A tiny satellite is the first step to a global quantum network

A tiny satellite is the first step to a global quantum network

The new network will give us super fast and secure Internet access and will make our current model look like a 1971 Pinto (Ford car brand).

This is one small step for a shoebox-sized satellite, and one giant leap for future quantum computing of the Earth’s network.

An international team of scientists announced this week that they have put the first components of a quantum computer network into orbit around the Earth. If quantum computing really is the Next Great Thing (and pretty much everyone agrees that this is the case), then the global quantum network is the Next after the Next Great Thing.

Background: Quantum computing refers to a puzzle technique by which information is stored in the entangled quantum states of subatomic particles. This is a fundamentally different kind of computation than our current binary digital model. The technology promises to make future computers about 13 times faster and more powerful than those we have now.

As with conventional computers, quantum computers will want to communicate with each other over a network — ideally a global and massively complex network, such as the Internet. This is where the satellite project comes into force. If quantum computers on earth can effectively communicate with quantum network nodes in orbit, we will have a new kind of Internet that will make our current model look like the 1971 Pinto. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Strathclyde, UK, were the first to successfully test the technology for quantum satellite network nodes. They put a small device into orbit (inside a “nanosatellite” the size of a shoebox) and showed that critical components for a future quantum satellite network could function in space.

Local quantum networks already exist, but the question of distance remains. Loss of signal limits quantum information transmitted through air or fiber-optic cables to several hundred kilometers. But with a working quantum satellite network, we could create potential beams of quantum information from satellite to satellite, connecting nodes on opposite sides of the planet.

In an official press release, the director of the Center for Quantum Technologies in Singapore, Arthur Ekert, praised the orbital quantum team for “taking entanglement, literally, to a new level”.

“Their experiments will pave the way for quantum communication and distributed quantum computing on a global scale.”

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