In what might be the first publicly announced application which exhibits Quantum Advantage, Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) and IBM have announced a software application for their IBM Q Network that will provide verifiable quantum random number generation on demand. This service will be available at no additional charge to the 100+ organizations that are members of the IBM Q Network.
Besides the ability to use a real quantum computer, another unique aspect of this service is that it includes a verification process using a Bell test based upon Mermin inequalities so that a user can be sure of the true quantum nature of the processes with statistical analysis. The algorithm is a hybrid quantum/classical algorithm that includes two steps. The quantum computer first generates an initial set of random data and this is fed into a classical randomness extractor which can run on a laptop computer and is able to amplify the randomness of the data.
Random numbers are used extensively in many classical computing applications. Every encrypted internet transmission uses a key generated by some form of random or pseudo-random number. Random numbers are also used in many simulation applications such as Monte Carlo algorithms used in finance and other areas. Today these random numbers are generated either through a software based pseudo-random number generation algorithm that takes an input seed and computes a random looking output from it. There are also hardware based random number generators that use physical processes and leverage environmental noise or other quantum effects to derive a random number. However, neither of these approaches offer the ability to verify the true randomness of the results or provide a 100% guarantee that the algorithms or the devices haven’t been tampered with.
It is still not clear how big a market might be for a service that can provide certifiable random numbers. We wrote last year an article titled Will Lotteries be the First Real World Application of a Quantum Computer? that describes one possible use. However, we expect a great many users won’t care deeply about how perfect the randomness of a number is or whether they really need the ability to verify its validity. We would point out that for those who want something better than the pseudo-random algorithms, they can purchase a hardware random number generator on Amazon for $50 with Free Shipping. Or else they can purchase a Samsung 5G smartphone with a built-in QRNG (Quantum Random Number Generator) chip that produces randomness from the shot noise of a light source captured by a CMOS image sensor. But nonetheless, it is a good sign that real world applications are starting to be discovered that can take advantage of today’s NISQ-level quantum computers and we do expect to see more trickling out in the future.
September 17, 2020