What is Quantum Computing and What Does it Mean to Me?
In October of 2019, Google announced that they had achieved “quantum supremacy”. Their announcement sucked up most of the oxygen in the future-of-computing discussion, but earlier in 2019 IBM had also announced that they would soon be offering a quantum computer for business and research purposes. Quantum computing has been on the horizon for a while, but when it finally comes to pass, what will the tech landscape look like?
We hate to be a wet blanket, but for the near future, quantum computing isn’t going to offer a change that you’re likely to recognize. These quantum computers will be hard at work, but just like the Mark I and UNIVAC supercomputers of the 20th century, a functioning quantum computer is most likely going to exist in a lab. If you’re hoping to put that power to work for you, you’ll have to get at the end of a long line of researchers and engineers to get access to even a few moments of that sweet quantum computing. Quantum computers rely on suspended quantum particles using superconductors kept at ridiculously cold temperatures. The system is delicate, wildly expensive, and highly prone to errors. Until technical advances make them more stable and easier to support, most of us probably won’t be harnessing their power for our own endeavors.
The most likely applications of quantum computing that you and I might first experience would come from research into medicine, meteorology, global transportation, astronomy, or any other field that requires an ability to quickly make sense of problems full of multiple shifting variables. It’s going to be a while before we enjoy having a quantum computer on our desk at work, but when a quantum computer reveals hidden inefficiencies in the global supply chain or helps researches find treatments for disease that they hadn’t ever considered, we’ll definitely benefit from the quantum age. If this same power uncovers a way to achieve room-temperature superconductors or help us reduce energy loss from our power infrastructure, then you might see the next generation of consumer technology arriving in your home sooner rather than later.
But what about the dangers of such a powerful system? Believe it or not, the fact that these machines are difficult to operate and maintain might actually be a bit of good news. The first concern most people have when talking about quantum computing is in regards to information security. The “quantum supremacy” limit that Google just achieved involved their computer taking 200 seconds to perform a test computation that would have taken thousands of years for a standard computer to complete. Within minutes of this announcement Bitcoin’s value dropped almost 15%. When security experts and blockchain enthusiasts are touting the strength of their encryption keys, they like to talk about how it would take hundreds of thousands of hours for a supercomputer to crack their key. You don’t need thousands of hours to understand why quantum computing might be a concern if you’re serious about data security. Just like you’d expect from quantum computing – the good news is also the bad news. A quantum computer could crack your encryption key, but we’ll also have access to quantum computers to develop new safeguards. For the near future, however, very few people will have access to quantum computers, so we still have time to make sure the security landscape catches up with the power of quantum computing.
If you were thinking that you should run out and get a quantum laptop before the end of the fiscal year, you might want to cool your jets and just hold on to that MacBook you’ve been using. When the time does come to upgrade, you can bet that CDR Global is ready to help you find the best way to realize the value of your old equipment. It doesn’t matter if you’re upgrading the tablets in a school library or if you’re looking to dispose of an obsolete VOIP phone system. We’re experts in the recycling and repurposing of all sorts of equipment, and we’ll make sure that you get the most value you can, before, during, or after the quantum revolution.