British Defence Ministry Gets A Quantum Computer

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has acquired the government's first quantum computer and will work with Orca Computer, a spin-out from Oxford University to enable the ministry to develop quantum applications for military use. 

Quantum computers can make very complex calculations quickly and they can solve problems regular computers cannot and Orca Computing aims to provide a new approach to quantum computing using proprietary quantum memory technology and leveraging an industry-standard infrastructure.

Orca uses its own patented quantum memory to store and retrieve single photons on demand. It enables high-speed ‘repeat-until-successful or release-when-needed’ operations. This helps to overcome the reliance on having an extremely large number of redundant components working in parallel.

Quantum computing experts and physicists say this means that the problems combed over by average computers for years could be solved in a matter of minutes. Most computers process data in bits, which have a binary value of either zero or one, whereas quantum computers use a two-state unit for data processing called a qubit.

A quantum system could also analyse images and other data gathered from the battlefield, as well as being asked to assess the enemy's next move and potentially advise on a best response. Stephen Till, of the MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), called it a "milestone moment".

Quantum computing has been on the rise over the past few years, with experts suggesting that the technology could provide up to £4bn of economic opportunities globally by 2024 alone, while productivity gains could surpass over £341bn within the next few decades. 

This can represent digits like one or zero simultaneously through a quantum mechanical process called superposition, letting quantum computers bridge binary digits and cope with uncertainty where regular computers cannot.

Prof Winfried Hensinger, head of the Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies at University of Sussex, says the true potential of quantum computers will take time to fully materialise. "They can't actually solve any practical problems yet. They're enabling you to maybe gauge the possibilities of what working on a quantum computer would have if you can scale this machine to really large system sizes." But he adds the promise of quantum computing, and the MoD's exploration of it, is still significant. "Quantum computing can be disruptive in nearly any industry sector," Prof Hensinger adds.

Britain wants to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy. As part of this, the UK pledged £10m of funding back in 2020 to build the country’s first quantum computer. In 1997, the first tiny quantum computer was built, but the field really took off only when the Canadian startup D-Wave revealed its 28-qubit quantum computer in 2007.

E&T:      Metro:    BBC:       Daily Mail:    Information Age:      Oxford Mail:   WEF:   Scientific Computing

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