Development

From bits to qubits: The future of quantum computing

July 10, 2024
From bits to qubits: The future of quantum computing

As a father of four young daughters, I’m often tasked with attempting to explain complex topics to them. Questions from children are never simple and often involve a bit of head-scratching.

Thankfully, our kids are gracious with us and let us off the hook once in a while when the topics get confusing or don’t have an easy answer.

Because I work in the software industry, our family often discusses how new technological trends will impact the world around them. The latest question was about quantum computing. Tough, right?

Simplifying quantum computing

Quantum computing uses the principles of quantum mechanics to process data in a fundamentally different way than traditional computers.

Rather than using bits (with 0s and 1s), a quantum computer uses quantum bits, or qubits, which can represent both 0 and 1 simultaneously. This phenomenon is possible thanks to a physics property called superposition.

Let’s imagine you have a coin. The coin has two sides to it: heads and tails. With traditional computing, the coin can either be face up or tails up while on the table.

With quantum, a qubit is like a spinning coin. It can be both at once. This means that you are able to perform complex calculations at much faster rates because it can hold and process a vast array of possibilities at the same time. Still confused?

Pretend you are going to take a road trip across the country. You need to choose from multiple routes. A traditional computer would calculate the time for each route one by one. And give you the shortest or quickest route. Whereas a quantum computer could evaluate all routes at the same time, quickly identifying the best route for you.

The power of quantum computing is in its ability to process numerous possibilities simultaneously.

Quantum computing’s impact on various business industries

What does quantum computing have to do with business? Quite a “bit,” actually.

Data is currently constrained by how quickly it can be calculated. Quantum computing is able to answer problems more efficiently than traditional computers, which could revolutionize industries that are heavily reliant on data.

For example, finance is one industry that relies upon a lot of data. Quantum computing in finance will allow companies to do risk assessments and fraud detection by analyzing vast amounts of data instantaneously. This will also allow companies to provide more accurate predictions and forecasts.

In pharmaceuticals, quantum computing can simulate molecular structures. This could help improve the drug discovery process and reduce the time and costs associated with bringing new treatments to the market.

Princeton’s efforts in quantum error correction

I recently spoke with someone who co-leads the quantum efforts at a prestigious university. This person shared how they are shifting away from smaller models (NISQ era) to much larger models. This shift has happened because the industry has realized large and robust systems will be necessary to achieve practical quantum computing benefits.

Building on this idea, he elaborated on the challenges and innovations within quantum computing, particularly in quantum error correction. He explained that while theoretical frameworks for error correction have long been established, the practical implementation remains a hurdle. Meaning, how can we move these theories out of the lab and into real-world applications?

The ability to detect and correct errors efficiently in real time is crucial for the functionality of large quantum systems. Robust error correction mechanisms are critical for developing reliable, scalable quantum computers. That person’s team leads this research, aiming to turn theoretical models into practical solutions that could revolutionize industries with unprecedented computing power.

A gradual revolution

My personal perspective is that quantum computing will be transformative more incrementally than via sweeping changes. Instead of a sudden revolution, we will likely see a more gradual integration of quantum computing into existing frameworks. This progression will allow industries to adapt to the new technology and grow over time.

History teaches us a lesson through the invention of the transistor. Created in 1947 by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley at Bell Labs, the transistor revolutionized technology gradually through a series of smaller developments that revealed its vast potential.

At first, the transistor was seen as a technical curiosity, but it eventually replaced vacuum tubes in radios, computers and a host of other electronic devices. Its introduction marked the beginning of a new era in electronics, leading to the development of smaller, more reliable and more energy-efficient devices.

This shift did not happen immediately; it was the result of persistent experimentation, refinement and integration into existing technologies.

Just as the transistor enabled the miniaturization and enhancement of countless electronic devices, quantum computing is poised to unlock new capabilities in computing power, processing speed and problem-solving efficiency. Its full potential might not be realized immediately, but its gradual integration into various fields promises to be just as transformative, if not more, than the shift from vacuum tubes to transistors.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
Co-founder & Managing Partner

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