Whether you consider quantum computing a pipe dream or a future reality, it’s important to understand what this new technology is–and is capable of doing.

Quantum computing concept. Circuit and qubits in background. 3D rendered illustration.

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Since the dawn of the information age, the computers we’ve built have become more powerful than ever. Modern machines are capable of feats considered the realm of fiction even a few short decades ago: Solving complex problems, learning, and behaving in an intelligent manner are just some of the things today’s supercomputers can do, but there’s a catch.

“For problems above a certain size and complexity, we don’t have enough computational power on earth to tackle them,” IBM said on its website. It’s describing the next big leap in computer technology that will make solving those problems possible: Quantum computing.

SEE: Quick Glossary: Quantum computing (TechRepublic Premium)

It may sound like fiction, but quantum computing is real, and it’s likely to change the world in the coming years. It’s a hard concept to understand, though: Traditional computing uses bits of data that can exist in one of two states: 0 and 1. Quantum computing, on the other hand, uses qubits that can exist as both 0 and 1 at the same time, or have a value between 0 and 1. 

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At CES 2020, IBM researcher Dario Gil said that we’re in the decade in which we’ll reach a “quantum advantage” that will allow more researchers to solve more problems like creating new electrolytes for lightweight electric plane batteries, replacing steel with super polymers, or designing antibiotics that are able to defeat multi-drug resistant bacteria (all of which are currently being worked in at IBM).

Business leaders need to know what quantum computing is capable of doing for them, but according to TechRepublic research, 90% of those surveyed said they had little to no understanding of the topic. 

SEE: Research: Quantum computing in the enterprise; key vendors, anticipated benefits, and impact (TechRepublic Premium)

“Quantum computing is leaving the lab and moving into the business world. Business and technology leaders don’t need to explain how quantum computing works, but it is a good idea to get a grasp of the promise the technology holds,” said report author Veronica Combs. 

The report also explains who the biggest quantum computing vendors are, which industries are going to be most affected, and defines some basic quantum computing terms. 

Those in the tech industry have likely heard some of the terms before, but there’s no reason to stop at the basics included in the report. TechRepublic Premium has also put together a Quantum Computing Quick Glossary with definitions for more complex terms like entanglement, or “a phenomena where quantum particles, used as qubits, are connected or entangled in such a way that they cannot be described independently from each other.” 


SEE:
Quick Glossary: Quantum computing (TechRepublic Premium)

The glossary also helps leaders understand quantum computing concepts like the Bloch sphere, superimposition, hybrid modes of operation, coherence, and the all-important scientific basis for quantum computing, quantum mechanics.

SEE: Research: Quantum computing in the enterprise; key vendors, anticipated benefits, and impact (TechRepublic Premium)