We all have an idea of how the Internet works: data and communication packets are transmitted through interconnected devices over a routing network that follows the Transport Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol. This data is sent electronically via copper wires, by light flashes via glass fibers or wirelessly via microwaves. However, the Internet as we know it is what scientists call “classic”. And that’s because there is a more advanced method of securing data transmission: the quantum network.
What is a quantum network?
A quantum network is an internet network that uses the properties of photons to transmit data. It enables quantum devices to exchange information within a specific environment that uses the principles of quantum mechanics. Therefore, without a basic understanding of quantum physics, it would be difficult to understand what a quantum network is, or how the quantum internet works.
Quantum mechanics describes the physical properties of nature on an atomic (and subatomic particle) scale. In very simple terms, this branch of quantum physics masters the laws of the very small. And photons are the smallest quanta of electromagnetic fields, including light and radio waves. It is the smallest energy package in electromagnetic radiation.
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How do quantum networks work?
A quantum network would enable ultra-secure transmission and exchange of quantum communication between different quantum endpoints or devices over fiber optic cables. Quantum devices use their own “qubits” or quantum bits – the equivalent of bits used by ordinary computers, however, can be in an overlay of both “0” and “1”. Information is stored in these qubits, which are encoded keys that are typically polarized photons. These photons can travel very easily over fiber optic cables.
Any attempt to intercept the encrypted keys will destroy the sensitive quantum state of the qubits along with the data they contain. In the event of such an intrusion, the endpoints are notified. The ability to detect any intrusion gives the quantum network unprecedented capabilities that are rather impossible for today’s web applications.
In addition, quantum networks apply unique quantum phenomena such as no-cloning, entanglement, and superposition. These phenomena are not available to ordinary Internet networks. Photons exist in a superposition of all their possible quantum states and when they are measured they are forced to choose one of these states. Unfortunately, a quantum state cannot be measured without interference, which is an indication of any attempt at measurement. An unknown quantum state cannot be copied or cloned either. Hence, a well-designed quantum network is inherently safe from this behavior.
You may wonder how quantum communication can be amplified to reach its recipients remotely when a photon cannot be copied or duplicated. Thanks to entanglement, another quantum phenomenon, the range of quantum networks can be extended.
The main purpose of a quantum network is to entangle qubits on one device with the qubits on another device. This entanglement serves many possible purposes, including encryption. Measurements on entangled photons are always correlated so that users can create a secret code by repeatedly reading the quantum states of the qubits.
This correlation of entangled photons applies regardless of how far apart they are. As such, quantum network repeaters can be developed that use entanglement to extend the reach of a quantum network.
The advantages of quantum networks
We have already established that quantum networks are extremely secure and insensitive to any type of cyberhacking. Encrypted messages cannot be intercepted.
Aside from ensuring security, the quantum internet can transmit large amounts of information over long distances at a much faster speed than is possible with traditional networks. This could be revolutionary for apps and software, as well as any updates that need to be delivered wirelessly.
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Which industries will benefit most from Quantum Internet?
The financial sector will benefit greatly from the use of the quantum Internet, especially when it comes to securing online banking transactions. This promise of security will make consumers feel more secure and confident when sharing personal information and doing their banking and financial activities online.
Other sectors that will benefit greatly from the use of the quantum internet are the public sector and the health sector. A faster and safer Internet will help these sectors to speed up their processes and provide services in a timely manner. Quantum computing will also enable organizations in this sector to solve complex problems and conduct large-scale experiments and studies.
Quantum networks now
Quantum networks are still in the experimental stage and technology companies are just beginning to build them. IT professionals, researchers, academics, and other experts in the field are still developing devices that are essential to a quantum network infrastructure, including quantum routers, gateways, hubs, repeaters, and other tools.
In addition, the US Department of Energy (DOE) recently released the first draft, which outlines its step-by-step strategy for realizing the quantum Internet dream. This particular project is expected to receive nearly $ 625 million in federal funding.
Quantum networks of the future
As soon as the quantum internet takes off, we can expect the birth of a whole new industry. Of course, the classic or ordinary Internet will stay and they will coexist. While we can assume that large companies are using quantum networks to protect the vast amount of valuable data they have in their possession, individual consumers will most likely continue to use the traditional Internet. This is not surprising when you consider that quantum internet is a new technology and is likely to be expensive to start with.
In addition to slow adoption due to the cost of overhauling current classic systems, there is also the fact that people need time to adapt to new technologies. This lack of urgency also stems from the “if it ain’t broken, why fix it” attitude that consumers often have at the start when new technology is introduced. Over time, however, the quantum Internet is becoming more accessible and affordable for a growing number of people. The longer it is used, the more mundane and mainstream it becomes.
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