What do recent quantum computing advancements entail? Scientists and engineers compare it to the human genome project or landing on the moon

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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What do recent quantum computing advancements entail? Scientists and engineers compare it to the human genome project or landing on the moon

Quantum computing although around for years has been theoretical.  But, if we look at headlines in recent weeks then quantum computing advancements are creating quite a buzz, yet, how close is it to becoming mainstream?

The challenge of bringing quantum computing to market is mammoth, scientists and engineers compare it to the human genome project or landing on the moon. A technology set to calculate unanticipated elements of quantum mechanics to implement computation, or in science-based research on the inexplicable state of matter and spin liquids which are beyond our existing capabilities. For instance, resolving problems in a few hours that would probably take decades on a conventional computer.

To put things into perspective: Quantum computers are far quicker than traditional computers in solving specific computational tasks, such as breaking a bank’s encryption. A conventional computer would take billions of years to decrypt a bank’s encryption, while a quantum computer with 4099 Qubits (quantum bits) might do so in ten seconds. That is where quantum computing’s strength rests. As the research moves toward real-world usage in pharmaceutical, data security, and other applications, quantum computing is projected to become commonplace in the next few years and is likely to perform as a coprocessor for present-day traditional implementation of artificial intelligence (AI), and other processes, such as pattern detection and optimizations, which is valuable to AI algorithms.

Lately, investments have skyrocketed in this sphere, Google’s Sycamore has been in the news lately for its quantum error correction advancements. The QuEra 256 qubit neutral atom equation computer has created quite a buzz.  Industry stalwart IBM’s 127 qubit chip is also quite fascinating. Cambridge Quantum and Honeywell Quantum Solutions have merged to create the quantum computing behemoth ‘Quantinuum’

So, what’s behind the hype for quantum computing? Its prowess stems from it being the next big leap in technology and its ability to solve complex computational problems that today’s ‘classical; computing approaches simply cannot. Quantum computing could have far-reaching implications for drug discovery, climate models, big pharma, finance, and even agriculture.

The potential of quantum computing

Quantum computing is a branch of computer science that utilizes the collective features of quantum states to execute computations. This is based on quantum mechanics, a branch of physics in which a particle may be in several states at the same time and which explains parts of nature at microscopic (atomic and subatomic) sizes where conventional mechanics fails.

An important focus area for quantum computing would be gate errors: Gate faults have been a significant necessity for a few years now. At this point, resolving gate faults are far more important than the quantity of qubits. It’s wonderful to show that you can produce a lot of qubits, but it’s less apparent what the benefit is if you don’t manufacture them well enough. In the long term, you’ll require gate faults of less than 1% to perform a complicated quantum computation, such as error correction. This is also something IBM and google are focusing on through their recent endeavors.

How Is India placed?

Owing to its potent engineering and scientific culture and an emphasis on innovation, India could be well placed to leverage quantum computing.  The Indian government is cognizant of the potential that quantum computing holds; it has released QSim, India’s first quantum computer simulator toolkit, which would allow researchers and students to conduct cost-effective quantum computing research.

QSim is one of the country’s first endeavours to solve the common problem of expanding India’s Quantum Computing research frontiers. With the backing of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the Government of India, IISc Bangalore, IIT Roorkee, and C-DAC are working together on this project.

In the Union Budget of February 2020, the Indian government allocated Rs 8,000 crore towards the establishment of a National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NM-QTA).

At present, the technological landscape in India appears to be bleak multi-stakeholder involvement, clearer technology policies and an agenda outlining research into practical applications needs to be immediately intensified. Besides support for innovators and investors through Government schemes is a pressing requirement and needs to be furthered, along with the implementation of competent semiconductor manufacturing facilities. Quantum computing presents a golden opportunity for indigenous innovation in the country and for India to lead in this sphere it must address these gap issues, India cannot afford to give this chance a miss.

-Lionel Alva

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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