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Quantum Computing: The Next Big Step in Technology?

by Roveen Anyango
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  • Quantum computers use the concept of quantum mechanics
  • Quantum computers can process data in more than 1s and 0s

If you have spent a considerable time on the internet and following technology news, then there is no doubt that you have heard of quantum computing. But what exactly is quantum computing?

Quantum Mechanics

Before looking at quantum computing, we first need to look at quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a theory in physics which looks at physical properties of nature at an atomic or subatomic level. At the atomic and subatomic level, physical matter will often act as both a wave or particle.

When we look at quantum computing, we can define it as a computer that uses even smaller bits, called qubits, to run multidimensional quantum algorithms and solve problems even too complex for supercomputers.

Thus we can define quantum computers as computers capable of solving problems too complex for the classical computer.

How it works

Ordinary computers often perform calculations on binaries – 1s or 0s. This single state, of either 1 or 0 is what is called bits.

Quantum computers, however, can make calculations beyond these bits. They can make calculations of an object in the undefined state between 0 and 1, and this operation is what we call qubits. They do this by calculating the spin of an electron or polarization of its photons. Think of it as being able to tell that a flipping coin will land on its head or tail while it is still flipping in the air based on the movement of particles in that coin.

Are there uses for quantum computers?

Quantum computers can be very powerful, so powerful in fact that they could decrypt messages encrypted in a 2-way encryption security system. However, currently, there is no quantum computer that can perform any better, whether in terms of speed, efficiency or at lower cost, than current classical computers. This is because quantum computers will need specialized hardware to run effectively, such as superfluid, as the processors will need to be very cold and superconductors, which aren’t cheap now.

So, we are still a few more years removed from quantum computers, but this looks likely to be the next major milestone in tech.

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