Ready, Set, Switch: The Role of All-Optical
Switches in Quantum Networks

By: Rohit Kunjappa

Judging by the sheer number of start-ups in the quantum computing space, as well as the millions of dollars in funding they are receiving, quantum computing is showing all the signs of being the next big thing in tech. Fortune Business Insights’ latest forecast estimates that between 2021 and 2028, the market will exhibit a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 30.8 percent, growing to be worth $3.1 billion by 2028.

The creation of a quantum Internet would enable the transmission of large volumes of data across immense distances at incredibly high speeds. To capitalize on this, the industry must ensure it understands what is coming and what is needed to take advantage of the future and the opportunities quantum networks will offer.

The quantum networking space and quantum communications in particular hold the promise and potential to make previously impossible communications possible. As efforts accelerate to build this network, one of the key parts for optimized functionality will be an integral switch to manage how data is transmitted between users.

Quantum computing advantages

Before delving into the need for switches, it is worth understanding where we are in the development of the quantum network and its future advantages. Quantum computing utilizes the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics to perform calculations. This will address several problems that are prevalent in classical communication due to computational challenges such as processing power and storage.

The new network capabilities have the potential to enable—and make a reality—a number of important improvements and developments. For example, consider security, an ongoing worry and a hot topic across all types of networks. Quantum computing has the potential to improve security by creating private keys for encryption and secure data transmission using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). This may mean that eavesdropping attacks, if not impossible, will be minimized, resulting in potentially un-hackable communications. This seems unimaginable at present but could soon become a reality.

Enabling improved healthcare is another exciting development we are likely to see, especially in the design and analysis of molecules for drug development. Quantum computers can simulate the properties of the molecules that classical computers cannot, giving incredible insight into and knowledge for researchers looking to make huge leaps in the discovery of new drugs and the materials to potentially make the incurable curable. Quantum computing may also enable the modeling and simulation of complex natural processes such as weather and climate warming. This has become a critical subject in recent years, and with the recent record-breaking hot weather seen across Europe, this couldn’t be timelier and more important.

With a new quantum Internet, we may also see the ‘futuristic’ dream of teleportation becoming a reality, with information being teleported without physically transmitting it from one location to another. Add accelerated machine learning into the mix and we have an exciting and experimental time ahead. With the delivery of a quantum network, we may soon be able to achieve what we once thought was impossible. But where do we start?

Creating a quantum network

To scale and commercialize quantum computing, quantum networking is needed. To connect a huge number of devices across the globe, the Internet uses hardware components. Similarly, a quantum network requires ‘quantum hardware’ to enable communication and transmission of information between interconnecting nodes (computers). Quantum networks will provide powerful and secure cloud quantum servers by connecting together and amplifying the capabilities of individual quantum


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