mobile | classic
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology Magazine

Follow us on:
Follow us on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn


Electronics Buyers' Guide

Electronics Manufacturing & Production Handbook 2017


From the editor's desk: When will we get our first quantum computers?
21 February 2018, News

For the past few years, the buzz around quantum computing has been growing steadily louder, but it has mostly been coming from university laboratories and advanced corporate R&D facilities. Now household names are getting in on the action, and a number of technical milestones have either been reached or are imminent.

But what will the effects on mainstream computing be, and will it impact on those of us who design systems based on computer technology and/or use them in our everyday lives?

It would take a thesis to properly define the difference between how a quantum computer operates versus a traditional one, but as a very simple explanation, imagine a coin being flipped. Once it lands and comes to rest, we know it will either be a head or a tail, but while it’s in the air, we can’t know which outcome will transpire. In the world of quantum computing, that coin represents a qubit, or quantum bit, and, incredibly, it exists in both states at the same time – until we observe it, at which time it becomes fixed in one particular state. Confused? Most people would be, which is why it takes some of the best minds to come to terms with, and big budgets to put into practice.

In November 2017, IBM announced it had developed a 50 qubit quantum computer, and was making a 20 qubit system available through its cloud computing platform. These qubits are highly unstable though, as their quantum state is preserved for only 90 microseconds, which was nevertheless a record at the time.

Intel managed to fabricate a 17 qubit superconducting test chip for a laboratory in the Netherlands, and Microsoft has created a quantum programming language designed to work with its Visual Studio IDE. The IDE allows users to simulate problems that require up to 30 logical qubits using a PC, and Microsoft is also building a quantum computer of its own. Google, though, is widely considered to be at the forefront of the race to achieve ‘quantum supremacy’, which is to solve a computing problem demonstrably faster than a regular computer can.

So what are all these qubits good for? At this point, not much. They can and have been used to model simple molecules and simulate their behaviour at a quantum mechanical level. Classical computing can also be used for this purpose, but not nearly as fast. Still, it is estimated to require up to 160 qubits to model something as seemingly simple as a caffeine molecule, which is still beyond reach at this time.

Other potential applications include optimisation algorithms and artificial intelligence, but the most practical application is in data encryption – particularly topical in the current era of global cyberattacks. Since qubits have indeterminate states until they are observed, they can be used to encrypt data in such a way that it is almost impossible to crack the code. Unless, of course, a hacker has a quantum computer of their own, then it becomes an arms race all over again.

It is estimated that 2020 or 2021 will mark the first time that quantum computing will begin to start demonstrating advantages for real users, corporations and scientific research. Even then, the first commercial quantum computers will need a decent sized room to house them, and will cost several millions of dollars, so don’t expect to have one sitting on your desk anytime soon.

Brett van den Bosch


Supplied By: Technews Publishing
Tel: +27 11 543 5800
Fax: +27 11 787 8052
  Share on Facebook Share via Twitter Share via LinkedIn    

Further reading:

  • SA buys R1 billion entrance ticket to fourth industrial revolution
    18 July 2018, News
    Yekani has outgrown its contract manufacturing roots and is fast becoming a major player in the South African OEM market.
  • Minister dismayed at local content in STBs
    18 July 2018, News
    Communications minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, expressed her concern about the lack of adherence to the 30% local content manufacturing rule on the part of some digital TV set-top box suppliers.
  • The impact of localisation on revenue and supply chain
    18 July 2018, Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD), News
    The unforeseen impact of government’s localisation initiative is the need for creative supply chain and inventory management processes that align the time factor of project cash out- and in-flows.
  • From the editor’s desk: Jackson’s left hand rule
    18 July 2018, Technews Publishing, News
    It is strange how sometimes, after first noticing something you hadn’t noticed before, it seems to pop up all over the place. It has been dubbed the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, and it’s not so much a case ...
  • Electronics news digest
    18 July 2018, News
    South Africa • Würth Elektronik eiSos announced the appointment of NuVision Electronics (pictured) as a new South African distribution partner. “In our joint vision to build strong, service-focused relationships ...
  • RS launches e-commerce website for sub-Saharan Africa
    18 July 2018, RS Components (SA), News
    RS Components was founded as Radiospares in 1937 as a supplier of parts to the burgeoning radio market, and has evolved into a global distribution enterprise with operations in Europe, North America, ...
  • Supercomputing students bring home third prize
    18 July 2018, News
    The South African supercomputing team that participated in the International Student Cluster Competition in Frankfurt, Germany, took third place behind China’s Tsinghua University and Nanyang Technological ...
  • Electronics news digest
    13 June 2018, News
    South Africa • Pasternack, a leading provider of RF, microwave and millimetre-wave products, has signed RF Design of Cape Town as an authorised distributor of Pasternack products in South Africa and ...
  • AAD and Resolution Circle upskill students
    13 June 2018, Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD), This Week's Editor's Pick, News
    Arrow Altech Distribution (AAD) and Resolution Circle launched a joint youth skills development programme that shall see 120 student engineers receive in-service training in cellphone screen and battery repairs.
  • Sierra Wireless hosts ‘Simplifying IoT’ seminars
    13 June 2018, News
    Based around the theme ‘Simplifying IoT,’ Sierra Wireless recently held one-day seminars in Cape Town, Centurion and Durban. Presentations covering a variety of product ranges and topics were delivered ...
  • From the editor’s desk
    13 June 2018, Technews Publishing, News
    After a severe downturn triggered by the global economic collapse a few years ago, the electronics industry has recovered to reach all-time highs. DMASS reported record European semiconductor sales figures ...
  • Win a Microchip in-circuit debugger
    13 June 2018, Technews Publishing, News
    Readers of Dataweek are being offered the chance to win one of Microchip Technology’s MPLAB PICkit 4 in-circuit debuggers. The tool allows fast and easy debugging and programming of PIC and dsPIC Flash ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    Classic | Mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.