Short overview of quantum computing

Quantum technology

Is quantum technology part of some field? According to wikipedia1, it’s part of physics and engineering. But reading further the article, it becomes obvious that it is also part of biology, chemistry and probably many other fields. We can say quantum technology is their own field. It is fascinating that the first research programs started around 2010. If we take 1925, as a date when quantum was defined 2, we have almost a hundred years of knowledge behind it. But only around 15 years of experimentation and development.

One of the most surprising things was to find two articles. One dated on 15 Sep 2020 with IBM roadmap3. They targeted a 1000 qubit chip by the end of 2023. On 4 Dec 2023, they posted a new chip Condor4. It is a 1121 qubit chip. Each software engineer knows how hard it is to plan an application release in a month or two. Here the precision of estimation is extraordinary, because it started 3 years earlier.

As quantum technologies are a broad topic, let’s focus on a part of it called quantum computing.

Quantum computing

The most wild thing is that you can make such a device in your home or garage 5. Maybe it won’t be fully functional, but it will follow basic mechanics of quantum mechanics. The most common image of a quantum computer is a big device with a lot of fancy, shiny connectors6. In reality, there are many types of possible hardware: superconducting, trapped ion or nuclear magnetic resonance quantum computers7.

The biggest issue is the usefulness8. As quantum computing has to compete with classical computing, it has a hard time to keep the momentum. There is a lot of skepticism as to whether it should be used for computing9. There are other areas of usage like quantum technologies for sensors (for example quantum gravimetry10 or detecting a tunnel under a house11).

Current state of development

To overcome issues, there is a necessity to improve quantum computing with hardware and software. Both areas are really important in classical computing. Comparing current websites, applications, computers or mobile phones with technology we had 10 years ago, shows how much we can improve only by creating better hardware - making it faster, better. Or working on new software and libraries - React came out 10 years ago12, which is now the base for many websites. It went through a lot of changes and improvements to reach its current state.

Improving hardware and software

The big advancement in our civilization is the possibility to collaborate and communicate really effectively. Right now there are multiple open source and open hardware initiatives to speed up development of quantum technologies on academic and common level13 14 15.

There are many areas that require traditional computing to create interfaces, make measurements, calculate results or create experiments before moving full scale to quantum computers. All of these means that there is a lot to improve in software and hardware, which doesn’t involve direct programming on quantum computers or even using them. Creating a big ecosystem is a really important aspect of successful technology.

Final thoughts

Quantum computing is a new area, with rather short time of development. Most of the advancments are done in labolatories. The open source and hardware ecosystem exists, but it’s rather small compared to traditional technologies. The big problem is an access to hardware, which often requires specialized devices and recreating it at home is a really tough task. You need to rely on simulators16 or quantum clouds from for example IBM17.

Personal opinion

The main goal should be to lower the entry level for software and hardware. When hardware is almost impossible to overcome right now, we should focus on software. Most existing libraries are highly focused on math, physics and quantum mechanics. You directly manipulate qubits. In classical computing, you can never touch such a level of detail to make a website, application or game. Each library is highly abstracted to simple concepts.

It might be hard to achieve a low entry point right now as hardware is not ready for it. I think it is a good time to learn more about it and try to contribute to this ecosystem.