(AFCEA.org) Participants who worked on a study of applications of quantum technologies for the Defense Science Board offered their own individual perspectives on advanced applications especially applied to the intelligence community that will come with quantum computing based in part on that study.
According to the study, the three prime areas of quantum applicability are sensing, computing and communications. The most important is sensing, and the government is the leader in that area, said John Manferdelli, senior research scientist at VMware. Right now, some prototypes “do the things you want,” he said, and being able to turn them into useful technology would solve a lot of problems.
Government agencies such as the National Security Agency have done significant work in quantum computing, he continued. A lot of progress has been made, but it is hard to know when quantum computing may be important—“it may never be,” he allowed. If a huge breakthrough emerges, it could allow a quantum computer to be built in five or 10 years, he allows.
For communications, the principal application will be building a distributed quantum computer, Manferdelli stated. A few other possible applications may emerge in the early years of development.
The government has done a lot of good work supporting research in quantum technologies, said Peter Weinberger, computer scientist at Google. Yet other countries are moving quickly in quantum research, and while the United States is in a good position compared to the others, it is hard to be optimistic about dominance in the field, he offered.
Joan Hoffman, program manager at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, allowed that academia will be the source of breakthroughs and a driver for the growth of quantum engineering. This will be a multidisciplinary field featuring people who are skilled in other areas such as computer and materials sciences.
Ultimately, application breakthroughs will be the drivers for quantum computing, Weinberger said. “When will it be that there is something we can do on a quantum computer that we basically cannot do at roughly equivalent cost on a regular computer?” When that is answered, it will be because of application breakthroughs.
Cryptography is a focal point that has spurred quantum research, and it will have applications sooner rather than later. The Internet, which tends to be slow to change, should add in algorithms that can resist quantum computers now.

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