Quantum Computing—Top Questions Answered

Article By : Jenn Mullen, Keysight Technologies

As researchers find ways to scale qubits up and stabilize quantum computers, the potential for quantum computing continues to grow.

Jenn Mullen

As breakthroughs in quantum computing accelerate, attention and investment are gaining momentum from commercial, governmental, and industrial sectors.

Let’s separate the facts from the hype around this revolutionary computing science.

What is quantum computing in simple terms?

When you run multiple programs on your phone, tablet, or laptop, the device heats up, the processor slows down, and your battery drains quickly. There is a direct correlation between the data volumes and energy requirements needed to run a computational program.

Quantum computers can develop new ways to tackle the most complex computational problems more efficiently. Quantum bits, or qubits, can exist in the binary [0] and [1] states of classical bits or in both states simultaneously, allowing them to store an immense amount of data without the corresponding energy requirement. Each additional qubit exponentially increases quantum computing processing power without increasing power consumption.

As researchers find ways to scale qubits up and stabilize quantum computers, the potential for quantum computing continues to grow. Currently, researchers are investigating ways to scale up the number of qubits a quantum computer can use. This is critical to creating commercially viable quantum computers.

How quantum and classical computers are used

Contrary to popular belief, quantum computers will never replace classical computers. Quantum computing’s real value is in its ability to run calculations in a tiny fraction of the time it would take for a classical computer.

Classical computers, on the other hand, remain ideally suited for everyday computer processing needs. Quantum computers have the potential to perform multiple complex calculations simultaneously, augmenting classical computers by performing complicated optimization challenges and analyzing large data sets and simulations.

What types of problems will quantum computers solve?

Computers are tools that facilitate innovation and breakthroughs that only human beings are capable of. Like any tool, quantum and classical computers enable us to solve problems more efficiently. Classical computers have enough processing power to manage even extremely advanced algorithms alongside the day-to-day tasks we rely on them for. However, certain types of computing problems evade them due to the comparatively limited time and memory space they possess.

Quantum computing systems will be able to process immense amounts of data in an exponentially shorter time than their classical counterparts. Because of this, quantum systems are poised to enable accelerated innovation across industrial, governmental, and academic applications. Use cases include the following:

Product and technology development

Quantum’s uniquely powerful processing will enable solutions to product and technology development challenges that have remained unsolvable with classical computing. Quantum computers will optimize simulation and emulation capabilities, allowing product developers to create high-fidelity, precision digital twins and test them against a more extensive set of real-world scenarios in a shorter amount of time. This will result in higher quality products brought to market in less time at a far reduced cost.

Medical sciences

From developing pharmaceuticals to improving medical diagnostic imaging, quantum computers will be able to analyse molecules and cellular interactions at incredible speeds and give researchers the ability to simulate human systems and look at countless biochemical variables. This can make it possible to conduct clinical trials that are more complete, and which can be performed in a fraction of the time they currently take.

Data security

Quantum computers can crack algorithms that classical computers use to generate large prime integers that underpin digital security programs. This represents a significant threat to organizations using standard encryption tools. At the same time, quantum computers offer paradigm-shifting possibilities to dramatically improve cybersecurity because they can produce large, reliable ‘true-random’ numbers impervious to decryption.

Scientific research

From particle physics to astronomy, supercharged machine learning, artificial intelligence, and simulation capabilities will allow scientists to accelerate discoveries. Quantum computing’s simulation capabilities will allow researchers to improve their ability to model weather, simulate environments that are currently inaccessible – such as the deep ocean and space, and model the human body under any number of scenarios.

Supply chain operations

Supply chain logistics impact every facet of society with consumer, corporate, industrial, and governmental implications. The simulation capabilities that quantum computers offer can manage the complex variables of global supply chain logistics and harmonize data from multiple sources. Quantum computers will optimize resource management and improve logistical planning, thus improving the sustainability quotient and value of supply chain operations.

Urban planning

Quantum computer-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will monitor, predict, and decrease traffic congestion across large urban areas. In doing so, we can all benefit from reduced carbon emissions and lower maintenance costs that come from reducing urban congestion. Moreover, it will allow city planners to make better-informed urban development decisions that improve the quality of life for residents in urban environments.

Do quantum computers exist today?

Private, public, and academic institutions are investing heavily in the development, stabilization, and commercialization of quantum computers. Technology companies like IBM, Google and automotive giants like Mercedes-Benz join the National Science Foundation (NSF), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) in developing, implementing, and integrating quantum computing into their products and services.

Key players, including Google, IBM, and Intel, developed the first wave of quantum computers which can run dozens and even hundreds of qubits. While these systems are powerful, to surpass the capabilities of classical supercomputers and achieve true quantum computing performance, researchers must overcome infrastructure and scaling challenges before a truly viable commercial quantum computer will be widely available.

That said, the research driving the development of true quantum systems has led to a rise in quantum-inspired algorithms that simulate quantum effects on classical computers. Applying these algorithms to real-world problems offers businesses new insights, cost reduction opportunities, and improved operational efficiency.

The business advantages of these hybrid systems also offer companies a low-risk approach to quantum preparedness. The same algorithms and applications that run on quantum-inspired systems tackle complex optimization challenges in less time. Moreover, these quantum-inspired systems offer businesses a low-risk way to experiment with quantum computing while also training employees on their use when quantum computers become commercially available.

Keysight’s quantum solutions are already enabling researchers to achieve the breakthroughs pushing us closer to quantum supremacy. Keysight’s Quantum Control System, a qubit control solution, is the world’s first fully digital quantum control system. It combines dedicated quantum control hardware and full-stack software capabilities enabling users to begin experimenting with qubits quickly.


About the Author

Jenn Mullen is a Quantum Solutions Lead at Keysight Technologies.


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