Investors Bet Quantum Technology Will Make the Internet Faster and More Secure
Quantum computing is a distant prospect but techniques to improve broadband and encryption are closer to market
Security and speed—two challenges facing the Internet that most Web users will feel familiar with. The partners of a new venture capital fund are betting that they will be solved by applying quantum physics.
“Hardware has to go through a revolutionary change,” says Serguei Kouzmine, managing partner of the Quantum Wave Fund, which says it has raised over $30 million to invest and aims to collect $100 million. Kouzmine says it makes sense to launch the fund because advances in software and increased usage of the Internet have created problems that can’t be solved using the communications networks and approaches to online security in use today.
Quantum physics does indeed offer some intriguing ideas about how fiber optic data links, the Internet’s backbone, could be made more capacious and secure. New ways to handle individual or small groups of photons could allow existing fiber optics to carry more data, for example (see “A Quantum Communications Switch”). Prototype systems that use quantum properties of light to create unbreakably secure communications links (see “Quantum Cryptography for the Masses”) might be made more practical, allowing them to become widespread.
Kouzmine says he’ll announce the fund’s first investment “soon,” and expects most of the companies funded to come out of academic physics labs, not the kind of place most people think of as the source of major new computing companies.
The Quantum Wave Fund is advised by a board of scientists in quantum physics, including Vladimir Shalaev of Purdue University, whose research group has pioneered work on invisibility cloaks (see “How to Make an Object Invisible”) and nanoscale lasers with a potential to be used for new forms of communication and computing (see “The Smallest Laser Ever Made”).
As for the prospect of computers based entirely on quantum computing, Kouzmine says it is distant, despite the claims of a certain Canadian start up company, D-Wave Systems (see “The CIA and Jeff Bezos Bet on Quantum Computing”). “It’s a tough question if you talk about general purpose computing,” he says. “Quantum computing is sort of our ultimate goal, but we try to focus on what exists today. We invest in companies that already have a product first customers and a team.”
However, Kouzmine adds that more limited applications of quantum computing are conceivable. “Think about quantum calculators. You don’t need to build a huge, complex device to take advantage of image recognition or code breaking.”