Our digital world is also a world full of data that has to be processed and analysed ever faster and more accurately than ever. Classic computers have long since reached their limits, as they can only do one task after another. But a new kind of computing could change everything: Quantum Computing (QC). It has the potential to fully exploit artificial intelligence.
Quantum computing is the holy grail for global technology giants. But what exactly is a quantum computer and what can it be used for?
What is quantum computing?
All computer systems are based on a fundamental ability to store and manipulate information. Normal computers, like the ones you and I use, work with bits that store the data as binary 0 and 1 states. The novelty of quantum computers is that they use the so-called qubits (quantum bits), which are not at 0 or 1 but in a superposition of both states.
Why is this an important difference?
What are the advantages of quantum computing?
Instead of performing a logical progression calculation as in a normal binary computer — where answers are yes or no, on or off — a quantum system performs all operations simultaneously and provides the information immediately.
In this way, its computing power is exponentially higher. A qubit corresponds to two operations at the same time, two qubits, four operations, ten qubits, 1024 operations, etc. The resulting computation is, therefore, faster and more efficient. This computing power makes it easy to solve problems and make relevant decisions faster and more effective.
Which disadvantages should be considered?
All that glitters is not gold. The difficulties that arise on the way to the quantum computer are not easy to circumvent.
Qubits suffer from decoherence, namely the destruction of quantum states through interactions with the environment. The environment disturbs the superposition of quantum states. The more qubits there are on a computer, the easier it can be for decoherence.
In addition, conversion accuracy is not 100 per cent accurate. Because qubits are inherently more unstable than bytes, they tend to be more accurate (accuracy) errors.
Why do you need quantum computing?
Global companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Google, Alibaba, and Intel, as well as specialised startups such as Rigetti Computing, are paving the way for innovation with this technology and are heavily investing in research. They gain initial experience in the hope of gaining a competitive advantage over the competition.
The analyst firm BCG has summarised in a recent study, which use cases already exist for this technology.
Even if we do not yet know the full potential of QC, there are already the following core areas: Cryptography, chemical and financial calculations, the development of new materials, and data processing. Quantum computing is most commonly used in simulation and optimisation, such as machine learning and AI. By the way: with quantum computers, the learning curve for AI-capable machines is considerably shortened.
Our world is churning out more and more ones and zeros, as well as data, data, and more data. In addition, new cutting-edge technologies require significantly more processing power, immediate answers, and greater scalability. Quantum computing can help with data analysis, event forecasting, and pattern recognition.
- Data analysis: here QC can perform very complex calculations and simplify them as well as solve large data problems easily. For example, JPMorgan and Barclays rely on QC to process transactions, trades, and other types of data as quickly as possible.
- Predicting events: The ability to perform more simulations at a higher speed is a relatively simple task for a quantum computer. This can help create better forecasts and control how resources and time are spent on specific products and services. Even meteorologists can benefit from it.
- Identify patterns in data: Governments and businesses could be better informed, for example, to plan traffic flow or population growth. In this context, Volkswagen is already working with D-Wave to optimise car routes in Beijing and avoid congestion.
The others come up with various security-related questions in QC. Since QC can hack the code very quickly, current security systems are in great danger. However, quantum cryptography is literally “unbreakable,” which in turn drives IoT and blockchain.
Still facing big challenges
This technology is not perfect and not mature yet. There are two urgent challenges on the agenda: eliminate the error rate and develop applications for the first prototypes.
The race has just begun and the first competitors are getting ready. Google already claims to have its quantum processor Bristlecone on hand. Many partnerships are also emerging. Samsung works with IBM, Daimler with Google and Airbus, Goldman Sachs and BMW with software and service agents. On the other hand, Intel and Microsoft have entered into close cooperations with QuTech.
It is important to understand and recognise (revolutionary) quantum computing for every business, as it could have a significant impact on your own business.