Take a look at your cellphone, your laptop, your car. It’s safe to say that software runs our world.
Think about it—doctors, first responders, and pilots all use software to not only simplify their work, but also save lives every day.
In an age where the potential for a software error is more widespread than ever, how can we guarantee that systems will work safely when these individuals and others need them the most?
Quantum computers. While this technology might be tough to swallow, hear us out:
If you have ever written any code, you know it’s easy to make mistakes. And not just spelling and punctuation, but also subtle mistakes that can cause a computer to freeze. If you inputted the code onto a traditional computer—i.e. your laptop—the error could take several months to find, depending on the code’s length. With a quantum computer, powered by particle physics (basically the study of really, really small stuff) it can follow billions and billions of pathways at once to locate glitches in an instant.
Quantum computers look at difficult problems, which we call intractable. These kinds of questions are the hardest to solve, and if you asked a classical computer to complete the problem, it would take longer than the known universe to solve it.
Imagine how useful this might be for the aerospace industry—like verifying the huge amounts of software that make aircraft operational. Before an aircraft is ever flown, every line of code must be checked to ensure the aircraft will operate reliably and safely.
And, because half the cost of developing a new technology is rooted in software verification and eliminating errors, quantum computers offer economical high-confidence solutions that enhance safety and meet growing regulations.
A quantum computer is unique in its design to solve a specific problem.
The computer that Lockheed Martin is using is the D-Wave Two, and its primary role is to verify and validate the control systems for complex platforms.
While your laptop thinks in ones and zeroes—meaning it can only check one thing at a time—quantum computers simultaneously check all possibilities. This aligns with the quantum nature of matter, in which atomic particles, ‘quanta’, can exist in multiple states at the same—or, in this instance, the computer thinks not only in ones and zeros, rather in quantum superposition.
Consider the potential that this type of computing might have on other high-stakes, complex engineering, such as spaceflight.
With space travel, our engineers review every possible trajectory a spacecraft might take to get to its destination. Instead, the D-Wave Two could exhaustively tests every solution and then combines all permutations into the most efficient outcome—within milliseconds.
The age of the quantum is knocking at the door. And one day, all of humanity will benefit from faster solving of the most complex problems.
Watch this video to learn more about how quantum computing may help the world as this technology continues to evolve and enter our culture: