How Quantum Computers Will Change the Future of Computing
Mark Ritter of IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Laboratory recently stated, “I believe we’re entering what will come to be seen as the golden age of quantum computing research,” as his team works to create the first true quantum computer. That’s all well and good if you have a solid understanding of what quantum computing is and what it can do for us. If you don’t have a clue about this technology, lets start with the basics and find out just what quantum computing is.
Computer Processing: Bits vs. Qubits
The computers we use process information in bits that can exist in one of two states: a 0 or a 1. In quantum computing the quantum bit, or qubit, may exist in either both states at once through what is known as “superposition.” So, by harnessing some of the quirky features of quantum mechanics the qubit has the ability to exist as both a 1 and a 0 at the same time allowing the computer to perform many different computations at the same time. Stacking qubits increases the processing power; a two-qubit system would perform the operation on four values, a three-qubit system on eight values, etc.
Put simply, a traditional computer solves one problem at a time in a sequence whereas a quantum computer has the capacity to solve multiple problems at the same time.
4 Benefits of Quantum Computing
No one is going to fire up a quantum computer to write a book report, surf the web, or send an email. The performance benefits of this type of computing power come from its ability to analyze quickly and test extremely large sets of data. Below are a few examples of how quantum computing will impact our world.
As encryption technology struggles to keep up with computing power, many believe that the key to stronger encryption lies in quantum encryption. By harnessing the power of quantum computing, encrypted data sent from one person to another will be rendered useless if intercepted by someone without the proper Quantum Key.
Conversely, should a rogue state or unauthorized user have access to a quantum computer they would theoretically be able to harness its power to break existing encryption and unlock an awful lot of data that we thought was secure. So far, quantum computing units sold by D-Wave do not have the power to be useful in cryptography.
Harnessing the power of quantum computing will allow chemists to test millions of molecular combinations when developing new drugs and best determine which of these combinations are most likely to be successful in clinical trials. Pair this with increased ability to quickly analyze DNA sequencing data and we should start to see new treatments move more quickly through the testing and approval process since pharmaceutical companies won’t have to test to failure so many times; the computer will do that for them.
Both air traffic and road travel would benefit from quantum computing’s ability to analyze large sets of traffic patterns to make quicker routing decisions. It will also provide the ability to work on several problems at once meaning that each leg of a trip can be analyzed at the same time and the best route strung together from the very beginning of the trip.
Any prediction is made by analyzing available data, and the weather is no different. What makes forecasting the weather so difficult is the fact that there are so many variables that effect weather patterns that traditional computers cannot take into account. Quantum computers, on the other hand, have the ability to account for these changes so meteorologists have the data to make more accurate forecasts and account for any possible changes.
Understand the Possibilities with Quantum Computing
Physicist Richard Feynman quoted that, “if you think you understand quantum physics, you don’t understand quantum physics.” So while we may not need to fully understand how quantum computing works, understanding the potential benefits and what it can do for us is definitely something of great interest.