A ‘quantum supremacy’ breakthrough could transform our world  

But we have to wait a qubit longer   
A ‘quantum supremacy’ breakthrough could transform our world  
Quantum computing

Quantum computing utilizes the principles of quantum mechanics to tackle complex problems beyond the capabilities of conventional computers. The technology’s adoption is rapidly increasing and is poised for a breakthrough. Companies are eagerly anticipating and apprehensive of its arrival. 

According to the International Data Corporation, the global quantum computing market is projected to grow at an annual rate of 51 percent, from $412 million in 2020 to $8.6 billion in 2027. 

QCaas, or Quantum Computing as a Service, allows businesses to access this technology through the cloud, and it is estimated that up to 20 percent of companies will allocate budget for it in 2023, compared to just 1 percent in 2019. 

Is quantum computing a threat?


According to a Deloitte survey, approximately half of all companies consider themselves susceptible to a “harvest now, decrypt later” attack, in which presently encrypted data is kept until a future quantum computer can decode it. As a result, there is a race to implement quantum-resistant algorithms.  

Economy Middle East recently inquired of Greg Wetmore, vice president of Software Development at Entrust, whether quantum computing poses an existential danger to blockchain.  

 “The hashed data structure that provides integrity in the blockchain distributed ledger is considered safe based on the current pace of advancement in quantum computing and its algorithms,” Wetmore says.  

“Experts believe that today’s hashing algorithms like SHA2 or SHA3 will be safe for many decades. This, however, does not mean that the blockchain ecosystem can ignore the quantum threat. In most blockchain systems, like Bitcoin, identities are represented by public/private key pairs. A user’s Bitcoin wallet address is a public key, while the private key is what protects the bitcoin balance and allows trade transactions. These identities must transition to quantum-safe encryption,” he adds. 

According to NYUAD Affiliated Faculty and Clinical Professor of Computer Science Sana Odeh, “Cryptography as we know it, including blockchain, will be rendered obsolete by the power of quantum computing.”  

“That’s why quantum computing cryptography is a huge focus for research. Quantum communication also has the potential to produce the long-term cryptographic security we need,” Sana told Economy Middle East. 

Read: Investopia 2023: Quantum computing investment is the new economy next 2 years

For his part, Vasseh Ahmed, managing director of Enjinstarter MENA, believes there are two main schools of thought on this.  

“The first is that it’s a blockchain killer, either because it will break encryption algorithms or because it will become a more efficient and powerful data storage alternative. The big risk for blockchains is quantum computing’s ability to match public keys with their corresponding private keys – something that would take millennia with today’s computers, but only a few hours with quantum computers, making every blockchain wallet susceptible to theft and manipulation,” Vasseh says. 

“The other, more optimistic school of thought says that blockchain and quantum computing will work together to revolutionize data storage and computing processing limitations,” he adds.  

Quantum computing

Building quantum computers


Google has constructed a quantum AI campus with the goal of creating an “error-corrected quantum computer” by 2029, while IBM aims to develop a 4,000-qubit quantum computer by 2025. The Technology Innovation Institute in Abu Dhabi started constructing the first quantum qubit in the Arab world in 2021. 

What are qubits?


Quantum computing requires massive amounts of data to be regularly fed to the system in order to be practical. The core component of a quantum device is the qubit, and the main obstacle to its effectiveness is preventing contamination of quantum data. Quantum error correction (QEC) is a process that uses ML learning and AI algorithms to introduce redundancy and remove errors, effectively drowning out noise and interference in the computing environment.  

A theoretical version of a qubit, called a topological qubit, aims to achieve this, but it has not yet been fully realized. 

 Quantum Computing applications 


Intelligence agencies are using quantum computing to sift through financial records of suspected extremists, a fact unknown to many. This technology has the potential for significant applications in various fields such as science, medicine, security, and finance.  

Quantum computing can potentially solve several critical real-world problems, such as developing room-temperature superconductors, advancing pharmaceutical research by accurately mapping molecules, and removing carbon dioxide from the environment. 

Quantum computing can replace expensive and risky trial-and-error methods for drug development with effective ways of understanding drugs and their reactions in humans. 

Furthermore, Quantum computing can effectively combat cybersecurity threats and create encryption methods, such as quantum cryptography. 

Financial simulation models used to determine the optimal investment mix based on factors such as returns and risks require significant amounts of computer resources. Quantum technology has the potential to significantly decrease calculation times and improve accuracy in these complex and data-intensive calculations. 

Meanwhile, improved data analysis and robust modeling can empower industries to enhance their supply chain management, as well as streamline air, marine, and ground traffic control. 

In addition, a quantum computer could enhance weather system modeling by swiftly and accurately mapping changes in weather patterns, thereby strengthening efforts against climate change. 

Quantum computing

How far are we from having the technology on a commercial level?


According to Wetmore, quantum computers do exist today but are still in a nascent phase. “Quantum computers today are very expensive to build and run and are not yet powerful enough to be considered commercially usable. We are seeing massive investment in quantum computing from both governments and private industry. Investing in foundation initiatives like Zero Trust, transitioning to quantum-safe encryption to protect networks, identities, and data, has become an imperative for organizations.”  

Sana says commercial applications are already taking place. “Big technology companies already have quantum computers. IBM was one of the early pioneers, and is now licensing its technology to businesses,” she adds. 

“AstraZeneca has a quantum computing team in the hope that future vaccines will take one week to develop rather than a year. Amazon launched the AWS Center for Quantum Networking, along with Amazon Braket, a quantum computing service for research and software development, which allows developers access to quantum computers from the likes of IonQ, Oxford Quantum Circuits, Xanadu, Rigetti and D-Wave. These developments have not yet translated to the mainstream as it is still very expensive, and the hardware needs further development to make it less error-prone,” Sana says  

Quantum computing versus Web3.0, Metaverse, and GenAI


Wetmore says Quantum computers will operate in tandem with existing and emerging technologies, using elements such as large data sets to be efficiently handled by Quantum computers, and potentially promoting faster training and generation of new content in AI applications.  

Sana says companies in the U.S., such as Google, and researchers in China, have already claimed to have reached “Quantum supremacy” by solving, within seconds, mathematical problems that would take classical supercomputers billions of years.  

“The power of Quantum computing is highly important for the advancement of AI, machine learning, cryptography, renewable energy, sustainable cities, healthcare, secure banking, Web 3.0 applications, and an immersive experience in the metaverse. Just as the Internet and the Web revolutionized our lives in the 20th century, quantum computing will do the same in this century,” she adds.  

“That’s why NYU Abu Dhabi founded the NYUAD International Hackathon for Social Good 11 years ago to help turn theory into application. This year’s April 27-30 hackathon focuses on the use of quantum computing to build solutions to problems related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change and the need to create a more sustainable future is the biggest challenge of our time, and there is a lot of funding available to companies and organizations that can develop solutions. In light of the UAE’s Year of Sustainability and our participation in the Universities Climate Network, we hope that the students from around the world involved in this year’s event will develop ideas that can change our world for the better,” Sana says. 

Vasseh believes that Quantum computing can accelerate the development of blockchain technology, and advance the potential of Web3, by creating a cutting-edge data storage and value transfer infrastructure that can be implemented across a diverse range of industries. 

 “Also, Generative AI, such as large language models, is already expensive due to resource-intensive computing requirements. As these models become more complex, current technology will no longer be able to keep up. Quantum computing is seen as a solution to this issue because it can exponentially increase computational power and reduce emissions. It could mean things like safer autonomous cars and near-perfect simultaneous translation,” Vasseh says.  

“The metaverse suffers from the same resource constraints as Generative AI. The potential is plainly evident, but today’s technology will only take the user experience so far. Quantum computing can create much richer, photorealistic worlds that can unlock the power of the Metaverse. Consider activities such as education. A hyper-realistic classroom experience would dramatically improve virtual learning.”  

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