There is grandiose excitement afoot regarding what the future might hold for computing, quantum style. When we speak concerning applications for quantum computing, we are dealing with uncharted territory.
Quantum computing is “off the charts” in so many ways. All of the practical, real-life applications for quantum computers are in the earliest stages of development. Most are in still in the stage that Einstein referred to as “thought experiment.”
Engineers and theorists are very quickly working together to produce concept devices, prototypes, programs, languages, hardware and software compatible with what we understand quantum computing to be capable of.
There are, at this time, fewer agreements in the field of quantum computing about definitions and principles that explain how quantum systems work than many people are aware of. As development continues, more deals will be made, and more cohesive and precise vocabulary will allow for increasingly accessible information about how quantum computers work.
As we navigate that uncharted terrain, new maps will be created, new measurements will be taken, and new knowledge and understanding will drive increasingly refined and sophisticated applications for quantum computing.
Quantum Computers: Reviewing Some Basic Principles
What makes a computer “quantum”? Quantum computing is defined by its use of a non-binary processing system.
Classical computers use a binary system – information is stored as either one of two distinct states. We call the packages of information “bits,” and they are expressed in binary code – a series of “1’s” and “0’s.”
Quantum computing uses a different system altogether. Information in the quantum computing system is stored in packages called “qubits.” A qubit can be both 1 and 0 at the same time, or either unit on its own. Those qubits can be created from many physical objects and situations; for example, a qubit might be stored in a photon of light, or in a charged particle – an ion.
A Brief History of D-Wave: The First Quantum Computer
The Canadian quantum computer company D-Wave was founded in 1999 by engineer Geordie Rose. The goal of D-Wave was to create and distribute the first working quantum computer. Today, D-Wave quantum computers are at work on projects worldwide.
2003: D-Wave built the first adiabatic quantum computer prototype.
2007: D-Wave announced it had created the first working 16-qubit quantum computer. The D-Wave computer was able to search a database for specific molecules and solve a Sudoku puzzle.
2011: Lockheed Martin purchased the 128-qubit D-Wave One quantum computer.
2015: NASA and partners upgraded the D-Wave Two to a system that is processing more than double the original number of qubits. The upgraded system is called D-Wave2X.
Astonishing Medical Applications for Quantum Computers
Advances in classical computing have already produced some fantastic medical miracles:
- gene sequencing
- gene therapies
- cell repair and regeneration
- artificial limbs that read signals from the brain
- eyeglasses that allow the blind to see
Quantum computers may bring forward even more astonishing medical breakthroughs. With the increased processing speed promised by quantum computing, medical experts are preparing for a wave of new applications that will save lives, cure diseases and optimize the quality of life.
Quantum computing has potential applications in two critical biochemical areas: improving radiotherapy and understanding protein structure. With improvements in just these two areas, researchers hope to learn how to save more lives, cure cancers and restore proteins to strengthen people, heal injuries more quickly and prolong life.
Transportation and Aerospace Applications
The fields of transportation and aerospace are ready to leverage all of the potentials that quantum computing has to offer. With the anticipation of driverless vehicles on our roads and unmanned drones in our skies, precision is the benefit that these industries are after.
With more precise guidance systems, the possibilities for driverless vehicles expands exponentially. Traveling faster than the speed of light? The impossible just might be achievable with quantum systems.
NASA is already investing money and human resources in quantum computers to maximize the aerospace potential. According to NASA :
NASA researchers are using this system [the D-Wave 2X] to investigate areas where quantum algorithms might someday dramatically improve the agency’s ability to solve difficult optimization problems in aeronautics, Earth and space sciences and space exploration. Applications relevant to NASA include machine learning, pattern recognition, mission planning and scheduling, distributed navigation and coordination, and system diagnostics and anomaly detection.
NASA’s QuAil project is ongoing and welcomes input from any interested parties at other research institutions who wish to collaborate on quantum computer research.
Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Potential: The Missing Link
From chatbots to robots, quantum computing may take the development of artificial intelligence to a level that even Isaac Asimov would be surprised by. The stuff of sci-fi and fantasy dreams just a few years ago, AI combined with the processing capabilities of quantum computers could provide the missing links that bring AI closer to human intelligence than we could have dreamed possible.
The future is now for quantum computer enthusiasts, as new developments take place every day. Frequent press releases show that many countries are embracing the challenges that quantum computing poses – and it does raise significant problems, particularly in the area of information security. Cybersecurity must be applied differently in a quantum system.
Quantum computing also offers opportunities for gamers, artists, and designers. It inspires the imagination to wonder how it may change even the way we style ourselves and the world around us. Will we achieve what was once thought to be impossible? Time will surely tell.