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Quantum computing replaces the binary digits (bits) of classical electric computing with quantum bits (qubits), which, through features of quantum physics such as quantum states and quantum entanglement, will enable information to be processed exponentially faster than classical computers can manage.
With quantum supremacy – in which a quantum computer can be shown to process any task faster than a classical computer – on the horizon, researchers and companies are beginning to see some of the potential applications for exponentially faster computers than those in use today.
These applications could drastically improve our quality of life in the near future, and machine learning-powered by quantum computers promises to bring with it improvements to our quality of life that are as yet unimaginable.
A Quantum Computing-based IoT
One of the most significant recent applications of information technology (powered by classical computing) is the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT connects all of the “smart” devices, components, systems, and processes that can access and be accessed by the Internet, into one network.
Connecting these things means they can exchange data and further integrate the physical world into computer-based systems, delivering improved efficiency, economic benefits, and automation, which reduces the need for human labor.
IoT networks based on quantum computing would be manageable at vast scales, leading to drastic improvements in our quality of life.
One application of a quantum computing-based IoT would be a fully integrated and automated smart city of the future. This would manage energy production and distribution, waste treatment and disposal, pedestrian and vehicle traffic, lighting, and even atmospheric control.
Cities are growing rapidly with the increase in the human population, and cities of the future will need to accommodate more and more people to limit the effects of climate change on natural ecosystems. Quantum computing could enable the people living in cities to maintain a good quality of life despite the pressures of huge local populations.
Smart Road Networks
With smart cars – and in the near future, self-driving cars – connected to a quantum computing-based IoT, road accidents could be eradicated entirely, fuel usage would be optimized for efficiency, and congestion could be greatly reduced.
Similarly, air traffic control (ATC) could be processed by quantum computers. This would deliver drastic improvements to accuracy (and, therefore, safety) and the manageable size of the ATC network.
This is necessary for a future in which unmanned aircraft (drones) will take over many of the physical delivery tasks that are currently performed inefficiently by humans driving on roads. It will enable quality of life improvements such as the quick, individual delivery of new products, medicines, and even passengers to destinations around large cities and beyond.
If the speed of quantum computing can be applied within the industrial automation sector, then factories of the future would become vastly more efficient and able to take over more and more menial tasks currently completed or overseen by humans.
This would create economic benefits and free human labor to explore more and more meaningful ways of spending time.
Smart Power Supply and Distribution
A quantum computing enabled electric grid linked to the IoT promises to remove inefficiencies from the power supply and distribution system, reducing human’s need for energy while maintaining modern quality of life.
Quantum Computing-enabled Modelling and Forecasting
Classical computers simulating complex human and natural systems (like financial markets and the planet’s climate) and using these simulations or models to predict the future accurately has already led to quality of life improvements in the twentieth century. This is known as 'forecasting'.
These can be greatly enhanced by the introduction of quantum computing, which would be able to gather and take in inputs across entire complex systems, process them, and predict the way in which they will interact.
Quantum Computing-enabled Machine Learning
Machine learning – in which computers are able to learn and reprogram themselves for greater efficiency or accuracy in completing tasks – can bring unimaginable new applications for computers. Enabled by the much more powerful quantum computers of the future, machine learning could advance rapidly.
This, coupled with quantum computing-enabled modeling and forecasting, has the potential to advance medicine and eradicate many diseases, provide treatment efficiently, and quickly diagnose and treat ailments (supported by the IoT).
Further, machine learning-enabled by quantum computers will produce improvements to our quality of life that cannot be imagined yet, as computers will continue to learn and develop themselves to support human goals of survival, harmony with the planet’s ecosystems, and luxurious and effortless living.