How Quantum Computing can change our lives in the future
Arguments have been made about quantum computer development coming to a pause which leads to a "quantum winter" when large companies freeze their development programs and investors stop investing in startups.
Quantum computing relies on the strange laws of atomic-scale physics to perform calculations beyond the reach of conventional computers such as today's phones, laptops and supercomputers.
Although quantum computers cannot perform most computing tasks, they have a great potential to change our lives, enable the introduction of better batteries, speed up financial calculations, make airplanes more efficient, discover new medicines and accelerate the development of artificial intelligence.
While traditional computers perform operations on bits that represent either one or zero, the fundamental computing element of quantum computers, called a qubit, is very different.
Qubits can store combinations of zeros and ones using a concept called superposition. With a phenomenon called interleaving, they can be linked together in such a way that they can hold significantly more computer space than classic bits can store at once.
Corporate efforts are combined with hardware and software efforts by start-ups and large companies such as IBM, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Intel that have major interests in quantum computing. The background of the work is state funding for quantum computing research in the United States, France, Germany, China, Australia and other countries.
The problem with today's quantum computers is the limited number of qubits 33 in IBM's latest Osprey quantum computer and their scale. Qubits are easily disturbed, which breaks calculations and thus limits the number of possible operations.
The most stable quantum computers still have a better than one in a thousand chance of a single operation producing false results, which is embarrassingly high compared to traditional computers. Quantum calculations are usually performed many times to obtain a statistically useful result.
But all quantum computer manufacturers are moving to a fault tolerance era, where qubits become more stable and are grouped into long-lived logic qubits that correct errors to last longer. This is when the real benefits of quantum computing will come, probably in five years or more.
Quantum Computing Leap
Quantum computing face a lot of challenges in the process to maturity which one of its problem is the hype that follows it. Today, companies are focused on the more pragmatic goal of "quantum computing," i.e. beating a traditional computer in a real-world computing challenge.
However, the market has been unfriendly to technology companies in recent months. Although quantum computing startups have not failed, some mergers show that the prospects for merging teams are better. Among others, Honeywell Quantum Solutions merged with Cambridge Quantum to form Quantinum in 2021, Pasqual joined QuandCo in 2022.
The Reality of Quantum Computing
But the reality is that quantum computing is generally not unrestrained. Given an example, Google hit its first bug-fix milestone in 2022, has another in 2025, and then has two more milestones before it plans to ship a truly powerful quantum computer in 2029. Other companies, such as Quantinum and IBM, have similarly detailed business plans.
The quantum computing industry does not put all its eggs in one basket. Different models include trapped ions, superconducting circuits, neutral atoms, electrons in semiconductors, and photonic qubits.
And new quantum computing keeps coming. Cloud computing powerhouse Amazon, which started Braket as a service to access other people's quantum computers, is now working on its own machines. It's a long-term plan that is expected to solve problems in the life sciences by 2035.