IBM’s top executive says, quantum computers will never reign supreme over classical ones

But, the quantum machines will work in concert with classical computers, building on each other's unique strengths, Gargi Dasgupta, Director, IBM research in India, noted.

Updated - January 29, 2021 09:41 pm IST

Published - January 29, 2021 06:15 pm IST

IBM’s top executive says, quantum computers will never reign supreme over classical ones.

IBM’s top executive says, quantum computers will never reign supreme over classical ones.

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Crunch numbers fast and at scale has been at the centre of computing technology. In the past few decades, a new type of computing has garnered significant interest. Quantum computers have been in development since the 1980s. They use properties of quantum physics to solve complex problems that can’t be solved by classical computers.

Companies like IBM and Google have been continuously building and refining their quantum hardware. Simultaneously, several researchers have also been exploring new areas where quantum computers can deliver exponential change.

In the context of advances in quantum technologies, The Hindu caught with IBM Research’s Director Gargi Dasgupta.

Dasgupta noted that quantum computers complement traditional computing machines, and said the notion that quantum computers will take over classical computers is not true.

“Quantum computers are not ‘supreme’ against classical computers because of a laboratory experiment designed to essentially [and almost certainly exclusively] implement one very specific quantum sampling procedure with no practical applications,” Dasgupta said.

Also Read : Keeping secrets in a quantum world and going beyond

For quantum computers to be widely used, and more importantly, have a positive impact, it is imperative to build programmable quantum computing systems that can implement a wide range of algorithms and programmes.

Having practical applications will alone help researchers use both quantum and classical systems in concert for discovery in science and to create commercial value in business.

To maximise the potential of quantum computers, the industry must solve challenges from the cryogenics, production and effects materials at very low temperatures. This is one of the reasons why IBM built its super-fridge to house Condor, Dasgupta explained.

Quantum processors require special conditions to operate, and they must be kept at near-absolute zero, like IBM’s quantum chips are kept at 15mK. The deep complexity and the need for specialised cryogenics is why at least IBM’s quantum computers are accessible via the cloud, and will be for the foreseeable future, Dasgupta, who is also IBM’s CTO for South Asia region, noted.

Quantum computing in India

Dasgupta said that interest in quantum computing has spiked in India as IBM saw an many exceptional participants from the country at its global and virtual events. The list included academicians and professors, who all displayed great interest in quantum computing.

In a blog published last year, IBM researchers noted that India gave quantum technology 80 billion rupees as part of its National Mission on Quantum technologies and Applications. They believe it’s a great time to be doing quantum physics since the government and people are serious as well as excited about it.

Also Read : IBM plans to build a 1121 qubit system. What does this technology mean?

Quantum computing is expanding to multiple industries such as banking, capital markets, insurance, automotive, aerospace, and energy.

“In years to come, the breadth and depth of the industries leveraging quantum will continue to grow,” Dasgupta noted.

Industries that depend on advances in materials science will start to investigate quantum computing. For instance, Mitsubishi and ExxonMobil are using quantum technology to develop more accurate chemistry simulation techniques in energy technologies.

Additionally, Dasgupta said carmaker Daimler is working with IBM scientists to explore how quantum computing can be used to advance the next generation of EV batteries.

Exponential problems, like those found in molecular simulation in chemistry, and optimisation in finance, as well as machine learning continue to remain intractable for classical computers.

Quantum-safe cryptography

As researchers make advancement into quantum computers, some cryptocurrency enthusiasts fear that quantum computers can break security encryption. To mitigate risks associated with cryptography services, Quantum-safe cryptography was introduced.

For instance, IBM offers Quantum Risk Assessment, which it claims as the world’s first quantum computing safe enterprise class tape. It also uses Lattice-based cryptography to hide data inside complex algebraic structures called lattices. Difficult math problems are useful for cryptographers as they can use the intractability to protect information, surpassing quantum computers’ cracking techniques.

According to Dasgupta, even the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) latest list for quantum-safe cryptography standards include several candidates based on lattice cryptography.

Also Read : Google to use quantum computing to develop new medicines

Besides, Lattice-based cryptography is the core for another encryption technology called Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE). This could make it possible to perform calculations on data without ever seeing sensitive data or exposing it to hackers.

“Enterprises from banks to insurers can safely outsource the task of running predictions to an untrusted environment without the risk of leaking sensitive data,” Dasgupta said.

Last year, IBM said it will unveil 1121-qubit quantum computer by 2023. Qubit is the basic unit of a quantum computer. Prior to the launch, IBM will release the 433-qubit Osprey processor. It will also debut 121-qubit Eagle chip to reduce qubits errors and scale the number of qubits needed to reach Quantum Advantage.

“The 1,121-qubit Condor chip, is the inflection point for lower-noise qubits. By 2023, its physically smaller qubits, with on-chip isolators and signal amplifiers and multiple nodes, will have scaled to deliver the capability of Quantum Advantage,” Dasgupta said.

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