If technology has taught us anything, it is that the speed of change is unpredictable. A period of sustained innovation in the field of quantum computing has seen the timelines for development getting shorter and shorter, with some experts predicting definitive results within a decade.
A few short years ago, people were talking about quantum computing in terms of science fiction. Although the concept of a quantum computer has been around for decades, commentators were still frequently quoting 30-40 year development cycles, with few predicting a commercially viable quantum computer before 2040.
The raw processing power of a quantum computer will enable certain types of complex mathematics, simulations and modelling to be carried out in a fraction of the time it would take a traditional computer. Quantum computers will revolutionize a wide range of applications; including modelling of quantum systems or chemical reactions, analyzing big data, mapping proteins and evolving AI.
Not all of its applications are so benign. The threat posed by quantum computers to the world of encryption was explored recently in the Wired Article: The quantum clock is ticking on encryption – and your data is under threat.
In this article, Dr Michele Mosca, deputy director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, is willing to try to put a number on when the threat will become real, estimating a one-in-seven chance that some fundamental public-key crypto will be broken by quantum by 2026, and a one-in-two chance of the same by 2031.
The Quantum State
A recent Next Big Future article explored some of the more recent advances in quantum computing, as some of the biggest names in technology compete in the race for quantum supremacy. Rigetti, Google, IBM, DWave and Microsoft are all competing for the quantum prize.
Rigetti computing is headed by Chad Rigetti, former technical lead for the Quantum Computing Group at IBM research. The company is dedicated to creating a commercially viable quantum computing platform and is focused on developing a fault-tolerant, gate-based solid-state quantum processor. They have had some recent success with a three-qubit chip and are working on a model in 2017 with 40 qubits.
Google has established itself as one of the world leaders in quantum computing over the past 2 years. In the race to a 50-cubit computer, they have announced success with a nine-qubit machine and simulations of qubits on a 6×7 grid. The challenge, once again, is scalability. As the qubit grids get bigger, simulating behavior requires more and more memory. A 6×4 grid requires 268MB, a 6×7 grid requires 70TB and a 6×8 grid would require 2.2PB!
Over the summer, researchers at the University of Oxford announced that they had developed a logic gate with a precision of 99.9%; hitting a benchmark necessary for the development of a quantum computer.
Whilst micro quantum computers have been successfully developed, scaling the technology to a commercially viable platform has proven a sticking point. In October, researchers at SNL in California announced that they had developed a quantum bridge, which could be used to link multiple micro-computers and effectively scale the technology.
Across the globe in the University of New South Wales, technicians have developed qubits that remain in a stable state of superposition for 10 times longer than before; significantly improving the time during which calculations can take place.
Unlike Google, IBM and others, Microsoft is coming at the qubit from a different direction. It is looking to encode qubits in a quasiparticle called a non-abelian anyon. Whilst these is some debate as to whether these particles actually exist, Microsoft is hoping to exploit their topological properties to generate robust quantum states and built what they are calling topological quantum computers. Early theoretical work on topological states of matter won three physicists the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016.
About ID Quantique
IDQ network encryption solutions are used to secure sensitive data by leading financial services companies, healthcare organisations, cloud service providers and governments across the world.
IDQ uses state-of-the-art algorithms and highly secure quantum key generation and quantum key distribution (quantum cryptography), ensuring that the solutions are “quantum-safe” for the long-term protection of sensitive data into and beyond the quantum era.
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