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My View: Quantum computing quickly makes its mark in Arizona

Quantum computing concept

AZ Inno

It’s hard to imagine anyone in this readership who has never used a computer for work or school. And it likely would be no surprise to find out that members of at least one generation have always had a computer on their laps or desks or in their palms.

After all, computers can quickly help with the tasks that our parents, grandparents and earlier generations painstakingly did by hand. It’s hard to imagine anything faster than those machines that surround us.

Until now.

I’m talking about the next level of speed possible with quantum computing.

How can that be? Quantum computers use a different computing architecture that can solve certain types of problems much faster than classical computers. Those aren’t my words but instead are those of Markus Pflitsch, a quantum physicist and member of the Forbes Council whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently in London.

Pflitsch explains it this way: instead of the regular computer bits that exist in a state of either 0 or 1 to carry specific information, quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits. This means a qubit represents not just a single value but a combination of 0 and 1 at the same time. This property allows quantum computers to perform multiple calculations in parallel. That opens the potential for increasing speed exponentially when performing certain types of calculations.

And we’re not just talking about this being available some day. In just the past few years, companies like Google and IBM have been developing quantum processors while quantum cloud services have become available.

Quantum already finding a home in Arizona

So, what do we do with this kind of speed — and power? In his recent piece written for Forbes, Pflitsch talked about a strengthening of encryption practices. For example, organizations can stay ahead of hackers by using quantum random number generators to make their cryptographic keys tough for the bad guys to predict.

In our own backyard, Arizona universities already are making their marks in quantum.

The Quantum Collaborative already is home at Arizona State University. It is connecting top scientific programs, initiatives, facilities, leading quantum information science and technology talent (QIST), and industry partners to advance the science and engineering of quantum information science, train the quantum workforce of tomorrow, and drive U.S. quantum economic advantage.

Further, QIST unites the theoretical foundations of quantum physics and computing technology to solve problems too complex for even the most powerful classical computers.

In Tucson, the University of Arizona has just passed the midpoint of a five-year, $26 million grant — with an additional $24 million, five-year option – to lead the Center for Quantum Networks (CQN), which is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center. This places Arizona at the forefront of quantum networking technologies, which are expected to transform areas such as medicine, finance, data security, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and smart devices.

CQN is laying the foundations of the quantum internet, which will revolutionize how humankind computes, communicates and senses the world by creating a fabric to connect quantum computers, data centers and gadgets.

Obviously, we’re just scratching the surface with quantum computing and its related fields. And it seems to have happened so fast. But are you surprised?

Steven Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.


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