Indian Railways plans to use quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI) to make the country’s railway network on par with the rest of the world, said minister Ashwini Vaishnaw recently. He also emphasized the possibilities of integrating data and analytics (D&A) to upgrade the system.
The rise in the number of use cases of AI and D&A across industries is nothing new. Recently, moving on a similar track, the UK government took up D&A and AI to fight against the rising number of fraud cases.
Quantum computing is the emerging technology on everyone’s minds, with organizations and nations gradually investing in the technology. Its market size is valued at $866 million in 2023 and is predicted to reach $4.375 billion by 2028, growing at a rate of 38.3% CAGR.
According to a recent survey by Zapata Computing, 69% of global enterprises have already adopted or plan to adopt the technology in the near term. Currently, adoption has been highest in the transportation sector at 63%.
Basic understanding of quantum computing
Using quantum states of subatomic particles, quantum computing creates incredibly powerful and energy-efficient computers that can solve problems at almost unimaginable speeds, store data and perform computational tasks at scale.
It’s different from binary computing, which is limited to processing just one of two states at any given time—a one or a zero, binary bits. Quantum computing leverages quantum bits or qubits—induced property of a subatomic particle—that can represent a one, zero, both and any value in between, all at the same time, using its phenomenon superposition.
The second concept that quantum computing uses is so peculiar and unexplainable that Albert Einstein called it a spooky action at a distance. It’s called entanglement. This is when two particles with no physical connection respond to each other as if they know about each other.
The third and the toughest part of quantum computing is quantum decoherence or the loss of quantum coherence, the process in which a system’s behavior changes—by vibrations, temperature fluctuations, electromagnetic waves and other interactions with the outside environment—from that which can be explained by quantum mechanics to that which can be explained by classical mechanics.
The quantum computer has three main components: A qubit area that houses the qubits, a signal transfer method or the quantum gates for transferring signals to the qubits and a classical computer to execute a program and send instructions.
“Quantum computing is going to create completely new possibilities and change the way we live and understand the world. The industry must come together, from a grassroots level, to shape the technology. We must make sure that we build platforms and products that are transparent, flexible and trustworthy for users,” said Kalyan Kumar, Global Chief Technology Officer and Head – Ecosystems at HCLTech.
Quantum application use cases
Quantum computing has a few specific use cases that have the potential to make a huge impact on saving money and time in drug research and predicting extreme weather conditions with weather pattern recognition.
Machine learning and AI have been introduced to predict weather conditions. Taking this one step further, quantum software would enable faster machine learning capabilities, as quantum computing helps in processing complex problems at very quick speeds.
The technology can also eradicate the trial-and-error method of drug development and can be effective in understanding drugs and their effect on humans. Furthermore, quantum cryptography can create unbreakable encryption to prevent cyberattacks.
In addition, quantum computing can be used to find the right mix for fruitful investments, deliver high-quality outcomes at a low cost and be used for algorithmic trading to automatically create share dealing in financial modelling. In supply-chain management, the technology can schedule logistics workflows in real time with its advanced optimization technique called quantum annealing.
Led by Professor Winfried Hensinger, scientists at Sussex University have recently transferred quantum information between computer chips at record speeds and accuracy that scientists have been trying to do for more than 20 years.
“Right now, we have quantum computers with very simple microchips. What we have achieved here is the ability to realize extremely powerful quantum computers capable of solving some of the most-important problems for industries and society,” Hensinger told the BBC.
HCLTech’s role in quantum computing
Expanding its 30-year-old partnership with Microsoft, HCLTech will offer its customers cloud-based Microsoft Azure Quantum toolsets and support through its Q-Labs.
“We believe that quantum technology has the power to transform the way we live, do business and solve society’s most significant challenges,” said Ajit Moodliar, Senior Vice President and Global Head, Microsoft Ecosystem Business Unit (MEBU), HCLTech. “We are excited to leverage the Microsoft Azure Quantum toolsets and support to innovate, inspire and industrialize quantum technologies for our customers.”
Incubating early-stage research programs to progress capabilities toward industrial-scale quantum computing, HCLTech Q-Labs will create on-cloud examples of quantum technologies for the clients.
Besides inspiring and educating its clients to explore and scale customer-ready deployments of quantum applications, the Q-Labs will showcase proof of concept (PoC) business use cases to the company’s clients.
HCLTech will engage with approximately 1,000 employees around the world to leverage Azure Quantum resources such as Microsoft Learn, katas and workshop content to innovate quantum technologies and inspire its customers.
These Q-Labs are now a part of the Azure Quantum Network—a dynamic ecosystem of quantum innovators and pioneers—and also the recipient of an Azure Quantum Credits grant. HCLTech Q-Labs will continue leading quantum hardware development to explore new algorithms, investigate use cases and experiment with world-class hardware platforms.