A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on development of quantum information technologies covers the general waterfront on the current status of the technologies, but notes that development of game-changing systems are probably still ten years and billions of dollars of further investments away.

GAO prepared its report to assess the potential of quantum information technologies, and dig into benefits and risks, as well as policy options for the government to help guide and prepare for further development.

“Quantum information technologies aim to use the properties of nature at atomic scales to accomplish tasks that are not achievable with existing technologies,” GAO wrote in the report. “These technologies rely on qubits, the quantum equivalent of classical computer bits.”

According to GAO, quantum information can’t be “copied, is fragile, and can be irreversibly lost, resulting in errors that are challenging to correct.”

On the plus side, the report says that quantum computing and communications technology could be developed in tandem, because the two share physics principles, laboratory techniques, and common hardware.

“Quantum communications technologies may have uses for secure communications, quantum networking, and a future quantum internet,” wrote GAO. “Potential drawbacks of quantum technology include cost, complexity, energy consumption, and the possibility of malicious use.”

GAO identified four big factors that will impact quantum development and use, including:

  1. Collaboration;
  2. Workforce size and skill;
  3. Investment; and
  4. Supply chain.

And the government watchdog agency provided policy options around those four factors for policymakers to consider.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.