Getting ahead of the quantum computing curve

bell curve and equation on blackboard

In 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 can’t even explain quantum computing(!), never mind pretend to be an expert.

Fortunately, sensible advice on how to get ready for the quantum computing era (whenever it begins) can be had online, if you know the right people or do a Google search. I opted for the latter and came across two guys who really seem to know what they’re talking about.

One of those guys is American Scientist senior writer Brian Hayes, who notes that “several high-level programming languages for quantum computers have been developed, even though the computers themselves don’t yet exist.”

Hayes writes that two of these languages, QCL and Quipper, “are surprisingly rich and full-featured.” He urges “classical computing” programmers to become familiar with quantum programming languages because the whole thing gets very Matrixy — so there’s a lot of learning to do! Hayes explains:

The protocol for solving a problem with a quantum computer is often described like this: Prepare a set of qubits in a suitable initial state, apply a specified series of operations, then measure the final state of the qubits. If all goes well, the measurement will yield the answer to the problem.

Got that? Hayes adds, “To me, this process doesn’t sound like computer programming; it sounds like running a physics experiment.”

By getting your feet wet with quantum programming now, you can get a huge head start on those laggards who won’t know there are different types of qubits or can’t comprehend weird qubit behavior such as “interference” and “entanglement.” If the tools are out there, you might as well start playing with them. The hardware will be here soon enough.

Next up is Jaya Baloo, CISO of KPN Telecom in the Netherlands, who tells ComputerWeekly that with quantum computing comes unique security considerations for which current encryption techniques are inadequate.

Specifically, Baloo says, enterprises should look now at three options or considerations:

  • Extending encryption keys to the maximum length allowed by their encryption systems
  • Considering quantum key distribution to preserve data integrity and confidentiality, especially if you possess large amounts of sensitive information
  • Start paving the way for post-quantum algorithms to replace the caveman algorithms you’re using today

If all of this seems foreign and overwhelming now, imagine how it will seem in 10 years when the CEO wants to know why the company doesn’t have the quantum computers its competitors are using. Best be ready for that moment.


  1. Ronald Sonntag says:

    Nicely done! I am no quantum computing expert, but, did major in Physics long enough to appreciate quantum mechanics. I think it is important to point out that not every classical computing problem is appropriate for solving with a quantum computer. But, certain mathematical problems, such as primes, combinatorial paths, geometric shapes driven by energy states (think molecules), are, for example.

    Another distinction is the difference between solving an encryption problem versus detecting that an intrusion has occurred. The latter can be done today and is being used by some companies (governments?) to absolutely know if anyone is attempting to listen to a communication channel (observation of a quantum entangled event necessarily disturbs that event).

    All this reminds me of a cute movie back in 1992 called “Sneakers”. The central theme revolves around a device that can break any cryptographic cipher in real time – no more secrets! Sound familiar?



  1. […] 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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