Quantum computing is an increasingly hot area for research and investment, with corporations like IBM, Google, Alibaba, Intel, and Lockheed Martin launching quantum computing projects aimed at bringing the technology -- meant to speed up the process of solving complex equations -- to commercial viability. In tandem with company investments, the European Union, US, and Chinese governments, among others, are also backing projects aimed at building commercial quantum computers. In the US, NASA, the NSA, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory are all involved in quantum computing projects. And in August this year, China launched the world's first quantum satellite in the quest for more secure communications. However, there are only a small number of private companies in the industry that have been able to raise over $1M, which suggests that commercial application of quantum computers -- for both hardware and software -- is nascent at this point, despite the hype.
IBM has announced a milestone in its race against Google and other big tech firms to build a powerful quantum computer. Dario Gil, who leads IBM's quantum computing and artificial intelligence research division, said Friday that the company's scientists have successfully built and measured a processor prototype with 50 quantum bits, known as qubits. Gil says it's the first time any company has built a quantum computer at this scale. IBM scientists have successfully built and measured a processor prototype with 50 quantum bits, known as qubits, the first time any company has built a quantum computer at this scale. The heart of modern computing is binary code, which has served computers for decades.
Keen to tap into the next big advance in computing technology, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is planning to fund a project to develop quantum computers. A quantum computer, still largely a theoretical entity, employs the principles of quantum mechanics to store information in'qubits' instead of the typical'bits' of 1 and 0. Qubits work faster because of the way such circuits are designed, and their promise is that they can do intensive number-crunching tasks much more efficiently than the fastest comparable computers. For instance, to sort a billion numbers, a quantum computer would require 3.5 million fewer steps than a traditional machine, and would find the solution in only 31,623 steps, says a Morgan Stanley analysis last August. Solving other problems, many having to do with computing physics, becomes possible on quantum machines, the authors say, whereas they might never be possible on traditional computers. While the Physics departments at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, have only forayed into the theoretical aspects of quantum computing, a DST official said that "the time has come to build one."
The US Congress is expected to give final approval to a bill that would further the development of quantum computing technology which would be used to improve the country's cybersecurity. The bill was approved by the Senate last week and once it is signed by the House, it is expected to be signed by President Trump whose administration has made the emerging technology a top priority. The US is currently trying to keep up with China in the race to develop quantum computing technology which could have huge implications for both national security and the cybersecurity community. "Establishing a national quantum program is essential to maintaining our position as global leaders in science and technology." Quantum computing's potential for cracking current encryption methods and developing more powerful ways of encrypting data in the future, have made it a priority not just for the US but for other countries as well.
There's a worldwide race to dominate quantum computing, and two new pieces of legislation might help the US claim the lead. Senator Kamala Harris has introduced the first, the Quantum Computing Research Act, to provide a "competitive edge" in development. It would create a Quantum Computing Research Consortium in the Department of Defense to coordinate progress, offer grants and oversee initiatives. The measure would boost the economy, create jobs and bolster national security, if you ask Harris. Gizmodo, meanwhile, has seen a second draft bill that would start a decade-long National Quantum Initiative Program to set priorities for developing the technology, including investments and partnerships.