4 technical hurdles to quantum computing

If we had millions of qubits today, what could we do with quantum computing? The answer: nothing without the rest of the system. There’s a lot of great progress happening in quantum research across the industry. However, as an industry, we must overcome four key challenges to scaling up the quantum system before the finish line of this marathon will come into view.

The power of quantum

A simple way to understand the power of quantum computing is to think of a computer bit as a coin. It can be either heads or tails. It’s in either one state or the other. Now imagine that the coin is spinning. While it’s spinning, it represents — in a sense — both heads and tails at the same time. It is in a superposition of the two states.

The spinning coin is similar to a quantum bit, or qubit. In a quantum system, each qubit in superposition represents multiple states at the same time. As more superpositioned qubits are linked together (a phenomenon called entanglement), ideally a quantum computer’s power grows exponentially with every qubit added to the system.

Today, quantum systems are running on tens of entangled qubits, but to run practical applications, we’ll need tens of thousands, or more likely millions, of qubits operating together as they should. So, what barriers do we need to cross to meet that threshold?

Qubit quality

Scaling up the quantum system isn’t all about the number of qubits that can be created. The first area requiring major innovation and attention is around the industry’s ability to create high-quality qubits that can be manufactured at volume.

The qubits that are available in the small, early quantum computing systems we see today simply are not good enough for commercial-scale systems. We need qubits with longer lifetimes and greater connectivity between qubits before we will be able to build a large-scale system that can execute quantum programs for useful application areas.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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