Since the 1960s, the power of computers has grown exponentially, whilst the parts have gotten smaller and smaller.
Many of those involved in the tech industry, namely Intel’s Gordon Moore, correctly predicted a rapid rate of growth of computer power over the years – with the exception of Bill Gates’ famous “640k ram ought to be enough for anyone” announcement.
More recently, it’s become an expectation of the public that technology will continue evolving and have an ever-growing impact on our lives. Most of us are carrying devices in our pockets that are millions of times more powerful than the computers used to put the first man on the moon.
But, we’re approaching a physical barrier to our technological progress. Computer parts are approaching the size of an atom, and, if transistors get any smaller there is the risk of electrons using a process called quantum tunnelling to transfer through transistors that are blocking their path. Without control, traditional computers won’t be able to function.
There are scientists that believe quantum computing is the solution.
What is quantum computing?
Traditional computing uses bits as the smallest unit of information, whilst quantum computing uses qubits which can also be set to one of two values. The difference is that qubits can be in any proportion of those two values at once, only deciding on a definite state when observed. This is known as superpositiong.
Quantum computing takes advantage of qubit’s superpositioning to create an incredibly efficient system that can process a great deal more information than a traditional computer.
Uses of quantum computing
The speed and efficiency of quantum computers opens up the door to solving complex mathematical problems that existing computers could never achieve in, quite literally, a million years.
Quantum computers could be a big problem for data security in the future as it’s likely that their computing power will be enough to breeze past existing encryption setups. Perhaps a worry for those investing into blockchain solutions as quantum computing has been mentioned as a potential Achilles’ heel. However, researchers are reacting and developing quantum-based systems themselves, designed to be resistant to quantum hackers:
“This threat to encryption certainly has a lot of people scratching their heads. If you have designed your security around a lot of very-hard-to-invert factoring equations, and someone comes up with a way that changes that from hard to easy, things get quite scary. So it’s fair to say that a lot of nation states are involved in the exploration of quantum computing for strategic reasons.”
The pharmaceutical industry is looking to use quantum computing to simulate molecular reactions and the effects of medicine. A process that has been too resource-intense for traditional computers and has yet to produce reliable results.
Recently, Microsoft announced the launch of Quantum Katas, a collection of free exercises designed to teach developers how to write code for quantum computers. The project is open-sourced and users can work through the elements at their own pace. Quite a bold move from Microsoft and perhaps a sign that the journey to quantum computing being a norm is accelerating.
There’s also IBM’s Q platform, which allows anyone to access quantum computers via the cloud using a time-based commercial model.
It may be the pharma and cybersecurity industries that are using the technology primarily, but quantum computing’s ability to search huge amounts of data will be of interest to many businesses. Watch this space.