The middle of November saw a great showcase event on Quantum Technologies at the Royal Society, organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN). The turnout was excellent from many industries and the press was present as well. And there was genuine excitement as academics hinted at navigation sensors a couple of orders of magnitude more sensitive than current technologies can offer. The worlds of computing, communication, security and optics will also be impacted.
For those who have been steeped in the world of electronics this is a new experience. We’ve really only had two phases of electronics: electrons in vacuum (the world of the valve) and electrons in “solid state” which gave us the silicon revolution. Now the focus is on other properties of matter – unknown when electronics took off. Good bye electronics, hello “quantumonics”? (Not to be confused with “quantomics” which Google tells me is a livestock genome programme.)
Did I detect a passing Nano-g?
A researcher from the University of Birmingham explained to me that for navigation the real prize will be a gravity sensor capable of detecting a nano-g. “How much is that?”, I asked. “It’s the gravity field your mass creates standing about five feet from me”, was the answer. (If you ask Google, Nano-G is a Malaysian supplier of waterproof concrete.)
Keeping it Grounded
Throughout the day similar conversations were taking place as people tried to get their arms around exactly what the practical consequences of this new research will be. And that is very healthy.
Too many so called technical revolutions in the past have been treated as being so amazing only the experts will understand them. The attitude senior management had to software early in my career was a case in point. It was only when software projects turned in to “holes down which banks disappeared” the boardroom took notice.
Maybe we’ve learned the lesson or maybe it’s just demographics. The fact that so many seasoned users and practitioners are taking such an interest in quantum technology is not just healthy but greatly increases the chances of it leaving the lab and entering the real world where it will impact businesses and lives.