IBM shared big news today and announced that it was launching a quantum computing platform on the cloud.
Classic computers, running programs like Watson, can be used to find patterns, trends, and to predict outcomes. They use ones and zeros and codify anything to absolute binary precision. They can run simulations and be used to strategize results with predictable statistical accuracy. They work well and serve the needs of most of us in our every day lives. So, why do we need quantum computing?
Quantum computing is different. It is far more powerful. It can go way beyond classic binary computing. With quantum computing, we can stretch our imaginations and consider questions and address problems that were previously impossible to deal with using conventional computing.
Classic computers process existing data and tease out answers to questions. But, what do you do if no data sets exist? What if creating the data sets was logarithmic, therefore the potential data set would be so large and overwhelming that it could not be calculated. This is where quantum computing comes in. It can do much more at the same time. It can use computed parallelism to explore many pathways to the same question simultaneously. The reason is that quantum computer scientists believe quantum computers can solve problems that are intractable for conventional computers. That is, it is not that quantum computers are like regular computers, just smaller and faster. Rather, quantum computers work according to principles entirely different than conventional computers, and using those principles can solve problems whose solution will never be feasible on a conventional computer (Nielson, 2008).
Since quantum computers can follow numerous pathways to a solution, the challenge is to decide which of these pathways is the best to follow. This is highly problematic and not actually realistic. Each pathway is correct and valid. Or, they all may be wrong. But, it is impossible to choose which pathway is correct; or the most correct. All pathways yield valid answers. In this manner, quantum computing can explore the same problem through different lenses simultaneously. But, just because we use a different perspective to observe a problem, does not make it better or worse that any other perspective. It is just different.
IBM also announced today:
- The release of a new API (Application Program Interface) for the IBM Quantum Experience that enables developers and programmers to begin building interfaces between its existing five quantum bit (qubit) cloud-based quantum computer and classical computers, without needing a deep background in quantum physics.
- The release of an upgraded simulator on the IBM Quantum Experience that can model circuits with up to 20 qubits. In the first half of 2017, IBM plans to release a full SDK (Software Development Kit) on the IBM Quantum Experience for users to build simple quantum applications and software programs.
“IBM has invested over decades to growing the field of quantum computing and we are committed to expanding access to quantum systems and their powerful capabilities for the science and business communities,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of Hybrid Cloud and director for IBM Research. “Following Watson and blockchain, we believe that quantum computing will provide the next powerful set of services delivered via the IBM Cloud platform, and promises to be the next major technology that has the potential to drive a new era of innovation across industries.” (IBM, 2017)
So, what is the big deal? What makes quantum computing useful or interesting for businesses, academics, scientists, or researcher use? Why get excited about it?
- Speed and Efficiency – Quantum computing is much faster compared to convention computing. It is faster because it is so efficient and the way it works
- Secure Data – Quantum computing uses its own form of cryptography to secure data. It does this encryption using photons at a quantum level. Photons cannot be observed or intercepted without changing their behaviour. So, it is easy to know if someone has tampered with the data
- Secure Networks – IBM will leverage blockchain distributed ledger to network these quantum computing systems together. Blockchain is secure and tamper-proof. It is a trusted network
- Granularity – Quantum computing can make use of quantum sensors to generate data sources. These quantum sensors are far more precise and granular compared to traditional sensors. Therefore, the source of the data is far better
- Cloud based Quantum Computing – by placing quantum computing on the cloud, IBM will be able to deliver far more compute horsepower than in a standard chassis frame. Users of the cloud will access quantum computing on demand
Quantum computing may not be an entirely new concept – it’s been around in some form since at least the 1980s. But then again, so has the cloud. So, have touchscreen tablets.
What makes quantum computing so exciting is not the fact that it is so new or revolutionary – it is the fact that we have finally got the technology to make the theory a reality. With IBM’s cloud offering, it is a reality now and for anyone who wishes to use it to solve their own complex problems. Quantum computing as a service arrived today. Let the future begin (Chassan, 2015).
About the Author:
Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless and digital communications technologies. He is a Senior Executive Consultant with IBM Canada’s GTS Network Services Group. Over the past 11 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He was previously a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN:TSX). Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO:TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX:TSX.V). He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and on the Board of Advisers of four different Colleges in Ontario as well as for 16 years on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. He holds three Masters level degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has diplomas and certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology.
Chassan, D. (2015). What’s The Big Deal About Quantum Computing, And How Does It Relate To The Cloud? Outscale. Retrieved on March 6, 2017 from, https://blog.outscale.com/us/whats-the-big-deal-about-quantum-computing-and-how-does-it-relate-to-the-cloud
IBM. (2017). IBM Building First Universal Quantum Computers for Business and Science. IBM Corporation. Retrieved on March 6, 2017 from, http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/ibm-building-first-universal-quantum-computers-for-business-and-science-615441114.html
Nielson, M. (2008). Quantum Computing for Everyone. Blog. Retrieved on March 6, 2017 from, http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/quantum-computing-for-everyone/