Quantum computing is a rapidly-emerging field of technology that harnesses the laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems faster and more efficiently than traditional computers. Quantum theory is a branch of physics that explains the nature and behavior of energy and matter
on the quantum (atomic and subatomic) level. At the subatomic level,
the laws of physics operate very differently from what we see around us.
For instance, quantum particles can exist in multiple states at the same time. One such example is the wave-particle duality; specifically, that physical light can be both a wave and a particle at the same time.
Why is this important?
The key to the way all computers work is that they process and store information made of binary digits (or bits). These bits are represented as one of two possible values: one or zero. This is the basis for binary code which is central for all forms of digital communication.
Instead of bits, quantum computers use a principle known as quantum bits, (or Qubits). While in traditional computing, a bit is represented as either a one or a zero, a Qubit can be a one, a zero or a combination of both. The term superposition is used to describe a modality, whereby, quantum particles are operating in multiple states. This feature allows quantum computers to perform many calculations simultaneously, thereby, increasing its processing power exponentially to solve highly complex problems.
Traditional computers can do what they are told well enough if they are given a clear, and well-defined program. But when it comes to predicting things, computers can sometimes be inconsistent. Hence, the reason why self-driving vehicles are very difficult to construct. There are too many variables, too many things changing quickly for a regular computer to keep up.
The concept of machine learning involves training computers to perform human tasks, allowing the machines to ask questions, gather data, and develop conclusions for hard to answer questions. Stated differently, we're giving computers the ability to think and calculate based on varying inputs. The future of Quantum computing will likely be seen in such areas as:
Healthcare and pharmaceutical drug testing
Space flight predictions and navigation
Measuring environmental impact – floods, hurricanes, heatwaves etc.
Innovation and product design
Encryption and protecting customer data
Predicting human population, food shortages and migration patterns
Logistics and supply chain robotics
The challenge to build quantum computers has turned into something of a global race, whereby, both government and business are looking to advance the technology to its highest potential.
Suggested Video Presentations
Quantum Computing Explained
Suggested Readings, Journals and Websites
Jessica Powers, What is Quantum Computing, Built-In
IBM: Quantum Computing Overview