computing

Congress Passes the National Quantum Initiative Act

quantum computing

There’s a lot going on in Washington right now. In fact, politics couldn’t be more divisive or polarizing than they currently are. But there is one thing that is bringing Republicans and Democrats together, and that’s quantum computing. This past week, the House of Representatives voted 348-11 to adopt a bill that is aimed at accelerating the development of quantum computing. Known as the National Quantum Initiative Act, it was passed unanimously by the Senate last week, and it’s expected that President Trump will sign it as well. This will put the US in the mix of other power houses like China and the EU who are also pursuing their own coordinated strategies, and looking to accelerate this technology.

But what is quantum computing? Essentially, it’s taking the laws of quantum mechanics in order to process information. A traditional computer uses long strings of “bits,” which encode either a zero or a one. A quantum computer, on the other hand, uses quantum bits, or qubits. Quantum computing is still in its infancy, but it has the potential to transform specific industries such as that of pharmaceuticals, artificial intelligence and even logistics and supply chain planning.

That said, quantum computing also poses some pretty enormous risks to security. Why? Well, current encryption technologies could (in theory) be easily broken by quantum computers. What will this new bill do? It will bring a coordinated approach to the federal government’s support of quantum computing. The federal government has been supporting research in this field for years, but it hasn’t been consistent. Currently, the federal government allocates millions of dollars for research and development in the field of quantum computing and information sciences, but the new legislation would give it a boost. It will also be beneficial to the quantum computing industry, which works closely with universities and government agencies as both customers and partners in development.

More specifically, the bill directs the president to develop a 10-year plan for the acceleration of quantum information development. The bill will also require that the National Science and Technology Council establish a subcommittee on Quantum Information Science, which would include membership from other federal agencies including the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and NASA.

Under this new law, NIST will also expand its current programs of quantum computing research, and it will allocate up to $80 million per year. The law also requires NIST to convene a consortium of relevant stakeholders to “identify the future measurement, standards, cybersecurity, and other appropriate needs for supporting the development of a robust quantum information science and technology industry.”

But it’s not just politicians and the government who are on board with this initiative. Amazon Web Services, Intel, IBM, Quantum Xchange, as well as other technology companies are also supporting the legislation. The new legislation has the ability to open up funding for much needed post-quantum cybersecurity research and new types of quantum telecommunications. The possibilities are endless, and that makes me really excited about the future in this field.