Towards the quantum internet
There is presently a large research effort, in the Netherlands as well as globally, devoted to designing and developing quantum hardware that will form the building blocks of a future quantum internet. The quantum internet will allow new services, transmitting quantum information, to operate alongside the so-called classical internet services that we use every day. However, new hardware by itself is not sufficient to achieve the vision of a quantum internet. This new hardware infrastructure will also require sophisticated control protocols to coordinate the movement of quantum bits through the network. In addition to this type of low-level software, it is also envisaged that an Automation and Orchestration (A&O) platform will be needed to create, modify, and delete quantum internet services that users subscribe to.
Why quantum internet at SURF?
- Service delivery and network management: as a network operator SURF has a considerable amount of experience in designing, deploying and managing internet and internet-related services. This experience allows us to make a valuable contribution to ongoing research efforts by bringing an operational perspective often missing from discussions on experimental networking hardware and network infrastructure. SURF is currently investigating how our existing network Automation and Orchestration platform can be leveraged to integrate quantum services, such as quantum key distribution, into an operational network. The integration will also help guide researchers and vendors in the development of more mature technologies.
- Use cases: SURF is currently participating in the pan-European Quantum Internet Alliance project, which aims to construct a prototype quantum network, with both intra- and inter-city links, by the end of the decade. In anticipation of a large scale quantum internet, it is important to develop an understanding of what the most important uses of this technology will be. This will allow researchers, corporate entities and policy makers to prepare for and evaluate its impact on their work, and society as a whole. To this end, as part of the Quantum Internet Alliance SURF is working with an international group of researchers and experts to identify and analyze the most promising potential uses of the quantum internet.
- Quantum cryptography: the development of large, universal quantum computers will threaten the current public-private key infrastructure that is used to authenticate and secure most internet traffic and financial transactions. Since it is not known exactly when quantum attacks on standard cryptography will become possible, it is important to future proof the existing cryptographic infrastructure well in advance of “Q-Day”. That is why SURF is exploring not only how to deploy quantum-safe cryptography, in the form of quantum key distribution, in our network, but are also investigating how to best roll out the deployment of quantum-powered cryptography services and where they are most needed. To this end we have launched an open call, where we invite researchers to engage with SURF where and how quantum cryptography could be used in scientific applications in the mid-term future.
- Knowledge generation and awareness: the second quantum revolution is expected to impact many parts of society, such as research institutes and IT organizations, both directly and indirectly. It is therefore paramount that IT directors, research program managers, and information security officers be made aware that the topic of quantum technologies will become important to them at some future point in time. Through workshops and publications SURF will work to raise the level of awareness about the impact of quantum technologies among these stakeholders.
SURF quantum team