D-Wave will demonstrate the world's first commercial quantum computer on Tuesday (Feb 13) at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. If it works, that means it can solve some of the most difficult problems, called NP-complete problems, thousands of times faster than current supercomputers.
Initially, D-Wave (Vancouver, B.C.) will lease time on its quantum computer, which will be accessed over a secure Internet connection. Eventually, the company plans to sell quantum computer systems.
Being able to quickly solve NP-complete problems has enormous consequences. A fairly well-known NP-complete problem is the travelling salesman problem, which has real-world implications for logistics. NP-complete problems are present in such diverse fields as medicine, biology, computing, mathematics, and finance.
Of immediate concern is quantum computers' potential for cryptanalysis (codebreaking).
Specifically, a quantum computer could factor very large numbers in a fraction of the time needed by current computers. That BTW, is just what you need for cracking the RSA cipher and other widely-used ciphers that depend on one-way mathematical functions. Perhaps this will light a fire under quantum cryptography efforts.