Quantum computing and artificial intelligence (AI) are symbiotically-related technologies that hold the potential to revolutionise the way we live. Its ability to process vast amounts of data can significantly accelerate AI algorithms, enhance machine learning and pattern recognition capabilities, with more accurate data analysis and predictive modelling.

This synergy can lead to breakthroughs in drug discovery, weather forecasting, optimisation problems and much more, says R Vijayaraghavan, Associate Professor, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

If the AI powered by classical computing solves problems within known limits, AI powered by quantum computers expands its capabilities into uncharted terrain, he added.

Quantum-powered AI can revolutionise fields such as material discovery and reshape AI’s problem-solving capabilities which can foster advanced algorithms via quantum computers, notes Vijayaraghavan.

Prabhakar Anil, Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras, notes that these technologies can transform drug discovery. “If you want to design a new drug molecule, you have to simulate the quantum mechanics of it which is easier to do on a quantum computer,” he says.

Lagging behind

On the other hand, countries like China, the US and Canada are way ahead of India in terms of their quantum computing capacities. But, as of now, India doesn’t have any indigenous quantum computers. One of the reasons for this lag is that, in India, R&D on quantum computing began taking root seriously only around a decade ago, falling behind the other countries by about 30 years, says Vijayaraghavan.

Apart from India’s standing in quantum computing development, a question that pops up frequently is whether India needs quantum computing at all. After all, there are many technologies, such as the exascale supercomputers, which can do billions of computations a second. So why should we look at something as far as quantum computing—goes the argument.

One can debate on this, but the answer from the pro-quantum computing side is centred around “security”—supercomputers, regardless of their capacity, can be broken into by quantum computers.

“What we use today as an encryption tool can be very easily broken using quantum computing,” says Srikumar Ramanathan, Chief Solutions Officer, Mphasis. “Therefore, every financial transaction, including governmental transactions need the kind of encryption that quantum computing cannot break,” he says.

Kiran Vangaveti, CEO, Blusapphire Cyber Systems, says countries are now racing to build viable quantum computers that can decrypt data in a matter of hours. Most internet data passes through cables controlled by multiple states, making them accessible to many parties. Hence, those unprepared are at risk, warns Vangaveti.

“Adversaries with quantum computing technology can breach the current lines of secure communication. Switching to quantum-safe methods of communication is thus essential. Advanced solutions, even in India, are now available to address this challenge,” adds Vijayaraghavan.

In this scenario, using other country’s cloud-based quantum computers becomes a risky endeavour. Since traditional cryptographic methods that rely on mathematical complexities can be easily deciphered by powerful quantum computers, sensitive information transmitted over conventional networks could be at risk of being exploited.

The silver lining

However, there’s a silver lining amidst these concerns, says Abhishek Agarwal, President, Judge India, and Global Delivery, The Judge Group — quantum cryptography offers a highly secure alternative for data transmission. This is one good reason why India needs quantum computers, he says.

Says Agarwal, technologies like quantum key distribution ensure unbreakable encryption based on the principles of quantum entanglement. As quantum computing progresses, this quantum-safe encryption will be instrumental in safeguarding sensitive data, he adds.