What Might Quantum Networks Look Like, and Who is Working on their Development?

Discover the revolutionary power of quantum networks
Zuber Lawler

We are on the verge of revolutionizing the world with quantum networks.

Experts predict that the quantum internet will have a profound impact on how we live our lives, much like the internet revolutionized computing and society more broadly. Global efforts are underway to become leaders in the field of quantum computing. Apps like Signal make it possible to send encrypted messages, but no system yet is completely secure. Someday though, this cryptic branch of physics will make encryptions more challenging to crack with the help of quantum networks. Quantum networks have gained a lot of attention recently, yet few understand how they work. So, what exactly is a quantum network?

Quantum networks encode information with quantum characteristics of photons. As an example, photons that are polarized in one direction have a value of 1, while photons that are polarized in the opposite direction have a value of 0. To formalize these associations, researchers are developing quantum communication protocols that work with photons’ quantum state to transmit information via a quantum network.

Unlike classical networks, quantum networks use quantum phenomena, such as superposition, no-cloning, and entanglement.

Each photon with a corresponding probability exists in a superposition of its quantum state before it is measured. When it is measured, it chooses one among these states. Photons, as a matter of fact, are difficult to measure without causing a disturbance that betrays the effort. Quantum states cannot be copied either. Effectively operating and designing quantum networks provides its own level of security.

The question then arises on how communication is augmented to reach distant receivers when photons cannot be cloned. Quantum repeaters are being developed that use entanglement to extend the range of quantum networks. Each entangled photon has a quantum state that is correlated with its entangled partner, regardless of the distance between them.

The last two years have been a major year for most companies in computing networking which has paved a way for this technology’s bright future.

The United States unveiled its Blueprint for the Quantum Internet in 2020, which outlines plans for developing the first large-scale quantum networks in the country. Other efforts are taking place around the world, such as the European Quantum Internet Alliance.

In the area of quantum encryption, Toshiba has already been active. Japan’s oldest and largest electronic company is largely focused on QKD technology, a kind of encryption that makes use of quantum networks to make secure communications. They announced that they expect to generate a revenue of $3 billion by 2030 for quantum secure communications.

With Aliro Quantum’s quantum networking platform, their Quantum Information Science (QIS) researchers and engineers can design quantum networks using simulation and emulation tools.

QuTech research center in the Netherlands, for its first time, has created a system with more than two quantum bits, or “qubits”, that do the calculations in quantum computing and have been linked together as network endpoints.

Many ask whether today’s internet will soon be dated with evolving advances in quantum internet. Quantum networks can complement classical networks in terms of their strengths. The most significant benefit will come from integrating both classical and quantum networks into an internet that has capabilities that exceed what either technology can achieve on its own.

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