We've been hearing about the exciting new tech advancement known as quantum computing for a while now. But what does it really mean? And, how could it impact our lives? According to Business Insider South Africa, the quantum computing market is projected to reach $64.98 billion by 2030. So we know the concept has a firm grounding - it isn't as science-fictiony as it sounds. There's real power and potential here. We're taking a closer look at quantum computers to learn more about their capabilities, and how they could be used in the future. This is what you need to know...
Quantum computing now and in the future
What is quantum computing?
It's a difficult thing to explain, so don't expect an 'in a nutshell' answer. We know that regular computers operate on a zero and one basis, where stored information - known as bits - only exists in two states. With quantum computers, subatomic particles can exist as either a zero, or a one. Or both at the same time. This simultaneous state is what makes quantum computers' 'qubits' capable of handling vaster amounts of information and processing it at a much faster rate. CEO of American quantum startup IonQ, Peter Chapman, explains it like this:
"The differences between quantum computers and classical computers are even more vast than those between classical computers and pen and paper... Because quantum computers process information differently, they are expected to be able to address humanity's greatest challenges." He has high hopes for quantum computers' capabilities.
How can quantum computers help?
As technology and society advances, our needs evolve. A hundred years ago, we were thrilled to be able to buy electric toasters and vacuum cleaners. Now, we use AI technology to create smart homes where our toaster, vacuum cleaner and fridge all 'talk' to each other and are in sync. Now, quantum computers are being used to take the next big technological step.
Experts expect to use quantum computers to solve complex, data-heavy problems that regular computers simply couldn't handle. They'll be especially useful with machine learning-based problems and, with their predictions, could help these systems improve over time.
According to international computer hardware company, IBM, quantum computers could spur the development of new breakthroughs in various industries. They say it could impact science and medicine by helping to develop life-saving medications, and improve machine learning methods in order to diagnose illnesses sooner. Quantum computers could be used to make devices and structures more efficient. And, in the financial world, they could inform financial strategies to live well in retirement. They could even build algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances. There's so much potential to do good.
When will quantum computers be ready?
With developments already well under way, and massive companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel investing in quantum tech, you'd expect quantum computers to be part of our lives in the near future. But, these kinds of advancements don't happen over night. Due to problem-solving challenges within the quantum computing systems, like stabilising the qubits, experts predict that it'll be five to ten years before quantum computers start delivering any meaningful value.
But, whenever we start to see the benefits and impact of quantum computing, we'll be here to fill you in on everything you need to know. And maybe in the next hundred years, this tech will seem as mundane as an electric toaster. Who knows what the future holds?