Quantum Internet

Will the Quantum Internet be the next big thing?

May 28, 2021

Since its public inception, the internet has sprung a worldwide technology and has evolved into what we are witnessing today, an internet revolution and digitalization that affected almost every aspect of our lives. Every little device connected to an enormous network of computers spread around the globe that are waiting and ready to share data among them at the speed of light. And now after nearly three decades, we are standing in front of another miraculous technology that can change our lives beyond this, the quantum internet.

What is the Quantum Internet? 

Quantum Internet is a newly established internet technology that will aid the quantum communication between remote quantum devices or nodes. The data is going to be carried by quantum bits or qubits [2]. But before we go further let’s discuss more of the origins of the internet.

History of the internet

This idea of sending signals or data even predates the first computers, there were telegraph systems, telex machines, and semaphore lines. These technologies can be considered as the ancestors of the internet. But since the development of the Turing machine and the first computers in the 1940s, a new idea has been born, and that is the idea of connecting these devices into a network in which they can communicate between themselves and share data. Many resources were shifted towards the development of computers as research progressed, and many universities created computer science degrees by the late 60s. And all this has aided in developing the first successful network that may be considered the precursor of the internet of today, the ARPANET [3].

The ARPANET was an early development of an internet network[3]. It was developed in 1966 by the US government defense agency DARPA by its chief engineer Robert Taylor, who saw an opportunity to put this long-lasted idea into practice. And he managed to do so, he created the first link between two machines. The first ARPANET link was established on October 29, 1969, between the University of California (UCLA) and the Stanford Research Institute. They successfully managed to connect the two computers into a network and share information. The internet has been well developed since these times and transitioned into the public sphere by the 1980s, and steadily has gains popularity until the present day.

How does the modern internet work?

The World Wide Web, better known as the WWW, is an information space where web resources are shared. These resources are also known as URIs. These URI’s can be accessed by a user by their browser and interact with them. And using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests are made from one computer to a server and from a server to a computer, these requests are performed by the Web Browser which is a tool made for the sole purpose of browsing the internet. HTML is used as a web-building language and is the main building block of every website around the web [3].

How Quantum information differs from classical Internet 

Quantum internet is a fundamentally different technology compared to the internet we have today. Quantum internet will give the user’s ability to connect two quantum computers and exchange data among themselves using quantum bits or qubits. These qubits follow the rules of quantum mechanics and the process of entanglement. These rules differ a lot from the regular internet [1]. The regular internet on the other hand functions on the good old principle of sending signals called bits through a wire.

What is a qubit?

A qubit is a quantum bit, it’s the basic unit of quantum information. Unlike the classical binary bit, the qubit is physically realized with a two-state device. The qubit is a two-level quantum mechanical system, but the qubit can take on a variety of states that can collapse to 0 to 1 when read. Examples of real world qubits include the spin of the electron in which the two levels may be taken as spin up or spin down. In classical computing the bit usually takes one state or the other, but in quantum mechanics it is allowed the qubit to be in a superposition of both states at the same time, this property is fundamental to quantum mechanics and quantum computing[2].

Quantum computing is becoming a huge industry

As new complex problems arise every day these problems need to be solved, and their solution asks for a huge amount of computing resources. The computers that we currently have don’t cut it anymore and the industry has shifted gears towards a technology that has been fairly obscure until recently. This technology is quantum computing. Quantum technology has caused a massive shakedown in the industry namely because of its advancement and the massive computing power that it brings. Many companies have already started working on developing the first scalable quantum computers. These new solutions are bringing a lot to the table and require some new technologies to be developed. Almost every technology in the IT-sphere is going to shift its gears towards quantum computing, including the internet. Soon we will be witnessing the development of the first practical quantum internet services, and you probably are asking yourself the question, can I use the quantum internet?

IBM allowed users over the past few years to build quantum circuits on run them on their quantum cloud. Many other companies have also follow suit.

Will Quantum have an impact on my life?

For now, it is not very known how this technology is going to affect us, but it is presumed that the quantum cryptography that is in development at the moment will bring some security into communications and make the end-users safer from cybercrime for example. As we explained in one of our previous articles, it is assumed that quantum cryptography will bring some security that is far beyond anything available, and that will even prevent attacks from quantum computers [2]. It could also make innovations like crypto-coins redundant if the schemas that provide security become redundant or no longer safe.

Quantum internet technologies

What is QKD?

Quantum Key Distribution or QKD is a communication method that is focused on security, it implements a cryptographic protocol involving some components of quantum mechanics. This method enables the two parties to produce a shared secret key. This key is only used by the two parties and can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. The main advantage of this technology is that the two users can detect if an intruder is trying to gain knowledge of their key. This is achieved by quantum mechanics and its properties like quantum superpositions and quantum entanglement that we are going to discuss next [3][6].

What is entanglement?

Alice and Bob memorialised on a bench! No sign of Eve though!

Let’s give an example of how this method of Quantum Key Distribution works. On the internet, identifications are done by the user. For example, the user Alice is sending her password to Bob which acts as the server. The drawback of this is that Bob gets the password from Alice over the internet, and many of these schemes use the password in combination with cryptographic schemes that are based on the difficulty of some mathematical problems such as factoring. Many of these schemes are not safe when some adversaries have a quantum computer in their hands. This will allow a third party, let’s name her Eve for example, to intercept this communication that is carrying the password by phishing or some other method. And here how the QKD works. In this case, Alice will not send the password to Bob, but Bob can still verify her identity. With this protocol, Alice will keep her password and her information will not be intercepted by Eve [3].

Entanglement is a quantum mechanics concept. Let’s say that two qubits have a very strong bond between them, so if two qubits are entangled and both of them are measured, the outcome for each qubit is going to look random. But when you compare the outcomes, you will discover that they match up in ways that are not possible to achieve with classical bits. These outcomes may be explained if the measurement of one qubit has influenced the other qubit.

The entanglement stays in existence when both qubits are sent very far apart. If one entangled qubit is sent from London and then to New York and the other from London to Tokyo. Then a measurement taken on the New York qubit instantly influences the Tokyo qubit. To better understand this let’s take the analogy, the entanglement of two coins that are spinning means that if you repeatedly spin and examine both coins on the table you will find heads and tails in combinations that are impossible, unless the coins have immediate interaction between them, whether one of them is in London and the other one in Tokyo [2][3][5].

Who will this Quantum internet affect?

It is not clear yet who and how is going to affect, for now only presumptions are being made, like with every groundbreaking technology. It is presumed that will affect society to some extent but as we said it’s still not clear enough what will be the benefits and drawbacks. The real effects of this technology will be seen in maybe some decades in the future as the scientists of the Tu Delft University of Netherlands are assuming [2].

Initially, at first, industry is likely to most affected. But right now the quantum internet is very much a research project. But as uses for the technology build, then new use-cases are likely to develop before trickling down to end-users. Of course, the systems that people use in Quantum Computing may embed the Quantum Internet as part of the infrastructure.

Quantum computers as they emerge are fairly small in size having a relatively small numbers of qubits available for computation. Quantum networks could provide additional computation by linking computing resources.

What is the aim of the Quantum Internet?

The quantum internet aims to deliver a new and safer way of communication and cryptography that cannot be achieved via the classical internet. This will bring safety to all the parties while they browse the web without the fear that their connection may be intercepted. QuTech, a company from the Netherlands hopes that their vision is the quantum internet to work in synergy with the classical internet and connect quantum processors to deliver capabilities that are out of the league for classical communication [1].

What are some of the applications?

There are three main fields where this internet with its new technologies is going to be applied. But there are likely to be more – including a way of potentially distributing computing.

The first and the most probable application for this technology is to improve security and offer more secure communication. It means that with quantum internet data cannot be intercepted and stolen. In other words, is going to offer users some more secure banking services. Also, some key infrastructure such as buildings, pipelines, power plants etc will benefit from this because they will not be prone to hacking anymore, also some governmental institutions can share data interchangeably without the fear of intrusions by outside parties [2].

We can see that these solutions are starting to be implemented in some countries, the Chinese created the world’s first airborne communication network with the help of drones that acted as nodes. This experiment was created to make air-to-ground data links resistant to hacking [4].

Secondly, Quantum Internet will also be going to offer secure login in networks via a quantum key distribution, as we saw with the example with Bob and Alice.

And the third series of applications may include Quantum enhanced GPS to improve its efficacy and accuracy of this system to less than one meter that is today’s margin. These improvements will also help its vulnerability from cyberattacks and protect it from hostile countries [2].

Who is building the Quantum Internet?

There are plenty of companies that have decided to jump into the quantum space. Starting from well-established universities, startups, to some well-known players like IBM and Honeywell. One of the most respectable universities that currently is working on the quantum internet is Tu Delft University from the Netherlands. We wrote a lot about their research in the quantum sphere and their collaboration with QuTech in creating the first quantum control chip with Intel called the Horse Ridge. Much of the research at Tu Delft and QuTech is led by Stephanie Vehner, including their project on quantum internet ID Quantique is also another company that develops QKD solutions for the purpose of cybersecurity.

Is this just Internet 2.0?

Well, we can call it like that, although the comparison is not that quite correct. The quantum internet is much more than Internet 2.0. It is a completely new way of sharing data. As we said there are key differences, the Internet works with bits and the quantum internet with qubits. These quantum bits function differently unlike the bits that work with ones and zeroes [2]. The qubits are far ahead when it comes to speed and security. The quantum internet will offer a safer way of communication and security to institutions and enterprises.

This isn’t just another network or another layer on the internet. This is a fundamentally different way that devices can communicate with each other. At first it is unlikely to impact “the main in the street”, but just as network revolutions have to come to impact us all via mobile telecoms, eventually benefits could trickle down to the end user.

How far away is the Quantum Internet?

The Quantum internet is still far away from us, mainly because of the technology that the new internet is still at its early stages of development. Based on the QuTech research, there will be decades before we see the quantum internet on the market [2]. But as time goes the progress is evident and we are always happy to report the newest information in this industry, so if you want to read more about the newest quantum technologies, please follow us.

References

  1. https://qutech.nl/research-engineering/quantum-internet/
  2. https://www.tudelft.nl/over-tu-delft/strategie/vision-teams/quantum-internet-vision-team/what-is-quantum-internet https://www.quantum-inspire.com/kbase/what-is-a-qubit/
  3. https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/9107295
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/2101.04427.pdf
  4. https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/networks/quantum-drone
  5. https://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/telecom/internet/milestone-for-quantum-memory-efficiency-makes-quantum-internet-possible
  6. https://datatracker.ietf.org/meeting/101/materials/slides-101-irtfopen-van-meter-and-wehner-vision-for-a-quantum-internet-research-group-02

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