How to Use a Quantum Computer

April 20, 2017

It is a dream come true that quantum computers are finally here!  But how are we going to use them?  PC World discusses the possibilities in, “Quantum Computers Are Here—But What Are They Good For?”  D-Wave and IBM both developed quantum computers and are trying to make a profit from them by commercializing their uses.  Both companies agree, however, that quantum computers are not meant for everyday computer applications.

What should they be used for?

Instead, quantum systems will do things not possible on today’s computers, like discovering new drugs and building molecular structures. Today’s computers are good at finding answers by analyzing information within existing data sets, but quantum computers can get a wider range of answers by calculating and assuming new data sets.  Quantum computers can be significantly faster and could eventually replace today’s PCs and servers. Quantum computing is one way to advance computing as today’s systems reach their physical and structural limits.

What is astounding about quantum computers are their storage capabilities.  IBM has a 5-qubit system and D-Wave’s 2000Q has 2,000 qubit.   IBM’s system is more advanced in technology, but D-Wave’s computer is more practical.  NASA has deployed the D-Wave 2000Q for robotic space missions; Google will use it for search, image labeling, and voice recognition; and Volkswagen installed it to study China’s traffic patterns.

D-Wave also has plans to deploy its quantum system to the cloud.  IBM’s 5-qubit computer, on the other hand, is being used for more scientific applications such as material sciences and quantum dynamics.  Researchers can upload sample applications to IBM’s Quantum Experience to test them out.  IBM recently launched the Q program to build a 50-qubit machine.  IBM also wants to push their quantum capabilities in the financial and economic sector.

Quantum computers will be a standard tool in the future, just as the desktop PC was in the 1990s.  By then, quantum computers will respond more to vocal commands than keyboard inputs.

Whitney Grace, April 20, 2017

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