Quantum computers – bringing computing to new heights
When the first computers emerged, it was hard to imagine anyone would ever think to combine quantum mechanics with hardware. But this new wave of computers has everyone talking – and they’re hyped to be able to speed up processes a hundredfold and crack top-notch security, such as blockchain or highly protected financial data.
But what are the facts? What’s really up with quantum computing and how can you use it to advance your business?
The truth is, these computers are already available. You could go ahead and program on a real quantum computer today if you wanted, accessed via the public cloud – and reap invaluable benefits as a result.
Welcome to the world of quantum computing
Quantum computers are very different from the average model. (If you’re interested in a comprehensive introduction to quantum computing, check out our previous blog post by Abdul Malik.) In essence, instead of traditional binary digits (bits) processed by a normal computer that have a value of 0 or 1, quantum computers work with quantum bits (qubits) that have values 0 and 1 at the same time – this is called superposition.
Using qubits produces a monumental result. Think about walking through a complex maze – normally you would have to try out all possibilities, one by one, and hope you can find the exit eventually. Instead, using qubits sends out a “team” to solve the maze, where each person tries a different path. This allows them to explore all paths at the same time – finding the exit billions of times faster.
Instead of trying to find the right security key by trying different combinations on a traditional computer (e.g. in RSA cryptography), the quantum computer user sets a number of qubits representing all possible combinations at the same time. With each qubit being 0 and 1 simultaneously, the amount of N qubits represents 2 to the Nth power numerals existing simultaneously. And thanks to qubits sharing information with one another through a process called entanglement, the right security key is found in merely a fraction of a second.
So, what quantum computers are on the market as we speak? Let’s first dive into the very first commercially-available quantum computers, D-Wave systems.
The D-Wave System – “Today’s quantum computing”
D-Wave systems made their initial debut in 2011, starting with the “D-Wave One”. This model had a mere 128 qubits, but nowadays the amount has multiplied – in this year’s announcement, a prototype with over 2,000 qubits was unveiled!
To function, D-Wave uses a specific quantum theory principle called annealing or adiabatic quantum computing. This makes it easier to solve very specific tasks, making it not a universal computer. (Think of a basic calculator that can only add, subtract, multiply and divide). D-Wave systems can only solve optimization tasks, such as finding the minimal budget for a project, minimal travel time necessary in logistics, finding bugs within millions of lines of code, and recently has been able to support AI capabilities.
While a neat piece of hardware, D-Wave commercial computers will cost you a pretty penny – millions of dollars, in fact. But if you don’t need your own system physically in your office, you may want to save that money and consider what IBM has to offer.
The IBM Q – “Tomorrow’s quantum computing”
In a very different approach from D-Wave, IBM made the first stable universal quantum computer with only 5 qubits (representing 32 number combinations simultaneously) publically available in the cloud. Called the IBM Q, it’s considered “stable” because the quantum bits last longer than unstable particles, which would otherwise be gone in an instant.
While still technically a prototype in the experimental stage, the IBM Q has the power to match D-Wave’s systems with virtually endless potential. Being a universal computer, it has the capabilities to complete a much wider range of tasks, such as breaking otherwise impenetrable cryptography.
The IBM Q has a passionate network community with more than 60,000 users who have ran over 1.7 million quantum computing experiments, ranging from simple algorithms to specific and technical tasks. And in 2017, IBM introduced 17-qubits and 20-qubits systems to the cloud, and announced the successfully built and tested processor prototype with 50 qubits – which is the base for the next generation of the IBM Q. No doubt will the next generation be a popular choice for businesses, as the growing fan base already has over 60,000 dedicated users waiting for the day.
Quantum computers provide benefits– so how do you get in on it?
Quantum computing opens the world to new possibilities. While not possible with traditional computers, quantum computing can help observe molecular and chemical interactions, optimize supply chains, enhance security, model financial data and perform risk modeling. Deep learning systems with heavy calculation loads can also utilize quantum computers to bring AI to new horizons.
In fact, Google and NASA are using quantum computers in the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab (as you can see in this video). And for the last 7 years, aerospace and security company Lockheed Martin has been verifying programming code on quantum computers (including the programming code for missiles control, which has over 24 million lines of code!)
It’s only a matter of time before quantum computers become mainstream across domains, as large enterprises are already experimenting on how to incorporate them into their daily routines. For instance, Daimler is using quantum computers to optimize the routes and loads their fleets can carry, and JPMorgan Chase is enhancing their finance, trading strategies and risk analysis processes to optimize their solution portfolios for clients, promote faster trading and make their systems more secure.
And you could too.
Our experts at Luxoft develop end-to-end solutions to help companies enhance their business processes, workforce and customer experiences. With new emerging technologies like quantum computing entering markets globally, we guide businesses across industries to effectively adopt solutions that fit their business needs.
An IT manager with a wealth of experience developing and implementing business expansion strategies, launching new products on global markets and running country operations for international companies. He is passionate about adopting emerging technologies as well as designing and running premium training programs. He has both a technical and managerial background, a PhD and an MBA.