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The Potential of Quantum Computing

This article is based in part on a story that originally appeared in It Is Innovation (i3) magazine , published by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®.

Overview Quantum computing has the potential to spur breakthroughs in health care, financial strategies, security and more because of its three quantum mechanical properties.

Quantum computers are positioned to provide the computing power needed to solve problems currently unsolvable by classical computers. While conventional computers use a small subset of all the computational possibilities, quantum computing — which leverages the laws of quantum mechanics, dealing with the motion and the interaction of atomic and subatomic particles — can consider every possibility.

The Three Powers of Quantum

In quantum computing, a quantum bit, or a qubit, is a unit of information that can be set to one of two states: 0 or 1. Three quantum mechanical principles manipulate the state of a qubit.

 

Superposition

IBM Research Senior Manager of Q Experiences Dr. Talia Gershon explains superposition with a coin. When a coin is flipped, it can either land on heads or tails. The concrete binary answer represents the possibilities available with classical computers.

A spinning coin — where it could, at any point, be either heads or tails — represents what quantum computing offers: where a system could be in multiple states at the same time.

 

Interference

A byproduct of superposition, interference is what allows the measurement of a qubit to lean toward a desired state. The wavelengths of qubits in superposition may meet — this is interference — amplifying some answers and cancelling others, depending on where the crest of one wave intersects with the crest or valley of another.

Interference enables quantum computers to combine and optimize calculations and probabilities into one answer.

 

Entanglement

Quantum particles are able to form correlations over a distance, an instant communication between qubits that baffled mathematicians such as Albert Einstein, who described quantum entanglement as “spooky action at a distance.”

In essence, entangled particles are connected in such a way that actions performed on one affect the other, even despite distances.

 

What Can Quantum Computers Do?

Global tech leaders across the world, such as Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft are working on quantum computers. At CES® 2020, IBM hosted a session and announced that its newest 28-qubit quantum computer doubled its quantum volume.

Beyond simply computing faster and more efficiently, quantum computing has many potential applications:

  • Disease control – Even though the novel coronavirus pandemic has not been curbed, quantum computing can help scientists and researchers discover vaccines in the future and address health crises.

  • Cloud computing – Google plans to offer commercial cloud computing on its quantum computer to process complicated problems and provide results to individual users.

  • Cryptography – Quantum cryptography can potentially change data security, creating tamper-proof cybersecurity measures.

From financial modeling to weather forecasting to artificial intelligence, quantum computing can reimagine many of the processes that already exist and create solutions for some complex problems.

Some projects IBM is working on include polymers that could replace steel-based components and antibiotics to counter multidrug-resistant bacteria. By better simulating the mutability of nature and what drugs could do in the human body, quantum computing can accelerate us toward better problem solving.


Learn more about the promise of quantum computing in i3 magazine.

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It Is Innovation (i3) magazine, the flagship magazine from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)®, focuses on innovation in technology, policy and business as well as the entrepreneurs, industry leaders and startups that grow the consumer technology industry.

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