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Quantum computers will be prevalent sooner than you might think

In the second of a three-part series, Ilyas Khan, CJBS Leader in Residence and Fellow in Management Practice, tells us why quantum computers will be prevalent sooner than you might think.

Hipster businessman with virtual screen

Ilyas Khan

Ilyas Khan

Richard Feynman first put into words the concept of a quantum computer more than 30 years ago. Since that time there have been a number of important steps that have been achieved, so that what might at one time have been described as more science fiction than science fact will become prevalent within the coming few years.

There is of course a very obvious precedent for this timeline. In the mid 1930s, Turing described a computer (or as he more accurately described it “a computing machine”) that has become known popularly as a “Turing Machine”. Within two decades large prototypes of what we recognise as working computers started to be manufactured by commercial organisations, and by the mid 1980s personal computers, or PCs, had made their entry.

The key engineering challenge for quantum computing may well have been overcome as this article is being read. Both Google and IBM have announced breakthroughs in error recognition and error correction that are the tipping point between machines being only partially useful and those that can start to achieve the ambition that we associate with true universal quantum computing. And in parallel industries as diverse as cyber security, financial services and drug design, organisations eagerly await the day when they can make use of these transformational machines. 

It is no surprise that these developments have occurred, as the focus of activity has left the university lab and moved into the commercial arena. The large budgets and creative resource required to design and build quantum computers cannot be provided solely through universities, albeit through enormously talented researchers.

In areas such as bio-technology and computer science, important breakthroughs have occurred when research and commerce build partnerships with governments. Even not taking into account the certain progress being made in China and perhaps even Russia, this is precisely what has happened in the past few years in quantum computing.