In recent years, we have seen the amazing capabilities of quantum computers—capabilities that continue to improve seemingly each and every day.
Unlike traditional computers that use zeros and ones to encode information, quantum computers implement the principles of quantum physics to perform tasks that once could only be dreamed about. Quantum computers have a broad range of applications and are poised to play a significant role in our world, whether they are used to predict the weather or for the speedy development of prescription drugs.
Yet with quantum computers poised to have a significant impact on society, many questions remain about what these machines will look like commercially. For instance, will they be very expensive, or will they be accessible to consumers? Will they be owned only by large entities like tech companies, universities, joint ventures and the government, or will they be available to modest size companies? When it comes to quantum computers, the list of questions goes on and on.
We have already seen quantum computers becoming more commercially accessible, a seismic shift from just a few years ago.
Some may recall the first quantum computer system D-Wave introduced. This machine had a whopping price tag of about $10 million. However, there has been an evolution in recent years in the market. Within the last year, a Chinese startup, SpinQ, created a quantum computer that sells for under $5,000. Although this is still a steep price compared to standard computers, it demonstrates the substantial move toward making quantum computers affordable.
When people think of quantum computers, they often envision gigantic machines that fill an entire room. For instance, in 2017, a Canadian company named D-Wave created a quantum computing chip that had over 2,000 quantum bits that was housed in a 10-foot tall machine that took up 700 cubic feet. Compare this to the aforementioned quantum computer from SpinQ that can be placed on a desktop. Granted, SpinQ’s computer weighs 121 pounds, so although it can fit on a desktop, the surface must be able to support that weight, and it is hardly portable in the sense of the laptop computers we know today. However, this showcases the ongoing shift in making quantum machines that take up less space, approaching standard computers.
The many uses of quantum computers make them an obvious fit for certain organizations.
For example, universities can use them for research purposes when analyzing molecular interactions. Governmental agencies can utilize quantum computers to enhance cybersecurity. From creating financial models to cryptography, the sheer power of quantum computing makes these machines highly desirable as their potential is seemingly limitless. Ultimately, it remains to be seen where quantum computers will find applications in the coming years, and whether there will be a shift that brings these machines into the mainstream. With shrinking price tags and reduction in size, signs indicate there will be more quantum computers in use in the coming years, whether they are used at universities and high schools or in homes—a far cry from where quantum computing was just a few years ago.