Several Asian countries are following the trend – Reuters

A quantum computer in a vibration-free building. Quantum computing will eventually accelerate the computing power that drives many industries and can affect everything from drug discovery to data security.

Oliver Berg | Image Alliance | Getty Images

Quantum computing was already accelerating in Japan and elsewhere in Asia when the University of Tokyo and IBM launched their new quantum computer last year.

The computer was the second system built outside the United States by IBM – the latest in a series of important advances in quantum research.

The university and IBM led the Quantum Innovation Initiative Consortium together with Japanese industrial heavyweights such as Toyota and Sony, all in an attempt to solve the quantum question.

Quantum calculation refers to the use of quantum mechanics to perform calculations. Quantum data processing can run multiple processes at once using quantum bits, unlike the binary bits that run traditional data processing.

Challenging American “hegemony”

The new technology will eventually accelerate the computing power that drives many industries and can affect everything from drug discovery to data security. Several countries are struggling to make quantum computers fully functional.

Christopher Savoie, CEO of the quantum computer company Zapata, which has spent much of his career in Japan, said the technology development was very US-centric. But now Asian countries do not want to be left with quantum computers, he added.

“Nation states like India, Japan and China are very interested in not being the only ones without capacity there. They do not want to see the kind of hegemony that happens where the big cloud aggregators are usually just US companies,” Savoie said, referring to for Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

China, for example, has devoted a lot of brains to the quantum race. Researchers have called for breakthroughs, and debates are swirling about whether China has overtaken the United States on some fronts.

India, for its part, announced plans earlier this year to invest $ 1 billion in a five-year plan to develop a quantum computer in the country.

James Sanders, an analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence, told CNBC that governments around the world have become more interested in quantum computers in recent years.

In March, Sanders released a report finding that governments promised about $ 4.2 billion to support quantum research. Notable examples include South Korea’s $ 40 million investment in the field and the Singapore Ministry of Education’s funding of a research facility, the Center for Quantum Technologies.

Where will it be used?

All these efforts have a long perspective on the future. And for some, the benefits of quantum mechanics may seem vague.

According to Sanders, the benefits of quantum computing will not be immediately apparent to everyday consumers.

What is likely to happen is that quantum computers end up being used in the design of products that consumers end up buying.

James Sander

Analyst, S&P Global Market Intelligence

“On bad days, I discourage people from the idea of ​​quantum mobiles. It’s not realistic, it will not be anything,” he said.

“What is likely to happen is that quantum computers end up being used in the design of products that consumers end up buying.”

There are two main areas where the quantum breakthrough will be felt: industry and defense.

An employee of the technology company Q.ant places a quantum computing chip at a test station in Stuttgart, Germany on September 14, 2021. The power of quantum computing is expected to be able to decrypt RSA encryption, one of the most common data encryption methods.

Thomas Kienzlé | AFP | Getty Images

“Areas where you have HPC [high-performance computing] are areas where we want to see quantum computers have an impact. It’s things like material simulation, aero-simulation, that kind of thing, very high and difficult computational problems and then machine learning artificial intelligence, ”Savoie said.

In the pharmaceutical field, traditional systems for calculating the behavior of drug molecules can be time consuming. The speed of quantum computers could quickly increase these processes around drug discovery and ultimately drug-to-market timeline.

Security challenges

On the other hand, quantum can pose safety challenges. As computing power evolves, so does the risk of existing security practices.

“Longest term [motivation] but the one that everyone recognizes as an existential threat, both offensively and defensively, is the crypto area. RSA will eventually be compromised by this, ”Savoie added.

RSA refers to one of the most common encryption methods for securing data, developed in 1977, which could be disturbed by quantum speed. It is named after its inventors – Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman.

You see a lot of interest from governments and communities who do not want to be the last people in the neighborhood to have this technology because [other nations] will be able to decrypt our messages.

Christopher Savoy

CEO for Zapata

“You see a lot of interest from governments and communities that do not want to be the last people in the neighborhood to have this technology because [other nations] will be able to decipher our messages, ”Savoie said.

Magda Lilia Chelly, Chief Information Security Officer at Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Responsible Cyber, told CNBC that there must be a double track of encryption and quantum research and development so that security is not overwhelmed. .

“Some experts believe that quantum computers will eventually be able to break all forms of encryption, while others believe that new, more sophisticated forms of encryption will be developed that cannot be broken by quantum computers,” Chelly said.

A quantum processor on a prototype quantum computer. There needs to be a dual track of encryption and quantum research and development so that security is not overwhelmed, said Magda Lilia Chelly, information security manager at Singapore-based cybersecurity firm Responsible Cyber.

Julian Stratenschulte / dpa | Image Alliance | Getty Images

“Especially, [researchers] looked for ways to use quantum computers to quickly factorize large numbers. This is important because many modern encryption systems in use today rely on the fact that it is very difficult to take large numbers into account, ”she added.

If successful, this will break most current encryption systems, making it possible to unlock encrypted messages.

Stop-start progress

Sanders said the development and eventual commercialization of quantum computers will not be a straight line.

Issues like the encryption threat can garner government attention, but research and breakthroughs, as well as public interest, can be “stop-start,” he said.

Progress may also be affected by fluctuating interest from private investors, as quantum calculation will not provide a quick return on investment.

“There are a lot of situations in this industry where you might have a head start for a week, then another company comes up with a different kind of advancement, and then it all calms down a bit. »

Another looming challenge for quantum research is finding the right talent with specific skills for that research.

“Quantum scientists who can do quantum calculations do not grow on trees,” Savoie said, adding that there is a need for cross-border collaboration in light of competing government interests.

“The talent is global. People cannot choose their country of birth or nationality.”

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