Security CEO and Founder of Safe Quantum Inc., working with data-driven companies to define, develop and deploy quantum-safe technologies.
Quantum computing holds great promise for the future of high-speed, complex computation, and there are nascent commercial opportunities to employ quantum science today.
In previous Forbes articles, I’ve discussed how financial services will likely be the first industry to apply quantum in business, the early steps IT security professionals can take to leverage quantum keys and the role quantum can play in anti-hacking security scenarios.
But even quantum experts like me agree that full-blown quantum computers are years away from being used in commercial settings.
Unfortunately, hackers and state-sponsored cybercriminals aren’t going to wait. So are there technologies available that can bridge that gap between the encryption technology in wide use today and the near-unbreakable quantum security and speed of the future?
Companies like Toshiba are surely pushing the envelope.
Toshiba has introduced a simulated bifurcation machine that uses a mathematical algorithm in a new way to improve upon how classical computers do difficult, “combinatorial” calculations.
For example, when you play chess, there are multiple variations of what moves you can make after the opening. When you play chess against a computer, the computer uses an algorithm to determine the next best move, computing along the way with every new play. Traditional computers can do this level of calculation fairly simply.
But arguably, the biggest issue in computing today is how to securely use vast quantities of data.
A basic mathematical approach just can’t increase processing speeds along with the volume and complexity of data. And that’s where the Toshiba approach is getting noticed.
Without delving too deeply into the science behind the mathematics (see here for details), the bifurcation process is based on thermodynamic principles based on energy levels. When a bifurcation machine runs a process, it does millions of simultaneous calculations until the options start to slow down and reach a low-energy state. Then, they stop and look at the possible answers.
Toshiba tested a 1 million-bit problem using its simulated bifurcation machine (SBM) implemented on a traditional 16-GPU computer, the world’s largest scale combinatorial problem yet published in scientific papers. According to the results published in Science Advances, the test found the solution in 30 minutes — a computation that would have taken 14 months using a typical computer.
Clearly, this process allows for both increased calculation speed and complexity of operation, two advantages we also see with the promise of quantum computing. And the SBM does not require low temperatures for stable operation; therefore, it doesn’t require the super-cooling infrastructure needed in current quantum settings.
Toshiba has made its SBM available on Amazon Web Services Marketplace and has planned a private preview on Microsoft’s Azure Quantum platform in April, giving developers access to this revolutionary approach.
In my view, that has opened the potential to introduce quantum-like advantages much more quickly in commercial environments. This machine and its algorithm can now solve problems that were only thought to be solvable with a quantum computer.
Still, this will only solve a certain class of problems. But the Toshiba SBM is a bridge to quantum computers. It’s a definite step forward, and it does enable projects to occur in industries like financial services for dynamic portfolio modeling and management and in pharmaceutical drug synthesis and genome sequencing. It has applications in logistics and warehousing and distribution optimization.
Security and data problems aren’t going away. But for many of the forward-leaning corporations that are not content to wait for quantum, the Toshiba SBM will allow them to make a substantial computational leap within their current IT infrastructure.
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