In 1965 Intel Co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that integrated circuit capacity appeared to double with each new chip and that each new chip was released within 18-24 months of the old. Unlike Moore’s prediction, tech mavericks are now debating over the limits and the capacity of the modern computers’ processing power. Is it the indication of the end of Moore’s law? While the future holds its answer, an immensely robust computing called ‘Quantum’ seems to offer hope for solving more specialized computing problems. Quantum Computing is the new kid on the block, and this kid is being seen to be solving the computing problems that are intractable for conventional computers. So, what’s in Quantum computing? Quantum Computing studies theoretical computation systems that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement to perform operations on data.Simply put, a classical computer performs operations using classical ‘bits’ that can be in only one of two states: ‘0’ or ‘1’. A quantum computer uses ‘quantum bits,’ or ‘qubits’—derived from quantum physics phenomenon of superposition where any two or more quantum states can be added together, resulting in another valid quantum state. Moreover, unlike the traditional binary operations where the computation is based on either ‘0’ or ‘1’, qubits can have a value of ‘0’, ‘1,’ or both ‘0 AND 1’ at the same time. This capability allows quantum computers to solve certain types of complex problems that remain obdurate to conventional computers.
Why Quantum Computing?
The scale at which the new computational paradigm can affect the computational world, and the society at large, is magnanimous. For example, it has the capacity to introduce fundamentally more powerful forms of AI. We all know the fundamental principle of machine learning ‘Pattern Recognition’. With quantum computation, machines will not only be able to compare much more data in parallel, but also will simultaneously do all permutations of that data to discover the best patterns that describe it. Besides, Quantum Computing will allow us to model complex molecular interactions at an atomic level. It will particularly be important for medical research and drug discovery. Similarly, Quantum computers may be our newest tool that will allow us to unlock ‘simulation-driven’ solutions—perhaps design new catalysts that actually capture carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into new and valuable products at low cost and energy use.
Who’re the Early Quantum Lovers?
The world. The truth is that despite technology advances, quantum computing market is still fledgling. At the same time, this rapidly evolving market is one of the most active R&D fields, attracting substantial government funding that supports myriads of research groups—at leading academic institutions, major national laboratories, and cutting-edge industrial research centers. The governments are the major driving force behind the investments in Quantum Computing R&D, fiercely competing for what is being perceived as the most promising technology of the 21st century. The UK being the pioneer in the field of quantum computing envisages this market as £1 billion, and invested £270 million in the year 2013 alone. Also, the US is investing heavily with €360 million per year—one of the key investment areas includes clocks and navigation technologies. In addition, American tech giants such as IBM, Intel, and Google are also investing millions of dollars in trying to build Quantum computers. Next on the list behind the US is China. China is spending €220 million per annum. Moreover, EU joined the bandwagon in a big way, investing €1 billion over the next 10 years in Quantum technologies. And, the list doesn’t end there.
So, Where’s the Computing World Headed?
The Quantum Computing processor, a physical device enabling the principle of Quantum Computing, is still rather a theoretical concept than a ready-to-implement engineering solution. Yet, this notion has been broken recently by D-Wave’s announcement of shipping the first commercially available Quantum computer model D-Wave 2000Q. It’s the beginning of the evolution of Quantum Computing. In the coming years, we expect to see great advances in all aspects of the technology, from computing hardware and environmental elements to system software and tools to a growing ecosystem of applications designed to take advantage of the unique characteristics of the Quantum system. Being part of the Technology Start-ups Exploration Group at HCL, I believe that we are going to witness a truly exciting time ahead; the ‘next computing revolution’.