This article was originally posted on TheStar Online.
The launch of quantum computer Qianshi is a milestone in the development of quantum technology. For the first time, a quantum computer is accessible in the public ICT network, and people are able to connect to it using their personal devices. It has only 10 quantum bits (qubits), with capabilities of a traditional computer (Baidu launches quantum computer in China and gives people access via PC, smartphone or the cloud, The Star, Aug 26, 2022).
Quantum computers can be far more powerful than any supercomputer, capable of breaking any conventional encryptions within a short period. In the lab, quantum computers with performance matching the supercomputers on specific problems have been realised.
This should be alarming to the fintech and banking sectors as the current encryptions in financial transactions based on the RSA cryptosystem are no longer secure.
The capability of the quantum computer is attributed to the way it computes that is different from conventional computing algorithms.
Making use of quantum entanglement or the superposition of a number of possibilities (called quantum states) from many qubits, one can search everywhere for an answer “at once” and get the answer almost instantaneously, without having to go through multiple searches in sequence. Scientists around the world are actively engaged in the education, research and innovation of quantum information science and technology, driven by awareness of its awesome potentials.
The race for developing quantum technology has started long ago, focusing mainly on quantum computation, quantum communication and quantum sensing or metrology. In December 2013, the United Kingdom government invested £370mil (RM1.96bil) in quantum technologies over five years.
The European Commission followed suit in 2016 and invested £1bil (RM5.30bil) over the next 10 years. China launched a quantum satellite in August 2016 and initiated a big plan to connect cities with secure communication networks. In December 2018, the United States Senate passed the National Quantum Initiative, allocating US$1.275bil (RM5.47bil) over five years for quantum information science research and education. Our neighbour Singapore is far ahead, having started the Centre for Quantum Technologies since 2007. In September 2020, Thailand announced US$6mil (RM25.73mil) to develop quantum technology over eight years.
Professor Raymond Ooi is an Academy of Sciences Malaysia Fellow and Professor at the Department of Physics, Faculty of Science, Universiti Malaya. The views expressed are the author’s own and does not reflect the views of ASM and the Star.