In October 2019, Google made a big announcement that it had achieved quantum supremacy. What is this Quantum computer? Why are big tech giants like IBM, Rigette investing to attain supremacy in this technology? Let’s find out. Quantum computers have the ability to beat the most powerful supercomputer for certain tasks. Google demonstrated that quantum computers can perform certain tasks in seconds which current supercomputers would take thousands of years to calculate.
Venture capitalists are pouring money into start-ups which are in the early stage of developing quantum computers which do not even have proven real-time application. What potential did they see? This technology can be used to create private keys to hack into financial systems. This is possible because quantum computers can use its computational power to break the existing encrypted data. Quantum computing can transform health care and medicine. For drug development, a molecule needs to be designed which is a challenging problem. That is because exactly describing and calculating all the possibilities is computationally costly with supercomputers. Replacing supercomputers with quantum computers in this application might lead to treatments for diseases like Alzheimer. It can also be used in stock markets as they generate a huge amount of data, which is essential for risk analysis and economic forecasting.
Few technical details one needs to know about the working of a quantum computer by comparing it with simple coin tossing. Classical computers work on only two bits which can be either 0 or 1 like head or tail on a coin. But the quantum computer is unique in having a third state apart from 0 or 1. How is that possible? Let’s take the same case of coin flip but recording it now, with possible outcomes of head and tail. While the coin is in the air and you pause the recording, it could be either head or tail irrespective of the outcome. Similarly, qubits in quantum computing with the extra state are helpful in faster calculations for certain applications. These two are completely different technologies as they work on different physics principles.
Google used a 53 qubit processor named Sycamore to complete a mathematical problem in 200 sec which they claimed would have taken the world’s fastest computer 10,000 years. IBM challenged that statement by proving it would take only 2.5days by the world’s fastest computer. Anyways, we cannot ignore the fact that Google’s success was a milestone for quantum computing.
Scientists knew from the beginning that building a quantum computer would be challenging due to its quirky nature. The scientist in the 90s believed that this technology would never work. Quantum computing opened a door for teleportation of information from one location to another without physically transmitting the information. But there are a lot of education gaps that need to be filled if this technology wishes to impact on a larger scale!