Right now, we are on the verge of seeing quantum technologies realized. Quantum software is an umbrella term for all non-hardware research topics that contribute to the development of the quantum computer and quantum networks.
There are two main challenges in developing quantum software. Firstly, developing quantum computer software differs fundamentally from developing classical software. With quantum software, the algorithm uses counterintuitive quantum mechanical concepts as superposition and entanglement. Much research in quantum software is fundamental, in the sense that new tools are being developed for the quantum-software development toolbox.
Secondly, most classical software is developed heuristically (by trial-and-error). Since a large-scale quantum computer does not yet exist, quantum algorithms for many qubits cannot yet be tested. Only now are we entering an era when quantum hardware is becoming available at an accelerating speed, so the possibility to test quantum applications and algorithms only recently became a reality.
Already, quite a few quantum algorithms have been designed that give a speed-up compared to classical algorithms. These quantum algorithms range from breaking cryptographic codes, to graph algorithms, search and matrix multiplication. For any sector working with data and algorithms, we can help redefine the current problems to determine whether any of these quantum algorithms can provide a benefit.
The main question in quantum information processing is which other problems are amenable to quantum speed-up. This is the research field of quantum algorithms and complexity, where the goal is to determine whether a particular computational problem can be solved by using quantum technologies.
If in the future a large-scale quantum computer becomes available, this will have far-reaching consequences for cyber security, since the currently used SSL and SSH protocols are not safe from attacks with a quantum computer. Our research can also be applied to analysing security risks for all industries working with cyber security. Although quantum attacks are not happening yet, critical decisions need to be taken today in order to be able to make communications quantum-proof against possible future threats.
Contact person: Harry Buhrman
Research group: Algorithms and Complexity (A&C)