Inspired by an article from Nature on the quantum computing race, ESCP’s Chief Digital Officer Anthony Hié provides a short summary of this super-powered technology and discusses the potential for quantum supremacy.
Quantum computing is a technology that uses the world of quantum physics to accelerate information processing. Conventional normal computers store data in the form of bits that can be either a 0 or a 1, while quantum bits or qubits can be both. A quantum computer is capable of performing a calculation that would take billions of years to complete in a traditional computer.
At a time when Google claims to have realized the first “quantum computer”, we are allowed to dream. But to be able to turn this dream into reality, it is a question of being able to achieve quantum supremacy and become a leader…
What is quantum supremacy?
This state indicates an essential step for the quantum computer to far exceed the power of a conventional computer. More concretely, “quantum supremacy can be obtained as soon as the error rate is low enough from quantum computers of at least 50 qubits (quantum bits), and to arrive at a case where quantum becomes the only valid solution to perform an action, as opposed to a classical computer”. In short, it is a question of crossing limits that were previously unreachable!
The undeniable assets to accelerate digital transformation
In a quantum computer, it is possible to store more data using less energy than a conventional computer. By relying on “Big Data” while speeding up their interpretation with artificial intelligence, such devices could one day revolutionize tasks that would take years with conventional computing. Almost all sectors are concerned: the search for new medication, the identification of complex correlations from medical data could produce considerable advances. We could benefit from better weather forecasting, optimize financial investments or even apply it in aerospace travels. In the world of education as well, the dynamics would make it possible to process in a flash a mass of pedagogical information to enable students to make relevant choices in their academic pathway and benefit from better career guidance.
Quantum also raises new risks
One of the major challenges will be to anticipate the impacts of quantum computing on cyber security. Indeed, its performance threatens to render encryption keys inoperable and could open the way to a new form of cyber-criminality.
Faced with these risks, the major countries advancing in quantum computing are struggling to train and keep the few best experts in the field to preserve their sovereignty and master this technology before others . . .
A strategic topic explaining a global race for this leadership!
In addition to the American giant Google, Chinese scientists claim to have built a quantum computer that is 100 trillion times faster than the world’s most advanced Japanese supercomputer: the Fugaku 415-PFLOPS. The prototype of the machine would be capable of performing computation that would take billions of years to complete on a traditional computer. Regarding development in China, the 2019 study “Quantum Computing: ready for the big leap” by France Digitale and Wavestone indicates that the total amount of public investment since 2006 has been close to 2 billion euros.
On a European scale, France is one of the leaders. It is home to 18% of European quantum start-ups, and in terms of achievements, Atos with its Atos Quantum Learning Machine project launched in 2016 is now a world-class player in the quantum field. However, the French company is still far from the quantum supremacy that Google claims to have achieved by the end of September 2019.