(Yahoo) The race for quantum supremacy isn’t just between tech companies, but between nation-states as well.
Why it matters: The first country to produce effective, working quantum computers will have a key advantage in economics, defense and cybersecurity — and the U.S., China, and Europe are all competing.
One of the clearest uses of quantum computing is to eventually break the complex mathematical problems used to encrypt information of all kinds on the internet, including sensitive government data.
That’s not yet possible with today’s quantum computers, but it could well be within a decade or less. In the meantime, nations are likely intercepting and storing data now with the expectation that they’ll be able to decrypt it in the future.
Between the lines: While U.S. companies generally have the lead on building better quantum computers, China has invested massively in the industry, including an $11 billion national laboratory for quantum information sciences.
Chinese researchers have made breakthroughs on quantum communications, including via satellite, and Chinese companies dominate patent applications for quantum cryptography.
But in part because Chinese researchers don’t publish as often as their Western counterparts — and because travel in and out of the country has been highly limited during COVID-19 — “we don’t have a lot of visibility into what they’re doing,” says Peter Chapman, president and CEO of quantum computer company IonQ.
What to watch: Progress on American efforts to develop post-quantum cryptography standards that would resist more powerful quantum computers, as well as research from the five new quantum institutes created by the Whie House last year.
The bottom line: “The economy for the next hundred years will be driven by quantum,” says Chapman. “So it’s not a game we want to lose.”