Quantum Computing: What You Need to Know

3-17-2017 12-00-50 PM
The future may lie in a new form of computing.  Learn how quantum computing creates a new and intelligent environment capable of fast delivery of information.
Modern computing practices are consistently adapting in order for large amounts of information to  be stored and to travel.  For example, a new type of computing has emerged in recent years: Quantum Computing.
Once considered a theoretical concept, quantum computing is steadily becoming a reality.  With companies such as D-Wave Systems, Google, and IBM researching and building quantum computers, their presence in the marketplace is one that should be taken seriously.
 

Defining Quantum Computing

In traditional, digital computing platforms, information is broken down and stored as “bits”, which is computer code made up of 0s and 1s.  In quantum computing, this process is refined by using quantum bits or “qubits” which has the ability to encode information as 0s, 1s, or a combination of both at the same time.  This creates a superposition of states whereby a piece of data can exist in two places at once.
This means that quantum computers are able to sort through and process millions of combinations of data sets all at once due to the fact that the computer exists in many states simultaneously.
The ability to exist in multiple states simultaneously is one of the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics, which studies nature and the universe on a small scale, specifically the interaction of atomic and subatomic atoms.
Schrödinger’s cat is a popular example of quantum mechanics.  The idea that a cat placed inside a box with a radioactive element set to be released at an unknown time creates the perception that the cat is simultaneously alive and dead while inside the box.  Only after the box is opened and the cat observed does a single outcome present itself.
 
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Quantum computing uses the principles of superposition and quantum mechanics to create a computer that, when a user types in a question or command, is able to process millions of data and possibilities simultaneously and return the best possible results in significantly less time than regular computer processors.
 

What is the Main Benefit of Quantum Computing?

The main benefit of quantum computing is its ability to analyze and report on vast amounts of data in a short period of time.  With this kind of processing power, research into self-driving cars, weather patterns, space exploration, and drug treatments can proceed at a faster pace.  What usually takes large teams months, if not years, to comb through the data generated in these fields quantum computing could return results in far less time.
 

What Do Quantum Computers Require?

Quantum computers are not your typical desktop computer.  They require special components and conditions in order to run.
Looking at D-Wave System, a Canadian firm that successfully built a quantum computer, some of the specifications include storing the processing unit at temperatures close to absolute zero which is 180x cooler than space.  This is in order to harness quantum effects which allow the computer to run.
 
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Quantum computers also require significantly less power to run.  Due to the “qubits” ability to exist in more than one state at a time, multiple search strings can run parallel to one another thus returning data at a significantly faster rate and by using less energy.  Currently, D-Wave’s computer uses only 25kW of power and does not exceed this limit even with new generations of processors.
 

How Close Are We to Having Personal Quantum Computers?

It’s hard to say. Currently, D-Wave’s quantum computer is not available for sale in your local computer store yet large corporations such as Google, NASA, and Lockheed Martin have invested in D-Wave’s technology and purchased systems that are currently being used and tested.
IBM looks to be adding to the personal quantum computer market by focusing on developing computers for the ordinary consumer.  Named IBM Q, the company’s first quantum computer is projecting a release date sometime in 2017.  Available for access over the Internet for a fee, the computers will initially not be able to outperform traditional computers but IBM hopes that through further testing and refinement, better speed and capability will be achieved.
One thing’s for sure, whether it’s cross-referencing thousands of bits of information for companies like Google and NASA or a one user surfing the Web, the future of computing could indicate that your personal PC might one day have the capability to be everywhere and anywhere all at once.
 
 
Resources:
Castelvecchi, Davide.  (2017, March 6).  IBM Will Unleash Commercial “Universal” Quantum Computers This Year.  Scientific American.  Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ibm-will-unleash-commercial-universal-quantum-computers-this-year/
Chung, Emily.  (2016, April 18).  Google, NASA put big money on D-Wave’s quantum computer. CBC News.  Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/d-wave-quantum-1.3525566
D-Wave Systems. (2017). Quantum Computing.  How D-Wave Systems Work.  D-Wave The Quantum Computing Company.  Retrieved from https://www.dwavesys.com/quantum-computing
Vella, Matt. (2014, February 6).  9 Ways Quantum Computing Will Change Everything.  TIME.  Retrieved from https://time.com/5035/9-ways-quantum-computing-will-change-everything/
 
 
Courtney Rosebush is a Marketing and Sales Coordinator at Triella, a technology consulting firm specializing in providing technology audits, planning advice, project management and other CIO-related services to small and medium sized firms. Courtney can be reached at 647.426.1004 x 227. For additional articles, go to www.triella.com/publications.  Triella is a VMware Professional Partner, Microsoft Certified Partner, Citrix Solution Advisor – Silver, Dell Preferred Partner, Authorized Worldox Reseller and a Kaspersky Reseller.
© 2017 by Triella Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction with credit is permitted.
 

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