Currently, computers are made with silicon transistors. These transistors are getting smaller and more powerful with each passing year. However, there is a physical limit to this technology. In these types of circuits, if the conductors are too close to each other, electrons can bounce between them. Moreover, if a transistor is too small, electrons can go through the gate of the transistor. This phenomenon is known as quantum tunneling and can ruin the entire circuit. It’s clear that the uncertain behavior of quantum particles is the basis of the physical limits of silicon circuits.
Scientists invented a new computer technology with this uncertain behavior of quantum particles, known as quantum computing.
Even though quantum computing isn’t an absolute replacement for silicon computers, in specific cases, it can provide unbelievable processing power.
In a classical computer, electronically operated switches called transistors are used to represent the familiar 0’s and 1’s that represent individual ‘bits’. From those basic ingredients, computer scientists have demonstrated that it’s possible to perform a wide variety of computational approaches to solve novel problems. While engineers have ensured that transistors have gotten smaller and more numerous, broadening the kind of problems that computer scientists can solve, the technology is not much different from 1930’s and 40’s pre-transistor devices based on valves or tubes.
In a quantum computer, transistors are replaced with devices that represent quantum bits or “qubits,” which are capable of representing both a 0 and a 1 at the same time. This by itself is not very useful, unless it’s part of a quantum processor capable of handling a larger number of qubits. In a classical computer, modern CPUs require billions of transistors to run modern operating systems and applications. In a quantum computer, every state is represented simultaneously, using as few as one hundred qubits to solve computational problems with a high degree of complexity. Such problems would take a modern classical CPU much longer than the expected lifetime of the universe to solve.
Quantum software and networking stacks
Many software stacks are being proposed for quantum computing that consist of virtualizing the underlying physical quantum computing hardware and building a virtual layer of logical qubits. Furthermore, the software stacks provide compilers that convert higher level programming language constructs into lower-level assembly commands that operate on the logical qubits. Software stack providers are also developing specific application-level templates that are domain specific (e.g., optimization problems or specific machine learning problems) and that map onto the quantum computing programming model. The goal of the software stack is to hide complexity without compromising the overall performance or maneuverability of the underlying quantum computing hardware.
With respect to a native quantum computing networking stack, its development is still in the early stages. Currently, quantum computing data and results need to be converted into a form that can be understood by classical networking equipment and then re-converted back into a quantum computing-understandable format. Currently, a lot of research is being done into the area of native quantum computing networks, where qubit entanglement can be achieved across long distances, however, these are not ready for commercial deployment.
The Global Commercial Quantum Computing Market
The quantum market is highly competitive. In 2019, the quantum computing market was valued at $507.1M; it is projected to grow at an annual growth rate of 56% during the forecast period (2020-2030), achieving $64,988.3M by 2030.
By that time, Europe and North America are projected to account for more than 78% of the quantum computing market, as Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Russia are heavily investing in the field.
The National Security Agency (NSA), Los Alamos National Laboratory, and NASA are involved in quantum computing technology development. An increasing number of partnerships are being witnessed in these regions, along with the entry of several startups.
The leading companies operating in the extremely competitive quantum computing market are:
Google (the main operating subsidiary of Alphabet Inc.), in collaboration with the NSA, is establishing the Quantum AI Laboratory, where the quantum computers developed by D-Wave Systems Inc. are being used.
Quantum computers are better suited to handle efficiencies, researching, and modelling tasks. Traditional computers will still be relevant for consumers, interested in more non-intensive tasks such as web-browsing, document creation, and gaming.