The world of computing has witnessed seismic advancements since the invention of the electronic calculator in the 1960s. The past few years in information processing have been especially transformational. What were once thought of as science fiction fantasies are now technological realties. Classical computing has become more exponentially faster and more capable and our enabling devices smaller and more adaptable.
We are starting to evolve beyond classical computing into a new data era called quantum computing. It is envisioned that quantum computing will accelerate us into the future by impacting the landscape of artificial intelligence and data analytics. The quantum computing power and speed will help us solve some of the biggest and most complex challenges we face as humans.
Gartner describes quantum computing as: “[T]he use of atomic quantum states to effect computation. Data is held in qubits (quantum bits), which have the ability to hold all possible states simultaneously. Data held in qubits is affected by data held in other qubits, even when physically separated. This effect is known as entanglement.” In a simplified description, quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits instead of using binary traditional bits of ones and zeros for digital communications.
Conceptualizing the notion quantum computing and entanglement is a difficult task as it is encompassed in the enigmatic world of sub-atomic physics. And, like other areas of science, there are competing theories on what constitutes proof. But there are a number of very recent and exciting developments in this evolution that have created a pathway for this new era of quantum computing.
A great deal of research, development, and prototyping still needs to be done. According to most experts, quantum computing is still theoretical, but some say we appear to be nearing the quantum gate that will allow us to enter the new computing era.
A new discovery made by the research team from the Quantum Photonics Laboratory at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia is one important step. Their collaborative team demonstrated for the first time the perfect state transfer of an entangled quantum bit (qubit) on an integrated photonic device. Quantum Photonics Laboratory Director Dr Alberto Peruzzo noted that it is a “breakthrough that has the potential to open up quantum computing in the near future.”
In another exciting development, researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute in collaboration with researchers from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology have managed to create such a photon contact that is a kind of transistor. The research findings provide a component for creating a complex network of photons that can open the gateway for quantum networks by using light with a signal comprised of photons.
Quantum Computer coding in silicon microchips is another interesting area of new discovery. According to the University of New South Wales, a team of Australian scientists demonstrated that a quantum version of computer code can be written, and manipulated, using two quantum bits in a silicon microchip. The University notes that “the advance removes lingering doubts that such operations can be made reliably enough to allow powerful quantum computers to become a reality.”
This year, researchers at the University of Maryland announced that they constructed a quantum computer module that can be programmed to run any quantum algorithm. This is significant because that means it allows for a programmable system that can be scaled.
In another milestone, researchers from Google’s Quantum AI Lab said a quantum computing machine they bought with NASA in 2013 from the company D-Wave systems works. Hartmut Neven, the Lab’s leader, said they set up a series of races between the D-Wave computer installed at NASA against a conventional computer with a single processor and “for a specific, carefully crafted proof-of-concept problem we achieved a 100-million-fold speed-up.”
D-Wave describes its machine as the 512-qubit D-Wave Two™ quantum computer. They characterize it as the most advanced quantum computer in the world based on a novel type of superconducting processor that uses quantum mechanics to massively accelerate computation.
These breakthroughs are just the tip of the iceberg as there are dozens of other notable developments in the field. Governments, academia, and many technology leaders in industry, are all investing in research & development and pursuing the quest to develop quantum computing. We certainly are on the pathway to the new era and we may arrive there sooner than we imagined.
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