Quantum networking offers an intriguing glimpse into the future of enterprise computing. And even though it will be years before the technique is widely deployed -- the quantum computing foundation upon which it relies is still under active development -- it's not too early to consider the benefits quantum networking could provide unified communications.
First, a definition: Quantum UC can be termed as the collection of collaborative services, among them telephony, file sharing and video conferencing, underpinned by networking protocols powered by quantum physics. In part, that means transmitting information encoded in quantum states, typically represented in qubits.
The development of such ultra-high-speed quantum networks is limited and costly. The current use of quantum networking is primarily in the areas of machine learning, computation, communication and security. Vendors, such as Microsoft and IBM, are developing hardware and software to support quantum-powered communications.
The benefits of quantum networking and UC
Integrating quantum networking into UC is a new concept that is just now being evaluated worldwide. Let's examine some potential benefits:
- Long-distance and efficient collaboration. Quantum networking offers fast and secure connections and can accelerate the effectiveness of long-distance collaboration among employees, management, partners and stakeholders. Here, quantum repeaters are deployed to maintain the integrity of the information being shared over large geographical areas.
- Data encryption. UC today commonly relies on asymmetric encryption. Quantum networking uses both asymmetric and symmetric encryption as needed, and the information is encrypted in the form of quantum states. Furthermore, the common quantum key distribution (QKD) protocol that underlies quantum encryption doesn't rely on classical cryptographic methods, providing another level of security. Instead, it relies on the principles of quantum physics to exchange cryptography keys between users.
- Secure file sharing. Quantum information can't be copied -- a concept known as the no-cloning theorem. This reduces the chance an eavesdropper can copy information during a file transfer within the organization.
- Efficient VoIP. Quantum networking protocols revolutionize VoIP through secure call signaling and authentication. As quantum networks roll out, new VoIP codecs could support information and media exchange between users within a quantum network. The integration of generative AI with VoIP also paves the way for quantum networking in the future.
- Resistant to hacking. Compared to today's networks, breaking into a quantum-powered system is tougher. The eavesdropper may try to hack systems with another quantum computer. Yet, the concepts that govern quantum networking -- among them no-cloning, entanglement and QKD security -- prohibit hacking. In some cases, the entire quantum superimposed state collapses upon the intervention of a third party.
- Hybrid networking. Enterprises incorporating quantum networking in their UC operations can use both existing, or classical, networks as well as quantum processing. The hybrid approach lets organizations use quantum computers for handling large computations and quantum nodes for information deemed high-priority or classified. The rest of the traffic would travel over legacy infrastructure.
Challenges of quantum networking and UC
For all its benefits, quantum networking in UC remains hypothetical. Several challenges present roadblocks to enterprise adoption, including the following:
- Scalability. Practical quantum-powered technology remains limited; for the most part, quantum networking remains the domain of R&D rather than having a practical application.
- Susceptibility. The nature of quantum information is fragile as it is susceptible to errors, eavesdroppers, coherence and various other environmental factors. The no-cloning principle makes information exchange secure, but it also limits how easy it is to share quantum information with other members of the organization.
- Storage. Quantum memory differs from conventional storage options in traditional usage. A conventional storage disk stores "0" or "1" bits. Quantum memories store information defined as quantum superimposed or entangled states. Quantum memories are susceptible to errors and store limited information.
- High cost. Quantum networking technology and its components are costlier to deploy than traditional hardware and software. Organizations considering quantum networking for UC could see skyrocketing costs. Compatibility issues can also arise when devices cannot support quantum networking protocols.
Venus Kohli is an electronics and telecommunications engineer, having completed her engineering degree from Bharati Vidyapeeth College of Engineering -- Mumbai University in 2019. Kohli works as a technical writer for electronics, electrical, networking and various other technological categories.