.) Many companies are working to develop new quantum hardware, e.g. D-Wave, Google, Intel, Honeywell. The quantum ecosystem also includes new software tools for application development and, in particular, new quantum algorithms that will enable the full potential of quantum hardware to be realized. Today, Volkswagen, KPN, BMW, AirBus, ABN Amro, Daimler Chrysler, JP Mogan Case, ExxonMobil, EON, Mitsubishi Chemical and others are among the leaders in the field of real use of quantum applications.

Quantum computers

Quantum computers process information and calculations through a quantum processor (QPU), which uses quantum phenomena such as superposition, i. j. the ability to exist in multiple states at once, and quantum entanglement. The basic unit of information in classical computers is a bit acquiring only the values ​​0 and 1. In quantum computers, the unit of information is qubit (quantum bit), which acquires arbitrary values ​​in the range 0 – 1. Classical bits are processed sequentially or in parallel, qubits are processed by quantum bonds and interfere across all possible quantum states at once. The performance of conventional computers doubles when the number of transistors doubles. The performance of quantum computers doubles with each qubit added, provided the qubit error rate is low enough. Today’s commercial quantum computers have dozens of qubits, but their number will increase in the coming years. The main problem that complicates the faster practical implementation of quantum computers is the error rate. This arises during quantum computation, and great efforts must be made to correct these errors during computation. Implementations vary, and ion traps seem most promising. (Table 2)

In quantum software, the situation is even more fragmented than in quantum hardware. In addition to large companies, a number of startups are dedicated to quantum software, e.g. Cambridge Quantum Computing, Zapata, QCWare, 1QBit or Riverlane. While IBM and AMAZON have built on Python, Microsoft prefers its own Q # programming language. In addition, large companies provide developers with their own development environments and simulators, and the trend is toward a quantum PaaS service.

Despite the expected enormous increase in the performance of quantum computers, it should be noted that these are complex systems that are designed only for specific calculations and tasks, so they are unlikely to replace classical computers, but will coexist with them. Classical computers will still handle most tasks and, for selected cases, use quantum API calls to solve specific problems where current high-performance computers are not enough.

Use of quantum computers

Ideal tasks for quantum computers are various optimization tasks, tasks requiring advanced modeling and prediction, or science tasks. Solutions to these problems are generally well described in theory using higher mathematics, but in practice their complexity increases exponentially. While classical computers would take months to years to obtain results, quantum computers are able to handle similar tasks in seconds to minutes.

A quantum computer helps to find the best solutions or processes among several options. For example, since 2017, Volkswagen has been developing an intelligent traffic management system to reduce congestion, accurately predict traffic requirements and reduce travel time. In the financial sector, banks that do not know how to optimize their risks hold more cash than banks that can do a comprehensive risk analysis.

  • Data science and modeling

With the ever-increasing volume of company data and complex relationships, traditional computers do not have time to process predictive models or artificial intelligence models. The US Treasury therefore uses new quantum simulation algorithms that shorten risk analysis, improve its quality and extend it to areas that were previously unavailable.

  • The science of new materials

Thanks to quantum computers, the natural sciences can relatively accurately predict the properties of molecules or materials and optimize their preparation process. Pharmaceutical companies (eg ROCHE) thus significantly shorten and cheapen the research of new drugs and their testing, in the energy sector they help with the development of new types of high-capacity batteries and in the chemical industry the results obtained in this way are used in the development of new materials. (Table 3)

A separate chapter in the use of quantum computers is the area of ​​cyber security. The government, banks and various companies will have to respond to the possibility that with the growing number of qubits, quantum computers will be able to playfully break the encryption algorithms used today. While the 2048-bit RSA cipher would be broken on conventional computers in about 20 years, a 4098-qubit quantum computer can handle this task in a matter of seconds. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology has therefore been working for several years on public key-based postquantum cryptography that will withstand both classical and quantum attacks, and aims to announce standards for quantum-resistant cryptography in 2024. The World Economic Forum estimates that In the coming years, about 20 billion facilities need to be modernized or replaced.

Moore’s Law – What’s Next? Source Deloitte Quantum Guild Program – The Quantum Computing Paradigm Shift

Recommendations at the end

Quantum technologies are slowly penetrating everyday practice, and their impact – either alone or in combination with artificial intelligence and cloud and blockchain technologies – is difficult to estimate today. If this topic applies to you, we recommend the following:

  • Observe the possible effects of quantum technologies in your industry.
  • Develop a strategy for the eventual adaptation of this technology, including people, knowledge and the right timing.
  • Follow developments in quantum hardware, software and quantum algorithms (CIO, CTO).
  • Prepare a plan to improve computer security today (CISO).

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Source: Nextech by www.nextech.sk.

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