Quantum Computing

The dawn of Quantum Computing? 

It can be stated that computing technology has come on leaps and bounds from the days of the number crunching behemoth Colossus at Bletchley Park. During the 1940s until now we have seen computer components exponentially shrink, until we have come to a point where we really can’t physically make them smaller with today’s technology. So, what is the next step in the evolution of computing – quantum computing? 


What actually is quantum computing? This is a machine which utilises the unique properties of quantum level physics in a bid to solve problems which, even today, regular computers and supercomputers find too perplexing. For the engineers and researchers of quantum computing their focus is in coming up with creative technology which makes use of how energy and matter seem to interact at the subatomic level. 


“We use the word ‘quantum’ to describe the laws of physics that apply at the level of individual atoms, electrons and elementary particles. At this microscopic level, the laws of physics are different from those we experience in our daily lives.”


With quantum computing the scientists behind it have the aim to develop a system which is able to manipulate and control the physics involved to carry out tasks and calculations which our current computing facilities may not be able to, at least within our human lifespan. 


Without going into the full depth of how a quantum computer actually operates, supplanting the use of the standard on/off circuits (0 or 1 not both) by employing particles known as qubits, and suspending them in an environment nearing absolute zero, creates a network which opens up the door for processing power to grow exponentially. The observed conclusion that at this level qubits appear to be on and off (0 & 0, 0 & 1, 1 & 0, 1& 1) at the same time. The real question we, the working people, would like to know is, “What is the purpose of quantum computers?”.


It has been widely stated that quantum computers are difficult to engineer, build and program for. There are plenty of academic articles available explaining that the nature of quantum physics and the level required to create meaningful results is prone to errors, faults, and the loss of the expected quantum states. However, even including these flaws there are some distinct advantages for using quantum computers, even if, at the moment, they are primarily theoretical (so we’ve been told). 


Here are some notable headings for the future where we use quantum computing: 

  • “They’re fast. Ultimately, quantum computers have the potential to provide computational power on a scale that traditional computers cannot ever match. In 2019, for example, Google claimed to carry out a calculation in about 200 seconds that would take a classical supercomputer around 10,000 years.
  • They can solve complex problems. The more complex a problem, the harder it is for even a supercomputer to solve. When a classical computer fails, it’s usually because of a huge degree of complexity and many interacting variables. However, due to the concepts of superposition and entanglement, quantum computers can account for all these variables and complexities to reach a solution.  
  • They can run complex simulations. The speed and complexity that quantum computing can achieve means that, in theory, a quantum computer could simulate many intricate systems, allowing us to better understand some of life’s great mysteries.”


However, with all emerging technologies there are some disadvantages of quantum computing: 

  • “They’re difficult to build. As we saw with IBM’s Quantum System One, a functional quantum computer needs a very specific set of conditions to operate. They require unique components, massive cooling systems, and expensive technology to run at even a basic level.  
  • They’re prone to errors. Due to the nature of quantum mechanics and qubits, environmental factors can soon produce errors and lose their quantum state (a process known as decoherence). These errors multiply with levels of complexity, which means that to reach their potential, a solution for error correction is needed.  
  • They’re only suitable for specific tasks. As we’ll see, quantum computers have the potential to deliver revolutionary solutions in some specific areas. However, due to the nature of how they work, they’re not expected to offer advantages in all areas of computing.”


With all the research still to be carried out and capabilities to be repeatable some companies, like IBM, are still ironing out the details of how these systems can be employed. Some of these tasks are listed here: 

  • Molecular Modelling: Giving simulation of atoms and molecules a more accurate depiction. 
  • Database searching: Capability to store and search through large sets of data at a higher rate than traditional computing methods. 
  • Cryptography: They believe that a fully functioning quantum computer could break nearly all existing forms of cryptography, which would be bad for all of us. On the converse though, the same technology used for decrypting all out data could, theoretically, provide us with a more robust form of encryption, that would help secure the future of cyber and network security. 
  • Weather forecasting: This could revolutionise the predictability of weather cycles and patterns, without having to rely on watching how cows lie down in a field or how seaweed smells on the coast, as predictors of weather changes. 


Overall, quantum computing opens up the door for a myriad of development in data searching and number crunching. There may even be newly created opportunities with the deployment of these devices. Although they are commercially some way off, there will always be a requirement to have the workforce of the future prepared to tackle the use of such devices. This means that those future employees will need good groundings in mathematics, physics, and programming. At present many schools are helping pave the way by ensuring that students get a basic grounding in the Python programming language. This has good grounding as the Python programming language is used as the basis of the Qiskit software development kit, which is occasionally used by the teams within the quantum computing industry.


It can be said that the future for the employment of quantum computing is positive, or negative or both at the same time…