Professor Francesco Petruccione, the South African Research Chair for Quantum Information Processing and Communication (QIPC), founder of UKZN’s Centre for Quantum Technology and Pro Vice-Chancellor for the University’s Big Data and Informatics Research Flagship, along with MSc candidate, Ms Amira Abbas, recently spoke to ITWeb about a collaboration between UKZN and First National Bank (FNB) through which the bank is exploring the use of quantum computing for its products and services.
According to ITWeb, the research underway with the School of Chemistry and Physics involves investigating approaches for the application of the principles of quantum theory to develop customer-centric solutions and enhance customer relationship management.
Quantum theory and the application of QIPC is of growing interest to the financial sector as a new computing technology for executing data operations by exploiting quantum phenomena, including entanglement and quantum bits. The banking sector believes this technology could improve understanding of customer needs and behaviour in an increasingly complex and connected world, improve security and cybercrime prevention, and much more. Quantum computers also outperform traditional information technology when it comes to power and capacity to quickly compute data. Furthermore, with cyber criminals utilising technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, quantum computing presents the financial sector with tools to keep ahead of cyberattacks.
The feature detailed how the use of quantum computing solutions can go beyond simply the provision of financial services, extending to proactive social services in healthcare and more.
Petruccione spoke about growing competition to achieve what he calls quantum advantage, detailing how data encrypted with quantum cryptography has already been transmitted, and how last year, a quantum computer outperformed a classical computer for the first time, signalling the imminent real-world applications of quantum computing. As investment in quantum computing technology increases, it will accelerate the moment when quantum computers will exceed what can be done by a classical computer, as part of efforts to better understand the workings of the universe and the solution of complex problems.
Petruccione added that other industries will be disrupted by the advent of quantum technology, for example the energy sector, where it could contribute to optimisation of renewable energy systems. Mining companies are investigating using it to improve various processes, and the agricultural sector could adopt quantum smart farming methods to improve productivity.
Abbas, who is also a researcher at IBM’s quantum computing research laboratory in Zürich, said quantum computing would not replace emerging technologies such as AI and machine learning, but would rather enable the physical limits of classical computing to be overcome and would allow users to enhance the capabilities of current technologies. She highlighted that quantum computing operates on the principles of physics, specifically quantum theory that explains the behaviour of matter and energy on an atomic and subatomic level.
Within the Centre for Quantum Technology, researchers are working on several projects, notably quantum cryptography, part of which involves the realisation of a quantum key distribution system by Petruccione. Abbas’ master’s research involves quantum machine learning; the idea of building machine learning and AI algorithms that run on an actual quantum computer. The Centre aims to stimulate the development of a QIPC industry in Durban and KwaZulu-Natal.
Words: Christine Cuénod