Quantum computer

How quantum computing is reshaping today's technological fabric

Image credit: Bartlomiej Wroblewski/Dreamstime

The emerging technology’s ability to solve real-world problems is likely to see its fortunes soaring in the next few years, as long as industry can keep pace with the demand for a skilled workforce.

It is a universal truth that the modern world is awash with data. It has become the ‘fuel’ and the insight, both reactive and predictive, generated from it, and it’s the ‘electricity’ that illuminates our existence. To create the right spark between these two forces, it is essential to push computing beyond normal limits to solve the complex problems of today. This is now being done with quantum computing, which is set to transform the world.

Every atom, molecule and particle behaves in accordance with the laws of quantum mechanics, which uses the physics of things at the atomic level to create changes in the macroscopic world - our world as we know it. Interestingly, quantum technologies are not based on a single natural law. Instead, they are grounded in engineering applications of different quantum principles, including superposition (quantum computing), entanglement (networking and quantum key distribution), illumination (quantum radar) and key encryption.

When someone hears the term ‘quantum computing’, it typically conjures up images of an extremely sophisticated, technology-laden future that seems decades away, but this concept is no longer a distant reality. Quantum computing is at the cutting edge of innovation, and its computational power and speed are pushing this revolution further every day to bring the future into the present.

While quantum physics and its principles have existed for over a hundred years, advances in hardware development and digital technologies have transformed. This has been achieved through two significant changes: the adoption of quantum annealing, a method used to find optimal solutions in real time to problems with millions of variables; and the creation and deployment of increasingly powerful quantum computers that can process large volumes of data in microseconds. This capability is invaluable in a digital-first future, and countries like the UK are already beginning to adopt this technology. In fact, the UK Ministry of Defence recently acquired the government’s first quantum computer to explore ways in which the technology can be used to bolster the UK’s security.

Quantum computing has the power to decrypt complex data instantly, and demand is already growing in industries like healthcare, financial services, aerospace and defence. The banking and finance sector, for example, has turned to quantum computing to perform portfolio optimisation, risk analysis, and fraud detection more efficiently. The manufacturing sector, on the other hand, finds it increasingly useful in creating faster, better, and safer production.

An important use case for quantum computing is cyber security. Quantum computing’s data analysing capabilities can offer businesses and governments protection against phishing scams and denial-of-service attacks. It can also be used in research and development, by generating techniques for examining large molecules; speeding up the discovery of new medications; optimising machine learning processes such as deep learning; and running powerful data simulations to determine trends more accurately, such as weather forecasts.

Quantum computing’s ability to offer enhanced optimisation and process critical calculations is contributing to its growing importance. Indeed, IDC predicts that the quantum computing market will be worth $8.6bn by 2027.

The realisation of ‘quantum advantage’ is likely to occur in the next few years as more use cases develop where real-world problems such as chip shortages in the manufacturing industry, will be solved efficiently using quantum computing.

That said, a general lack of awareness of quantum computing, and a shortage of skilled scientists in this area, could hinder growth. Continuous development of a quantum computing workforce and their skills will be the requirement to keep up with industry demands.

Research and development in quantum computing applications, as well as collaboration with professionals across a range of industries, are now essential. Quantum computing has the potential to transform a myriad of different facets for businesses and our personal lives, now and forever.

Nikhil Malhotra is global head of Makers Lab, Tech Mahindra.

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