The arrival of the quantum computer signals a paradigm shift in the world of computing.
The differentiation between generations of classical computers was based on the size of the processing unit and the speed of each elementary operation. For theoretical computer science, Eniac, the first computer based on vacuum tubes, and the most recent supercomputer are the same, just bigger and faster.
In contrast, a quantum computer is qualitatively different. It reduces exponentially the number of operations required for executing some specific tasks (for example factoring of large numbers). And the relative advantage swells, again exponentially, as the size of the input grows. So, the more complex the task, the larger the advantage.
The practical benefits of technology that can out-think classical computers are widespread. It is no surprise that tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, IBM, Nokia and Intel are investing billions in quantum research. At the same time, state-funded research across Europe, the US and Asia means the race for quantum supremacy (the point at which the quantum computer outperforms its classical counterpart) is well and truly on.There is significant competitive advantage to be gained for the first past the post in terms of developing a viable quantum computer. Access to the potential of a quantum computer would forever change the playing field for applications as diverse as mathematical modelling, commerce, machine learning and secure communications.
The worlds of science, academia and business have come together like never before, and we have seen some significant advancements in quantum technologies in the past five years. Prototype devices with 50 qubits have already been developed – the theoretical capacity required to achieve quantum supremacy.
However, significant progress remains to be made in creating the basic building blocks of quantum computers – qubits are still work in progress. Meanwhile, corporate organisations are gearing up for a technological leap of outstanding potential value that will transform human productivity.
For more on the state of quantum computing, you can read our quarterly reports.
On the bright side, quantum computing has the potential to transform almost every aspect of our lives; solving previously intractable problems.
The applications of quantum computing are almost infinite, with immediate implications for fields such as scientific research, artificial intelligence and big data analytics.
On the dark side, the arrival of the quantum computer also represents a threat to data security.
Many of today’s cryptographic systems would be rendered useless in the face of an exponential increase in computing power, creating demand for a new generation of quantum-safe security solutions.