What are quantum technologies? And why should we care?

Ahead of the upcoming Quantum Hackathon (24-27 August), Ventures caught up with innovation partner, Dr Michael Harvey, Translational Research Manager from EQUS.

Dr Harvey answered all our burning questions on quantum technologies including why they are so important for the future, what’s the difference between quantum technologies and computing and if it’s relevant to industries other than science and engineering?

Ventures: What are quantum technologies?

Dr Michael Harvey: Quantum technologies harness the fundamental rules that govern the smallest things in our universe—atoms and smaller particles, very small distances, and very small energies. Because quantum objects are so small, they are strongly affected by external factors like magnetic and electric fields, gravity, accelerations and rotations, chemicals, and even light. Quantum technologies harness these building blocks of nature and amplify their extreme sensitivities to make useful devices for measuring and detecting with the greatest precision, or even make devices that behave in ways that were not possible before.

Ventures: What's the difference between quantum technologies and quantum computing?

Dr Michael Harvey:
Quantum computing is a renowned application of quantum technologies, but there are many others. Quantum computing encodes information in the quantum state of some natural or engineered system—we call these qubits. The power of quantum computing comes from the qubits being able to exploit their quantum nature to tackle problems not practical on even today’s fastest classical computers. Quantum computers use quantum technologies, but the technologies are so much more than just computing.
Quantum technologies encompass everything from measuring gravity and magnetic fields, to secure communications and even new types of radar or microscopes. We can use quantum technologies to find water or minerals underground, identify dangerous gas leaks, see brain activity or monitor your heart, or even generate truly random numbers for better financial modelling or games.

Ventures: Are quantum technologies relevant to industries other than science and engineering?

Dr Michael Harvey:
Quantum and precision technologies are not directly useful by themselves. The way these technologies make lives better and contribute to global wealth and wellbeing is by helping other industries and disciplines to be more productive or to do things they couldn’t before. Quantum and precision technologies are only relevant if we can help make plant breeding faster to deliver higher yield or disease resistant crops, or if we can make better sensors for safer cars, or help locate people and equipment underground in mines, or better detect cardiac diseases, or any of the millions of applications we’ve yet to discover. That is why this event is so exciting.

Ventures: Why are quantum technologies so important for the future?

Dr Michael Harvey:
Quantum and precision technologies are the next stage in our species grand undertaking to harness the rules and laws of the universe so we can live better and lessen our impact on the natural world. We will do some things which are new and revolutionary, and those will change our lives in ways we can’t imagine yet. But we also can improve what we already do, making that much better by applying quantum and precision technologies to improve industries that are already important to us.

Seven ways quantum technologies could impact current industries

  1. We can have less impact on the environment, and at lower costs, using high-performance magnetometers to help mining industries locate resources and better recover them in a more targeted way.
  2. Better clocks will help us better navigate the world, even in places where GPS can’t reach— like underground, underwater, or in space.
  3. Secure communications keep our financial and other important data safe from criminals or other bad actors.
  4. We can keep a better check on our crops for disease and stress, and can speed up the breeding of new crop strains to feed the world, by using small and high resolution spectrographs.
  5. We can communicate our wireless data at higher rates, and over longer distances, without having to build more mobile phone towers or use higher power transmitters by using frequency generators that operate below the quantum limit.
  6. Quantum imaging will give clearer and better medical images and let us monitor health and wellbeing in less invasive and more precise ways.
  7. Quantum computers will optimise our shipping and transport logistics to save on energy, time, and cost when we move goods around the world.

Dr Michael Harvey is the Translational Research Program Manager at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS). EQUS’ mission is to engineer our quantum future by building devices with practical applications to solve the most challenging problems. Michael trained as a physicist and invented novel technologies in optics and materials for renewable energy and LEDs. He was founder and CTO at several startups in Australia and Silicon Valley over the last 20 years and has raised venture, corporate and government funds to take products to market.

About the hackathon

During the Quantum Hackathon (24-27 August) you’ll discover how quantum technologies can achieve incredible outcomes in solving pain points in your industry. With support from industry mentors and experts, you will be challenged to identify how quantum computing applications can benefit society, who the users may be, and which entities would commercialise the opportunity across a breadth of sectors and disciplines. Visit the Quantum Hackathon webpage for more information and to register today.

Join the hackathon 


Last updated:
11 August 2021