We are entering a new era which will catalyze discoveries in science and technology. Novel computing platforms will probe the fundamental laws of our universe and aid in solving hard problems that affect all of us. Machine learning programs powered by specialized chips are already yielding breakthrough after breakthrough.
Quantum computing is part of the larger field of quantum information science (QIS). All three branches of QIS – computation, communication, and sensing – are advancing at rapid rates and a discovery in one area can spur progress in another.
Businesses and investors are now ramping up their interest in these fields. In this piece, we will first outline the various quantum technologies and then cover opportunities and impact. While these are early days in quantum tech, we can see exciting possibilities coming down the road. In the past three years alone, funds invested more than $650 million into quantum tech companies. The quantum tech ecosystem is growing rapidly in many geographies across the globe and is not dominated by just one or two locations.
Quantum communication leverages the unusual properties of quantum systems to transmit information in a manner that no eavesdropper can read. This field is becoming increasingly critical as quantum computing drives us to a post-quantum cryptography regime: quantum computers of sufficient size will be able to break many cryptographic schemes currently in use, which means that new protocols will need to be developed and put into use.
An emerging class of sensors
There are quantum-resistant schemes currently being tested – for example, as part of the NIST process – for which there are no known quantum (or classical, for that matter) attacks. For ultimate security, however, it may be that some will choose to rely on new quantum communication protocols that make use of a new quantum internet. Those protocols will be guaranteed secure by the fundamental laws of physics, but will require new hardware beyond what we currently use for classical data transmission.
Quantum sensing is a robust field of research that uses quantum devices to move beyond classical limits in sensing magnetic and other fields. For example, there is an emerging class of sensors for detecting position, navigation, and timing (PNT) at the atomic scale. These micro-PNT devices can provide highly accurate positioning data when GPS is jammed or unavailable.
Quantum sensors also show promise in the life sciences. Researchers have already demonstrated the use of nanoscale quantum sensors to measure the electromagnetic activity of single cells. We can use these sensors to monitor the firing of neurons and cardiac cells. These technologies can develop into cornerstone diagnostic and therapeutic devices in the future.
The trick is to build such a system
One of the critical differences between quantum and classical computation is that in quantum computing we are manipulating quantum states themselves; this gives us a much larger computing space to work in than in classical computers. In classical computers, if we wish to model a real-world quantum physical we can only do so with representations of such a system and we cannot implement the physics itself. This key difference leads to exciting possibilities for the future of computing and science. All this starts with fundamental truths about our world that were developed during the quantum mechanics revolution in the first half of the 20th century