Quantum computing leaping into commercial use

18 January 2022

Quantum Computing for commercial use. Photo: Shutterstock

Quantum computing is to computers what Dr. Strange is to humans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s in terms of having the ability to determine a solution by visualizing millions of future possibilities extremely quickly. But in the real world, a quantum bit, or ‘qubits’ in short, and photons are fueling the processing speed instead of magic. 

Most powerful quantum computer- The Zuchongzhi

The current most powerful quantum computer, the Zuchongzhi, created by researchers at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), was unveiled last year. Just over one hour was all it took to solve a sampling task that would take the world’s most powerful classical supercomputer, IBM’s Summit, eight years to do. 

The Zuchongzhi is made of 66 superconducting qubits but only used 56 qubits to develop the solution. It broke the performance record set in 2019 by Google’s 53-qubit quantum computer Sycamore.

Biggest in the world – The Jiuzhang 2.0

China also has another quantum computer which is also one of the biggest in the world. The Jiuzhang 2.0 is based on photons instead of qubits. Its researchers claimed it could solve a problem around 1,024 times faster than classical supercomputers using 113 detected photons. However, these machines have no practical use now and remain experimental.

Market-ready quantum computing

That is not to say quantum computing isn’t already in the market. It is being used in various research institutions such as the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany, the University of Tokyo in Japan, and Yonsei University in South Korea. The first commercially available quantum computer by D-Wave Systems was released in 2011. 

In 2019, the world was introduced to the first integrated quantum computing system, IBM Quantum System One. 

In November 2021, IBM unveiled the latest addition to its list of quantum processors. The 127-qubit ‘Eagle’ processor is the first to contain more than 100 operations and connected qubits. Its previous ones were the 27-qubit Falcon processor in 2019 and the 65-qubit Hummingbird processor in 2020.

“The increased qubit count will allow users to explore problems at a new level of complexity when undertaking experiments and running applications, such as optimizing machine learning or modeling new molecules and materials for use in areas spanning from the energy industry to the drug discovery process,” IBM said when announcing the breakthrough. 

Quantum Origin – world’s first commercially available cryptographic key generation platform

In December last year, Cambridge Quantum launched Quantum Origin, the world’s first commercially available cryptographic key generation platform based on verifiable quantum randomness. It is built to secure the world’s data from current and advancing threats to current encryption.

“We have been working for a number of years now on a method to efficiently and effectively use the unique features of quantum computers in order to provide our customers with a defense against adversaries and criminals now and in the future once quantum computers are prevalent,” said Ilyas Khan, CEO of Quantinuum and founder of Cambridge Quantum. 

Quantinuum is the world’s largest integrated, stand-alone quantum computing company through the combination of Cambridge Quantum and Honeywell Quantum Solutions in 2021. 

“When we talk about protecting systems using quantum-powered technologies, we’re not just talking about protecting them from future threats. From large-scale takedowns of organizations to nation-state hackers and the worrying potential of ‘hack now, decrypt later’ attacks, the threats are very real today, and very much here to stay. Responsible enterprises need to deploy every defense possible to ensure maximum protection at the encryption level today and tomorrow,” said Duncan Jones, head of security at Cambridge Quantum, the global leader of quantum software established in 2014.

Quantum computing development is being explored

Expect more exciting quantum computing development this year as more technology use cases are being explored. 

On 5 January, US-based Polaris Quantum Biotech (POLARISqb), developer of Tachyon – the first quantum drug discovery platform, announced its collaboration with UK-based biopharmaceutical company PhoreMost Limited to study next-generation cancer therapies. What oncology targets were once considered undruggable might soon have their treatments. 

“This partnership represents the ultimate ambition for any collaboration between biology and technology, where the full diversity of newly identified druggable disease targets generated by biological PROTEINi shape-libraries can now be married to the most logical and rapid method of finding small-molecule drugs to them,” said Dr. Chris Torrance, CEO of PhoreMost. “This best-in-class intersection of biotech and AI is going to be an exciting and transformative milestone for the entire pharmaceutical industry.”

The quantum commercialization space heats up

The rising investments in space exploration, artificial intelligence, machine learning in cloud-based analysis, and the defense sector were also noted as contributing factors. 

While there isn’t yet a clear leader in the quantum computing field with China, the US, and the UK in the running (though China is multi-billion-dollars ahead when it comes to funding), the race to its supremacy and commercialization is definitely something to anticipate with bated breath.