The quantum computing world continues to display its advantages as quantum computers are applied to more and more areas. Just recently, researchers were able to apply quantum computing to a real world logistics optimization problem which required assigning aircraft to certain routes. The quantum computer, which only had 2 qubits, was able to complete the task, demonstrating that even small quantum computers can be used in the real world.
During the study, the Chalmers research team used a Quantum Approximate Optimization Algorithm (QAOA) in order to complete the task. A QAOA is a type of algorithm that can be used on quantum computers in order to calculate the most optimal way to accomplish a task. In this case, the algorithm was used on a 2 qubit system in order to assign 2 airplanes to routes. The researchers also plan on increasing the amount of qubits in the algorithm to increase the amount of aircraft the algorithm can optimize. Theorists on the team have already simulated the optimization of up to 278 aircraft with just 25 qubits.
However, there are some obstacles to using quantum computers in the real world in a manner such as this example. The quantum computer must be very high quality. This means that the hardware of the quantum computer must be good enough which can become difficult as the number of qubits increases which increases the likelihood of error. Additionally, some qubits cannot maintain a quantum state for long enough, so all of the quantum gates that must be applied to the qubit during the QAOA may not be able to be applied, limiting the amount of aircraft the quantum computer can optimize.
Currently, quantum computers are unable to outperform the world’s best supercomputers in problems in the real world. Yet as soon as the scale of quantum computers can be increased, they will be able to process an enormous amount of information and be applied to real world problems. With the study of the aircrafts, we can see that quantum computers are just a couple of years away from being an integral part of problem solving. Just 25 qubits can already optimize 278 aircraft, so it’s fascinating to think about how many aircraft 50, 100, or even 1,000 qubits can optimize.