Quantum computing is an area of computing focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory (which explains the behavior of energy and material on the atomic and subatomic levels). Quantum computing harnesses the phenomenon of quantum mechanics to deliver a giant leap forward in computation to solve computationally intractable problems.
Quantum computers process information in a fundamentally different way than classical computers like smartphones, laptops, or even today’s most powerful supercomputers. Traditional computers operate on binary bits – information processed in the form of ones or zeroes. Quantum computing uses the qubit as the basic unit of information rather than the conventional bit. The main characteristic of this alternative system is that it permits the coherent superposition of ones and zeros, the digits of the binary system around which all computing revolves. Bits, on the other hand, can only have one value at a time – either one or zero. This aspect of quantum technology means that a qubit can be both zero and one simultaneously and in different proportions. Qubits are made using physical systems, such as the spin of an electron or the orientation of a photon. These systems can be in many different arrangements all at once, a property known as quantum superposition. Qubits can also be inextricably linked together using a phenomenon called quantum entanglement. The result is that a series of qubits can represent different things simultaneously.
Researchers have long predicted that quantum computers could tackle specific types of problems, especially those involving a daunting number of variables and potential outcomes, like simulations or optimization questions, much faster than any classical computer. Quantum computers can create vast multidimensional spaces to represent huge problems, unlike classical supercomputers. A quantum computer with just 30 qubits, for example, can perform 10 billion floating-point operations per second. In 2019, Google said that it ran a calculation on a quantum computer in just a few minutes that would take a classical computer 10,000 years to complete. A little over a year later, a team based in China took this a step further, claiming that it had performed a calculation in 200 seconds that would take an ordinary computer 2.5 billion years, 100 trillion times faster.
Quantum computers, with their vast computational power, are ideally suited to solving intractable problems. Some of the primary applications of quantum computing are:
One of the fertile areas for quantum computing is AI (Artificial Intelligence), which relies on processing huge amounts of complex datasets. Quantum AI is the use of quantum computing for the computation of machine learning algorithms. Thanks to the computational advantages of quantum computing, quantum AI can help achieve results that are not possible to achieve with classical computers. It can provide quantum algorithms for learning, decision problems, quantum search and quantum game theory.
Healthcare and Medicine
As we begin to enter an age of personalized healthcare, dependent on genomics, individual physiology, and pharmacokinetics, the need to take huge amounts of data and process it in a format for clinical use will become more urgent. Quantum computing may be the best tool for achieving this. Medical applications of quantum computers include radiotherapy, drug research, patient diagnostics, disease screening, precise imaging, data storage and transmission, protein folding, and genomic medicines.
Cybersecurity and Cryptography
The online security space currently has been quite vulnerable due to the increasing number of cyber-attacks occurring across the globe. Therefore, cybersecurity has continued to be an essential concern around the world. Quantum computing with the help of machine learning and encryption methods can help in developing various techniques to combat these cybersecurity threats.
Weather forecasting requires analyzing enormous amounts of data containing several dynamic variables, such as air temperature, pressure and density that interact in a non-trivial way. Quantum computing has the potential to improve conventional numerical methods to boost tracking and predictions of meteorological conditions by handling huge amounts of data efficiently and quickly, by harnessing the computing power of qubits, and by using quantum-inspired optimization algorithms. Moreover, pattern recognition, crucial for understanding the weather, can be enhanced employing quantum machine learning.
Financial services is a broad range of more specific activities such as banking, financial markets and insurance. There are many computationally challenging problems in the financial services industry arising in applications across asset management, investment banking, and retail and corporate banking. Quantum computing holds the promise of revolutionizing such computationally challenging problems arising in the financial industry by analyzing large or unstructured data sets more effectively. There are equally powerful use cases in capital markets, corporate finance, portfolio management, and encryption-related activities.
Other potential applications of quantum computing include: computational chemistry, particle physics, molecular modelling, logistics optimization, mobility and transport, agriculture, manufacturing and industrial design, and many more.
While quantum computing is still in the early phases, there have already been many innovations and breakthroughs. Companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google and Honeywell have been investing aggressively in the technology. When it comes to research on quantum computing in India, our leading educational institutions such as multiple IITs, IIIT, and IISERs are tying up with IBM for quantum computing education and quantum computing research. Through the IBM quantum computing course, the organization will provide over-the-cloud access to its quantum systems for top-tier institutions of India to accelerate advanced training and research in quantum computing. Recently, the Indian Institute of Technology Madras has announced its collaboration with IBM on quantum computing education and research. This collaboration will provide IIT Madras faculty, researchers, and students with access to IBM’s quantum systems and tools over IBM Cloud, encouraging quantum computing courses at IITs. In addition, it accelerates joint research in quantum computing and develops curricula to help prepare students for careers that will be influenced by this next era of computing across science and business.