Taking a Quantum Leap in the future of computing
By Manish Alshi, Head, Channels & Emerging Technologies, Check Point Software Technologies India & SAARC
At Check Point Software Technologies, we are passionate about delivering the best security to our customers around the world. To accomplish this, we must stay ahead of cyber criminals by continuously innovating and considering new approaches for cybersecurity. One of the emerging technologies that we are following is quantum computing.
A quantum computer is a type of computer that uses quantum mechanics to process information, allowing it to solve certain problems much faster than classical computers. First suggested in 1980 by physicist Paul Benioff, quantum computing is still in the research phase. However, researchers are already starting to consider the types of applications that could run on quantum computers with the potential to transform our lives. Quantum computers will not only significantly improve the speed of resolving certain problems, but they will also solve problems that stump today’s most powerful supercomputers.
A Brief Background on Quantum Computing
Instead of using classical bits, which can only have a value of 0 or 1, quantum computers operate with data units called qubits (quantum bits). These are very different from the bits in today’s computers. Thanks to the quantum mechanical phenomena, qubits have properties of entanglement and superposition that are not applicable for classical bits, which allows using qubits to run much more efficient computation.
Superposition means that each qubit simultaneously has values of 1 and 0 (and all linear combinations of them). Due to this property, the register of n qubits represents 2n different values at the time. As a result, performing one operation on a quantum computer register holding n qubits is similar to performing 2n operations on the classical computer register holding n bits.
Entanglement of qubits allows researchers to correlate qubits values, as change in one qubit value results in change in the others as well. This property allows researchers to perform certain computational tasks faster, especially in the area of factorization and database searches.
Various techniques are being explored for building quantum computers, including superconducting circuits, trapped ions, and topological qubits. However, specialized software and algorithms are needed to fully utilize the unique features of quantum computing. Achieving practical quantum computing requires resolving a number of obstacles, such as error correction, scaling up the number of qubits, and integrating classical and quantum computing. Despite the challenges, many government, academic and enterprises are working on developing quantum computers and exploring their potential applications. And they have made good progress. The first quantum computer created in the mid-nineties had capacity for only two qubits.
In 2022, IBM unveiled a quantum computer with 433 qubits. However, a 433 qubit computer is still insufficient for resolving complex real-life problems. Quantum computing is also gaining popularity in India, where the ecosystem of universities, developers, and students are all actively involved. Consequently, the country is emerging as a talent hub for quantum computing. The government also allocated 8000 Crore towards the National Mission on quantum technologies and applications to spur developments in quantum computing, cryptography, communications, and material science.
The Benefits of Quantum Computing
With quantum computing, researchers expect to be able to solve previously unsolvable problems, bringing great societal benefit to many areas, including:
· Drug discovery and development: quantum computers may be used to simulate the behavior of molecules and their interactions, which could help to accelerate the discovery and development of new drugs. Quantum computers may also help to identify new drug candidates and optimize existing ones by modeling their molecular structures and properties. Quantum computers can also provide more accurate calculations of molecular properties, which will help to reduce the time and cost required for drug development.
· Healthcare: quantum computers could be used to analyze large amounts of patient data and molecular information, enabling personalized treatment plans and more precise diagnoses. Quantum computers could help to analyze large-scale genomic data and improve our understanding of genetic diseases and personalized treatment options.
· Finance services and banking: quantum computers will be able to perform problem optimizations much faster than classical computers, with a much larger number of variables and constraints, which will lead to developing more advanced machine learning (ML) models. This could be useful for risk analysis, portfolio optimizations, financial predictions and fraud detection.
· Logistics: quantum computers have the potential to revolutionize the logistics industry by enabling faster and more accurate optimization of supply chain management, transportation, and inventory management. Quantum computers could be used to optimize traffic flows and develop more efficient transportation systems. They could also help to improve routing and scheduling of all kinds of vehicles, including trucks, planes and ships. Additionally, quantum could be used to improve inventory management by optimizing warehouse layouts and minimizing the cost of storing and transporting goods.
The Challenges of Quantum Computing
However, quantum computers may also bring many new technical challenges. We are getting closer to the day when a quantum computer will be able to solve certain mathematical problems exponentially faster than classical computers. For example, a quantum computer will likely be able to break today’s public key cryptosystems, which will have a major impact on the security and safety of the internet.
It is difficult to predict when quantum computing will become mainstream. It could be months or years away. However while researchers work diligently to advance quantum computing, Check Point and the larger cybersecurity industry are not sitting idle. Since 2016, the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has led international efforts devoted to defining new cryptographic solutions that are quantum resistant. And at Check Point, we are also working diligently on the challenge of quantum resistant encryption. We will share more details in our next blog post.
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