As China moves closer to building a working quantum communications network, the possibility of a quantum internet becomes more and more real. Harry Pettit from the Daily Mail reported on the 30 September 2017 that China indeed held the world’s first unhackable quantum video conference between laboratories in Beijing and Vienna.

Last year China launched the world’s first quantum communication and they’ve since been busy testing and extending the limitations of sending entangled photons from space to ground stations on Earth and then back again. They’ve also managed to store information using quantum memory. This could herald the start of a new era of ultra-secure communications that can never be hacked.

The quantum video conference call was held using a new world first space-ground quantum communication network that experts say could revolutionise how humans connect. Quantum messaging represents the safest possible form of communication we can achieve because it is unhackable.

Traditional public key cryptography, used in most modern internet communications including emails, usually relies on the perceived computational intractability of certain mathematical functions. In contrast, quantum key distribution (QKD) uses single photons in quantum superposition states to guarantee unconditional security between distant parties.

The Chinese science academy said the encrypted communication system was being trialled for potential ‘real-world applications by government, banks, securities and insurance companies’.

Leading these efforts is Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China, and he expects that a global quantum network could exist by 2030. That means a quantum internet is just 13 years away, if all goes well. What would that mean for the regular internet users?

Physicist Kai-Mei Fu believes that for such things like internet browsing, regular internet communication is enough. The quantum internet would excel, however, at sending information securely.

This is because quantum cryptography uses a mechanic called quantum key distribution (QKD), which means an encrypted message and its keys are sent separately. Tampering with such a message causes it to be automatically destroyed, with both the sender and the receiver notified of the situation. A quantum internet could also speed up access to a working quantum computer by putting quantum computing in the cloud.

According to Fu, a regular personal computer could transmit or access quantum-encrypted information through this cloud-based quantum computer. At the very least, you could send “unhackable” emails.  Essentially, a quantum internet would most likely become a specialized branch of the regular internet, one we would only connect to for specific tasks.

However, even if the quantum internet doesn’t work the same way the current internet does, one thing is for sure: the cutting-edge technology has the potential to benefit everyone.

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