In 1971, Intel introduced the first 4-bit microprocessor which composed of 2,300 transistors which solved the problem of computers being available commercially. The 1980s bought exponential advancement in microprocessors which made computers available for the public and led to the start of many powerful companies such as Apple, Microsoft, etc. Now, we have computers in the garb of smartphones and smart watches that fit into our pockets or can be worn on the wrist. Further, advancements in computer parts might meet its physical limitation and transistors might reach the size of a single atom. If that’s the case, it would be a physical barrier to our technological progress since the rules that are applicable in the physical world might not be applicable in the quantum world. To solve this problem, scientists are using unusual quantum properties to their advantage, which has led to the birth of a new field of study called Quantum Computing.
Quantum Computing is the next paradigm of computing that uses principles from quantum mechanics to represent and process data. Quantum computers have qubits as its basic unit of data and unlike normal bits that exist in either of two definite states (0 or 1), qubits can exist in proportions of these two states at the same time called superposition. Most calculations in classical computers are done through logic gates while the calculations in quantum computers are done through quantum gates, where they manipulate the initial superposition state to a new superposition state and perform the required operation.
The deterring factor of qubits is their uncertainty which operates on the theory of probables. But the certainty of the results from quantum computing can be increased by repeating the computation several times. Though we can’t replace physical computers with the current development in quantum computing technology, but its application in computation intensive tasks such as cryptography, molecular and financial modeling, weather predictions, numerical simulations, and artificial intelligence can prove useful.
Patent Related information
At a macro level, there are about 5,500 patents/patent applications filed in the field of Quantum Computing globally. There has been a steady increase in the number of patents/patent applications filed each year with a significant increase around the year 2013. This can be attributed to increased interest and investment from governments of multiple countries.
Most number of patents related to the Quantum Computing are filed in the US, followed by China, Japan, South Korea and Canada. This trend is clearly due to the increase in their annual spending on research in quantum computing. (We haven’t considered the patent applications filed in the EPO and WPO jurisdictions in the graph below.)
Universities pave the way
D-wave Systems, IBM, Microsoft, Northrop Grumman, and Toshiba. Among universities, Yale University has the maximum number of patents/patent applications related to the Quantum Computing and the Yale University is followed, in terms of number of patent applications filed in this domain, by the University of California and MIT.
Companies are also collaborating with universities and think tanks to accelerate progress in the domain. NEC Corporation has collaborated with RIKEN Research Institute to demonstrate the first quantum logic gate in a two-qubit solid state device. The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) collaborated with the University of Toronto to design the first all-photonic repeaters and associated protocols, which is a major step towards enabling international quantum communications networks over existing optical infrastructure. HP has collaborated with the National Institute of Informatics (Japan) to design quantum communication protocols.
D-wave is a leading patent holder in the US, similar to the next four leading assignees. Each of these companies filed most of its patents after 2014 and are showing increasing interest in recent times. For almost every company, the number of patents filed in each year is in the upward trend which is a strong sign of a promising technology of the future.
Though quantum computing is showing signs of promise for commercial use, the world has not evolved enough to be able to leverage it wholesomely yet. There are still several problems plaguing the technology. But once solved, it can make for a specialized tool for specific applications or it can also turn into a revolution for humanity. Since humans have no idea where the limits of technology are, the only person who can answer that question is Time.
Featured image is intended for representational purpose alone and has been sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Wafer_of_the_Latest_D-Wave_Quantum_Computers_(39188583425).jpg