Quantum Computing: challenges and achievable opportunities


Jun 22, 2023

Are we on the path towards open-source, free quantum computing?

Now, in the 21st century, the term “quantum” has broken away from the limits of the world of Physics, with the concept of something “quantic” now being applied to the fields of Medicine and Information Technology. The term can, in fact, now be used to describe a new generation of computers that leverage quantum phenomena, such as overlay and interference, to execute computational calculations and routines.

Although quantum computers do not solve any problems that classic computers would not already have solved, it is expected that they will solve many problems far more quickly. Quantum computers currently can store 16 analogical values in pairs, forming 8 complex numbers, or qubits, therefore differentiating themselves from classic computers and their 3 bits of memory that allow for only two logical stages (ones or zeros) to be stored.

Traditional computers store and manipulate bits of data in a binary state, writing them to strings of 1s and 0s. Quantum computing brings quantum mechanics into the equation. At atomic and subatomic levels, particles can exist simultaneously in more than one state - as if a version of yourself were going to work, while another stayed at home, all at the same time. Quantum computing uses quantum bits, also known as qubits. Qubits are small metal conductors on a microchip, and their energy states (a 1 or a 0 in traditional computing) are manipulated using microwaves.

What are Qubits?

Though qubits possess some similarities to the classic bit, they are generally very different. Just like a bit, a qubit can have one of two values – usually a 0 or a 1. The difference is that while a bit must be 0 or 1, a qubit can be 0, 1 or an overlay of both. Qubits, however, can remain in states that correspond to a simultaneous combination of "1" and "0" at the same time (84% "1", and 16% "0", for example, though any proportions are possible).  

As such, Quantum computers can perform calculations exponentially faster than traditional computers, though Qubits are unstable. This means that the machines that use Qubits require special care to be taken to avoid computing errors. Even so, visible progress is being made towards "quantum supremacy", that is, the point at which a quantum computer can quickly solve certain types of equations – those that traditional supercomputers cannot solve in a reasonable amount of time.

Quantum computing as a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE

Quantum physics defies our everyday experience of the world and underlies much of the technology we use every day. On a practical level, quantum computing could eventually hold the key to solving complex problems current computing cannot tackle. Among the promising applications for quantum computing is material design on a molecular level, disease diagnoses, developing new medical treatments and determining better ways of allocating resources across large systems.

IDC research indicates that, although cloud-based quantum computing is still a young market and the funds dedicated to quantum computing initiatives are still limited (between 0% and 2% of IT budgets), final users believe that the initial investment will result in a competitive advantage. The manufacturing, financial services and security sectors are highlighted as having a greater application potential, given the advanced prototypes developed in the areas and the level to which they are implemented.  

CHALLENGES of Quantum Computing

According to IDC, the complexity of the technology, limited skills, unavailability of specialised resources, and cost are, for most organisations, factors that inhibit investments in quantum computing technology. These factors, combined with the profound interdisciplinary interest, have forced quantum computing suppliers to develop quantum computing technology that responds to both the final user’s necessities and skill levels.  

The result has been a higher availability of accessible cloud-based quantum computing technology, which is therefore used by new final users. Currently, the preferred types of quantum computing technologies applied include quantic algorithms, cloud-based quantum computing, quantum networks and hybrid quantum computing.

Quantum programming language

Quantum computers are no longer really a novelty, but have you heard of Intuitive Quantum programming? Until recently, few professionals knew how to program a quantum computer, but this is also changing.

In the article “Silq: a high-level quantum language with safe uncomputation and intuitive semantics”, a more compact, faster and much more intuitive language is presented, which is easy to understand for any programmer. This means programmers have no excuse not to start learning to program a Quantum computer. Work in Testing? Can you imagine performing automated tests using the language? “Silq” is the first quantum programming language that was not projected around the construction of hardware functionality, focussing instead on programmer reasoning when solving problems, not requiring an understanding of all the details of the computer’s architecture and the respective implementation involved.

The advantage of this language is its capacity to approach all types of errors currently found in quantum processors. It resolves problems in several stages, creating intermediate and/or temporary results, therefore freeing up memory by automatically erasing these values. Scientists call it “garbage collection”, as these temporary values are irrelevant and can be discarded. “Silq” language not only identifies unnecessary values, but it also erases them automatically, therefore creating a method of automatic uncomputation.

Many questions have still been left unanswered, such as: what is the impact of software quality in the quantum world? Will we be able to use terms like “Quantum software quality”?  

However, we will continue to navigate through the most recent discoveries of this universe of knowledge, demonstrating how the technology we are familiar with is constantly changing and how software quality will have to accompany this evolution in such a way as to guarantee the integrity of new technologies.

We hope we have awoken a curiosity and desire to discover more about the Quantum world, one that is, day by day, becoming part of our everyday lives.

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