January 20, 2012
Quantum In The Cloud?
A report published this week indicates that a new, secure, high-speed computing technology based on quantum physics is compatible with “cloud computing” and could eventually revolutionize the world of computers as we currently understand it.
Blind quantum computing, as it´s being called, exploits uncertainties in quantum physics to carry out ultra-fast computations. And according to an international team of researchers who published their work in this week´s issue of Science, it can be integrated into current cloud computing technology without compromising data security.In contrast to traditional binary-based computing, blind quantum computing (BQC) attempts to harness the famous ℠uncertainty´ of quantum mechanics–whereby an object can simultaneously be in multiple states–to perform calculations at rates that leave even today´s fastest computers in the dust.
Since the concept of quantum computing was first conceived by American physicist Richard Feyman in 1982, scientists have speculated that it would someday become the successor of traditional computation.
Though still a nascent state of development, numerous governments around the world have invested heavily in theoretical and practical research into quantum computing, largely due to its potential use in cryptanalysis–the science of decoding encrypted information.
Yet despite some 30 years of research, quantum computing remains a largely theoretical venture, and scientists have until now only been able to carry out very basic calculations in highly controlled laboratory settings.
Authors of this most recent report, however, hope to begin changing that.
The team of international scientists headed by quantum computing trail-blazer Anton Zeilinger has shown that the future or quantum technology doesn´t have to focus on making hardware that can carry out the computations at home. Future consumers might be able to avail themselves of the lightning-fast technology simply by accessing ℠the cloud´.
The core units of quantum computing are known as quantum bits, or simply qubits. A qubit is a single unit of quantum information–the quantum counterpart to the bit in traditional computing. The dizzying computational powers of the qubit are the result of the multiple dimensions that it derives from the quantum properties of physical atoms.
It´s truly mind-boggling stuff. But the researchers say that the computational power of qubits can be utilized without actually having the extremely complex hardware required to harness them in your home computer.
Think of it as outsourcing computations. Essentially, the quantum calculations would be carried out on a remote server, with individual users relaying their information and computational problems to and from a quantum computer made accessible through cloud computing.
One significant theoretical problem with remote quantum computation has been the issue of security. How would the party ℠outsourcing´ its information to the quantum-enabled cloud be sure that its information wasn´t accessible to a third party.
“A key challenge in using such central quantum computers is enabling a quantum computation on a remote server while keeping the client´s data hidden from the server,” wrote the researchers.
But the researchers say that they have created and tested a complex system for entangling photons of light which then acted as qubits. These qubits were then manipulated in two separate kinds of quantum calculations known as Deutsch´s algorithm and Grover´s search.
The remote computer then blindly “entangles” the unknown bits, carrying out the complex computational steps on the seemingly random encoded information, and then sends the qubits back. Essentially, the quantum computer remains ℠blind´ to what it´s calculating, solving the problem without actually decoding the securely encrypted information.
The researchers believe that this method of quantum-cloud computer could easily be adapted for consumer use if there were a large enough demand for it.
In fact, researchers at University College Cork in Ireland recently showed that similar quantum information can be transmitted using the same fibers that are currently used for broadband.
What´s missing say the researchers, is a quantum computer capable of managing computations on a larger scale. While physicists and engineers say that steady progress is being made in this realm, it will likely be years before quantum computers are small enough and affordable enough to be put to work in the cloud.
Image 1: The image shows clusters of entangled qubits, which allow remote quantum computing to be performed on a server, while keeping the contents and results hidden from the remote server. Credit: EQUINOX GRAPHICS
Image 2: The image shows multiple superimposed strings of data encoded in such a way that the quantum computation can be performed on a remote server, while still securely encrypted. Credit: EQUINOX GRAPHICS
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