Quantum computers are set to replace traditional computers in the near future, an evolution based on the physical properties of quantum particles. As quantum computers become the norm, privacy and security of shared data and information would have to undergo significant transformation. Researchers around the world are, therefore, focused on developing encryption based on quantum properties – named Quantum Encryption. However, as far as bringing these far-fetched ideas to reality goes, we are more prepared for quantum internet, which could very well become the first quantum information technology to become reality.
Researchers at the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, have published a report that draws on the blueprint of a developing quantum internet. They predict that by exploiting phenomena from quantum physics, such as entanglement, a quantum internet will revolutionize communication technology. Quantum bits, or qubits, can be zero and one at the same time due to their dual nature. Owing to this property, they can be entangled such that their states are merged, meaning that an operation on one of the qubits instantly affects the state of the other. Under the premise of the quantum internet, these qubits can then be transmitted between any two points on earth.
The comprehensive guide published by the researches mentions six phases of a true quantum network. The lowest stage – a prepare and measure network – allows the end-to-end delivery of quantum bits between any two network nodes, one quantum bit at a time. This phase could enable secure quantum communication and is set to be a reality in the near future. Cryptographic applications of a quantum network can be supported by this basic stage. The highest stage in the proposed manual focusses on the long-term goal of connecting large quantum computers on which arbitrary quantum applications can be executed. Each phase in the guide enables the inclusion of new applications – such as accurate clock synchronization or integrating different telescopes on Earth in one virtual ‘super-telescope.’
The entanglement of quantum particles brings out two features that are lost on the internet today. The first is enriched coordination. Entanglement properties make it suitable for the synchronization of clocks and distant telescopes to obtain better images. The second is enhanced security. If two quantum bits are maximally entangled, then nothing else in the universe can have any share in that entanglement – making it suitable for applications that require security and privacy.
The manual has also set challenges both to engineering efforts and to the development of applications. The lead author of the work, Stephanie Wehner, said, “On the one hand, we would like to build ever more advanced stages of such at the network. On the other hand, quantum software developers are challenged to reduce the requirements of application protocols so they can be realized already with the more modest technological capabilities of a lower stage.”
The work put forward by the researchers creates a common language that unites the highly interdisciplinary field of quantum networking toward achieving the dream of a worldwide quantum internet. As quantum computers are set to transform calculations and the security at which data is interchanged, quantum internet can help increase coordination and security by which such information is transferred.