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  • Youssef Rachad

Software Engineering for Quantum Programming: How Far Are We?

As quantum computing establishes itself more and more prominently, it is clear we are entering the quantum era. This time period in computation is characterized by a joint effort between physicians and computer scientists to work on the latest, most difficult problems. The main promise made by quantum computing is the ability to resolve computation problems that would otherwise not be achieved within a feasible amount of time by classical computers.

The race to become the first major company capable of operating a quantum computer at scales comparable to classical computers has drawn big-name companies such as Google and IBM. Their research has currently yielded quantum programming frameworks such as Qiskit (IBM), Cirq (Google) and Q# (Microsoft), allowing us to design programs for quantum computers.

While quantum computing is an emerging field in and of itself, the potential applications are said to impact many different fields. In a recent paper by researchers at the University of Salerno and Tampere University, some of the most impacted fields will be machine learning, optimization, cryptography and chemistry. Despite these promises, it is clear that we are a long way from accessible, large-scale quantum software.

This paper used a 2 step process to evaluate the current state of quantum programming:

First, the researchers mined quantum programming repositories from GitHub that used one of the 3 frameworks mentioned. They looked for patterns in how quantum programming is used in practice and found that it was mostly used for learning and experimenting with the frameworks.

Second, they surveyed the contributors of the mined repositories to seek out their opinions on quantum programming and the challenges they faced. The survey identified 5 key challenges:

  1. Understanding the quantum programs

  2. Difficulty in setting up the hardware and software infrastructures

  3. Implementation quality

  4. Difficulty of building a community

  5. Lack of realism of the current quantum programs

From the results obtained, the paper claims that the approaches available to software engineering are limited and that real-world applications are scarce when it comes to quantum programming. It also claims there is a need for more research into the needs of quantum programmers and into the development of tools that facilitate setting up a quantum program.

Paper Source:

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