Just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of cloud computing and mobile technology, another wave of advancements sweep through the tech industry. One possible disruptor on the horizon is quantum computing — and it could change everything for the HVAC industry, says Michael Weil, editorial director for Contracting Business. “Quantum computing uses strange subatomic behavior to exponentially speed up processing,” he says. “It could be a revolution, or it could be wishful thinking.”
What is Quantum Computing?
In a nutshell, quantum computing is the combination of quantum physics and digital computing. “Without getting too geeky, think about it like this: a classical computer processes data in the form of bits, single units of information in the form of ones or zeros,” explains Weil. “[In] quantum computing information is processed using quantum bits (qubits), which are made up of ones or zeros, and ones and zeros at the same time. This is like having multi-dimensional computing power. To make it even more Star Trekkie, this theoretically allows the computation to happen in two universes at the same time.”
In Time magazine, “Quantum Leap” author Lev Grossman discussed the Vancouver-based tech company, D-Wave, that’s making this technology a reality. To function properly, quantum computers must be stored at extremely low temperatures, says Grossman, so D-Wave created a closed cycle dilution refrigerator especially for storing quantum computers. However, even these aren’t cold enough.
Keeping the Future Cool
There are two major impacts that Weil predicts quantum computing will have on the HVAC industry. “The first is that to operate, the computing core of these computers need to be kept at crazy cold temperatures,” says Weil. “The existing machines currently don’t work anywhere near their full potential.” How cold? About 20 millikelvins, or -459.6°F.
While storing these computers at the optimal temperatures is a fascinating problem, Weil predicts the the next evolution of this technology will have the largest impact. “In the HVAC industry, quantum computing could completely change the landscape of how equipment is manufactured, how buildings are managed, how energy is controlled, how contracting firms are operated,” says Weil. “What if quantum computing leads to artificial intelligence that enables buildings to manage themselves? The possibilities are endless.”