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The Development of a ‘Quantum’ Internet and its Impact on Today’s World

The revolution that the internet has brought about has been far-reaching, in a manner few could have predicted 25 years ago. It has changed the way people shop, interact with each other, watch TV and movies, and carry out the vast majority of everyday activities. Indeed, nowadays, people tend to feel more comfortable meeting their future husband or wife online than in the flesh, with some companies suggesting that over 50% of couples will meet online by 2031. With all of these advances, it’s easy to make wild predictions for what the next five to 10 years might bring, but is one of the likely leaps forward one that will revolve around using quantum technology?

In the drive to move towards a quantum internet and a future where we can shoot photons from Beijing to Cape Town, or from Los Angeles to London in a secure way using quantum technology, there is going to be the need to develop new technology that will revolutionize not only the way we use the internet but also other parts of our lives. Will the quantum internet more narrowly, though, be a serious revolution over the next couple of decades?

First things first… what is a quantum internet?

Quantum technology is normally associated with sci-fi movies, whilst some gadgets use the term to sound more futuristic, even if they’re not overly complex in reality. The term itself sounds like something that is unlikely to impact anyone’s everyday life. While most scientists agree that a quantum internet is unlikely to happen in the near future, with a recent Wired article suggesting that a secure quantum internet is at least 13 years away, the most important question that needs an answer, for now, is what it actually is and why we should care about it.

In short, the quantum internet is a means of providing an internet service via satellite. The technology works by embedding photons of infrared light with information (as opposed to sending it via radio waves) and beaming them into customers’ homes. However, the idea of a quantum internet is incomplete; the notion is yet to be fully imagined and at present is so far away from becoming a reality that those interested in the technology are busy trying to get quantum signals to be successfully sent for more than 60 miles (this is the current limit on land, meaning that in order to get further than this, new satellite technology is being developed).

Recently, we have seen a Chinese satellite launched that is capable of helping to further the ambitions of a global quantum network that will lay the foundations for developing new and innovative ways to help said beam photon particles around the world and render current optical cables an obsolete technology. In the meantime, though, this means that technology has to be developed to create these new satellites as well as to continue to refine and improve ways to get into space, meaning that the development of a quantum internet is already impacting on our everyday lives in a more oblique manner, with the benefits of these advances likely to end up helping ordinary consumers.

From supercars to the roulette wheel: Practical innovations to start a quantum leap

When technology looks and feels like it is farfetched, it runs the risk of becoming a niche area that never gains serious interest from a wider audience. You can see how this has happened, for instance, with virtual reality technology, which has so far taken time to expand into the mainstream after successes with hardcore gamers and other specialized sectors. When it comes to quantum technology, other industries are bound to benefit from the drive forward and the associated innovations. One most likely to be impacted is the electroluminescence industry, which has practical implementation across various industries. From advertising billboards to car instrument panel lighting, to an accentuating effect on double action roulette wheels (this industry can, in all likelihood, benefit from quantum technology’s new ways to send light particles), its uses are numerous.

One such development has seen the return of silicon carbide, something that is currently used in bullet-proof vests and for brakes in supercars like Ferraris due to its heat resistant properties, for implementation in the context of quantum technology, potentially as a way of transmitting light photons.

Why so much interest in a quantum internet?

In the current age, the privacy and protection of personal data is becoming ever more important, especially following the hacking of big data, intercepted messages, and, on a more relatable level, hacked celebrity photos stored on the cloud. While, at the moment, more and more complex data protection systems are being created to help make data more secure than ever before, the evolution of quantum computers (which will operate in a similar way to good old fashioned super computers) will potentially have a hugely positive impact upon individuals’ internet security.

This is all down to the fact that quantum signals and messages operating in a quantum internet are exceptionally hard to break into, since they can be sent in much smaller bursts of data that can essentially be destroyed if they are intercepted. This complex level of encryption is something that will no doubt revolutionize the way that privacy is secured online and will help to ensure we live in a safer and more secure world.

In the interim, is there anything that this drive towards a quantum internet will help to bring to our everyday lives? Well, what is certain is that this kind of innovation is intellectually fascinating and the world of the quantum internet will bring about serious change in its own right. What seems more pressing in the short-term, though, are the more interesting aspects of quantum technology to watch out for as they develop to such a point where they can come together to create a worldwide interconnected quantum internet that replaces the current internet.

It is the developments that are taking place to get the technology ready to transmit photons that could represent quantum leaps forward for numerous industries within the short to medium term that should be causing us real excitement.