Fueled by several recent contracts from the U.S. Air Force valued at up to $100,000, quantum networking company Aliro Quantum is advancing its efforts to develop quantum entanglement-as-a-service. The goal is to enable the distribution of entangled quantum states between nodes.

Quantum EaaS connects users of quantum networks with entangled quantum bits known as qubits, securely, across long distances.

Aliro’s software control plane and simulation technology provide the foundation for enabling EaaS on today’s quantum networks, the company said. Aliro calls EaaS “the key technology for the un-hackable secure networks of today and the quantum internet of tomorrow.”

SEE: Quantum computing: Aliro wants to make quantum hardware more accessible for software developers and network engineers (TechRepublic)

Like classical networks, quantum networks require hardware-independent control plane software to manage data exchange between layers, allocate resources and control synchronization, the company said.

“We want to be the Switzerland of quantum networking,” said Jim Ricotta, Aliro CEO.

Networked quantum computers are needed to run quantum applications such as physics-based secure communications and distributed quantum computing.

“A unified control plane is one of several foundational technologies that Aliro is focused on as the first networking company of the quantum era,” Ricotta said. “Receiving Air Force contracts to advance this core technology validates our approach and helps accelerate the time to market for this and other technologies needed to realize the potential of quantum communication.”

How EaaS works

Entanglement is a physical phenomenon that involves tiny things such as individual photons or electrons, Ricotta said. When they are entangled, “then they become highly correlated” and appear together. It doesn’t matter if they are hundreds of miles apart, he said.

“If you entangle two photons and someone makes a change to photon A, another person can observe that change at photon B, because they’ve been entangled,” he explained. “It’s the law of physics. But it’s invisible to the naked eye.”

Quantum networks work by entangling photons with information that can be encoded and then teleported over the same telecom fiber in the ground used today, Ricotta said. Entanglement enables the teleportation of qubits, which carry quantum information securely.

“To do useful work, you have to create thousands of entangled photon pairs per second because the entangled photons are the equivalent of bandwidth on a classical network,” he said. “If we have thousands, or eventually tens of thousands per second, we can transfer lots of information.”

There will be apps built on the quantum network that we can’t envision yet, Ricotta said, but they are going to consume bandwidth–just like today’s apps do on a classical network. The apps built for a quantum network will consume entanglement, meaning they will consume lots of pairs of entangled photons/qubits, he said.

Physics-based security versus quantum key distribution

Another approach to securely transferring encryption keys between two locations is Quantum key distribution. Although the keys are transferred using quantum physics, QKD typically does not use entanglement, according to Ricotta.

“The big problem with QKD is you build a network and you can only do key distribution for classical bits” in a single purpose network, he said. “We believe … if you go to the trouble of building a quantum network, just like today’s internet, [you] will want to build many apps on it and have that flexibility.”

A quantum network based on EaaS is a general-purpose network, whereas the network built for QKD can only be used to distribute those encryption keys, he said.

“That’s some of the reason QKD hasn’t caught on—it isn’t really used much,” Ricotta said, adding that the National Security Agency has said it doesn’t believe QKD is a good idea.

“We think it makes more sense to build a general-purpose quantum network,” he said.

For example, secure communications can be done using qubit teleportation on an EaaS network with the same software that is used on an EaaS network in a data center to connect several quantum computers to form a cluster. By networking together 10 50-qubit computers, your application gets access to 500 qubits. This is important, Ricotta said, because with more qubits, quantum computers can solve larger problems.

“When you talk to users of quantum computers,”such as drugs, finance and materials companies, “they say ‘We can get value from quantum computers, but we need several hundred or a thousand qubits to run our algorithms.'”