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View from India: A quantum leap into the future

Quantum computing is expected to gain momentum during this decade as economic powers around the world ramp up their investments in quantum technologies.

The fact that economies have begun to invest in this technology has raised hope for it. “In India, the National Mission of Quantum Technology and Application plans to invest $1.12 billion over the next five years,” said Gabe Lenetsky, industry applications specialist at Keysight Technologies. The Department of Science & Technology (DST) has set up QuEST or Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuEST) at an institute in Hyderabad.

As indicated in the Union Budget 2020, quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications and cyber security with widespread applications. The aim is to boost research for commercial applications in quantum technologies. Skills in quantum computing need to be developed as objects become smarter and computers become faster.

“Quantum computers store information in quantum bits or qubits and their performance is exponentially faster than the classical computer algorithms,” added Lenetsky.

Classical computers store information in bits, either as 0 or 1. However quantum computers can store information in two qubits as both a 0 and a 1 at the same time, that is as 11 or 01. This is the differentiating factor. Thereby the computational power of the system can multiply exponentially. In simple terms, classical computers take a long time to figure out computational problems, while quantum computers crack it at tremendous speed.

Researched over several decades, quantum computing is now slowly beginning to come out of the labs. The cloud is being used to make the technology commercially available. The timing is right because speed and security form the crux of many verticals. The amount of data and speed at which it is generated needs to be sifted. This can happen through quantum computing technologies.

A disruptive technology, quantum computing is expected to be lapped up by various verticals like healthcare, telecom, aerospace and defence, simulations and cyber security, among others.

Quantum technologies have a suite of applications in the aerospace industry. Quantum communications can be leveraged for secure networks. Computer algorithms can be optimised for modelling through quantum computing. Quantum sensing helps in precision, timing and navigation as well as electromagnetic sensing.

Computational challenges in aircraft modelling as well as simulation are being addressed through quantum technologies; as much as speeding up the aircraft design. The fuel requirement of the aircraft can be determined by quantum technologies and this can help in scaling up performance levels. 

Quantum physics offers enhanced encryption and sensitivity technologies. Entanglement, a characteristic of quantum computers, helps deduce probabilities while qubits measure outcomes and actionable sequences.

Of course like many other technologies quantum too has its share of challenges. Imperfect qubits result in de-coherence, which is a drawback. Unfortunately, de-coherence has the ability to revert a quantum system back to the classical mode. This happens through interactions with the environment. Consequently, it leads to errors in the quantum computation. It is also likely that information is lost.

In order to avoid the detrimental effects of decoherence, it’s necessary to isolate the quantum systems. The engineer control hardware and cabling need to improve for better qubit lifetime. Qubit materials too call for improvement.

Quantum computing uses the properties of quantum physics. The wealth of monetary benefits it offers needs to be unlocked. Processing power and problem-solving are among its highlights. The coming years will see it being used effectively and innovatively.

“It’s more important to innovate now than before due to the disruption. It’s essential to adapt to the new normal and find ways to deliver solutions. Collaboration in multiple geographies is critical to develop R&D capabilities,” summed up Jay Alexander, chief technology officer, Keysight Technologies.

All this was discussed at Aerospace and Defence Track organised by Keysight World India. Innovate Next was the theme of the event held online last week.

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