General Technology

The year 2020 is when Quantum Computing finally becomes a “thing”

June 16, 2020

The surge of interest in the field over the last few years signals that we at the point where quantum computing is now “a thing”. Students are asking to study computing computing ever earlier. High-school students can attend summer schools on QC. Popular online learning platforms are hosting QC courses. Major name (and some less well known) tech companies are building Quantum Computers. Quantum computing has now become a “thing”.

Let us look at why now is the best time to get involved in Quantum Computing.

It is still very early. The year 2019 saw Google achieve quantum supremacy which now means that there is a proven speed-up of a classical algorithm, albeit a rather um-productive algorithm. This milestone has shown the world that the quantum computing has a future.

The qubit count – that is the building block of the quantum computer – is still in low digits (qubits). Typically we are addressing high tens of qubits at by today’s standard. Whilst this is not quite analogous with bits in the classical sense, a higher number of qubits can offer a dizzying number of possibilities. Just 100 qubits could allow over 10^30 states (that is ten to the power 30), a colossal number. At 270 qubits there could be more states then there are atoms in the universe. Google were using just over 50 qubits in their research. So a 5 five fold increase in qubits could mean a massive amount of power at the users disposal.

Quantum Technology is not yet defined – there are competing technologies and there is a lot of work to do. One technology has not yet won out. Competing technologies involve everything from photonics to super conducting qubits – all with their merits. Before the advent of the digital computer today, there are were various methodologies but eventually fully electronic mechanisms won over more mechanical methods.

The Sinclair ZX81 from Sinclair Research could have transformed the Home Computing landscape. Well, it did for a while.
The Sinclair ZX81 from Sinclair Research could have transformed the Home Computing landscape. Well, it did for a while.

As the competition heats up, we might see new giants emerge, just as we did with beginnings of companies such as Google, Microsoft and Sinclair (now defunct). We could see the start of a whole new industry with an industry leader.

Right now we are at an exciting time, for if we look at history where smaller companies such as Sinclair research produced innovative machines such as the ZX81 and the Sinclair Spectrum, that could have been the dominant home computing platform. This time we could see one of the Quantum companies such as Riverlane, Oxford Quantum Circuits or Rigetti be the leader in Quantum Computing. For investors and founders alike it is an interesting time as the larger technology companies will look to acquire technology and teams to swell their Quantum research.

Many of the major tech companies are developing Quantum Computers

IBM is one of the tech giants that has been very visible in the quantum space. Interestingly for a tech giant, IBM doesn’t do a lot on the consumer space these days. It was one of the first to bring out quantum computing to the masses via the cloud. The IBM Q experience allows anyone anywhere access to qubits and quantum computing, where circuits can be run on their temperature controlled quantum computing hardware. You could be anywhere from Africa to New Zealand.

IBM's Quantum Computer looks like a device from science fiction. These devices are accessible from around the globe with their IBM Q service.
IBM’s Quantum Computer looks like a device from science fiction. These devices are accessible from around the globe with their IBM Q service.

Microsoft is in the quantum computing race, and as with Amazon, they have taken the inspiration from IBM and moved heavily into the quantum cloud with Azure for Quantum and also AWS for quantum. Google so far hasn’t released a cloud solution for the masses like IBM in quite the same way. But it has been working on developing its own standards and languages (albeit open-source) for QC: namely Cirq. Microsoft also has gotten behind its own language standard: Q#. All major players are keen to ensure they are not using propriety technology and in a smart move, all languages are effectively open-source even if there is major backing from the tech giants.

Online courses are available

Much as many will use video conferencing for the covid crisis – many will also explore using online learning tools as a replacement for the classroom environment. As there are courses for almost everything, there are courses for Quantum computing, quantum internet and quantum cryptography allowing you to learn from some of the best educators from the best universities.

If you are not ready for a full-on course, try learning Quantum Computing with Brilliant – which is a fun way to learn online without needing to do a “proper” course. Brilliant are known for making difficult ideas fun and approachable.

Great Quantum Books

Books on Quantum Computing are being published which bridge the gap between academic and non academic. This is a very important genre of book as it opens up the door for more people without the requisite university education to get started into quantum computing. Two books come to mind by two authors, one allied to IBM and the other to Google.

Dancing with Qubits by Bob Sutor (IBM) and Quantum Computing: An Applied approach by Jack Hidary (Google). There are other great books, but we personally have read these and can attest to their quality and value and also they rank as some of the more inexpensive books on Quantum Computing, so learning doesn’t have to break the bank.

Maybe the library isn't the most obvious place to look for understanding Quantum Computing but there are some great books that can accelerate your learning in Quantum Computing.
Maybe the library isn’t the most obvious place to look for understanding Quantum Computing but there are some great books that can accelerate your learning in Quantum Computing.

We have a whole new genre of people who can program wanting to understand how they can program a quantum computer and some of these books cater to how they can do this. So expect to see the early adopters getting a head-start in the job market. Likely quantum computing with be an industry that provides jobs of the future.

Venture Capitalists are interested in quantum computing

The world could be overturned by Quantum computing which could impact so much of our life. No doubt that venture capitalists and investors are interested in getting in on the ground floor. You can also invest in quantum too, by both educating yourself and learning and also by investing should you want into some of the quantum technology players on the public markets.

Sand Hill Road – the famous location where many VC’s reside. The phrase “Sand Hill Road” has become synonymous with investment

Aside from Private funds, plenty of governments are realising that they must also invest heavily into quantum programmes. From the US to the UK, governments have decided to directly invest and provide support to early quantum companies.

QC Conferences and Meetups on the rise

We are now seeing the rise of the dedicated quantum conference. Quantum.Tech is one of them and there are more coming which aim to bridge the gap between academia and business. As the “suits” get more excited in the field, you can be sure that more money will flow into the sector.

Seth Lloyd talking at a Quantum Conference on Quantum Machine Learning.

There are now many local Meet-ups dedicated to QC that you can attend in London, Toronto and many major cities around the globe. Even during covid times, these meetings are happening virtually.

More mentions in the media

More and more mentions of “quantum computing” in articles and books and even business books. We expect the pace to increase as more and more writers get turned on to the potential of QC. Plus there are more and more accessible articles and resources that can help journalists and non technical people understand quantum computing. We only expect this to continue and increase with every technological development.

More popular sources will drive more people into understanding what QC is and in turn will fly-wheel more and more interest.

A technology meet-up. Quantum Computing is coming to a city or region near you. Join a local meetup or event to hear more about the developments of Quantum Computing.
A technology meet-up. Quantum Computing is coming to a city or region near you. Join a local meetup or event to hear more about the developments of Quantum Computing.