Quantum Computing Solves What Classical Computing Can’t
By Patricia Mirasol, Journalist
What is the next technological novelty after artificial intelligence and the cloud? The emerging field of quantum computing.
The aforementioned technology, which uses quantum mechanics to perform certain types of calculations more efficiently than a regular computer, boosts speeds more than a trillion times faster than a regular laptop.
According to Scott Crowder, vice president of IBM Quantum Adoption and chief technology officer of IBM Systems, real applications include improvements in fraud detection and healthcare therapeutics.
“One of the things that quantum computing has proven to be better at is extracting patterns from data…” he said at IBM’s Think event in Singapore. “For some types of applications like fraud detection, having a small percentage improvement means a lot of money for financial institutions. The same could be true for health care and determining if something is going to be therapeutically good for you based on things like your age and your DNA. [deoxyribonucleic] profile.”
A second area of focus is simulating nature – as in chemical reactions, Crowder added.
“There is a lot of interest right now in electric vehicles and cleaner energy. By better understanding the underlying chemistry, we can better predict the types of chemistry to explore,” he told attendees at a June 2 media roundtable. “It’s the same with corrosion [in planes and ships]and figure out how to better build materials against that.
Since the technology can be leveraged for multiple uses, there are factors to consider for its adoption. One is the fact that quantum states called qubits are fragile and sensitive to the environment. In order to maintain the stability of quantum computers, they must be kept in an environment with minimum noise and at very low temperatures.
Another is that quantum computing solves problems that lend themselves to quantum computing.
Because quantum computing is a different way of processing information, “I wouldn’t say it’s more powerful [than classical computing]. It’s just powerful for particular kinds of math in a very different way,” Crowder said, explaining that a quantum computer won’t allow people to send emails a billion times faster. What it can do, he said, is come up with a quantum algorithm that can explore a particular state space and then “reduce it to a small number of bits.”
“Value comes from these particular kinds of problems that it can solve,” he added.
Despite this, investment in technology to unlock its potential has accelerated.
Singapore, for its part, on May 31 announced an investment of S$23.5 million to boost its quantum technology capabilities in solving challenges such as cyber threats.
The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also announced on the same day the launch of the National Quantum Computing Hub, which will pool the expertise and resources of the Center for Quantum Technologies and other institutions, and the National Quantum Fabless Foundry, which will develop the components needed to build computers and quantum devices.
Other quantum computing initiatives in Asia include Japan’s plan to have its first local quantum computer ready for use by March 2023 – “to keep up with the fierce global race for technological dominance”, according to Nikkei Asia – as well as the 14e Five-year plan, which integrates quantum information technology among other frontier areas.
Meanwhile, IBM-specific initiatives include the establishment of the IBM Quantum Computing Data Center at Yonsei University, Korea. The technology company also has a Quantum Network, which studies the practical applications of technology across industries and includes member companies such as Cleveland Clinic in the US and Archer Minerals in Australia.
“Quantum computing is kind of like science fiction coming to life,” Crowder said. “The reason people are so excited about this is because when you add a qubit to a quantum processor, you double the number of states in a single operation by a factor of two…it adds up very quickly. Two to n becomes a big number very, very quickly.