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Rise of the quantum computer on festival agenda

The potential and threat posed by the development of a new generation of computers based on quantum physics will be one of the key topics explored at this year’s Malvern Festival of Innovation.

Prof Tim Spiller, Director of the York Centre for Quantum Technologies and the UK’s Quantum Communications Hub, will be leading a discussion on Quantum Computing during the festival’s cyber security day on Thursday, 11 October at Malvern Theatres.

The technology is based on the fact subatomic particles have the ability to exist in several states at once, whereas conventional computers exist in a binary state of 1 or 0. Put simply, if a conventional computer was a light switch it can be either on or off.  A quantum computer can be on, off and many other states in-between meaning it is capable of handling massive amounts of data and processing complex calculations extremely quickly, in a way conventional computers just cannot manage.

Harnessing these properties in a quantum computer could revolutionise people’s lives and that’s why major technology companies are investing in this area. Possible future uses include speeding up the development of new medicines, more accurate weather forecasting allowing lives to be saved in extreme weather events and streamlining traffic control.

However, like all technology it has a downside as it will be able to break many current encryption methods – which keeps information safe online, protects banking transactions etc – at record speed rendering security measures obsolete and making organisations vulnerable to cyber attacks. Fortunately, the development of quantum encryption is also being developed.

Dr Adrian Burden, organiser and founder of the Malvern Festival of Innovation, said: “Quantum technology is highly disruptive and will have a major impact on digital security and the way in which computers solve complex problems in general. Given cyber security remains a key growth sector for our region, its implications and indeed implementation should be of interest to all types of business.”

The day also includes an update from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) on how businesses large and small can get the basics of cyber security right and there will be opportunities to connect with cyber security experts for help, advice and insights.

The cyber security keynote speech will be given by Sir John McCanny on the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) in Northern Ireland, its involvement with new London Cyber Innovation Centre, and how businesses in and around the Midlands can collaborate.

The event is free to attend but places must be registered.

The festival runs from Monday 8 to 13 October and is being supported by Malvern Hills District Council. Other highlights include a focus on environmental sustainability, the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and the return of the popular Family Fun Day.

Visit www.festival-innovation.com for more information and the full festival programme.