News & Analysis

2010-2019: No Solace for Quantum Computing

Quantum Computer

Quantum computing has causing mild tremors ever since it came into being in the 1980s when physicist Paul Benioff proposed a quantum mechanical model of the Turing machine, suggesting that it was possible to shift away from classical representations of computational memory. To the world it appeared Greek and Latin then though scientists kept toying with the idea.

What’s intriguing is that quantum computing remains Greek and Latin to this day, though there is overall consensus that whatever be the future of this research and associated fields, they would prove to be disruptive when things eventually get clarified. While predictions about changes that quantum computing may bring about, none is sure about use-cases once it becomes truly viable.

That doesn’t mean it’s all been a case of hot air. IBM made the first splash at CES with an integrated system for quantum computing, following this later in the year with a 53-qubit quantum computer along with a new quantum computing center in New York State which it said will house 14 quantum computers.

But it was Google that grabbed most of the attention through a leaked memo earlier this year with its claim to have achieved ‘quantum supremacy’ by using its quantum computer to solve a problem that would be effectively impossible for a classical computer to figure out.  Though the world is not privy to what exactly Google was up to, there is no doubt that it’s taken the task seriously, as have competitors such as IBM, Microsoft and Amazon to name a few.

Given that information supremacy is what all enterprises are aiming for and governments are seeking to keep ahead of the race, the fact remains that whoever cracks the code on quantum computing first is highly unlikely to announce it to the world, preferring instead to master the code and attain supremacy to levels hitherto unheard of.

This year also saw some early enterprise uses of quantum computing – most notably by Volkswagen and D-Wave to optimize routes for buses in a project in Lisbon.

To begin with, Quantum computing is likely to be delivered as a cloud computing service, and Microsoft and AWS have already made their enthusiasms clear. It’s still early days for quantum computing but research estimates, the quantum computing industry will be worth about $5 billion by 2020, which means it will go from strength to strength over the next few years. The hype battle will surely continue.

More than its commercial use, it is the governments around the world that are interested in making quantum computing a reality. President Trump signed a $1.2 billion law to invest in this technology two years ago, while China has been on the game a decade back and Canada and Australia too are seeking quantum supremacy.

Though critics argue that commercial impact of quantum computers may be felt only a decade from now, governments are hoping that they achieve supremacy within five years or under and unlike commercial usage, they could surreptitiously have a functional quantum machine hidden somewhere in an attic or a basement.

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