A quantum computer in a vibration-free building. Quantum computing will ultimately accelerate the computing power that drives many industries and could affect everything from drug discovery to how data is protected.
Oliver Berg | Alliance Image | Getty Images
Quantum computing was already catching on in Japan and elsewhere in Asia when the University of Tokyo and IBM launched their new quantum computer last year.
The computer was the second system of its kind built outside the United States by IBM, the latest in a series of key moves in quantum research.
The university and IBM led the Quantum Innovation Initiative Consortium along with Japanese industry heavyweights such as Toyota and Sony, all in order to solve the quantum question.
Quantum computing refers to the use of quantum mechanics to perform computations. Quantum computing can run multiple processes simultaneously using quantum bits, unlike binary bits that power traditional processing.
Challenge the “hegemony” of the United States
The new technology will ultimately accelerate the computing power that drives many industries and could affect everything from drug discovery to how data is protected. Several countries are competing to make quantum computers fully operational.
Christopher Savoie, CEO of quantum computing firm Zapata, who has spent much of his career in Japan, said technology development has been very US-centric. But now, Asian nations don’t want to be left behind in quantum computing, he added.
“Nation states like India, Japan and China are very interested in not being the only people without a capability there. They don’t want to see the kind of hegemony that has arisen where the big cloud aggregators in general are just US companies. Savoie said, referring to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
China, for example, has devoted a great deal of brains to the quantum race. Researchers have touted findings, and debates are boiling over whether China has overtaken the United States on some fronts.
India, for its part, announced earlier this year its intention to invest $ 1 billion in a five-year plan to develop a quantum computer in the country.
James Sanders, an analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, told CNBC that governments around the world have become more interested in quantum computing in recent years.
In March, Sanders released a report that governments pledged about $ 4.2 billion to support quantum research. Some notable examples include South Korea’s $ 40 million investment in the field and the Singapore Ministry of Education’s funding of a research center, The Center for Quantum Technologies.
Where will it be used?
All these efforts have a long perspective on the future. And to some, the benefits of the quantum may seem nebulous.
According to Sanders, the benefits of quantum computing won’t be immediately apparent to everyday consumers.
“On a bad day, I’m dissuading people from the idea of quantum cell phones. It’s not realistic, it’s not going to be a thing,” he said.
“What is likely to happen is that quantum computers will eventually be used in the design of products that consumers will eventually buy.”
There are two main areas where the quantum shift will be felt: industry and defense.
A staff member from technology company Q.ant places a quantum computing chip at a test station in Stuttgart, Germany on September 14, 2021. The power of quantum computing is expected to be able to decrypt RSA encryption. one of the most common encryption methods for data protection.
Thomas Kienzle | Afp | Getty Images
“Areas where you have HPC [high-performance computing] are areas where we will see quantum computers having an impact. It’s things like materials simulation, aerodynamic simulation, that sort of thing, very high and difficult computational problems and then machine learning artificial intelligence, ”Savoie said.
In pharmaceuticals, traditional ways of calculating the behavior of drug molecules can be time-consuming. The speed of quantum computing could rapidly increase these processes around drug discovery and, ultimately, the timeline for the arrival of drugs to market.
On the other hand, quantum could present security challenges. As computing power advances, the risk to existing security methods also increases.
“The longer term [motivation] but what everyone recognizes as an existential threat, both offensive and defensive, is the area of cryptography. The RSA will eventually be compromised by this, “added Savoie.
RSA refers to one of the most common encryption methods for data protection, developed in 1977, which could be overturned by quantum speed. It is named after its inventors: Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman.
“You see a lot of interest from governments and communities who don’t want to be the last people on the block to have that technology because [other nations] he will be able to decipher our messages, “Savoie said.
Magda Lilia Chelly, chief information security officer at Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Responsible Cyber, told CNBC that a double track of quantum cryptography and research and development is needed so that security is not outdated.
“Some experts believe that quantum computers will eventually be able to crack all forms of encryption, while others believe that new and more sophisticated forms of encryption will be developed that cannot be cracked by quantum computers,” Chelly said.
A quantum processor on a quantum computer prototype. There needs to be a double track of quantum cryptography and research and development so that security is not outdated, said Magda Lilia Chelly, chief information security officer at Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Responsible Cyber.
Julian Stratenschulte / dpa | Alliance Image | Getty Images
“In particular, [researchers] they looked for ways to use quantum computers to quickly factor large numbers. This is important because many of the modern encryption schemes used today rely on the fact that it is very difficult to factor large numbers, “he added.
If successful, this would break most current encryption schemes, allowing you to unlock encrypted messages.
Sanders said the development and eventual commercialization of quantum computing will not be a straight line.
Problems such as the cryptographic threat may grab the attention of governments, but research and discoveries, as well as primary concern, can be “stop-start,” he said.
Progress may also be affected by fluctuating interest from private investors as quantum computing will not provide a quick return on investment.
“There are a lot of situations in this industry where you might have a head start for a week and then another company will come out with another kind of advancement and then everything will be quiet for a while.”
Another looming challenge for quantum research is finding the right talent with specific skills for this research.
“Quantum scientists capable of running quantum computing don’t grow on trees,” said Savoie, adding that cross-border collaboration is needed in the face of competing government interests.
“Talent is global. People can’t choose which country they were born in or what nationality they have.”