"Quantum computing is the use of quantum-mechanical phenomena such as superposition and entanglement to perform computation. A quantum computer is used to perform such computation, which can be implemented theoretically or physically. There are currently two main approaches to physically implementing a quantum computer: analog and digital. Analog approaches are further divided into quantum simulation, quantum annealing, and adiabatic quantum computation. Digital quantum computers use quantum logic gates to do computation. Both approaches use quantum bits or qubits"
If you are not very familiar with Quantum Computing, that was the definition of quantum computing, as taken from Wikipedia. Why is this important? Because the fact they run on qubits means that they can operate all together at the same time and moreover their power grows exponentially with the number of qubits, contrary to the linear nature of classical computers.
Naturally that is something that has drawn the attention of the industrial and scientific aspects of our society as it is estimated that quantum computers will greatly surpass their classical equivalents.
Quantum Computing Today
This all sounds very futuristic, but in reality Quantum computing already has a few applications. It is used in cyber security, artificial intelligence, weather forecasting and climate reading equipment among a few things.
Builtin in their article about applications of quantum computing, they list a number of companies that already use quantum computing. "Toronto-based biotech startup ProteinQure. Flush with $4 million in recent seed funding, it partners with quantum-computing leaders (IBM, Microsoft and Rigetti Computing) and pharma research outfits (SRI International, AstraZeneca) to explore QC’s potential in modeling protein." the article reads. The deeply complex process engineers proteins for targeted medical purposes. But it is not all fun and games, the fact that the process is more precise means that it is also significantly more challenging.
In the same article we see that the applications are not only used in science, as Volkswagen uses quantum computing as well, albeit for a different reason. The “traveling salesman” problem is one of the most famous in computation for cars. The idea is that you have to determine the shortest possible route between multiple cities, hitting each city once and returning to the starting point and is often known as an optimization problem. It is difficult for a classical computer to tackle but for a fully realized quantum computer it could be a cakewalk and as such Volkswagen is already running pilot programs on a number of traffic and travel related optimization challenges.
It is the nature of things, when a solution is found to an issue, new problems rise, and Quantum Computing is not without its own share. The main issue that came across in my research was referred to as "Quantum Supremacy". I kid you not, it is almost as if at this point people are -trying- to sound Science Fiction-y. This article by CMSwire describes Quantum Supremacy as " the moment in time when a quantum computer finally does something that a traditional, binary, classical, computer cannot. It can be achieved in terms of raw computational speed or performing even an otherwise ordinary math problem that a classical computer simply isn't capable of (i.e. it doesn't have to be speed related)". This boils down to a Quantum Computer doing something that a normal computer would not be able to do.
The article however has a more positive note, as evidently Google claims to have achieved this event, by being able to accomplish in three minutes using a quantum computer what the world's fastest computer would take 10,000 years to do.
Granted this is amazing and all, but the more relevant issues, and the issues most companies are interested in, is knowing is when quantum computers will be able to solve hard important problems faster than classical computers, and when quantum computers will be able to break cryptography.
Why Quantum Computing?
Interesting as the above may be, it is time to talk about why the fuss over Quantum computers. Simple: because they have a vast array of fields that they can do great in, and help advance science and business forward.
Towards Data Science, for example, has listed a few potential applications for business in their article. Finance, Transportation, the Energy Sector, Logistics, Aeromotive and Aerospace, Blockspace and Cyber security, all are business sectors that could stand to benefit from the application of Quantum Computers, and the article does provide a few mentions on a few companies already testing the waters.
For example, in the Aviation business, Quantum technology could enable much more complex computer modelling like aeronautical scenarios, aiding in the routing and scheduling of aircrafts. This would have enormous commercial benefits for time and costs.
Or for a more general application of Quantum tech, you can see how it would benefit pattern matching. Being able to identify patterns in data and using them to predict future patterns is highly valuable no matter how you look at it. From matching traffic patterns and predicting the behavior of a system as complex as modern day traffic, which would be of great service for transporting goods, is unfortunately not possible for today’s computers, quantum computers might change that.
Pluralsight, in their article has given more examples on how quantum technology could help in business, but it seems that progress is already been made.
I read recently that Honeywell has been developing the underlying technologies for quantum computing for years. In addition, Honeywell's expertise in magnetic systems, ultra high vacuum hardware, lasers, precision control, and cryogenics supports quantum computing. Not only that, but in the same post by ZDnet, you can see that Honeywell is in fact set to launch its quantum computer with quantum volume of 64. What that exactly means, I will leave up to you to read the article and find out. (I have no idea what it means)
I have to admit guys, this article took me way longer to finish than I wanted it to, due to the very specialized language, but I am glad I did. Quantum technology may be overused to a point of a cliche in modern science fiction shows/books, but it is without a doubt a very significant part of science.
Although we wont be seeing the effects of quantum computers in our everyday lives any time soon (I think), the numerous potential applications for business and science means that we may start to see widespread use soon!