Can "Star Trek" advances in computer technology put the HVAC Industry on its head? You betcha. This could really change everything.
Quantum computing uses strange subatomic behavior to exponentially speed up processing. It could be a revolution, or it could be wishful thinking. I like to think of it as revolutionary. It could change everything.
Last month I wrote about Cyber Security and the HVACR industry (bit.ly/CyberHVAC). This was about the Target department store hack where cyber thieves stole 40 million credit card accounts. If you think about it, this has a bizarre impact on not only the business world in general, but in the way HVAC contractors manage their service customer business in particular.
I imagine we will see a crazy increase in the number of vendors offering cyber protection for small businesses throughout the world.
It was only in the 1980s when the HVAC contracting world was jolted out of an analog approach to record keeping and communications to a computerized one and, though that technology has evolved immensely from both a hardware and software standpoint, it hasn’t changed into something completely different. It HAS migrated from just being part of our desktop, laptop, mobile, and tablet devices into controlling every aspect of our industry: business, mechanical systems, and communications.
Now what if that technology takes a swing in an entirely new direction, one that completely shakes the computer industry to its core? How would that ultimately impact our industry and the way we do business and apply our technologies to solve customer comfort, health, and safety issues?
We may find out sooner than you think because computer tech is on the brink of such a change. Star Trek — meet 21st Century America!
In the February 2014 issue of Time magazine, author Lev Grossman wrote an article titled, “Quantum Leap,” in which he discusses a company that is working on breakthrough technology: quantum computing. The company is D-Wave and it’s based near Vancouver, Canada.
This really is stuff out of science fiction, except that it’s real and exists today. It’s called the D-Wave 2 quantum computer and there are already five of them in existence.
Basically a quantum computer operates by merging 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.
According to the Grossman article, in quantum computing information is processed using quantum bits (qubits) which is 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.
This is meaningful to the HVAC industry on two levels. The first is that to operate, the computing core of these computers need to be kept at crazy cold temperatures. Grossman says the machine “is a black box 10 ft. high. Inside is a cylindrical cooling apparatus containing a niobium computer chip that’s chilled to around 20 millikelvins, which, is a very cold -459.6°F.”
That is one hell of a refrigeration unit, right? The D-Wave website describes it as a closed cycle dilution refrigerator, nicknamed, "The Fridge."
The existing machines currently don’t work anywhere near their full potential. Grossman says scientists think it could be only a matter of time before they do.
The second level is what this type of computer could do for the world. Right now Google is using one to design software to help cars drive themselves. Grossman says the federal government is looking into using it to predict and control traffic patterns in the air, on the ground, and underwater. The list goes on and on.
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.
What if quantum computing leads to artificial intelligence that enables buildings to manage themselves? The possibilities are endless. So keep your eyes and ears open. The world could be on the verge of a quantum change.
Now here’s the question: will such processing power help me find my car keys?