Quantum computing in the future of the IoT

Published by Telefónica IoT Team IoT General

Connected devices, the people who use them, and the places that harbour them are growing at extraordinary rates. In order to maintain this current growth rate, we must look to the future. The scalability of our current digital architecture is not enough. Needs far surpass possibilities. The world needs more computation, more calculating power. This is the foundation needed to be able to work with the incredible number of connections and the massive agglomeration of data that the IoT is facing. Fortunately, we have already found the solution and are starting to explore it.

Quantum computing, the necessary change

When we speak about quantum computing, a kind of "mysticism" hangs over the topic of conversation. For now, quantum computing is not too well known beyond specific circles. However,  computing is reaching solutions that were impossible until now thanks to quantum properties. Quantum computing is a paradigm shift and a change in architecture in the construction of digital environments and hardware. In "traditional" computing, capacity is measured by bits, information units that can have two possible values: 0 and 1. However, in quantum computing, these values, known as qubits, can be 0, 1 and both of them overlapping at the same time. Without entering into the details of the operation, qubits dramatically increase the calculation and computational capacity.

"There are endless problems that cannot be solved in terms of human time [with current computing]," said Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Acronis at the 4th International Quantum Computing Congress in Moscow last July. "New materials, engineering problems, artificial intelligence... thanks to quantum computing, these problems can be solved more quickly, which is fascinating." All this effort plays a fundamental role in another regard, namely the possibility of reducing computing devices to nanometric levels, offering more computing power and smaller sizes, both on exponential scales. This also results in another very important fact: lower energy consumption. These three basics are essential in building a connected world; they are the most important aspects to give the Internet of Things value. And therefore, the physical properties at the quantum level can solve a scalability problem that seemed insurmountable. The IoT can continue to evolve!

Quantum IoT, the future that’s just around the corner

How will this technology affect the evolution of the Internet of Things? Artificial intelligence and Big Data processing are issues inherent to the nature of the IoT. In many cases, they pose a limit, a barrier to overcome. So what if we can overcome it? "To solve problems of the neural networks  used in machine learning, you have to be able to mathematically optimize certain functions with a huge amount of data," explained John Martinis, director of Google’s Quantum Computation Laboratory, at the congress. "With quantum computing, we want to explore a larger number of parameters with which we can deal with this type of problem more efficiently in order to find better solutions. These problems are perfect for quantum computing." Thanks to this paradigm shift, we can now process larger amounts of data faster and more efficiently. The result is expanded possibilities of connected devices, the creation of  new devices and nodes of information processing, as well as better information transfer.

Another interesting example of "quantum IoT" involves security. Quantum mechanics has a series of properties that, if used properly, make it possible to create a virtually inviolable communication environment. Theoretically, thanks to these properties (quantum entanglement, in particular), you can create completely instantaneous communication without any means of transmission. This means creating a 100% secure method of communication. Another important aspect is quantum encryption, something that is already being put into practice. While encrypted messages can be violated in a considerable but feasible amount of time, by means of supercomputing, quantum encryption and the computation associated with decrypting such messages make this encryption impossible to break. "The idea of ​​transmitting simple quantum objects (such as a photon) like signals in the classical sense means that no one can steal or destroy information. This is based on a host of quantum principles of transmission", explained Alex Fedorov, a young doctoral student at the Russian Center for Quantum Computing, at the conference. "This is used in encryption or BlockChain, which allows us to ensure the soundness and permanence of the information since you cannot modify or capture it without that action being recorded."

Quantum encryption is a discipline that is currently booming since it allows information to be secured beyond what we could have imagined. As we know, in a world in which cyberattacks are growing, it is extremely important to safeguard our information. Thanks to quantum computing, we can build smaller, more efficient and more secure devices. But that’s not all. As we said above, smart objects will be even more intelligent. Smart Cities will reach levels never imagined. Communication will be even faster, and we will achieve even more efficient energy management. Of course, there is still a great deal of work to do. "The main problem for quantum computing is decoherence," Martinis explained. This means that the creation of quantum computers is still limited to a certain number of qubits. "What we have shown this morning," Beloussov explained, referring to one of the discoveries announced during the congress, "is a quantum computer with fifty-one real qubits. Until now only ten qubits had been achieved." However, for the time being, about a hundred qubits or more are needed before these processors can be implemented in everyday devices. "When we have them, we will see direct applications like autonomous cars, wearables and Smart City services that operate thanks to quantum computing."

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Telefónica IoT Team