Quantum computers are coming. Get ready for them to change everything

Supermarket aisles filled with fresh produce are probably not where you would expect to discover some of the first benefits of quantum computing.


But Canadian grocery chain Save-On-Foods has become an unlikely pioneer, using quantum technology to improve the management of in-store logistics. In collaboration with quantum computing company D-Wave, Save-On-Foods is using a new type of computing, which is based on the downright weird behaviour of matter at the quantum level. And it's already seeing promising results.


The company's engineers approached D-Wave with a logistics problem that classical computers were incapable of solving. Within two months, the concept had translated into a hybrid quantum algorithm that was running in one of the supermarket stores, reducing the computing time for some tasks from 25 hours per week down to mere seconds.


Save-On-Foods is now looking at expanding the technology to other stores, and exploring new ways that quantum could help with other issues. "We now have the capability to run tests and simulations by adjusting variables and see the results, so we can optimize performance, which simply isn't feasible using traditional methods," a Save-On-Foods spokesperson tells ZDNet. 


"While the results are outstanding, the two most important things from this are that we were able to use quantum computing to attack our most complex problems across the organization, and can do it on an ongoing basis."


The remarkable properties of quantum computing boil down to the behaviour of qubits -- the quantum equivalent of classical bits that encode information for today's computers in strings of 0s and 1s. But contrary to bits, which can be represented by either 0 or 1, qubits can take on a state that is quantum-specific, in which they exist as 0 and 1 in parallel, or superposition.


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By Daphne Leprince-Ringuet| November 2, 2020

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