Quantum Computing - Definition, Function, Benefits and Examples

Jan Schäfer

With the rapid progress of artificial intelligence, classical computers are reaching their limits more frequently. After all, processing huge amounts of data takes a lot of time. Quantum computing could change that. The technology has the potential to perform calculations that have so far been impossible for classical computers.

But what is quantum computing capable of today? What can society expect from the technology in the future? We explain in detail how quantum computing works, how it differs from machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), and how companies can benefit from it.

The most Important in a Nutshell

  • Quantum computing is a technology that makes it possible to perform much more complex calculations than computers can.
  • Future applications of quantum computers will include logistics, finance, and manufacturing.
  • With Konfuzio, companies implement advanced machine learning into their processes, making them more efficient and competitive. Try the software now for free!
quantum computing definition

Quantum Computing explained

Quantum computing is a technology that is based on the principles of quantum mechanics. Instead of classical bits, which are either 0 or 1, quantum computers use so-called qubits, which can be 0 and 1 at the same time. What this means in practice is that they are able to perform significantly more complex calculations than computers or Supercomputer. They have enormous computing power, which is crucial for certain tasks such as the factorization of large numbers or the simulation of complex molecules.

Quantum computing has the potential to change the world of encryption, artificial intelligence and materials research.

Companies and researchers around the world are working to develop quantum computers and explore their applications. Although the revolutionary technology is still in its infancy, the prospects for the future are promising. Scientists expect quantum computing to solve numerous problems, such as the the travelling salesman problem (TSP), the optimization of supply chains and the simulation of complex biological systems, that are currently insurmountable for classical computers.

How does Quantum Computing work?

Quantum computing makes it possible to tackle problems in areas such as cryptography, materials research and process optimization in ways that are difficult for classical computers. In this way, new opportunities for scientific discovery and technological advancement are opening up. Responsible for this are the following functions and features of quantum computers:

Superconductor

Quantum bits or qubits are the basic building blocks of quantum computers. They are encased in special materials known as superconductors. Superconductors allow qubits to operate at low temperatures near absolute zero, minimizing disruptive thermal effects. In practical terms, this means that a quantum computer uses superconductors to keep qubits operating at temperatures near absolute zero to ensure their stability.

Overlay

Qubits are able to exist in superposition states. That is, they can be in multiple states simultaneously - unlike classical bits, which are either 0 or 1. A quantum computer thus makes it possible to simultaneously perform calculations for different solutions to an optimization problem by holding qubits in superposition states.

Interleaving

Entangled qubits are interconnected, so a measurement on one qubit immediately affects the state of the other - regardless of the distance between them. In quantum communications, researchers are thus able to use entangled qubits to enable secure communication over long distances. 

Interference

Quantum interference exploits the properties of wave functions to perform calculations more efficiently by amplifying or cancelling results with each other. A quantum computer uses this interference to find the most accurate solution to a complex mathematical problem. To do this, it attenuates unwanted results and amplifies the desired ones.

Why do we need Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is capable of solving many problems in science and society faster than conventional computers. For the practice of science, this means that quantum computing deepens our understanding of the world and offers us innovative solutions to unsolved challenges.

Quantum computing could therefore enable society to accelerate complex calculations in chemistry, medicine and materials science, for example, in the future.

For example, technology would enable new drugs to be developed more quickly by giving us a better understanding of how molecules interact. It would also enable companies and public institutions to increase the security of data.

Quantum Computing vs. Machine Learning

Quantum Computing and Machine Learning are both types of computer technologies, but they work in different ways. Quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits, which unlike classical bits can be 0 and 1 at the same time. This allows them to solve certain problems, such as factoring large numbers, faster than classical computers.

Machine learning, on the other hand, is a software technology that enables computers to learn from data and recognize patterns. Companies and public organizations use this primarily in applications such as image recognition and language translation. 

In addition, the maturity of the two technologies is an important difference. Machine learning is already part of everyday life for many companies, while quantum computing is still in development.

However, the advancement of quantum computing has also had a major impact on machine learning.

In artificial intelligence, quantum computers solve complex optimization problems faster, which also enables further development in areas such as machine learning. For example, the training of neural networks,used in machine learning, are very computationally expensive. In the future, quantum computers could help to accelerate these training processes and thus enable the development of advanced models. 

quantum computing ai differences

Quantum Computing vs. Artificial Intelligence

Quantum computing and artificial intelligence are both advanced technologies that complement each other in some areas, but can also be used independently. While quantum computers are able to perform complex calculations faster than classical computers, artificial intelligence enables machines to learn tasks and make human-like decisions.

Quantum computing has not yet been used in everyday processes. This is mainly due to the fact that the hardware is not yet ready for the market. In the future, however, the technology could be able to solve complex problems in areas such as cryptography. Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, runs on conventional computers. It has applications in areas such as image recognition and speech processing. It is much easier to access, so it is already being used in all industries today. 

Benefits of Quantum Computing

Even though quantum computing is still in its infancy and only a few companies such as Google, IBM and Microsoft are working on developing the technology, the potential for all industries is huge. What are the potential benefits of quantum computing? 

Faster calculations

Quantum computing enables calculations that are exponentially faster than conventional computers. For example, a quantum computer is able to perform complex cryptographic algorithms such as RSA or ECC in seconds, while conventional computers need many years to do so. This has far-reaching implications for the security of data transmission and storage.

Optimization

Quantum computers make it possible to solve complex optimization problems more efficiently in areas such as logistics, finance and material sciences. Imagine a company wants to optimize its supply chain to minimize transportation costs and improve delivery times. A quantum computer considers countless variables to make the best decisions in real time. This leads to huge savings and efficiency gains.

Simulation of quantum systems

Quantum computers simulate quantum systems, which is useful for chemical research. After all, in chemical research, simulating molecules and quantum mechanical processes is extremely time-consuming. A quantum computer performs this efficiently, which speeds up the development of new drugs as scientists better understand the interactions between molecules.

artificial intelligence

Quantum computing speeds up the training of machine learning models, which is helpful in applications such as image recognition and speech processing. In practice, this means that applications such as image recognition are able to work faster and more accurately. This is particularly useful in areas such as medical imaging or automated quality assurance in manufacturing.

Encryption

Quantum communication enables secure encryption because eavesdropping is detected by quantum principles. One example of this is so-called quantum key distribution, in which parties exchange quantum-encrypted keys that are extremely secure against eavesdropping attempts because any disruption to the key is detected immediately. This is an important function for the financial industry in particular.

quantum computing use case

Use Case of Quantum Computing

Quantum computing is used where enormous amounts of data need to be processed. To better understand how it works, let's take a look at a use case:

Challenge

In medical research, scientists are often faced with the challenge of identifying the genetic causes of rare but serious diseases. A specific example is the search for the genetic causes of a rare form of juvenile muscular dystrophy. Analyzing the huge amount of genome data from affected patients is a time-consuming task that overwhelms conventional computers.

Quantum Computing Solution

Quantum computing significantly speeds up genome analysis in this case:

Faster pattern recognition

A quantum computer identifies patterns and mutations in patients' genomes that may be linked to muscular dystrophy within hours rather than weeks.

Massive data evaluation

The enormous processing capacity of a quantum computer enables the parallel analysis of hundreds of genome sequences. This accelerates the comparison of patient data and supports the identification of common genetic variants.

Simulation of complex biological processes

Quantum computers simulate the interactions between defective genes and the affected muscle fibers at the atomic level. This helps to understand the exact mechanisms of the disease and to promote the development of therapies.

Practical example

Suppose a team of researchers is faced with the challenge of finding the genetic causes of a rare form of juvenile muscular dystrophy. They have access to genomic data from 200 affected patients and their families. With a usable quantum computer, they are able to,

  • identify genetic patterns associated with the disease in hours instead of months,
  • Identify common genetic variants between patients that may be helpful in developing a therapy; and
  • perform atomic simulations to uncover how the defective genes work and develop targeted therapeutic approaches.

Limits of Quantum Computing

Quantum computing brings with it some challenges that researchers today have not yet been able to solve. They keep encountering these limitations of the technology:

LimitationExplanation
Fault toleranceQuantum computers are prone to errors due to environmental influences such as temperature fluctuations. This causes qubits to be lost and affects the accuracy of calculations.
Quantum bit coherence timeThe coherence time of qubits is limited. That is, qubits store and process information for only a limited time. If qubits take too long to retain information, computations become impractical.
Quantum bit connectivityConnecting qubits over longer distances is difficult because the coupling of qubits becomes inefficient with increasing distance. This limits the scalability.
Lack of universal quantum algorithmsThere are only a limited number of known quantum algorithms that solve classical problems faster. So far, no efficient quantum algorithm exists for all the NP-complete problems.
Cooling requiredQuantum computers must be cooled to low temperatures near absolute zero to preserve quantum effects. This makes operation costly and impractical.
Quantum error correctionTo correct errors in quantum computers, special error correction codes are needed. These codes require additional qubits and resources.
Limited hardware availabilityQuantum hardware is not yet widely available and is difficult to access, limiting research and development in this area.
Quantum Software ComplexityProgramming quantum computers requires special skills and is complex. This limits access to quantum computing for many developers.
Quantum Heisenberg Uncertainty PrincipleMeasuring states in a quantum system affects those states, making precise measurements and calculations difficult.
Quantum teleportation and communicationSending quantum information over long distances is limited by the no-cloning theorem, which limits the efficiency of quantum communication.

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