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Quantum Computing News

Quantum supremacy, quantum memories…even a quantum BS detector

Quantum computing continues to be the shiny, sparkly object that the tech industry can’t take its eyes off of. Last year the quantum computing market generated a revenue of $507.1 million last year and is projected to surpass $64.98 billion by 2030—impressive numbers for a technology that may not have real-world applications for quite a while. Quantum specialists believe that the technology could be used to develop new medicines and materials, but it holds the most promise for cryptography, which is why it has spawned a technological arms race between the US and China: After China spent $400 million on a national quantum lab, the US government earmarked $1.2 billion towards quantum information science in 2018, with even more allocated in its 2020 budget.
Here’s a quick look at the latest quantum research findings and what they mean for the tech world.

An American “quantum internet”

As part of the White House’s 2020 budget mentioned above, the US Government will be spending $25 million to create a network of 17 quantum research facilities around the country, including Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois and Los Alamos in New Mexico. New quantum encryption technologies could be tested across the new network, with an eye on adding additional quantum research hubs in the long term.

Quantum “memories” at longer distances

Once it’s built, that US quantum internet will have some catching up to do. This February China announced that it had connected two quantum memories (clouds of atoms that store quantum information) at a record-breaking distance of 22 kilometers via underground fiber-optic cables. This process, called quantum entanglement, can’t directly transfer information, but it can potentially open communication channels for unhackable encryptions.

Google’s quantum supremacy

Last October Google announced that it had achieved quantum supremacy in the scientific journal Nature, using its 54-qubit Sycamore processor to perform a calculation in 200 seconds that would take a traditional computer 10,000 years to complete. As Google took a public victory lap with the achievement (the New York Times likened it to the Wright brothers’ first plane flight), the company’s second, more secretive quantum computing lab continues to be hard at work on other projects. Dubbed X, it is focused not on building quantum computing hardware, but software that has practical (and profitable) implications in Silicon Valley.

Quantum chips made of artificial atoms

One of the issues with qubits (the subatomic particles that quantum computers use to store information) is that they are hard to stabilize, requiring fantastically complex containment apparatuses kept in subzero temperatures. In February Australian scientists developed a potential workaround, using artificial atoms called quantum dots that appear to be more stable on a silicon chip—a breakthrough that could pave the way for quantum applications in a less isolated setting.

A crude (and funny) quantum hype detector

With literally billions of dollars being poured into quantum research, expectations for the technology are very high—possibly too high. Enter the Quantum Bullshit Detector, an enigmatic insider from the quantum computing world who anonymously declares whether new findings are “bullshit” or “not bullshit” on Twitter. Members of the quantum community are puzzled by the account—this kind of unabashed trolling is unusual in scientific circles—especially since the individual behind it appears to be fairly knowledgeable about the latest quantum research. Google’s quantum breakthrough? Bullshit. Anything Elon Musk says about quantum mechanics? Bullshit. The Detector has become so popular that people tag it to get its takes on the latest research papers and articles—always one or two words, and brutally concise.

How to prepare your business for quantum computing

Quantum computing may feel out of reach for small- and medium-sized businesses who are working within the confines of their company’s scope and budget. But there are a few things you may consider implementing as we hurtle toward the quantum age, which theoretical physicist and futurist Dr. Michio Kaku outlined in a talk late last year:
  • Consider using symmetric encryption, in which a single secret key is used to encrypt and decrypt a message, instead of asymmetric encryption, which uses a public key to encrypt the data.
  • Increase the length of your cryptographic keys whenever possible to make them more challenging to crack.
  • Look into sophisticated trapdoor functions, such as elliptic-curve cryptography and lattice-based cryptography.
Don’t worry: Quantum hacking isn’t a business concern…yet. In the meantime, stay secure with HP Elite Laptops, which have self-healing, hardware-enforced security solutions that will protect your business from digital threats.
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