Quantum Computing: Fiction or Reality?

Due to the latest technological advances, the realization of what until now was considered a chimera in computing is beginning to seem faintly possible; quantum physics applied to the information age generates concepts that seem distant in time, but perhaps not so much.

To begin with, we need to understand what quantum computing is and why it sounds a bit like science fiction or a TV series with Sheldon Cooper at the helm.

It is nowadays difficult to say when this technology will be available, but it seems to be closer than we imagined a few years ago.

By Rodrigo de la Moneda González, Marketing and Communication Telefónica Audiovisual Services, and Asier Anitua Valluerca, Business Development Manager Telefónica Servicios Audiovisuales

 

It all starts with the Qubits, the quantum version of bits: quantum computing allows to perform massive parallel calculations and solve problems that are beyond the reach of current systems. This technology has the potential to transform the broadcast sector, addressing challenges such as the optimization of video compression algorithms, improvement in the efficiency of transmission and dissemination of content or -which can truly be a paradigm shift- the integration of AI tools capable of, for example, creating ultra-personalized content almost autonomously.

 

But, what is a quantum computer?

A quantum computer is a machine that uses the principles of quantum mechanics to perform calculations. Unlike classical computers, which use bits to process and store information in the form of zeros and ones, quantum computers use qubits (quantum bits). These qubits are able to take advantage of quantum properties to perform tasks that would take too long to run on a traditional computer. These features include superposition and quantum entanglement.

Starting with superposition, we must clarify that this assumes that a particle, or qubit in this case, can be in different states at the same time. Only when its situation is observed and measured the system is “forced” to collapse , returning a single response. As an example of this behavior, let’s take the flipping of a coin as reference. While the coin remains spinning in the air, it is in an overlapping state in which there is a 50% chance that it will be either heads or tails, but without opting for one or the other option. Only when the coin lands and one or the other outcome is ascertained can we observe what value has taken, since it has been forced to collapse in one of the two options.

Returning to qubits, imagine having to solve a complex problem with a multitude of potential solutions. In a classic computer it would be necessary to test each possibility in series, one at a time, which would not be desirable  in terms of time. Thanks to superposition, qubits can adopt different values simultaneously (ones and zeros), thus allowing them to represent all possible solutions of a problem at once. This quality translates into massive processing capacity, as the system can explore all solutions at the same time.

On the other hand, moving on to the second quantum feature, qubits can be entangled with each other, which means that the state of one qubit is intrinsically linked to the state of another, even if separated by large distances. Any variation in the state of one member of the quantum pair will be reflected in the other, which is a potential application in the transmission of information and problem solving.

For example, in certain quantum operations entangled qubits are used to distribute information between different parts of a system in parallel, which can significantly accelerate the calculation process, since the information travels instantaneously without having to go through a circuit.

In addition, quantum entanglement can be exploited in other fields such as communication security, to generate cryptographic keys that are impossible to intercept or modify without going unnoticed. This is because entanglement causes any attempt to measure or spy on the information to affect the status of the qubits, and consequently that of their pairs, which would alert a receiver that someone has attempted to intervene in the transmission.

It is important to note that not all problems benefit from quantum computing. Quantum computers are especially efficient in certain types of operations, such as factoring large numbers, where classical calculations would be extremely slow. On the other hand, traditional computers are optimal in performing everyday tasks and simple calculations that do not require as much power, such as web browsing.

Returning to the operation of computing, and having understood its fundamentals, it is necessary to establish that qubits are not the only components within these systems. As in traditional computing, quantum computers operate through the use of quantum gates, a concept equivalent to that of logic gates. Unlike the latter, which operate based on what is known as Boolean logic, its more advanced counterpart takes advantage of the principles of superposition and entanglement to control the quantum states of the qubits (as in the example of the coin thrown into the air) and perform calculations in parallel. By combining these gates circuits capable of performing different operations can be created, so a correct design is key for building efficient algorithms.

To minimize the risk of involving flaws in the calculations, quantum computers have powerful cooling systems, since qubits need to operate under minimum temperatures close to absolute zero. On the other hand, the mechanisms for reading the state of the qubits are vital, since they are responsible for translating the quantum information resulting from the calculations into readable data. Finally, all this mechanism is orchestrated by a control unit, responsible for the coordination of calculations and other components through the execution of software specially designed for these environments.

 

How can this new technology affect the broadcast universe?

In the era of digital transformation, the audiovisual sector faces increasingly complex challenges. Production, distribution and transmission of content are beginning to demand a processing capacity that requires new technological solutions to make the entire process efficient.

With the rise of new platforms and the race in creation of quality content that captivates viewers, consumers in the industry are developing increasingly demanding standards. Users expect to encounter immersive experiences, Apple  Glasses, metaverses, customized content and exceptional video, audio and sensor quality. All this with the idea of being able to access content when, how and where so desired.

We are facing a sector that needs solutions to meet and exceed, on the one hand, consumers expectations and, on the other, the technical challenges being faced. With this in mind, it is clear that it is essential to adopt and develop new technologies that provide effective solutions to these challenges.

From Big Data to the metaverse, these advances will facilitate the design of tools that, in addition to proposing solutions to existing problems, come up with new challenges and draw a promising horizon of possibilities. Among all these technologies, the advances in quantum computing stand out especially since, in one way or another, they will end up impacting the entire technological landscape and revolutionizing not only the telecommunications sector, but our way of creating, consuming and relating to content.

 

What use cases make sense with this technology?

Logically, this technology will begin to be used by a few privileged countries and with a greater focus on defense, security and cybersecurity, both in communications and systems. However,as soon as progress is made it will become more accessible to other sectors. We understand that always in a PaaS (Platform as a Service) mode since possessing this technology in the medium term would not be possible due to the security inherent to non-quantum systems.

Imagining a possible use case, we could mention artificial intelligence systems for automatic audiovisual production in which the creation of ultra-customized content is another way to generate content almost instantaneously. For example, provide AI with a set of instructions to create cartoons with a story that is customized to the maximum, choosing the characters, moral, goals, focus and bias that are desired. The major production companies will then be able to manage with their characters’ copyrights so that consumers can create ad hoc stories with their favorite characters, intertwining them and their circumstances, as if they were different multiverses.

For use cases that are harder to explain but equally useful in the long term, new transmission and communication protocols based on quantum entanglement could sprìng up imitating the use given to this by quantum computers. Protocols could be designed that allow a practically instantaneous transmission of audiovisual information from one device to another.

Other use cases that we could find, among many others, would be:

  • More efficient and difficult to intervene information encryption techniques, since any attempt to modify the qubits could be notified almost immediately and greater calculation capacity is available (this involves a higher complexity). At this point, Spanish companies such as Arquimea are already offering quantum-proof encryption of the future; thus, they enable facing the security of the future under the threats of quantum computing.
  • Apply AI for 3D scanning and modeling of scenes and objects , on which quantum computing could accelerate processing times; at this point, Volinga is one of the solutions that together with Arquimea are evaluating its implementation.
  • Impact on Blockchain: improvement of algorithms, higher speed in transactions (the number of transactions per second could increase, but this depends on different issues such as design of the Blockchain itself, which implies a continuous validation of transactions and new blocks being added to the chain), quantum cryptography, scalability of Blockchain networks.
  • Recognition and analysis of content: identification of patterns and preferences, segmentation of the audience, classification of content according to types of audience, customization of platforms and content.
  • Virtual and augmented reality: simulation of more complex, interactive and realistic virtual environments (virtual objects, scenarios for presentations, films, series, etc.).

 

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