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July 26, 2017updated 27 Jul 2017 5:09pm

Quantum Computing: Is the futuristic tech really everything it seems?

The latest big craze quantum computing seems to be talked about a lot, with many industry experts deploying the advanced tech.

By Hannah Williams

Quantum Computing is a topic that has appeared in the news a lot recently for various reasons, and the growing column inches can be attributed to a growing number of advancements in the area.

From something that was previously only understood by scientists, to becoming a core industry tool, requires a huge amount of work, but one that some of the largest vendors in the world seem to be making progress on.

But what exactly is quantum computing? Well it’s an advanced technology that gathers information differently to traditional computing.


What is Quantum Computing?

In a world where computers take on the majority of daily tasks, from storing data to sharing information across a widespread number of locations, it could be said that a world without computers is no longer possible.

With this, comes an increased demand for innovation, to always push the envelope.

Read more:IBM to start selling quantum cloud computing to the masses

Traditional computing methods followed a process using bits that were only available in two states, one or zero. However, quantum computing uses qubits, which are available in more states other than just one and zero. This enables faster delivery of data than traditional computing.

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The field of quantum computing is one that has been around for many years. In fact, the first concept dates back to the work of Richard Feynman in 1982, a theoretical physicist who was known for his work in quantum mechanics. This was also when a quantum computer with spins was developed.

quantum qubitA quantum computer with spins is usually embedded with what is known as electron spins, which are basically candidates for qubits in a quantum computer. This is where a number of calculations are generated at the same time and by using different spin states from the electron spins, different calculations can be made.

In research based on application containers, 451Research describes quantum computing as a technology that has been “an object of intellectual and scientific fascination for many decades because quantum physics is strange and wonderful. Interesting quantum algorithms have been developed should a practical quantum computer ever exist to run them.”

However, from the many advancements and innovations that have come to light in the 21st century, quantum computing has since become a technology that is more greatly recognised but many still have their doubts as to whether it should be made use of.

What advancements have been made?
The advancements so far

Pushing the boundaries of what is possible are companies such as IBM, which revealed its plans to develop 50 qubit quantum computers, named IBM Q in March 2017.

Also this year, the company confirmed the launch of two 16 and 17 qubit quantum processors which were made available on its Quantum Experience (QX) platform.

IBM launched QX in 2016, with a minimal five qubit quantum processor to enable users to connect easily to IBM’s quantum processor via the IBM Cloud. The company’s method offers cloud based quantum computing.

Also in 2016, Microsoft joined in by making commitments to the futuristic technology but the tech giant decided to take a different approach when doing so.

The company revealed plans to create a quantum computer using a topological qubit, which Microsoft describes as “more robust” as these type of qubits store information separate from local locations.

This includes two quantum particles called anyons, forming braids in a three-dimensional spacetime. Using this method, Microsoft was hopeful that topological qubits were the better qubits to remove challenges such as heat or electrical noise.

Microsoft also hired researchers to move forward in the development of the topological quantum computer. The researchers included David Reilly, a professor at the University of Sydney in Australia.

At a period where the future of advanced AI technology leaves many unsure, quantum computing could be a great opportunity for IBM and other companies to demonstrate efforts which remind the world of the good side of technology.

Quantum computing may leave many in doubt as to whether it will ever become a reality, but that has not stopped Google jumping on board the futuristic technology race.

The company first announced its plans to build a quantum computer in 2014, which was then revealed as a project plan named Google Quantum AI. However, Google has now taken this idea and decided to potentially turn it into a business.

According to recent news reports, the internet giant has been giving scientists and artificial intelligence researchers access to its quantum machines over the internet.

Since then, it has also been unveiled that Google also has a new lab dubbed as an “Embryonic quantum data centre,” partnered with an open source ProjectQ to welcome developers to write code for quantum computers.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Peter McMahon, Quantum computing researcher, Stanford University said: “They’re pretty open that they’re building quantum hardware and they would, at some point in the future, make it a cloud service.”

How will quantum computing impact data centres?
The impact on data centres & cloud

Many still remain uncertain of whether quantum computers will work better than the existing supercomputers, other than on the basis that the machines rely on qubits.

It’s not known whether relying on qubits rather than zeros and ones would be as scalable or as robust as traditional computing methods.

However, if we consider what it could do for areas such as the data centre, quantum computing has the potential to change a lot. For starters, if quantum computing gets powerful enough and can be commoditised then there is the likelihood that it could unravel the structure of encryption.

Encryption is highly essential across many different areas, and without it personal information such as bank account details would be open to many as it passes through switches and routers. With a quantum computer, all this information that should remain encrypted could potentially become decrypted if not embedded securely.

This means that personal data could appear vulnerable to hackers in the future if advanced encryption systems are not developed to be un-easily decrypted.

In an interview with CBR, Andrew Donoghue, European research manager, 451 Research said: “A number of emerging technologies that are still mostly in labs now could produce significant changes in general design and efficiency of data centres in the long term.

“These so-called ‘wild cards’ include technologies such as silicon photonics and quantum computing. However, we don’t think quantum is the wholesale answer to those that predict a slowdown or even an end to Moore’s Law.

“Rather, quantum’s impact is likely to be restricted to a discrete set of high performance compute (HPC) jobs to which it is uniquely suited such as drugs research or deep learning.”

With smart technology becoming more intelligent by the day, a technology like quantum computing could well transform the current landscape of technologies such as AI and machine learning even further by providing even greater compute power.

On a positive note, the use of quantum computing could potentially be useful for solving intelligent requirements such as supercomputer problems like utilisation limitations, that quantum computing would provide effective results for.

According to 451Research, Machine learning researchers believe that quantum algorithms exist that will improve the trained networks.

However, companies such as IBM launched quantum computing as a cloud service and although this sounds all well and good, when the service is actually broken down it is clear that it may disrupt existing cloud services rather than actually support it- as initially expected by users.

quantum computingIn the world of quantum computing in the cloud, it is likely that the particles, or in technical terms “qubits,” can cause the quantum encoded information to format weird things. This then evolves to provide more computing power than a wide selection of supercomputers.

According to quantum computing company, Rigetti, this is what will bring about a new phase of the cloud computing revolution. This means that current cloud computing may come to an end or become limited based on the shift to advanced cloud computing offering.

Matthew Brisse, an analyst at Gartner told CBR: “For most IT folks there is no need to even care about it. The problem is that many are still trying to get quantum computing to work let alone being a useful tool that data scientists can use today. A quantum computer is probabilistic rather than deterministic.”

Quantum computing is a technology that could fundamentally change the traditional computing environment and help to unleash a new era of advanced technologies and futuristic capabilities that we couldn’t even begin to dream about. However, the technology is in its infancy and the likelihood that it will become a staple of the IT industry is unknown.

Quantum computers are capable of speeding up computing processes, as the qubits are able to do more than traditional processors can do. For instance, Google and NASA’s collaboration on the D-Wave X2 quantum computer back in 2015, clarified that it was 100 million times faster than a conventional PC computer chip.

Along with other features, it is likely that quantum computers will evolve to the stage where they are able to run across all computing applications.

The technology may not be suited for all use cases, and it may not replace the supercomputer but it could potentially offer a variety of advanced capabilities useful for both current and future users. Although, it could also limit users from the basic traditional capabilities found in supercomputers.


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