The Birth of Quantum Cloud Computing
Why business processes are going to change significantly
Written by Darla Palmer-Ellingson in Business Technology for Your Business
Imagine conducting computing processes a million times faster. How would that change your business? As quantum cloud computing services begin to appear on the horizon, businesses will have access to faster, more powerful cloud-computing services, but the potential in this still experimental form of computing is even more far-reaching.
The Difference in Quantum Computers
The computers we are familiar with today store data in extremely small transistors which hold information in a 1 or a 0, or bits, that are either on or off. Theories on how to go beyond this binary system was conceived more than 30 years ago, when scientists envisioned a machine based on quantum mechanics. Enter the qubit. A qubit can store both a 1 and 0 at the same time, and be on and off at the same time. From there is gets a bit more complicated, but the simple overview is that one qubit can hold two values simultaneously, and two qubits can hold four values simultaneously, and if you keep adding qubits, the resulting machine will be much more powerful than a current binary system.
Where the experimental part comes in is with figuring out how to harness that computational power, especially since qubits can be a bit elusive. We know it works in theory and in tests, but when observed in the state of a quantum system, it “decoheres” or falls into a state of 0 or 1, not both simultaneously. To commercialize a quantum computer, scientists still must refine algorithms that capture the probability that a qubit will decohere into one state versus the other.
Organizations such as IBM, Google, Intel and Microsoft have working models of quantum computers. In fact, IBM is letting anyone with an internet connection try its quantum computer via the cloud. Google has offered science labs and artificial intelligence researchers access to its quantum machines over the internet to drive advancement of tools and applications, including developing a more powerful cloud-computing service.
Real World Applications
If you can recall how large and slow binary computers were in their infancy, these new quantum computers are similarly cumbersome in their infancy. But with aggressive development, one day soon we will be able to calculate massive amounts of information instantly, transforming industries that crunch big data. For example, the myriad computations necessary to test new drugs against common and rare diseases will be dramatically reduced. This will be particularly evident in situations such as a global virus outbreak or germ warfare. Scientists will potentially be able to create new vaccines in days instead of weeks or months. Another application being explored are calculations to convert solar energy to our electrical grid, making renewable energy massively more efficient.
Everyday processes at work and home also will speed up. Not only will internet connectivity improve, but information returned from searches will be faster, along with all of the gadgets connected to them. Imagine going to a different country and having foreign language speech translated instantly via your connected earbuds. Mobile assistants will start to understand you better, and respond with intelligent speech, answering complex problems.
At home, your Internet of Things connected devices will function more efficiently. Appliances may be able to alert you via messaging of system problems, the need to change filters or unauthorized use. Not only will your IOT refrigerator of the future keep an inventory of items, it soon might be able to create a list and send it to the store where costs will be automatically deducted from your account when products are removed from the shelf, then packed in your self-driving car (unless you have drone delivery).
While there definitely are exciting possibilities with quantum cloud computing, there are some negatives still to be worked out. Our current methods of encryption would be useless because a password could be cracked by a quantum computer in seconds.
Another issue is that quantum computers are massively expensive to build at this point, take up a large footprint and require deep refrigeration cooling. They are more likely to be loaned out over the internet for some time before we see practical versions for desktop use or installation in a company data center.
Investors are eying quantum computing companies, which seem to be multiplying like rabbits. Since the industry is still in its infancy, those investors that choose right might be getting in on the ground floor of the next great tech wave.
While scientists at MIT estimate practical use of quantum computers is still two to five years away, early quantum cloud computing is available now, capable of performing multiple parts of a calculation simultaneously. With massive private and government investment in quantum computing, expect to see this tech field grow rapidly, affecting all things that can be computer controlled or connected to the internet.