7 MinsNovember 21, 2019
When it comes to modern technology, computers have been one of the most significant developments that have impacted our way of life. From the way we travel, get our food, gather information, and even find our love interests – every aspect of human life has been modified with computing technology. However, the world of computers has a transformation due, which is set to happen with quantum computing technology.
Quantum computing handles and manipulates information differently. If realised, computers based on this technology will be able to execute tasks and process data at speeds and capacities that are almost unfathomable currently. They’ll enable us to solve some of the biggest problems that we face today.
What is quantum computing
A traditional computer processes information in bits which are capable of holding binary states – 1/0, yes/no, on/off. All computing is done by combining enough of these bits and configuring them into either of the two states sequentially, one after the other. Quantum computers are different in two important ways.
One, they use qubits. As opposed to bits, they’re capable of being in both binary states simultaneously. Two, they use quantum entanglement between qubits. This phenomenon in quantum physics binds different particles and all their attributes together. This allows quantum computers to break the restriction of sequential calculations and alter all qubits simultaneously. Both of these attributes make quantum computers much faster and more powerful than traditional computers. For instance, a 50 qubit quantum computer is capable of holding 250 possible superposition states, or roughly, one quadrillion possibilities. Performing operations at that scale is something even the most powerful supercomputers of today would – with their thousands of conventional cores – struggle with.
Why are we talking about it now?
We’re still an unpredictable amount of time away from quantum supremacy – the situation where quantum computers can exceed the computing abilities of traditional computers in existence. However, the quantum computing space has been abuzz with excitement over multiple developments in the past couple of years. Last year, Intel confirmed the development of ‘Tangle Lake’, a 49-qubit superconducting test chip. In January this year, IBM unveiled its first commercial quantum computer, the IBM Q System One. With these developments increasing in frequency and quality of results, it is the best time to understand how quantum computing will impact our daily lives.
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What does it mean for us
While a theoretical study of quantum computing does highlight its significance in the world of computing, understanding its real-world implications shows us why everyone is excited about it. Here are some of the ways how it will change the world.
Banking and finance
Quantum computing will greatly improve risk calculation in the finance industry. Being able to process an immensely high number of variables and factors, computers will make vast leaps in their accuracy in predicting risk in investments. Another aspect that quantum computing will help is security. Banking organisations like Axis Bank already make security a very high priority, with features like biometric login, two-factor authentication, timely alerts and more. However, quantum encryption will take security in banking to the next level.
Currently, banks can already settle particular transactions quite fast. For instance, Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), available with Axis Bank as well, offers an immediate resolution for money transfer requests with 24x7 availability. However, thanks to entanglement, even the most complex banking transactions like trading will see a huge boost in speed. Quantum computers will be capable of settling thousands of trades between buyers and sellers at millisecond speed and high transaction volume.
Logistics and optimisation
When you think about it, this one’s the most obvious application that quantum computing can be put to. Currently, any logistical operation – booking your cab, getting your online order delivered, shipping products across the world – is limited by how many variables a computer can crunch before suggesting a route. The optimisation that quantum computers can achieve will be due to their ability to devour the current number of variables that can be thrown at it.
Number crunching is how machine learning works, and quantum computing is perfect for that purpose. With quantum computers, machine-learning can get closer to human learning – working with lesser, disorganised data with fewer instructions – and achieve better results. This could push AI research ahead by decades.
Scientific research will greatly benefit from the infusion of quantum computing. Currently, data analysis in science is limited by the computing capacity of the world’s supercomputers. However, once quantum computers are easily accessible to the scientific community, areas like personalised medicine, space research, development of new types of material and more, which require tremendous processing power, will grow by leaps and bounds.
Every one of the possibilities mentioned above is significant. From banking to medicine, quantum computing will change everything for the better when applied correctly. However, the very things that make quantum computing such a powerhouse also make it difficult to develop. You see, the qubits involved in the computation process, lose coherence with each other very quickly and generate errors beyond the acceptable threshold. This phenomenon, known as decoherence, is being tackled by both hardware improvements and a hybrid quantum-classical algorithmic approach.
Hence, in reality, most of the developments mentioned above are prototypes that are still trying to establish the best way to build a quantum computer. The goal is to make one that is not only functional but also commercially viable. When will that happen? Well, to answer that in terms of quantum physics – really soon and not anytime soon as well.
Disclaimer: This article has been authored by Siddharth Parwatay, a Mumbai based independent tech-journalist, editor, and content-creator. Axis Bank doesn't influence any views of the author in any way. Axis Bank and/or the author shall not be responsible for any direct / indirect loss or liability incurred by the reader for taking any financial decisions based on the contents and information. Please consult your financial advisor before making any financial decision.