Quantum computing is coming (ready or not)

quantum-computer-processor

Quantum computing holds the promise of providing levels of computing power that we can only imagine today.

But what is quantum computing? It’s a complicated topic that sort of makes my head hurt, to be honest. Quantum computing’s key ingredient is qubits, which are explained by Larry Greenemeier in Scientific American:

A qubit can represent a 0 and a 1 at the same time, a uniquely quantum phenomenon known in physics as a superposition. This lets qubits conduct vast numbers of calculations at once, massively increasing computing speed and capacity.

Does your head hurt yet? No? It will. . .

But there are different types of qubits, and not all are created equal. In a programmable silicon quantum chip, for example, whether a bit is a 1 or a 0 depends on the direction its electron is spinning. Yet all qubits are notoriously fragile, with some requiring temperatures of about 20 millikelvins — 250 times colder than deep space — to remain stable.

This all sort of puts the rigors of provisioning a server in perspective, doesn’t it?

But clearly there are benefits to exponentially more powerful computing processes — which would accelerate research and development, scientific and medical discoveries, and enterprise efficiency — so that means quantum computing is going to happen. Indeed, a number of technology giants and start-ups are working now on quantum computing solutions.

Among those are Intel and Google, both of which are developing quantum processors, or chips, which are the dilithium crystals of quantum computing.

IBM, meanwhile, has launched a collaborative initiative involving other large corporations, start-ups and academic institutions to advance quantum computing.

And Microsoft has gone so far as to call quantum computing one of the three technologies most important to the company’s future (the other two are artificial intelligence and augmented reality). Redmond hopes to integrate a quantum computer into its Azure cloud within five years, and Microsoft has created a Quantum Development Kit for developers to begin building quantum-based apps.

So at what point will quantum computing become part of your enterprise? Timeline predictions vary, but make no mistake: It will happen because 1) the benefits will be transformative and 2) a lot of heavyweight intellectual, organizational and financial resources are being directed toward quantum computing.

And when quantum computing does happen, it’s best to be ready. In the next post, I’ll talk about how to do just that.

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  1. […] a recent post I promised I would soon give readers expert advice on how to prepare their enterprises for quantum computing, a vow I deeply regret because I […]

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