The Most Powerful Quantum Computer
With Google achieving a ‘quantum supremacy’ breakthrough, Honeywell building the world’s most powerful ion-trap quantum computer, and venture capitalists pouring millions into QC start-ups, the decade ahead could jump-start commercial quantum computing.
Our world relies heavily on intractable encryption to protect everything from digital signatures, private emails and banking information. Yet these day-to-day transactions are vulnerable to cyberattack. Moreover, more advanced encryption systems like AES-256 & RSA (the current encryption standards) could be opened up due to quantum computers falling into the hands of threat actors, meaning all encrypted files could one day be decrypted – so-termed ‘quantum hacking’.
Yet quantum computing, as it advances, itself offers advantages to address these issues. In addition, quantum computing promises to drive through advances in medicine and healthcare.
In this edition of Essential Science, we look at some recent innovations with quantum computing.
Quantum computer is based on the underlying tenets of quantum theory, which look at the behavior of energy and material on the atomic and subatomic levels. Quantum computers are powerful because fragments of data on a quantum computer, can be both 1 and 0 at the same time. Through this, scientists can seek to harness some of the incredible potential of quantum mechanics to process exponentially larger amounts of information. These fragments are known as qubits, and due to their dual-state nature they can significantly accumulate computing power.
The phenomenon of superposition enables one qubit perform two calculations at once. This means that if two qubits are linked through an effect called entanglement, they can help perform four calculations simultaneously. It follows that three qubits linked can perform eight calculations; and so on…
Google races for quantum supremacy
Googles quantum computer is called Sycamore (a 53-qubit device) and with it Google is seeking “quantum supremacy”, moving to create a platform that will out-shine today’s supercomputers. This will be by solving problems considered virtually impossible for normal machines.
Google’s current stage of development is with its quantum computer being capable of completing a complex computation in 200 seconds; a time that would taken the most powerful supercomputers approximately 10,000 years to finish. This is according to research presented to the journal Nature.
In light of Google’s success, IBM disputed the claim, arguing that the Google team underestimated IBM’s Summit supercomputer.
Where are IBM?
IBM are a major competitor in the quantum computing race. Earlier in 2020, the company declared it had built a quantum computer with a quantum volume of 32.
With IBM challenging Google and uncertainly over what consistences quantum supremacy, the debate looked set to run…until Honeywell’s June 2020 pronouncement.
Honeywell has declared that it has built the world’s most powerful quantum computer. The machine is called the H0, and it has achieved a quantum volume of 64, which means the firm managed to tether six qubits. To put this into context, this is apparently twice as powerful as IBM’s quantum computer, which has a quantum volume of 32.
These measures are important, since the higher the quantum volume, then the more real-world, complex problems quantum computers can potentially solve, such as simulating chemistry, modeling financial risk, and supply chain optimization.
The following video describes the technology in greater detail:
The computer can be used for a number of applications, as the next section of this article outlines.
Honeywell’s quantum-optimized machine learning can help with cancer, market crashes and pandemics
One of the areas quantum computing, whether it’s near-term, NISQ or quantum-inspired, can have a real impact today and in the near future is machine learning. There are two challenges quantum computing can help solve. First, where lack or shortage of data is hampering machine learning models, a quantum approach can help create similar data sets that can then be leveraged to train software models.
What can quantum computing deliver?
One example of that quantum computing can theoretically be used for is with diagnosing hard-to-assess problems like a rare form of lung cancer where you only have data from a handful of patients. Quantum computing can generate pictures of that lung cancer cell or that lung cancer MRI image to train a machine learning data set to recognize that form of cancer in your next patient.
In addition, quantum computing can help with hard-to-predict future market, environmental or pandemic scenarios. Because of its computational power and its ability to factor in multiple variables at scale, including how each variable can change over time and how these variables can possibly interact with each other, creating many models and running simulated outcomes against those, quantum computing can help not only with tough optimization problems but also things like climate change and pandemic predictions and their respective response strategies.
As an example of the practical application of quantum computing finance giant J.P. Morgan Chase has reported on a study titled “Canonical Construction of Quantum Oracles.” The paper specifically thanks Honeywell, “for their invaluable help on the execution of our experiments on the Honeywell quantum computer.”
The paper is designed to enhance financial modelling and it presents a novel means to produce a quantum oracle from an algebraic expression, designed to map out a set of selected states to the same value, coupled with a simple oracle that matches that particular value. n