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How Has Quantum Computing Evolved?

Several quantum evolutions over the past two years directly impact us.

The IBM Q Dilution Refrigerator

Image by IBM

About two years ago, I authored my first article on quantum computing, where I provided a basic overview and explored topics like superposition, entanglement and Schrodinger’s equation. 

In short, quantum computing studies theoretical computation systems (quantum computers) that make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena such as superposition and entanglement to perform operations on data. Several quantum evolutions over the past two years directly impact us.

Quantum Computing Improves Cybersecurity

The investment levels in dollars spent continue to grow significantly as industries realize the benefits that quantum research and development can produce. Currently, IBM and Google are leading the pack with the effort of developing technology and computers to be used with quantum solutions. Based on Gartner research, by 2023, 20% of major corporations will be planning and budgeting for quantum technology, versus only 1% today.

In 2018, the first commercial Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) network, known as Phio, became available to U.S. organizations. Phio is the very first unbreakable key exchange for quantum encryption. It’s currently available only in New York and New Jersey. This capability to offer unbreakable keys for encryption is truly game changing in terms of cybersecurity, because it could make hacking nearly impossible. 

Quantum Education and Research

Legislation efforts that will help support education and research with quantum are improving. Lawmakers are beginning to understand the high stakes that the quantum technology race creates. The funding and education efforts are critical in the very near future, and a concerted effort is needed to support this key future technology and its expansion. In December 2018, the National Quantum Initiative Act, which allows for the budgeting of $1.2 billion for a national program that establishes goals and priorities over the next 10 years, was brought into law. Learn more about the National Quantum Initiative program.

Educational institutions are beginning to offer classes with quantum technologies as they understand its future importance. As an affiliate professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology (WIT) in Boston, I include topics on quantum via research papers and the IBM Q experience as a lab. WIT also offers a course in quantum computing. Having a basic background in quantum is key for future IT and computer science graduates as they will be the ones using this technology.  

While utilizing research and testing on one of the nation’s largest quantum networks, institutions like the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois and national laboratories Argonne and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are forming strong collaboration efforts. Several major universities are also developing strong quantum curriculums such as the University of California, the University of Maryland and Columbia, to name just a few.  

Enhanced Quantum Technology

So, what does the future look like with quantum? The classical computer as we know it today will begin to work together with quantum processors. The technology from a data center standpoint is vastly different; classical machines are air/water cooled whereas the quantum computer has a near absolute zero requirement for operation. In reality, the classical system will be utilizing quantum systems for deep processor requirements such as molecular simulation or even deep space travel.  

The increased effort in developing quantum capabilities is causing a left shift in production, meaning the commercial availability of quantum systems will surely quicken. Current trends are showing progress in developing quantum-resistant cryptography methods and quantum encryption methods. 

Advances in quantum technology are mind blowing, too. Scientists working at the University of New South Wales last year, for example, achieved the first ever two-qubit gate between atom qubits in silicon. This was a major milestone in the goal to produce an atom-scale quantum computer. This technology represents the main building block of any quantum system. The experiment was completed in silicon versus a spin-based operation and completed the test transaction 200x faster at 0.8 nanosecond! 

Quantum: A New Era in Computing

The lights are coming on when it comes to creating quantum capabilities. The advances that we are seeing with education and legislation will eventually lead to commercially available quantum computers arriving much quicker. The time for quantum systems is already upon us and will lead to a new era in computing technologies. 

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