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Is a New Quantum Internet Coming? The Latest DOE Efforts

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to lead the global race to use quantum computing for a new era of communications. The DOE released a blueprint for a new quantum Internet with stronger security, higher speeds and more.

by / July 25, 2020

Do we need a new Internet? People have been asking that question for more than a decade, and this blog examined the reasons why back in 2015.

Now, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a blueprint for a new quantum Internet with much stronger security, higher speeds and much more.

Science Alert wrote this about DOE’s plans:

“In February, scientists from DOE's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago created a 52-mile (83-kilometer) "quantum loop" in the Chicago suburbs, establishing one of the longest land-based quantum networks in the nation.

The aim is to create a parallel, more secure network based on quantum "entanglement," or the transmission of sub-atomic particles.

‘One of the hallmarks of quantum transmissions is that they are exceedingly difficult to eavesdrop on as information passes between locations,’ according to the Energy Department statement.

‘Scientists plan to use that trait to make virtually unhackable networks.'"

This past week, the Washington Post wrote that the U.S. hatches plan to build a quantum Internet that might be unhackable. The new network would sit alongside the existing Web, offering a more secure way to send and process information.

“Speaking in Chicago, one of the main hubs of the work, they set goals for forging what they called a second Internet — one that would function alongside the globe’s existing networks, using the laws of quantum mechanics to share information more securely and to connect a new generation of computers and sensors.

Quantum technology seeks to harness the distinct properties of atoms, photons and electrons to build more powerful computers and other tools for processing information. A quantum Internet relies on photons exhibiting a quantum state known as entanglement, which allows them to share information over long distances without having a physical connection.”

Other DOE Coverage

Covering these developments, c|net wrote that the US wants to develop a quantum internet.

“A quantum internet would "rely on the laws of quantum mechanics to control and transmit information more securely than ever before," according to DOE. The department's 17 national labs will work on the secure network, which could be used for science, industry and national security.

"By constructing this new and emerging technology, the United States continues with its commitment to maintain and expand our quantum capabilities," said US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

It's part of the National Quantum Initiative Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December 2018. Scientists think a prototype quantum communications system could be built in the next decade, DOE said.

AT&T is also working on the experimental quantum networking technology.

GCN added that NIST again narrows post-quantum encryption algorithm candidates. “To protect communications in a future where quantum computers will be capable of cracking the prime number factoring that is the basis of today’s encryption, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has selected 15 promising new approaches to encryption and data protection to form the core of the first post-quantum cryptography standard. 

In December 2016, NIST issued a call for new algorithms that would be less susceptible to a quantum computer’s attack. Within a year, it had received 69 submissions for replacements for algorithms dealing with public key cryptography for encryption, key establishment and digital signatures. …”

These efforts have come as a result of the National Quantum Initiative Act from 2017-2018 from the 115th Congress.

National Quantum Initiative Act

This initiative contains the following elements:

(Sec. 101) This bill directs the President to implement a National Quantum Initiative Program to, among other things, establish the goals and priorities for a 10-year plan to accelerate the development of quantum information science and technology applications.

Quantum information science is the use of the laws of quantum physics for the storage, transmission, manipulation, or measurement of information.

(Sec. 103) The National Science and Technology Council shall establish a Subcommittee on Quantum Information Science, including membership from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), to guide program activities.

(Sec. 104) The President must establish a National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee to advise the President and subcommittee on the program and trends and developments in quantum information science and technology.

TITLE II--NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY QUANTUM ACTIVITIES

(Sec. 201) NIST shall carry out specified quantum science activities and convene a consortium to identify the future measurement, standards, cybersecurity, and other needs to support the development of a quantum information science and technology industry.

TITLE III--NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION QUANTUM ACTIVITIES

(Sec. 301) The National Science Foundation shall:

  • carry out a basic research and education program on quantum information science and engineering, and
  • award grants for the establishment of Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education.

TITLE IV--DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY QUANTUM ACTIVITIES

(Sec. 401) The Department of Energy (DOE) shall carry out a basic research program on quantum information science.

(Sec. 402) The Office of Science of DOE shall establish and operate National Quantum Information Science Research Centers to conduct basic research to accelerate scientific breakthroughs in quantum information science and technology.

My Closing Thoughts

There is no doubt that these research initiatives will lead to amazing advances in communication technology, and will no doubt bring about a new generation in Internet technology. I applaud these efforts in quantum computing.

Nevertheless, developers must remember that people, process and technology are involved in all successful projects. Also, 90% of data breaches occur because of some type of human element.  

So my point is that there will always be insider threats that contribute to every new development.

In other words, I doubt if an “unhackable” network can be achieved – given the human element.

 

 

 

 

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