The IEC and ISO have set up a study group in their joint technical committee to identify the standardization needs of quantum computing.
After completing an initial study of key concepts and describing the relevant terminology, the international group of experts will study the requirements of society, markets and technology for future standardization, as well as studying current technologies that are being used in quantum computing.
Quantum computers come in two flavours. Gate-based quantum computing more or less works in the same way as traditional computing. A transistor performs a Boolean function: a sort of binary logic, commonly seen in advanced search engines, that works with modifiers such as ‘AND’ or ‘NOT’. The transistor receives two incoming signals and depending on what it encounters, sends out a new electric signal. In the quantum model, quantum bits, known as qubits, replace the transistors.
The main challenge is increasing the small number of qubits possible today to industrial scale, which is difficult because it is a struggle to keep qubits in their quantum state. Qubits only function “coherently” when they are cooled down to mere thousandths of a degree above absolute zero, which also protects them from the destabilizing effects of radiation, light, sound, vibrations and magnetic fields. All of this limits the size and complexity of problems that gate-based quantum computers are currently able to tackle.
Computers based on quantum annealing take a radically different approach. Quantum annealers run adiabatic quantum computing algorithms. Instead of allowing the entanglement of all qubits, they create an environment where only restricted, local connections are possible.
When they attain superposition, they can be used to mediate and control longer range coherences. This makes them suitable for a much narrower range of tasks, such as solving optimization problems — i.e. choosing the best solution from all feasible solutions.
Quantum annealers have already been used to solve such problems in the domains of finance and the aerospace industry, among others, with potential users limited only by the upwards of 10 million dollars cost of a quantum annealer device. As with gate-based quantum computing, decoherence is a major challenge for quantum annealers and they too require massive refrigeration units.
It would be wrong to think of gate-based quantum computers and quantum annealers as competing technologies. They are useful for solving different problems. Quantum annealers are sometimes dismissed as not being proper computers, but unlike gate-based quantum computers they are already delivering significant results.
Both technologies face an array of similar challenges, including the need for a radically new software stack. They share a decoherence problem, as qubits cannot inherently reject noise. Errors are hard to eliminate as qubits are susceptible to perturbations. And quantum algorithms are very difficult to design.
This is an excerpt from a longer article. You can read more here.