Is it the ideal time to take the quantum leap to quantum computing?

By Pugalarasan P, Practice Director, IT Cloud & Infrastructure Service at Happiest Minds Technologies

Imagine a computer that is a hundred million times quicker in computing than present-day computers! That will be the power of a quantum computer. It will be able to solve today’s computation challenges with ease and speed. The development of a practical quantum computer will make fool-proof data encryption with complete security, the ability to accurately predict climatic changes, etc., a reality.

Today, computers can encrypt data or information in bits with values of either 1 or 0. However, their ability is highly restricted when compared to quantum computers. Quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits, and a qubit can denote a 1 and a 0 simultaneously — a distinctive quantum physics phenomenon known as superposition. It means that quantum computers let subatomic particles exist in more than one state at the same time. Due to this unique ability, qubits can conduct large numbers of highly complex calculations at once, significantly increasing the speed and capacity of computing.

Quantum computing — a myth or a reality?
Quantum computing is a reality. Quantum computers have already been developed. They have successfully demonstrated their potential. However, they have been built on a small scale, and for now, are laboratory instruments. Currently, their capabilities are highly restricted. They are huge in comparison with modern-day computers and will be super expensive and complex for practical use.

A quantum computer with sufficient capacity — of a few thousand qubits — to execute useful tasks way more efficiently than classical computers is still a few years away. Several universities, organizations, and government agencies across the globe are investing time, effort, and money into experimental techniques and applications related to quantum computing.

Various studies point out that quantum technology is quite complex and could take a decade to find its way into solving everyday problems.

Is it the ideal time to take the leap?
Absolutely! Technology leaders are making huge investments in quantum computing. A market analysis report predicts the global market for quantum computing to grow from $89.6 million in 2019 to $1,866.8 million by 2030.
Machine learning (ML), big data, and deep learning researchers are looking for economical ways to coach and check models using huge data sets. Quantum computing will enable the development of a faster coaching and testing method. Chemistry and materials science are restricted by calculations concerning complicated atomic structure interactions. Quantum solutions offer the promise of a quicker way to model these interactions.

Quantum computing is for everyone!
Quantum computing can offer real and meaningful business value to enterprises across industries. It can solve specific, sophisticated challenges that are out of scope for present-day computers. Accelerated development in the area could help various industries realize the benefits of quantum computers faster and here are a few use cases.
The insurance business has been using artificial intelligence (AI) to rationalize multiple back- and front-office activities. However, it is still limited by binary computing limitations. Quantum computing can transform the way insurance companies perform complex calculations. Insurtech firms are already working on the development and testing of solutions based on this strategy. Hopefully, the industry will soon be able to derive benefits from these solutions.

Retail companies process large volumes of customer data to study demographics, buyer behavior, and preferences. With the introduction of quantum computing, such data can be processed and analyzed a lot faster and more easily when compared with today’s computing devices. This will allow retailers to deliver highly personalized experiences to their customers.

Today, the gaming industry develops decisively solvable games. Quantum computing can change this and take the game development experience to a whole new level. In the future, it will be possible to leverage quantum computing in game development in fascinating ways such as procedural generation and random content generation to automatically produce huge volumes of content.

Quantum computing has the potential to deliver unparalleled processing power and speed, as well as unique and fundamentally distinct algorithms for data consistency and search. It has the potential to lead to dramatic improvements in speed and performance in healthcare. When incremental computing becomes accessible, clinicians will be able to easily review CT scans and quickly discover changes and problems. It can also help with precision medicine. It will be possible for medical practitioners to quickly find targeted chemotherapy procedures with more personalization due to quantum computing’s increased data processing capabilities.

Through an invasive weed optimization algorithm, a quantum computer in agriculture could aid in the detection of weed. This can facilitate the development of effective fertilizers. As ammonia is found in almost all fertilizers, efficient manufacture of ammonia or its alternative can result in fertilizer production that is less expensive and energy-intensive. However, because the number of possible catalyst combinations is unlimited, there hasn’t been much development in the area. A quantum computer will be able to examine and come up with a suitable catalytic combination within a fraction of the time.

With quantum computing, large corporations looking forward to the output of ML and deep learning will be able to perform analyses that are not possible with today’s classical computing systems.

Several other quantum computing use cases can benefit businesses:

• Pharmaceutical companies can accelerate the invention of new drugs.
• Materials companies can discover new molecular structures.
• Finance companies can develop new commercialism strategies.
• Transportation companies can optimize logistics operations.

3 key barriers in quantum computing adoption
Current encryption algorithms are vulnerable to quantum superpowers, and quantum computing poses a threat to them. Hence, it is important to begin applying quantum-safe algorithms immediately. Quantum computing will drastically alter the IT security landscape, rendering many traditional encryptions and digital signature technologies obsolete.

However, there are a few barriers that are delaying the development of a practical quantum computing device.

1. Availability of qubits: Traditional computers are susceptible to errors and faults. However, most of these errors can be fixed with some additional storage and logic. This is a little difficult to achieve in quantum computing. While error correction systems do exist in quantum computing, they use so many qubits that only a handful are left for practical processing and actual computation activities. This significantly reduces the computing task’s size — to a fraction of what could be achieved with perfect hardware.

2. Result verification required: Understanding the difficulties of quantum computing is only one side of the equation, as quantum is a world apart from what most businesses are used to. Unlike classical computers, quantum computers only deliver a probabilistic answer. They aren’t designed to deliver decisive results. Instead, they suggest the most likely answer, which may require verification by a traditional computer. For example, a quantum computer may determine the most likely answer for breaking an encryption method, but the classical computer will need to evaluate and confirm the response.

3. Cybersecurity threat: Quantum computers are a potential threat due to their high computing power. Though the current version of quantum computers does not possess enough processing power to infringe cryptographic systems, future versions might be able to do that. The possibility of cyberattacks makes it imperative to develop innovative encryption algorithms capable of resisting the computing power of quantum computers. Designing strategies to address cybersecurity risks and staying prepared can help.

The way forward
Like any other technological advancement, quantum computing will have to be used with a certain degree of integrity and higher responsibility. Technology companies such as Google, and Intel are investing heavily in quantum computing.

When practical quantum computers are developed a few years from now, it will be interesting to see how organizations in the pharmaceutical, chemical, banking and finance, and other sectors take full advantage of their processing capacity to solve currently unfathomable problems.

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