The US government recently announced plans to develop a quantum internet impervious to cyber hacking. In other words, “…it will “metamorphosize our entire way of life,” says the Department of Energy. The project will receive nearly $625 million in federal funding.

A quantum internet would transmit large volumes of data across immense distances at a rate that exceeds the speed of light. The system relies on entangled particles and a fiber optic network. Only a few hundred experts around the globe possess the scientific background to determine how to exploit the quantum quirks of science, according to Discover Magazine

What does a quantum internet really look like on the inside?

Classical computer data code takes the form of either zeros or ones and quantum information is superimposed in both zeros and ones simultaneously. This helps to prevent prying eyes from stealing information. 

Academics, researchers and IT professionals will need to create quantum routers, repeaters and other quantum tools. Further experiments that can determine the precise tools and mechanisms needed for the quantum internet remain underway.

Will the quantum internet replace our current internet infrastructure? 

No. The “classical internet,” as the regular internet is sometimes called, will still exist. It is expected that large organizations will rely on the quantum internet to safeguard data, but that individual consumers will continue to use the classical internet (at least for a while). 

In making the quantum internet widely available to the public, some speculate that it may need to exist in a clientless form in a cloud app. 

For organizations: Implications of the quantum internet?

Experts predict that the financial sector will benefit from the quantum internet when it comes to securing online transactions. The quantum internet also yields potential for the healthcare sectors and the public sectors. In addition to providing a faster, safer internet experience, quantum computing will better position organizations to solve complex problems, such as supply chain management. 

The foremost scientists who are developing this new internet aren’t entirely certain about what other advantages it can offer. Analysts compare the development of the quantum internet to the development of the first transistors. These devices were initially used in hearing aids, but ultimately led to the emergence of social media platforms and video conferencing. 

“It’s clear there’s a lot of promise. It’s going to move quickly,” says researcher David Awschalom. “But the most exciting part is that we don’t know exactly where it’s going to go.”

Will the quantum internet emerge soon? 

In April, The Harvard Gazette and Nature reported a “conceptual breakthrough” in regards to quantum engineering. “This is the realization of a goal that has been pursued by our quantum engineering community for more than two decades,” stated Mikhail Lukin, a Harvard professor and co-director of the Harvard Quantum Initiative. 

That said, scientists state that we remain quite a ways away from the implementation of a quantum internet. Prototypes are currently in progress, and experts anticipate its emergence within the next decade

The three-node quantum network, an entanglement strategy

Information stored in qubits drives quantum communications. This is the the quantum version of bits, as commonly used in regular computers. On a quantum network, qubits on the network should experience entanglement with qubits on a connecting network. A prominent use-case for this is related to encryption. Because entangled objects continually maintain correlation, quantum network users can create encryption codes with the equivalent of private keys. 

New versions of quantum networks link three quantum devices through the principles of quantum entanglement. For each device, one qubit of quantum information correlates with it. And it can remain entangled with two other qubits. Scientists believe that this type of network may be the wave of the future.

In the Netherlands, a group of physicists successfully linked three different devices together so that all networked devices retained entangled qubits. Further, researchers also developed a three-way entangled state. This enabled the three users to communicate privately.  

Quantum Key Distribution

Quantum key distribution (QKD) represents another method of generating secure, quantum-based keys for communication purposes. “While the [existing, modern-day] encryption method is secure and sophisticated, unfortunately it is not entirely impossible to hack into or break,” reports Forbes. However, quantum key distribution, could change all of that. 

Not just quantum encryption, quantum memory

In one of the latest experiments in quantum mechanics, physicists constructed “quantum memory”. This, along with other techniques, could play a pivotal role in the development of quantum internet routers and other device development. In conclusion, experts expect for quantum networking and quantum computing techniques to reach maturity in the near future. 

For more information on the science behind quantum computing and a quantum internet, visit Scientific American. For more on the latest quantum mechanics information, phrased in laypersons terms, visit Forbes. To find out about the US government’s role and perspectives, visit Energy.gov

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