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At the subatomic level, the laws of classical physics no longer apply.

Human memory, conversations with computers, and just-in-time knowledge (and a short demo)

Particles can exist in more than one state at a time and phenomena such as entanglement and superposition [1] are exhibited. Quantum computing utilises these quantum-mechanical phenomena to perform operations on data.

Quantum computing derives its power from being able to take advantage of wavelike interference of a very large number of states. Whereas a classical bit can be in one of two states, 0 or 1, a single qubit or quantum bit can represent a 1, a 0 or any quantum superposition of those two qubit states.

When we measure to find out what state the qubits are in at any given time, the qubits "collapse" into one of the possible states, giving the answer to the problem. Dr Fitzsimons is a theoretical physicist with interests in all areas of quantum mechanics and quantum information theory. He talked about the importance of high quality qubits and applications of quantum computing that might be seen in the near future. One of the obstacles to the development of functional, large-scale quantum computers is errors.

This article from Quanta Magazine presents an overview of the problem with errors in quantum computing. Quantum information is fragile and highly sensitive to unavoidable noise. Random fluctuations, can occasionally flip or randomise the state of a qubit, potentially derailing a calculation.

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Even the very fact, that the quantum computer has to interact with the outer world so that a user can run programs on it and get the output, introduces errors into the computation and leads to loss of information. Moreover, superpositions collapse to a definite value once they are measured. So, how do we even find out if a qubit has an error?

Computing Conversations: Niklaus Wirth

This is a challenging problem that scientists are trying to solve. To build functional quantum computers, the errors have to be within a certain threshold. For correction to be efficient, it needs to be significantly lower than this threshold. Hence, for a long time, the focus was not so much on increasing the number of qubits, but on getting to better qubits.

Dr Fitzsimons used the analogy of a faulty pen. Sometime around , the precision with which people could manipulate qubits improved and the levels of noise in them decreased to a point comparable to the threshold level. In view of this development, there was increased focus on development of larger systems. Consequently, during the last 18 months, there has been significant growth in the number of qubits people are putting into devices.

Ion traps are a more mature technology. But they hit a scaling barrier at around 10 qubits or 15 qubits. It becomes harder to control them and you need to change the way you build the device. So, they are trying to overcome this barrier and move to larger and larger systems. But they have really good control of their qubits. At this point, it seems they have a clear route to scale up to maybe hundreds or thousands of qubits, maybe not millions, before they hit a barrier. But we are in a regime now where there might well a lot of interesting things we can do in the range before we hit the next barrier to be overcome.

If a number of quantum computers are networked together so that they pass quantum information between each other and are sharing quantum states, then they can solve certain distributed computing problems with less communication. Quantum computing also offers advantages in terms of security.

Nature of the College

One application is Quantum Key Distribution QKD which utilises quantum entanglement to produce a shared secret key which can then be used to encrypt and decrypt messages, ensuring that they can be deciphered only by authorised individuals or entities. This is a mature technology and commercial QKD systems are already available. To do this, a device is required which can produce single quantum states and send them.


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Dr Fitzsimons said that if taking a laser pointer and place bin-liner in front of it, so that very little of the light passes through, and then put polarising 3D glasses from the movie theatres, that is almost enough to serve as the device. On the server side, random states are received at the start of the computation to be used as an input. If you are producing these random states and sending them to the server, the server cannot really tell what states they received.

From the point of view of the server, the instructions were entirely random, but it is still able to process them because the random number being communicated classically cancels out with part of the randomness in the initial state. But because the server does not know what the initial state was it cannot see how this cancellation is happening. In addition to the above, a quantum computer, if we can build one, would be much more efficient than a classical computer for solving specific problems, such as breaking certain codes, or simulating chemistry.

However, a system with around potentially noisy qubits IBM announced a 50 qubit computer last year and recently, Google released a 72 qubit computer has nowhere near enough memory to do most tasks. So, what can kind of problems can be solved with quantum computers available today or which might be available in the near future?

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With the growing adoption of chatbots and digital assistants, using natural spoken language to communicate with computers is no longer in the realm of science-fiction. These conversational computing platforms offer a viable path by which disparate enterprises can address the gap between customer service, technological growth and user efficiency. IBM was cited for its developer-friendly tools and enterprise expertise requirements, which give developers access to the tools and technologies they need while providing industry and enterprise support for their businesses.

Conversational technology has come a long way in the past few years, evolving from a tool to create simple chatbots, to one that enables sophisticated solutions that can be scaled across enterprises to solve real business challenges. Voice and chat solutions are now a necessity as customers are looking to find information that they need on their own terms, through the channels that they prefer.

Watson Assistant is a hosted SaaS application, running in the IBM Cloud, that enables organizations to do just that — easily and efficiently build engaging conversational platforms that scale. Watson Assistant makes it simple for enterprises to deliver personalized and engaging experiences for their customers, while giving developers the tools they need to understand how the solution is performing and how it can be improved. To see a demo of how easy it is to quickly build and deploy Watson Assistant across a variety of channels — including mobile devices, messaging platforms, and even robots — click here.

We have worked with enterprises around the world, across a range of different industries to implement conversational AI solutions, including telecommunications, banking and insurance.

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Autodesk , a global leader in 3D computer-aided design, is a prime example of a company that has used Watson to build a conversational platform and reach their customers wherever they are, whenever they chose, all while reducing support costs. Autodesk deals with as many as one million customers and partner contacts per year, and half of these questions are common FAQs that can be easily answered. They were looking for an effective automation solution that could help how these interactions were handled and scale for even more inquiries.

Autodesk chose Watson Assistant to deliver enhanced support for customers, allowing their employees to handle more complex queries. After building their virtual agent, Autodesk now:. To make implementation simpler for all organizations, we now have domain-specific content available inside of Watson Assistant.

These build on, and enhance, the core capabilities of this market-leading technology and allow our customers to add further depth to highly advanced industry-specific solutions. Additionally, to accelerate popular internet of things opportunities, we have solutions built on top of Watson Assistant to help you get a jump start on building a specialized digital assistant:.


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