How quantum computers could change the world


Quantum technology is one of the most researched areas and is attracting huge investments. This technology has immense potential. This can be divided into four sectors – quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensors and quantum materials.

This technology is based on the phenomenon exhibited by particles such as photons, electrons, etc. Quantum mechanics came into play to describe the behavior of these particles. The phenomena of superposition, entanglement, teleportation (transfer of matter or energy from one point to another without traversing the physical space between them) and tunneling (a phenomenon that allows a wave to propagate through a barrier) are accomplished by these particles shown. These aspects of quantum mechanics led to a number of interesting applications – exponential growth in computing power, inherently secure communications, non-interacting measurements, precise and sensitive sensors, etc.

Classic computers have helped us solve some puzzles that we could not solve with human power. They have doubled their processing speed and computing power almost every two years. This is known as Moore’s Law. But tasks like finding the prime factors for very large integers quickly are beyond the reach of even the fastest conventional computer. The reason is that finding the prime factors of numbers is a function that grows exponentially. The prime factorization is the basis for secure encryption types. Certain molecular modeling (to discover better drug treatment, understand our biology, etc.) and mathematical optimization problems can crash any classical computer.

With quantum computing, we will be able to take computational power to the next level. Quantum computers work by using quantum mechanical phenomena to process huge data sets where those data sets would deadlock a classical computer. Researchers have a goal called Quantum Supremacy. Quantum supremacy shows that any problem beyond the capabilities of a traditional computer can be solved on a quantum computer. Using quantum properties such as state superposition and entanglement speeds up processing performance and handles an unlimited number of variables.


Classic computers are made up of millions or billions of transistors that exist in an “ON” or “OFF” state equal to 1 or 0, respectively. Quantum computers use qubits (quantum bits) that mimic the state of subatomic particles and can simultaneously exist as 1 or 0 or both. Whenever we measure its state, we will find that it is either ON or OFF. But between measurements, the quantum system can be in a superposition of ON and OFF states at the same time.


As soon as two quantum systems interact with each other, they become entangled partners. The status of one system provides precise information about the status of the other system. This is called entanglement.

Quantum computers, in contrast to conventional computers, examine the entire spectrum of possible computational solutions simultaneously, while classical computers consider each solution in turn. In 2016, IBM made the first five-qubit quantum computer. In 2019 it was still 27 qubits. In 2022 there will be 433 qubits. Quantum computers with 1121 qubits are to be built by 2023. According to New Moore’s law, the quantum volume doubles every year. The quantum volume is the product of added qubits and the decrease in error rate. It is a metric that indicates the processing power of a quantum computer.

Quantum computing is a disruptive technology. People are excited about this technology. It has applications in cyber security, internet search and artificial intelligence. Almost every industry, from finance to telecommunications, can reap the benefits of quantum computing. Many educational institutions have started courses on this topic. This technology has many use cases in finance, agriculture, transportation, etc. RBI can predict how its policies will affect the economy. It can be used to optimize investment portfolios. Improvement in nitrogen fixation can be achieved with better fertilizers that minimize pollution. The transport system can be overhauled. Better batteries can be designed with shorter charging times and longer lifetimes.

Indian Government/Government Institute Initiatives

The Indian government has taken three initiatives to promote quantum technology.

This technology is research driven. With this in mind, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is conducting research in this area as part of the Quantum Enabled Science and Technology (QuEST) program. Twenty-one centers and four research parks across India are participating in this program. This program is supported with a fund of 80 crore. About 300 researchers are involved in this program. In order to translate this research into products, DST set up an innovation lab at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) in Pune in 2019 with a budget of Rs 170 crores. In order to comprehensively address all sectors of this crucial technology, India has launched the National Mission on Quantum Technology and Applications (NMQTA). This mission will expand research and development and promote translation of research and deployment activities. This initiative, with a budget of Rs8,000 crore, spread over the next five years, will be led by DST. DST will coordinate with other stakeholders in carrying out this mission.

In 2020, DRDO demonstrated secure communication using QKD (QuanKey Distribution) technology. QKD will address the threat that rapid advances in quantum computing poses to the security of data carried by current communications infrastructure

Recently, Secretary, DOT inaugurated the Quantum Communications Laboratory at CDOT Delhi. Quantum superposition, entanglement and teleportation offer exponential acceleration over classical communication. He presented the QKD solution developed by CDOT, which can support a distance of more than 100km over OF (Optical Fiber) cable. The Indian Army has set up a quantum computing laboratory at the Military Engineering Institute in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. The research conducted in this lab will help the Indian Army transform its current cryptographic system into a post-quantum cryptography. Telangana Government will set up a Quantum Lab in cooperation with Qulabs Software (India).

Keep it up

Although India has become a software nation, we missed the bus to make an impact in the manufacture of hardware in computing, telecommunications or any other deep technology area. We should seize the opportunity now to become one of the world’s leading manufacturers of quantum computing hardware. Demand for quantum skills is expected to grow by 135 percent in five years. There are many opportunities in this niche area. Quantum computing is now at the stage where classical computers were in 1944 (based on vacuum tubes). Much quantum computing software is open source. Sectors such as manufacturing, banking and defense are likely to lead the way in adopting quantum technology for critical applications. The ecosystem grows. This technology will find applications in all walks of life, and a number of government agencies, academic institutions and start-ups have developed use cases for quantum computing. Adoption of this technology requires industry collaboration with academia and government. Using quantum principles for computing is as different from classical computing as a classical supercomputer is from an abacus.

(The author is a former consultant, Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Government of India)


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