What is Quantum Computing?

By NIIT Editorial

Published on 20/01/2021

5 minutes

The world is so abuzz with Quantum Computing that it is hard not to see this technology paving its way into the commercial mainstream, sooner than later. The adoption slash experimentation rates of quantum science are reaching their fever pitch, with corporations like IBM and Google embroiled in public feuds over claims underlining the true potential and the current state of each other’s computational capabilities.


Nevertheless, the subject itself is fascinating, and if you haven’t had the chance to get acquainted with it yet, then this article will purpose a simple explanation of it for beginners.


What is Quantum Computing?


Classical computers run on transistors that encode information in binary bits, 0 and 1. At best, they are powerful calculators. Hitherto, the approach adopted by chip manufacturers was to minimise the size of transistors and pack as many of them close to each other so a multitude of them could perform binary operations together, more powerfully. 


But we have reached that sizable limitation, pun intended, wherein the transistors are as small as an atom and cannot be miniaturised any further. The higher the processing requirement by computers, the more transistors you would need along with an equivalent rise in demand for energy consumption. 


The approach behind functionalizing quantum computers is to mitigate energy so that a single quantum computer can do the heavy lifting of thousands of classical computers. 


How do Quantum Computers Operate?


Quantum computers operate on quantum bits or qubits. Quantum bits have the property of existing in more than one state, i.e. 0, 1, or both, if need be. In layman’s terms, a quantum computer is open to calculating more possibilities, faster. They leverage superposition and entanglement to do the same. Morgan Stanley reports that while classical computers are good at performing calculus, quantum computers can find prime numbers, sort data, and simulate molecules. 


The laws of physics do not apply to qubits allowing them to succeed where classical computers fail. Let us take an example. Imagine you had 100 routes to figure out the shortest distance from point A to point B on a map. In addition to the physical distance between them, you would need to factor in the weather, road quality, real-time traffic, vehicle used, etc. A quantum computer could easily process these many (and more) permutations, against classical computers of which you may need multiples. 


When the time required to process and optimize results is reduced, mankind can make exponential leaps across industries. Medicine discovery could be fastened, aerospace designs can be modernized, military capabilities can be upgraded with a lot more to follow once quantum computing hits the commercial ceiling. Not to mention the dividends we can reap once AI and quantum computers join powers. 


What industries will Quantum Computing affect the most?


Perhaps an appropriate question to ask is, which industry could afford to resist the lure of quantum computing. Particle physics could be one place to start wherein the time from hypothesizing something to creating working models is resource consuming in terms of capital and computational power. Weather forecasting is another domain. Agriculture is a trillion-dollar industry governed by weather cycles. 


The ability to accurately predict the weather can save everyone from producers to suppliers the trouble in case of adverse events. Financial modeling, cryptography, and molecular modeling are among other fields strong contenders for being the benefactors of quantum computing. 


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