A report from RAND Corporation provides an overview of the current state of quantum technology and its potential commercial and military uses. The author discusses each of the three broad categories of quantum technology: quantum perception, quantum communication, and quantum computation.
It also examines the likely business prospects for the next few years, key international players and the potential national security implications of these new technologies. This report is based on a study of available academic literature, news reports and position papers published by the government.
Most of these technologies are still in their infancy. Applications of quantum registration may become commercially or militarily ready in the next few years. Although there is already limited commercial use of quantum communications technology, the most useful military applications will not be available for many years.
Similarly, there may be niche applications of quantum computers in the future, but all known applications will hardly be available for at least ten years. China is currently a leader in the development of quantum communications, while the United States is a leader in the development of quantum computers.
Quantum technologies are grouped into three broad categories: quantum perception, quantum communication, and quantum computation.
Quantum perception refers to the ability to use quantum mechanics to build extremely accurate sensors. This is the application of quantum technology that is considered to have the shortest operational potential.
The main short-term use of the technology quantum communication is security against eavesdropping, primarily through a method known as Quantum Key Distribution (quantum key distribution), often abbreviated QKD (in English: quantum key distribution). Longer-term applications include network computers and quantum sensors.
quantum calculation refers to computers that could, in principle, perform certain calculations much faster than is basically possible with a standard computer. Some problems that are completely impossible to solve with a standard computer may become feasible with a quantum computer.
Each sub-area of quantum technology can have major implications for national security.
Some of the major uses of quantum recording include position, navigation and timing, and even intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
Quantum communication technology could use QKD to protect sensitive encrypted communications from hostile eavesdropping, though some experts see other security solutions as more promising.
Quantum computers may have the most serious impact on national security. A large-scale quantum computer capable of implementing Shor’s algorithm on current encryptions would have a devastating effect on almost all Internet security.
There is no undisputed world leader in quantum technologies.
The United States, China, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada have all launched specific national initiatives to promote quantum research.
The US and China lead in total consumption and the largest technology demonstrations, but Canada, the UK and the EU also lead in some sub-areas.
China is the world leader in quantum communications, and the United States is the world leader in quantum computers.
Effective quantum technologies will not be available for many years.
Applications of quantum registration may become commercially or militarily ready in the next few years.
There is already limited commercial deployment of quantum communications technology, but the most useful military and commercial applications will not be available for many years.
It is possible that quantum computers will find niche applications over the next few years, but not all currently known applications are likely to be available for at least ten years.