Just as the internet revolutionized the world of work decades ago, the quantum internet will also make a significant mark in the future of work. Its applications for security alone could be transformative.
This article was originally published by Allwork.Space.
Sloppy cyber hygiene is a no-no for any workspace. Most offices and coworking spaces are aware of this fact. But you may not be aware of the quantum internet, a phenomenon that’s predicted to change the intrinsic nature of the internet and cyber security.
When it comes to the quantum internet, are you prepared? Should you care? Yes, and yes.
Quantum technologies have started to move out of the world’s laboratories and into the real world. So, it’s worth starting to understand the basics of the quantum internet now to prepare for its impact on the future of work.
What is the quantum internet?
As the name suggests, the quantum internet uses phenomena that you won’t find in the everyday, classical world. You’ll find these phenomena in the (tiny) quantum world.
With a quantum internet, data is encoded in the state of qubits (quantum bits), which can be used in quantum devices like a quantum computer. Where normal bits of information are either a 0 or a 1, a qubit of information can be a 0 and a 1 at the same time.
This may sound a little strange because, well, it is. But this quirk where a qubit can exist in a superposition between a 0 and 1 allows quantum devices to complete some calculations incredibly fast.
Let’s imagine you want to find a solution to a particular problem. There are 1,000 possible solutions to this problem. Imagine every possible solution is sitting behind a door in a (really long) corridor of 1,000 doors. Using a classical computer, you’d have to open each door, one after the other until you find the right answer. That’d take a long time.
With a quantum computer, you can open all the doors at once and find the answer in a fraction of the time. In fact, researchers predict quantum computers will be capable of solving real-world problems that would take today’s fastest supercomputers billions of years to solve.
How does this fit in with the quantum internet? The quantum internet will send qubits across a network of quantum devices. That sounds a lot like how the internet works (just with the word “quantum” sprinkled around), right?
Not quite…because qubits work in a different way to standard bits of information. We can send data that we’re not really familiar with at the moment. Forget WhatsApp and emails. The quantum internet will supercharge online communications in a range of ways — many of which we haven’t yet imagined.
However, one of the key applications of the quantum internet (that should interest any workspace) is security.
When it comes to today’s classical communications, data is secured by encrypting it. Only the sender and receiver of some encrypted information can understand it, unlocking it using a key that they share. It’s difficult but not impossible for hackers to break this form of encryption.
This is where quantum key distribution (QKD) can help. Here, qubits are used to protect communications, and there’s another quantum quirk that helps here.
Basically, when you try and observe a qubit (that’s in this state of a 0 and a 1 at the same time) then this causes a change in the state of the qubit. The act of observing a qubit automatically causes it to change. In other words, you know if someone is snooping around and trying to hack into your private communications because the qubit has changed.
This could provide the world with a different (and more secure) way to login and access certain systems. This could be your online banking, personal information or any other sensitive data, for example.
Your transactions could be more secure too, allowing coworking spaces to, for example, use quantum protocols to protect its payment infrastructure or banking transactions.
Now, before we get carried away, the quantum internet isn’t quite here yet. There’s a lot of new technology to develop, but discoveries are being made every day.
There’s also a lot of stuff that the quantum internet can’t do. Because the information the quantum internet uses is so different from what we use today, it’s unlikely it will ever replace today’s classical internet.
Rather, it will sit on top of the classical internet and be used for more specialized applications. What those applications are exactly is still unknown. Another exciting possibility is that the quantum internet could connect many smaller quantum devices together.
This would mean the quantum internet could start solving problems that are impossible to achieve on a single quantum computer.
At the moment, those applications are mostly academic ones. A quantum internet could improve the resolution of the world’s most powerful telescopes, for example. Medical images, records and genomic information could be securely transmitted between doctors.
This might not sound like the sort of stuff that applies to your average coworking space owner.
But, the internet was in a similar situation when it was first switched on 40 years ago — many assumed it would only be useful for researchers and academics.
“There was a time when people felt the internet was another world, but now people realize it’s a tool that we use in this world,” according to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the world wide web, speaking in 2003.
Now let’s sprinkle in the word “quantum” in the above quote. Because in 40 years time (probably sooner), the quantum internet will be a tool that we use in this world, and its impact on the future of work could be just as significant as the internet.