We all know machine processes information in 0s and 1s. Therefore, the bits can be either 1 or 0 at a time, but never both. That’s where quantum physics comes into the picture with its superposition concept. You may now wonder what is superposition, and what is so special about it? No worries, we have got you covered. Quantum computers, representatives of quantum technology, go beyond 0s and 1s bit manipulation in modern computer types.
More specifically, they go to quantum bits, popularly known as qubits. These can not only be 0 or 1 but also represent both at the same time. That’s the concept of superposition, where qubits have a third state. This is how quantum particles exist in two different locations at the same time. Interesting, isn’t it? Let’s get in-depth about quantum technology, exploring the definition, examples, and application.
What is quantum technology?
Quantum technology works on the principles of quantum mechanics which include quantum superposition and quantum entanglement. We explained what quantum superposition is—what it does is create an infinite range of possibilities. This is great, especially for quick simultaneous and parallel calculations. Quantum entanglement is the connection of two atoms, where the change in the properties of one atom results in the change of the other as well.
Quantum technology leverages superposition and entanglement to enhance the probability of measuring the correct answer. It tremendously speeds up the process of problem-solving. That’s the reason quantum computers are gaining popularity lately. Along with this, companies are investing heavily in this technology.
Examples of quantum technology
Now that we know what quantum technology is, let’s look at its interesting examples.
Extreme weather conditions lead to loss of life and property damage. However, we cannot eliminate all the consequences. But if we make accurate predictions, we will be in a better position to tackle the situation. This is why quantum technology is used in weather forecasting that harnesses the computing power of qubits. It handles a huge amount of data to improve the forecasts, and it does so quickly.
Even classical computers and supercomputers can’t keep up with the dynamic weather conditions. Hence, companies like Atos are collaborating with European Center for Medium-Range Forecasts (ECMWF) to leverage quantum computing and make accurate weather forecasts and other indications.
The development of drugs for curing illnesses and diseases includes working on atomic levels. That’s why quantum computing is perfect for drug development as it can efficiently predict as well as simulate the structure, behavior, and properties of the molecules. In fact, quantum computing can help in all stages of drug development, right from discovery to post-marketing. One example is Accenture Labs working with Biogen to accelerate drug discovery with the help of quantum technology.
The current technology struggles to keep up with the complexity of the problems in the finance sector. The reason being, various financial procedures involve immense calculation that gets more complex as the number of variables increases. With advancement, quantum technology in the financial sector will be able to simulate markets. This will also include predicting the relationship between assets and how the change in one area will have an overall impact.
In fact, the potential of quantum computers is explored in assessing the effectiveness of high-frequency trading strategies. Dharma Capital and Toshiba are working on it in Japanese markets.
Route and traffic management
Traffic is a major concern in major cities as there are many road users. It consumes a lot of time and causes inconvenience. Using quantum technology, the real-time traffic data can be shared with the drivers, which will show them the shortest route to their destination. This way, it will reduce the travel time and direct them to the route with less traffic.
Overall, it helps to dodge traffic jams, minimizing the wait times significantly. An example is Volkswagen in the automobile industry that used a D-Wave quantum computer to optimize traffic routing in Lisbon, Portugal.
Application of quantum technology
Having covered the examples of quantum technology, it’s time we look at its notable application. Here are some of the applications of quantum technology:
The complex problems that could take years for classical computers to solve can be solved by quantum computers within a couple of minutes. This can give you an idea of the computing power of quantum computers.
Unlike classical bits, the qubits can take multiple values at once to perform calculations. Plus, the superposition of qubits allows it to encode much more information than the classical ones. Also, as quantum technology offers immense computing power, we can use it to solve optimization problems.
The use of quantum technology increases the accuracy of the system. That’s the reason it is being widely adopted. Quantum sensing measures electric and magnetic fields accurately along with imaging, acceleration, rotation, and gravity. This has led to its applications in aerospace, medicine, and transport.
In magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, quantum principles are used to improve the effectiveness by reducing the magnetic field. Along with boosting accuracy, quantum computing is expected to reduce power consumption. Overall, making it much more power-efficient than modern computing.
The quantum light signals can be used to distribute the encryption keys used for securing sensitive messages. That way, if the eavesdroppers attempt to steal the information, they will be detected. The quantum effects used for the distribution of encryption keys improve the security of the communication system significantly. Right from sharing information about financial transactions to health records, quantum technology can be used to secure communication.
Even though we can say quantum technology is in its primitive stage, the potential of its applications is hard to overlook. That’s because the quantum world is different from the physical one, where the objects occur in a well-defined state only after observation.
Multiple states in the quantum world enable faster calculations. This also lowers the costs significantly. It is used in chemical engineering as it helps to simulate chemical reactions that ultimately accelerate the pace of discovery and advancement. Also, quantum technology can be used with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence to make speedy progress.
What the future holds for Quantum Technology? The Possible challenges
It is true that quantum technology has a lot riding on it. With expert predictions and analysis, it is widely believed that quantum tech is the future. But is it? If we go purely by numbers, then sure, the industry was already estimated to be valued at $717.3 million in 2022, with predictions to reach at least $6528.8 million by 2030. But we have to take a step back and agree that the actualization of quantum tech might not be as smooth as we believe.
Even today, quantum tech is facing huge problems. Problems, if not solved, can delay the arrival of quantum computing altogether. And while we still believe in the promise of this technology, which is so aptly shown in the following video, we have to address this issue first.
1. Building and Maintaining the Computers
The first and most obvious challenge will be actually building these computers and making them last. Quantum computers are not only complex to build, but equally hard to maintain. It is mainly due to the fact that these computers are highly susceptible to their surroundings, and can deviate with the slightest interference, be it temperature change, noise, or electromagnetic fields.
Even building them in large quantities is a challenge, as the resources required are not available in abundance in the first place.
2. Instability of the Qubit
The next major hurdle, or what some experts might suggest is the biggest hurdle, is finding a way to make qubits more stable. A qubit is infamous for its instability and fragile nature. However, it is indispensable to quantum technology as it is used to encode information and feed it to the actual computer. Thus, fighting qubit decoherence, i.e., a qubit losing its quantum properties, is one of the biggest challenges faced by this tech.
3. Scaling options
Quantum technology also doesn’t fare well when it comes to scaling. Building a quantum computer is not the end all be all that many believe it to be. Instead, it is the actual application of the tech, which won’t be possible unless we figure out a way to solve the scaling issues. When numerous qubits are involved, the rate of error goes way up, and although people are already researching a way to solve this, the jury is still out.
4. Error Correction
This brings us to yet another issue, and that is the rate of error experienced by a quantum computer. As we have already established, qubits are highly volatile and can’t be relied on if things change. Thus, a quantum computer is actually prone to higher degrees of error. And these errors accumulate over time, rendering the entire system distraught.
5. Ethical and security considerations
And lastly, we also have to consider the ethical implications of having a highly advanced computing system on our hands. We would have to draw up new laws and call upon much stricter regulations in order to better harness the computational power. Another aspect of this conundrum is the availability of classical computers.
A quantum computer can pretty easily bypass any security measures present in a classical device. Thus, there is potential for abuse, as we can’t elevate the entire global computing system to quantum technology in one go.
Quantum Computing vs Classical Computing
While we are talking about quantum computing, we should not disregard the traditional computers we have been using for a while now. As such, we have a table that compares them:
|Only optimal for handling day-to-day operations
|Functions in a sequence, handling data bit by bit, are comparatively much slower.
|Ability to solve problems
|Capable of solving even the most complex equations
|Only optimal for handling day to day operations
|Slower in comparison
|Rate of Error
|Not that many errors
|Very hard to scale
|Not widely available
|Have become cheaper over the years.