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Quantum – More Than Just Computing

Dr Najwa Sidqi, Knowledge Transfer Manager of Quantum Technologies at KTN, explains that, despite the media focus on computing, quantum technologies are far broader than you might think, and they are set to impact the world dramatically…

Throughout history, there have been revolutionary technological innovations that have changed the way the world operates and quantum technology is set to be the next of these developments. While quantum computing is regularly discussed in the media, it is largely hogging the limelight – that’s right, the scope of quantum tech is far broader than just increasing computing power beyond anything that is currently available. With some of it very close to the market, it’s quite strange that we don’t hear about all the other elements of quantum technology that are soon going to change our lives.

In recent years, the advancement of technology has been seen through our ability to shrink things down and get more processing power out of a smaller surface area.  The problem is, there is a limit to how small we can go while we use electrons as our basic building block of computing (literally the difference between a 1 and a 0 to a computer).  If, however, we were able to utilise smaller subatomic particles, such as photons, we could increase the power of our technology considerably.

But as we’ve learnt to manipulate and measure the energy of individual photons, we’ve come to realise that its applications go beyond simply boosting the processing power of our PCs.  And that’s why “quantum technology” is broader than quantum computing.

So, why does computing take up so much of the focus? It’s simple really, the benefits of quantum computing are easy to get your head around and apply to just about every sector. All industries, from finance to construction and nuclear energy to farming, require at least some level of computing.

The other key reason is that it’s the big names in IT, Google, IBM and Microsoft, that are driving the development of quantum computing, each devoting huge amounts of resource to it and generating a lot of media interest too.

So, what are some other applications of quantum technology?  Well, that’s the exciting thing.  The applications are enormous and could well be endless.

Right now, there’s exciting work being done in quantum communication, which allows for infinitely more complex data encryption than what is currently available.

Quantum sensing is another incredible field of research and development that will take our ability to precisely measure electromagnetic waves, fields and forces so much further forward that it’s hard to comprehend the impact on scientific understanding.

Quantum imaging has the potential to revolutionise metrology in a number of fields, with applications in gas leak detection to non-invasive in vivo imaging in healthcare.  So, how far off into the distant future are these technologies of tomorrow?  Well, not too distant at all, in fact they’re already being commercialised.

Companies such as QLM Technology use a quantum gas imaging LIDAR to detect and monitor greenhouse gases. The photon-precise sensor allows organisations to effectively monitor and map the locations and flow rates of gas leaks with high-sensitivity imaging that shows plume shape and concentration.

Likewise, ID Quantique, based in Switzerland, is already leading the world in quantum-safe encryption solutions. Their products are in use by governments, enterprises and research labs across the world.

OK, yes, quantum computing is very exciting, but it’s not the only quantum technology that’s going to improve our lives. There are exciting developments occurring throughout the field of quantum technology which deserve the same amount of attention, and they’re right around the corner!

If you’re interested in quantum R&D, the UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase is taking place on Friday 5th November in the Business Design Centre, London.  It will bring together around 60 of the UK’s most exciting projects from across the Quantum landscape.  The event will also be streamed live for virtual attendees.  Exhibitors can register now here and delegates will be able register in September, I’d love to see you there.