Quantum computing has once again become the cause célèbre among the Indian tech community—thanks to the finance minister, who allocated a whopping Rs 8,000 crore in the union budget 2020 towards National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.
“Quantum technology opens new frontiers in computing, communications, and cyber security with widespread applications. It is expected that lots of commercial applications would emerge from theoretical constructs developing in this area,” said Nirmala Sitharaman during her budget speech.
Every other technology company that we today count on—be it Amazon, Google, Microsoft, or IBM—is investing hugely in this revolutionary technology. It’s also one of the hot innovation areas for the budding startup community across markets. 2019 specifically drew a lot of research, advancements, and investments in this area.
So why is it that a technology, which has existed for the past four decades or so, is gaining steam in recent years?
Breaking the computing barriers
By definition, quantum computing is an alternative to the classical computing we have relied on. By using qubits—as opposed to the binary digits used by today’s computers—quantum computing promises a literal quantum leap in processing powers. It will not replace our classic computers but can solve complex, significant problems faster than the current systems. Though far from commercially viable, this technology could lead to breakthroughs in science, medicine, aviation, transport, and financial services.
For a long time, ‘quantum supremacy’ (the point at which a quantum computer can solve a problem that is impossible to be solved by today’s most powerful supercomputers) was the focus of many researchers. However, there has been a lot of debate over why researchers should instead focus on new experiments and real-world applications of quantum computing.
To a large extent, the future of quantum computing is still vague. But the potential applications of the technology are up-and-coming. These are broadly in cybersecurity, drug development, weather forecasting, and financial modeling, among other things.
The automotive industry has long been working on developing some meaningful applications of quantum computing. One of its most noted uses is around how quantum computing can help avoid traffic jams and ensure better traffic flow in some of the busiest cities in the world. Volkswagen, for instance, has developed a program on the D-Wave quantum computer for urban motion flows. Volkswagen’s program even predicts future traffic volumes, transport demand, and each journey’s duration! For some of the real-world problems that exist today and will emerge in the future, quantum computing already has the answers.
A quantum leap to cloud
While it is a relatively young technology, the biggest challenge for the mass-scale adoption of quantum computing is that it is pretty tricky to build and program and is exceedingly expensive at this stage. Quantum algorithms are daunting, and access to quantum hardware is limited.
But the answer seems to lie in the cloud!
In the last year, many leading players have developed cloud-based quantum models allowing their customers to write quantum algorithms and run them on real quantum computers. For instance, the most recent offering from Amazon Web Services allows researchers to experiment on quantum computers from the three leading quantum hardware providers, namely D-Wave Systems, IonQ, and Rigetti Computing. Through this, the company aims to build a strong foundation ‘firmly rooted in reality’ and be an enabler of the quantum-powered future.
Cloud takes quantum computing one step closer to reality because it addresses the critical challenges around accessibility, much like how the cloud revolutionized the current consumption of computing.
This will likely lead to some appropriate use cases and more meaningful experiments on quantum computing.
More than 80 percent of enterprise workloads are running on the cloud today. In the future, when quantum computing moves to mainstream adoption, organizations will instead go for a cloud-based on-demand model than owning their quantum computers.
This article was contributed to and first appeared in The Economic Times. Click hereto read the article on ET.com