You say bits, I say qubits

IBM Social Signals is a blog series on conversations we’re following on social media. Today’s topic is quantum computing.

What is all the chatter about quantum computing? For a quick recap, today’s computers work by manipulating bits of memory that exist in one of two states: a zero or a one. Quantum computers aren’t limited to two states; they encode information as quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist in superposition, or in two states at the same time. This gives them the potential to be exponentially more powerful than today’s most powerful supercomputers. If you have never been compared to Einstein, the short course at this link provides more background on what quantum computing is.

Why do qubits matter more than bits? We have some big world problems to solve, and frankly, today’s computers just do not have the speed or capability to do it. So we’re getting a little impatient. Take your pick: changing weather patterns, online identity fraud and theft, pandemics and sustainability are among many of the hot topics around the world needing a solution.

We wanted to know more about what was being said about quantum computing across social media, from experts and average people alike. So we listened to conversations to see where quantum computing might best be used and which problems were being talked about the most. Based on the data collected, we found that the importance of quantum computing to certain technological capabilities and industries becomes apparent with the rise of conversation around these topics. In fact, our social listening data supports what experts from MIT, Harvard and other institutions have predicted. That is, cryptography, medicine and optimization are dominating conversations across blogs, forums, Twitter and news sources.

Some of our findings are:

  1. socialsignals_quantumcomputing_600x600Social conversations about quantum computing have increased nearly 40 percent between November 2014 and October 2015.
  2. This year’s highest rate of conversation around quantum computing happened in September with Intel’s investment in a Dutch university partnership.
  3. Cryptography is currently seeing the highest number of mentions across quantum computing conversations.
  4. This year’s highest rate of conversation around optimization in quantum computing was IBM Research’s announcement about breakthroughs in measuring quantum errors.

The Signal? Quantum computing’s origins may have begun in the 1970s, but the interest in bringing it to life is anything but old news. Every day, there is a greater need for the kinds of solutions quantum computing can bring, and the speed at which those solutions could be manifest. And it’s not just scientists that care, people like you and me can benefit from or be impacted by it. Top of mind for citizens and governments alike right now is access to and protection of online information. That’s another area where quantum may help.

To learn more about what quantum computing will mean for business, read this study by the IBM Center for Applied Insights.

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