The Future of Computing: Quantum & Qubits

Quantum computing and Qubits are said to change the IT world drastically within the next few years. In today’s article we explain the basics of the long-anticipated technology and shed some light on the advantages and disadvantages and security concerns.

An article by the COMPAREX Blog Editorial Team 

What are qubits?

In classical computing, data is stored in bits. These bits can exist in one of two states – 1s or 0s; off or on. Quantum computing, on the other hand, uses “qubits” (quantum bits). Unlike bits, qubits can store more information than just a 1 or 0. They do this because they exploit unique features and can thus exist in 1, 0 or a superposition of these values allowing a qubit to be in both states at the same time!

A detailed explanation would get us mired in quantum mechanics which even Einstein called “spooky.” For our purpose, imagine a sphere where in the classical state, the 1 and 0 are at the poles. A qubit, on the other hand, can be on any point on the sphere, thus making a quantum computer much more powerful.

And, because qubits can be in multiple states at once, they exhibit inherent parallelism. That means while your current computer can work on one thing at a time, quantum computers can work on millions of things all at the same time.

IBM Q

pictue: IBM-Q

Why all the buzz?

Quantum computers were first proposed by the famed Nobel Prize winning physicist, Richard Feynman, in 1981.

Experts see quantum computing as a major disruption to computing. According to Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, whose university just signed a 5-year quantum collaboration agreement with Microsoft, quantum computing is “another explosion of computing power like that brought about by the silicon chip.”

D-Wave, a Canadian company, began selling quantum computers a few years ago. Price points to make quantum computers commercially viable are still a little ways away. But a fierce race is already underway for quantum supremacy and scientists are making great progress.

A short list of some of the companies involved with quantum computing (most big players are all in) include Microsoft, IBM-Q (quantum computing as-a-service ), 1Qbit, Rigetti Computing, Intel, AT&T (working on quantum networking with CALTECH) etc. The NSA is said to be building its own quantum devices, and In-Q-Tel, the venture company funded by the CIA, is also in on the game.

Google is looking to get to a 49-qubit processor by the end of 2017, a landmark breakthrough that would double current 20-qubit processors. Softbank’s $ 100 billion Vision Fund is actively searching to back the next “Microsoft” of quantum computing. Most experts agree that building quantum computers is now an engineering challenge and not a conceptual one.

Advantages and disadvantages of quantum computing?

Initially, quantum computers are likely to be used to crunch really large datasets – something they do very well. Cancer research, drug design, financial portfolio design, genetic engineering, weather forecasting, particle physics – will all be positively impacted.

How do you code a quantum computer? Companies are busy developing tools to code such devices. Microsoft is developing LIQUi|> (pronounced “liquid”) for execution on a quantum computer. On the downside, due to superposition, even programmers will not be able to observe the path that their data takes from input to output, making debugging a serious complication.

While quantum computers are expected to lead to astounding breakthroughs in medicine, manufacturing, artificial intelligence, machine learning and more, rogue states or actors could also use quantum computers for destructive purposes.

Quantum computers and security?

Most current cryptography that drives online commerce and banking is dependent on using complex math problems that are too difficult to solve in a realistic time period by today’s computers. But that is not so for quantum computers. In fact, they are especially good at that kind of thing.

The non-profit Cloud Security Alliance says that within 15 years, all PKI (public-key-infrastructure), which drives online security, would be broken with devastating effects on the global economy. In its own study, the Global Risk Institute says the same thing. NIST has begun a 4-6 year public evaluation of quantum-resistant cryptography.

Some companies, like Google, are already working on “quantum-resistant” encryption using qubit-cryptography. Last week, China launched “Micius,” the first quantum technology satellite, which they say is unhackable.

A new era of computing is just over the horizon. And as we grapple with information security challenges with the computers we have today, the hope is that effective quantum computer security will strengthen and not further weaken our digital interactions.

Worried about your IT Security?

Do you have further questions regarding security issues? Do not hesitate to contact our security specialists.

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Leipzig, 08.08.2017

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