If you think you understand quantum mechanics,
you don’t understand quantum mechanics
Tens of billions of public and private wanted are stuff invested in Quantum technologies. Countries wideness the world have realized that quantum technologies can be a major disruptor of existing businesses and transpiration the wastefulness of military power. So much so, that they have collectively invested ~$24 billion in in quantum research and applications.
At the same time, a week doesn’t go by without flipside story well-nigh a quantum technology milestone or flipside quantum visitor getting funded. Quantum has moved out of the lab and is now the focus of commercial companies and investors. In 2021 venture wanted funds invested over $2 billion in 90 Quantum technology companies. Over a $1 billion of it going to Quantum computing companies. In the last six months quantum computing companies IonQ, D-Wave and Rigetti went public at valuations tropical to a billion and half dollars. Pretty wondrous for computers that won’t be any largest than existing systems for at least flipside decade – or more. So why the excitement well-nigh quantum?
The Quantum Market Opportunity
While most of the IPOs have been in Quantum Computing, Quantum technologies are used in three very variegated and unshared markets: Quantum Computing, Quantum Communications and Quantum Sensing and Metrology.
All of three of these markets have the potential for stuff disruptive. In time Quantum computing could obsolete existing cryptography systems, but viable commercial applications are still speculative. Quantum communications could indulge secure networking but are not a viable near-term business. Quantum sensors could create new types of medical devices, as well as new classes of military applications, but are still far from a scalable business.
It’s a pretty unscratched bet that 1) the largest commercial applications of quantum technologies won’t be the ones these companies currently think they’re going to be, and 2) defense applications using quantum technologies will come first. 3) if and when they do show up they’ll destroy existing businesses and create new ones.
We’ll describe each of these market segments in detail. But first a unravelment of some quantum concepts.
Key Quantum Concepts
Skip this section if all you want to know is that 1) quantum works, 2) yes, it is magic.
Quantum – The word “Quantum” refers to quantum mechanics which explains the policies and properties of two-bit or subatomic particles, such as electrons, neutrinos, and photons.
Superposition – quantum particles exist in many possible states at the same time. So a particle is described as a “superposition” of all those possible states. They fluctuate until observed and measured. Superposition underpins a number of potential quantum computing applications.
Entanglement – is what Einstein tabbed “spooky whoopee at a distance.” Two or increasingly quantum objects can be linked so that measurement of one dictates the outcomes for the other, regardless of how far untied they are. Entanglement underpins a number of potential quantum communications applications.
Observation – Superposition and entanglement only exist as long as quantum particles are not observed or measured. If you observe the quantum state you can get information, but it results in the swoon of the quantum system.
Qubit – is short for a quantum bit. It is a quantum computing element that leverages the principle of superposition to encode information via one of four methods: spin, trapped atoms and ions, photons, or superconducting circuits.
Quantum Computers – Background
Quantum computers are a really tomfool idea. They harness the unique policies of quantum physics—such as superposition, entanglement, and quantum interference—and wield it to computing.
In a classical computer transistors can represent two states – either a 0 or 1. Instead of transistors Quantum computers use quantum shit (called qubits.) Qubits exist in superposition – both in 0 and 1 state simultaneously.
Classic computers use transistors as the physical towers blocks of logic. In quantum computers they may use trapped ions, superconducting loops, quantum dots or vacancies in a diamond. The jury is still out.
In a archetype computer 2-14 transistors make up the seven vital logic gates (AND, OR, NAND, etc.) In a quantum computer towers a single logical Qubit require a minimum of 9 but increasingly likely 100’s or thousands of physical Qubits (to make up for error correction, stability, decoherence and fault tolerance.)
In a classical computer compute-power increases linearly with the number of transistors and clock speed. In a Quantum computer compute-power increases exponentially with the wing of each logical qubit.
But qubits have upper error rates and need to be ultracold. In unrelatedness classical computers have very low error rates and operate at room temperature.
Finally, classical computers are unconfined for unstipulated purpose computing. But quantum computers can theoretically solve some complex algorithms/ problems exponentially faster than a classical computer. And with a sufficient number of logical Qubits they can wilt a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer (CRQC). And this is where Quantum computers wilt very interesting and relevant for both commercial and national security. (More below.)
Types of Quantum Computers
Quantum computers could potentially do things at speeds current computers cannot. Think of the difference of how fast you can count on your fingers versus how fast today’s computers can count. That’s the same order of magnitude speed-up a quantum computer could have over today’s computers for unrepealable applications.
Quantum computers fall into four categories:
- Quantum Emulator/Simulator
- Quantum Annealer
- NISQ – Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum
- Universal Quantum Computer – which can be a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer (CRQC)
When you remove all the marketing hype, the only type that matters is #4 – a Universal Quantum Computer. And we’re at least a decade or increasingly yonder from having those.
These are classical computers that you can buy today that simulate quantum algorithms. They make it easy to test and debug a quantum algorithm that someday may be worldly-wise to run on a Universal Quantum Computer. Since they don’t use any quantum hardware they are no faster than standard computers.
Quantum Annealer is a special purpose quantum computer designed to only run combinatorial optimization problems, not general-purpose computing, or cryptography problems. D-Wave has specified and owned this space. While they have increasingly physical Qubits than any other current system they are not organized as gate-based logical qubits. Currently this is a nascent commercial technology in search of a future viable market.
Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) computers. Think of these as prototypes of a Universal Quantum Computer – with several orders of magnitude fewer bits. (They currently have 50-100 qubits, limited gate depths, and short coherence times.) As they are short several orders of magnitude of Qubits, NISQ computers cannot perform any useful computation, however they are a necessary phase in the learning, expressly to momentum total system and software learning in parallel to the hardware development. Think of them as the training wheels for future universal quantum computers.
Universal Quantum Computers / Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computers (CRQC)
This is the ultimate goal. If you could build a universal quantum computer with fault tolerance (i.e. millions of error corrected physical qubits resulting in thousands of logical Qubits), you could run quantum algorithms in cryptography, search and optimization, quantum systems simulations, and linear equations solvers. (See here for a list of hundreds quantum algorithms.) These all would dramatically outperform classical computation on large ramified problems that grow exponentially as increasingly variables are considered. Classical computers can’t wade these problems in reasonable times without so many approximations that the result is useless. We simply run out of time and transistors with classical computing on these problems. These special algorithms are what make quantum computers potentially valuable. For example, Grover’s algorithm solves the problem for the unstructured search of data. Further, quantum computers are very good at minimization / optimizations…think optimizing ramified supply chains, energy states to form ramified molecules, financial models, etc.
However, while all of these algorithms might have commercial potential one day, no one has yet to come up with a use for them that would radically transform any merchantry or military application. Except for one – and that one keeps people awake at night.
It’s Shor’s algorithm for integer factorization – an algorithm that underlies much of existing public cryptography systems.
The security of today’s public key cryptography systems rests on the theorizing that breaking into those with a thousand or increasingly digits is practically impossible. It requires factoring into large prime numbers (e.g., RSA) or elliptic lines (e.g., ECDSA, ECDH) or finite fields (DSA) that can’t be washed-up with any type of archetype computer regardless of how large. Shor’s factorization algorithm can one-liner these codes if run on a Universal Quantum Computer. Uh-oh!
Impact of a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer (CRQC) Skip this section if you don’t superintendency well-nigh cryptography.
Not only would a Universal Quantum Computer running Shor’s algorithm make today’s public key algorithms (used for unsymmetrical key exchanges and digital signatures) useless, someone can implement a “harvest-now-and-decrypt-later” wade to record encrypted documents now with intent to decrypt them in the future. That ways everything you send encrypted today will be worldly-wise to be read retrospectively. Many applications – from ATMs to emails – would be vulnerable—unless we replace those algorithms with those that are “quantum-safe”.
When Will Current Cryptographic Systems Be Vulnerable?
The good news is that we’re nowhere near having any viable Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer, now or in the next few years. However, you can estimate when this will happen by gingerly how many logical Qubits are needed to run Shor’s Algorthim and how long it will it take to unravel these crypto systems. There are lots of people tracking these numbers (see here and here). Their estimate is that using 8,194 logical qubits using 22.27 million physical qubits, it would take a quantum computer 20 minutes to unravel RSA-2048. The weightier estimate is that this might be possible in 8 to 20 years.
Post-Quantum / Quantum-Resistant Codes
That ways if you want to protect the content you’re sending now, you need to migrate to new Post-Quantum /Quantum-Resistant Codes. But there are three things to consider in doing so:
- shelf-life time: the number of years the information must be protected by cyber-systems
- migration time: the number of years needed to properly and safely migrate the system to a quantum-safe solution
- threat timeline: the number of years surpassing threat actors will be worldly-wise to unravel the quantum-vulnerable systems
These new cryptographic systems would secure versus both quantum and conventional computers and can interoperate with existing liaison protocols and networks. The symmetric key algorithms of the Commercial National Security Algorithm (CNSA) Suite were selected to be secure for national security systems usage plane if a CRQC is developed.
Cryptographic schemes that commercial industry believes are quantum-safe include lattice-based cryptography, hash trees, multivariate equations, and super-singular isogeny elliptic curves.
Estimates of when you can unquestionably buy a fully error-corrected quantum computers vary from “never” to somewhere between 8 to 20 years from now. (Some optimists believe plane earlier.)
Quantum communications ≠ quantum computers. A quantum network’s value comes from its worthiness to distribute entanglement. These liaison devices manipulate the quantum properties of photons/particles of light to build Quantum Networks.
This market includes secure quantum key distribution, clock synchronization, random number generation and networking of quantum military sensors, computers, and other systems.
Quantum Cryptography/Quantum Key Distribution
Quantum Cryptography/Quantum Key Distribution can distribute keys between authorized partners unfluctuating by a quantum waterworks and a classical authenticated channel. It can be implemented via webbing optics or self-ruling space transmission. China transmitted entangled photons (at one pair of entangled particles per second) over 1,200 km in a satellite link, using the Micius satellite.
The Good: it can snift the presence of an eavesdropper, a full-length not provided in standard cryptography. The Bad: Quantum Key Distribution can’t be implemented in software or as a service on a network and cannot be hands integrated into existing network equipment. It lacks flexibility for upgrades or security patches. Securing and validating Quantum Key Distribution is nonflexible and it’s only one part of a cryptographic system.
The view from the National Security Agency (NSA) is that quantum-resistant (or post-quantum) cryptography is a increasingly forfeit constructive and hands maintained solution than quantum key distribution. NSA does not support the usage of QKD or QC to protect communications in National Security Systems. (See here.) They do not visualize certifying or approving any Quantum Cryptography/Quantum Key Distribution security products for usage by National Security System customers unless these limitations are overcome. However, if you’re a commercial visitor these systems may be worth exploring.
Quantum Random Number Generators (GRGs)
Commercial Quantum Random Number Generators that use quantum effects (entanglement) to generate nondeterministic randomness are misogynist today. (Government agencies can once make quality random numbers and don’t need these devices.)
Random number generators will remain secure plane when a Cryptographically Relevant Quantum Computer is built.
Quantum Sensing and Metrology
Quantum sensors ≠ Quantum computers.
This segment consists of Quantum Sensing (quantum magnetometers, gravimeters, …), Quantum Timing (precise time measurement and distribution), and Quantum Imaging (quantum radar, low-SNR imaging, …) Each of these areas can create entirely new commercial products or unshortened new industries e.g. new classes of medical devices and military systems, e.g. anti-submarine warfare, detecting stealth aircraft, finding subconscious tunnels and weapons of mass destruction. Some of these are performable in the near term.
First-generation quantum timing devices once exist as microwave two-bit clocks. They are used in GPS satellites to triangulate well-judged positioning. The Internet and computer networks use network time servers and the NTP protocol to receive the two-bit clock time from either the GPS system or a radio transmission.
The next generation of quantum clocks are plane increasingly well-judged and use laser-cooled single ions serving together in an electromagnetic ion trap. This increased verism is not only important for scientists attempting to measure visionless matter and gravitational waves, but miniaturized/ increasingly well-judged two-bit clocks will indulge precision navigation in GPS- degraded/denied areas, e.g. in commercial and military aircraft, in tunnels and caves, etc.
Quantum imaging is one of the most interesting and near-term applications. First generation magnetometers such as superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDs) once exist. New quantum sensor types of imaging devices use entangled light, accelerometers, magnetometers, electrometers, gravity sensors. These indulge measurements of frequency, acceleration, rotation rates, electric and magnetic fields, photons, or temperature with levels of lattermost sensitivity and accuracy.
These new sensors use a variety of quantum effects: electronic, magnetic, or vibrational states or spin qubits, neutral atoms, or trapped ions. Or they use quantum coherence to measure a physical quantity. Or use quantum entanglement to modernize the sensitivity or precision of a measurement, vastitude what is possible classically.
Quantum Imaging applications can have firsthand uses in archeology, and profound military applications. For example, submarine detection using quantum magnetometers or satellite gravimeters could make the ocean transparent. It would compromise the survivability of sea-based nuclear deterrent by detecting and tracking subs deep underwater.
Quantum sensors and quantum radar from companies like Rydberg can be game changers.
Gravimeters or quantum magnetometers could moreover snift unseen tunnels, bunkers, and nuclear materials. Magnetic resonance imaging could remotely ID chemical and biological agents. Quantum radar or LIDAR would enable lattermost detection of electromagnetic emissions, enhancing ELINT and electronic warfare capabilities. It can use fewer emissions to get the same detection result, for largest detection verism at the same power levels – plane detecting stealth aircraft.
Finally, Ghost imaging uses the quantum properties of light to snift afar objects using very weak illumination beams that are difficult for the imaged target to detect. It can increase the verism and lessen the value of radiation exposed to a patient during x-rays. It can see through smoke and clouds. Quantum illumination is similar to ghost imaging but could provide an plane greater sensitivity.
National and Commercial Efforts
Countries wideness the world are making major investments ~$24 billion in 2021 – in quantum research and applications.
- Quantum technologies are emerging and disruptive to companies and defense
- Quantum technologies imbricate Quantum Computing, Quantum Communications and Quantum Sensing and Metrology
- Quantum computing could obsolete existing cryptography systems
- Quantum communication could indulge secure cryptography key distribution and networking of quantum sensors and computers
- Quantum sensors could make the ocean transparent for Anti-submarine warfare, create unjammable A2/AD, snift stealth aircraft, find subconscious tunnels and weapons of mass destruction, etc.
- A few of these technologies are misogynist now, some in the next 5 years and a few are a decade or increasingly out
- Tens of billions of public and private wanted dollars are stuff invested in them
- Defense applications will come first
- The largest commercial applications won’t be the ones we currently think they’re going to be
- when they do show up they’ll destroy existing businesses and create new ones