Quantum Computing & Networks: What IT Professionals Should Know
March 3, 2023
Quantum systems will shape the next generation of computing, engineering, and cybersecurity. It is a vision of powerful processing, highly secured data, improved communication systems, and energy-efficient devices at a smaller size. The big question: can the vision become a reality?
In this white paper, we will try to answer this question, looking closely at the many ways quantum systems are changing the technology landscape. We will highlight Virginia Tech's Quantum Research Centers, explore quantum networks' role in revolutionizing cybersecurity, and share how you can prepare for this change.
WHAT AND HOW IS QUANTUM COMPUTING CHANGING THE LANDSCAPE
Experts say that quantum computing will change the technology landscape. First, we ask what exactly is quantum computing and how it is being used.
Quantum computing is a next-level powerful alternative to traditional computing. Currently, for difficult problems, a supercomputer may be utilized. These are classical computers, often with hundreds or thousands of CPU and GPU cores. Yet there are some problems even too complex for a supercomputer. Quantum computing uses quantum bits — known as qubits — to perform multidimensional algorithms more quickly and efficiently than a regular or supercomputer, maximizing its processing speed and computational power.
The magnitude of power makes it perfect for solving data-hungry problems. For example, modeling weather and atmospheric conditions in a changing climate, performing molecular simulations that may lead to life-saving medical development, sorting the most efficient routes for a global shipping network in the midst of a natural disaster, or effectively protecting sensitive information stored in databases worldwide. Quantum engineering is poised to revolutionize society by improving communication, making data more secure, increasing energy efficiency, and making our computers even more compact. While the quantum revolution may be upon us, the promise of widespread, faultless quantum computers is still at least a decade away.
VIRGINIA TECH'S QUANTUM RESEARCH
Quantum computing requires expertise from across multiple disciplines, including computer and electrical engineering, computer science, materials science, physics, chemistry, and mathematics. To address the interdisciplinary need, Virginia Tech has formed two centers for quantum engineering that will collaborate to solve quantum challenges.
In Blacksburg, the university’s main campus, the Virginia Tech Center for Quantum Information Science and Engineering focuses on quantum computing, networking, materials, and cryptography. In the upper northeast of the state, the Center of Quantum Architecture and Software Development will be part of the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Alexandria, partially funded by a $12.5 million gift from Northrop Grumman. This center will focus on quantum computing coding and software.
With two Quantum Centers, it is not surprising that Virginia Tech faculty members are at the forefront of quantum engineering research, testing theories, and identifying solutions. Examples of research projects already in the works can be found in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE). ECE’s Department Head, Luke Lester, and Associate Professor, Mantu Hudait, are researching quantum dot devices and the materials necessary to create them. They craft devices like ultrafast lasers, single photon sources, and high-efficiency solar cells. Assistant Professor, Linbo Shao, uses high-performance microwave, acoustic, and optical devices to research quantum information processing on silicon substrates. Assistant Professor, Zin Lin, employs large-scale machine-learning and optimization software to design next-generation quantum photonic devices. Lastly, Collegiate Assistant Professor, Ravi Ragunathan, is creating a quantum key distribution testbed that integrates with cyber and radio-frequency modalities. Altogether, both centers and faculty research position Virginia Tech to play a leading role in the quantum revolution.
QUANTUM NETWORKS POISED TO REVOLUTIONIZE CYBERSECURITY
Quantum computing is not the only amazing technology in the field. Quantum networks have inherent security properties. Unlike classic networks needing the internet, quantum networks allow for cryptographic and networking tasks, which will have wide-reaching impacts on cybersecurity as we know it. "The implication of quantum networks on cybersecurity is nothing short of transformative. We're looking at new paradigms with widespread impact. Quantum networks will provide access to these new computational tools," says Gretchen Matthews, Virginia Tech math professor and director of CCI's Southwest Node.
Sophia Economou, Virginia Tech physics professor and Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) researcher, is currently focusing on unraveling the quantum "catch-22." Traditional computer networks rely on repeaters to measure and amplify signals, which is not an option when working with qubits. A qubit’s quantum state modifies at any attempt of being copied. Economou and her team are working on a solution that uses entanglement — a state when two or more qubits physically interact, becoming (and staying) correlated even if they are separated — to send information across a network without transmitting a physical qubit.
By developing an understanding of the impact atomic-level information processing can have on the overall quantum network, Economou and her collaborators are creating the architecture that could one day secure our everyday communications. Large-scale quantum networks are not yet a reality, but this work and research get us one step closer.
MEET THE QUANTUM COMPUTING OPPORTUNITY
Clearly, quantum computing and quantum networks are poised to change the information technology landscape forever. Although the technology is still in its infancy, the potential is significant. Companies and organizations can begin to prepare for future adoption with an educated workforce that understands the impact of this computing progress. This will increase the need for talent in data encryption, big data, and artificial intelligence sectors.
To ensure you are ready to meet the opportunity, consider Virginia Tech's Master of Information Technology (VT-MIT) degree program. Designed for working IT professionals, the VT-MIT program offers a flexible schedule and a customizable interdisciplinary curriculum. Big data, machine learning, cybersecurity, and software development/engineering are just a handful of fields the MIT program offers that can help you prepare for the quantum revolution.
Are you ready to take your career to the next level and prepare for the future of quantum computing? Learn more about Virginia Tech's online Master of Information Technology degree program today.
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As a working professional, how can you best prepare to take advantage of the advances and opportunities that quantum systems will bring? Read more on Virginia Tech’s leading research in quantum computing and networks and how the Master of Information Technology program can help augment your education while allowing you to fulfill your current obligations.