Dr. James Troupe was asked how long it will take for quantum networking to come together.
“I’ll give you an answer and then I’ll tell you the answer is probably moot,” said Troupe, chief scientist for quantum communications company Xairos and the guest speaker for the second of three “Gig City Goes Quantum” presentations hosted by the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
“The answer is probably 10 years; 10 years is always a safe answer,” he continued. “The reason it’s hard to predict is because of technology. All these things are being developed at the same time and they’re all synergistic, so developments in quantum computing and or quantum networking sensors all sort of feed into each other. Some breakthroughs can quickly happen successively and independently that just build capability very rapidly.”
Troupe’s presentation on Wednesday, April 19, held at the University’s Center for Professional Education, is part of an initiative to prepare for education, jobs and business opportunities in the emerging quantum technology field.
UTC is a significant collaborator in the initiative being led by EPB and Qubitekk, which are partnering to offer the EPB Quantum NetworkSM powered by Qubitekk. This will be the country’s first industry-led, commercially available quantum network—and UTC will be home to a node of the network.
Troupe’s appearance was part of a package of educational and informational activities that kicked off on World Quantum Day (April 14) and continues through May 31. On Monday, April 17, UTC hosted Dr. Raphael Pooser, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory quantum physicist, for a noon-hour discussion of quantum computing.
On Friday, April 21, quantum optics expert and UTC Assistant Professor of Physics Tian Li will discuss quantum sensing. His presentation begins at noon in the James R. Mapp Building. The presentation is free and open to the public.
Troupe, the chief quantum scientist at Xairos Systems since 2020, has spent more than 20 years as a physicist. His employers have included the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the Office of Naval Research Global and the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas at Austin.
Quantum networking is a communication system that uses quantum mechanics principles to send information between two or more parties securely. In classical networks, information is sent as a series of bits—which can be either a 0 or a 1. However, in quantum networking, information is sent as quantum bits, or qubits, which can be both 0 and 1 at the same time.
This property of qubits, called superposition, allows quantum networking to send information much faster and more securely than traditional communication systems.
During his talk, Troupe said that the history of classical networks gives context to quantum networking. The inventions of today and the future are the next steps in building upon those initial networks.
The history migrates from the telegraph in the 1830s to the telephone to Claude Shannon’s master’s thesis in 1940—“A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits”—in which classical digital logic was formalized efficiently as electrical circuits.
“It’s a pretty good master’s thesis,” Troupe said, garnering laughs.
Troupe then spoke about the launch of the ARPANET link in 1969, a four-node Western U.S. link allowing researchers in Northern California, Southern California and Utah to exchange data over a network for the first time. That led to what is considered the birthdate of the internet in 1983.
As part of his history timeline, Troupe included a pair of Chattanooga-related milestones, starting with EPB’s introduction of the one-gigabit internet in 2010.
“That, by the way, was the fastest internet on earth except for Hong Kong at the time; I think it had about the same speed,” he said. “It was the fastest in North America, so that was a big deal.
“I just wanted to put it in there because it’s actually an important thing technologically because this is very forward-thinking for the city here to do this. So it’s also appropriate that just a few months ago, the first commercial-focused quantum network was set up here as well.”
He acknowledged that the number of nodes right now might be small, but so was ARPANET when it was introduced.
“There were only three or four in that network, too, so you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Troupe said. “That’s the important thing to keep in mind; it takes a lot of people to build these technologies.
“This is why I’m here. Everyone should know this is coming, so think about how you can participate. There’s going to be a lot of opportunity to do that.”
Troupe stated that, in terms of network evolution, where we are right now is comparable to the early days of the electric telegraph.
“This is like the 1840s of quantum information networks,” Troupe said. “Our network’s quantum, but we’re not quite there yet. So that’s what we’re building the technology to do.”
For more on UTC’s new Quantum Initiative, click here.