1st Step for Japan in Joining Global Competition

The development of quantum computers that far exceed the capabilities of supercomputers has taken off around the world. It is important for Japan to accumulate technological capabilities to compete with the rest of the world.

RIKEN’s domestically produced quantum computer is now operational. Although there was a previous case of IBM Corp. installing a quantum computer in Japan, this is the first time a domestically produced one has been put into operation. This is a big step forward for Japan, which is chasing the United States and China that are advancing in this regard.

Quantum computers use quantum mechanics, which works in the microscopic world, and their calculation speed is an order of magnitude faster.

Industries have been using supercomputers to search for substances that are candidates for new drugs and materials. The practical application of quantum computers is expected to accelerate this kind of research and development.

In the future, the use of quantum computers will spread to a wide range of fields such as finance and logistics, and they are likely to become an innovative technology that will change society and industry.

It is said that quantum technology can also be used to realize encrypted communications that are impossible for a third party to intercept. Other countries are focusing on the development of domestically produced technology for such security reasons.

This domestically produced computer was developed by RIKEN, Fujitsu Ltd. and others. Osaka University, NTT Corp. and others have cooperated to develop a system that can be used by outside researchers and others via the internet.

Google LLC and other companies are spending huge sums of money to corral human resources and are rapidly advancing the development of quantum computers. For Japan to compete, the power of research institutes, universities and industry must be concentrated under the leadership of RIKEN, which will serve as the command post.

However, quantum computer technology is still in its infancy. RIKEN is also working on several types of quantum computers in parallel with this system, and it is unclear which one will be the most promising and become the mainstream version in the future.

In addition to the production of quantum bits, or qubits, the basic unit responsible for calculations, it is necessary to accumulate various technologies and know-how, including software development and wiring methods for extracting information.

First of all, it is vital to have a variety of researchers use the domestically produced computer to identify issues and make improvements.

Japanese manufacturers were ahead in the early research of qubits, but this has tapered off partly due to funding difficulties. On the other hand, the United States and China have embarked on large-scale investments and are currently ahead of Japan.

It is said that a million bits are needed to put a quantum computer to practical use, but the performance of the domestically produced computer is currently only 64 bits. The development race is expected to take a long time. It is hoped that Japan will lead the world by building a strong research and development system.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 5, 2023)