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Beginner Quantum Communications

Posted by Dan Pope on Mar 29, 2017 02:27:38 PM

As FluidOne’s resident Scientologist, there’s nothing I love doing more than reading about science. It’s why I spend my weekends sitting alone in my room, reading from a dimly lit monitor and listening to Evanescence, all whilst Mother shouts at me to turn it down and/or to come and celebrate Mother’s Day with her.

Mother’s incessant selfishness aside, this weekend I stumbled across a brave new world of communications which, if successful, could change everything. Enter Stage Right Quantum Communications.

Hyperbolic statements aside, Quantum Communications is actually nothing new. In fact, a couple of years ago boffins from China came up with a way to convert information into photons. The idea was that if you could turn information into light then, perhaps, oh I don’t know that would be like totally cool or something. Psyche! I know exactly why they did it: one word, four syllables – security.

The current solution to mitigate security threats is to use complex mathematical algorithms, but the increasing power of computers and clever hackers is opening up more chinks in this armour. However, by basically inventing magic, scientists can now transfer data between two points (outside of time and space) with no threat of the information being stolen.

How it works is simple, so simple that I’m going to explain it using just colloquialisms as so the common person, like the opposite of me for example, can ‘get it’.

So it works like this, imagine a genius (like myself) wanted to send a secure message across the internet to another genius (let’s use me for example). I could create a unique security key which could then be used to decode the message on the other side. Only if someone had this key could they steal my message. In this case, my ‘message’ is a beautifully written poem with striking imagery containing the ability to finally bring about world peace.

Stunning metaphors aside, what Quantum Communications does is transform the key into a string of particles, or polarised photons. As soon as someone tries to access the message, their presence is revealed by virtue of the laws of quantum mechanics. This is called The Observer effect, the message remains at one value up until it is observed, for which its value is then instantly changed, effectively spoiling the data, rendering it gibberish.

Just in case you missed the point, basically as soon as somebody tries to hack into the system and steal the data, the data changes form and becomes something else.

China, who are leading the way with this technology have recently launched a quantum satellite that could make data breaches a thing of the past.

“The satellite is designed to establish ultra-secure quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground,” Xinhua, China’s state news agency, wrote after the equipment was launched from the Gobi desert. “It could also conduct experiments on the bizarre features of quantum theories, such as entanglement.”

Sounds spiffing, right? So why aren’t we using this Secret Squirrel-like technology yet? Well in the words of a poor Anne Robinson impersonator, “you’re only as good as your weakest link” and in this case, the weakest links are the devices on the ground (computers, mobiles etc.) that are not yet quantum-enabled and as such are still vulnerable to malicious attack/intent.

With such exotic tech flying about I imagine that in twenty years or so every business will have an in-house scientist. Fortunately, we already have a brilliant one - it's me. I am that scientist.