A Step Toward the Quantum Internet

By Paula Reinman and Joe Lukens

For the past two years, Joe Lukens, Marconi Society Young Scholar and Research Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, has been interested in frequency-based quantum information processing as an approach to making the quantum Internet a reality. By using ideas and models from the current Internet, Lukens believes that we can bring the benefits of the quantum Internet to people more quickly and in a more scalable way. He recently co-authored a paper in Optica by OSA outlining an approach to do just that.

Creating a More Practical Quantum Internet

While the classical Internet is built to transmit bits to different locations, the quantum Internet transmits quantum bits, or qubits, the basic unit of information in a quantum computer. If you have a small, low-power quantum computer in one location, you can connect it to a larger quantum computer elsewhere and transmit qubits between them. The quantum Internet would allow this on a global scale.

This is easier said than done. “Qubits are so squirrely,” says Lukens. “They degrade if they interact with their environment. You cannot copy a qubit without messing it up. You cannot amplify a qubit in order to send it further. These are the intrinsic challenges of quantum information.”

Frequency encoding leverages well-understood tools used in the classical Internet, such as pulse shapers and modulators, to control bits going through the system. By making the quantum Internet compatible with the classical Internet, we can make the quantum Internet more practical.

Why Do We Need a Quantum Internet?

While many more use cases for the quantum Internet will no doubt emerge when it is available, just like they did in the classical Internet, there are some immediate applications:

  • Security– When we have a quantum Internet, we can realize secure information between nodes, with security based on quantum mechanics rather than computational complexity. Quantum sensing can, in principle, let you detect quantities of dangerous chemicals more quickly and effectively. With entangled quantum sensors at different locations, we may even be able to detect new physics, such as dark matter.
  • Quantum computing – Although high in its hype cycle right now, quantum computing has real potential to solve problems that cannot be done efficiently with today’s technology. One example is Shor’s algorithm, which is an efficient way to factor large numbers. Public key cryptography exists today to let us communicate securely on the Internet precisely because of the difficulty of this problem. Quantum computing will make solving problems like Shor’s algorithm much more accessible and will become a disruptive technology in many fields.
  • Quantum simulation – When problems become very large and cannot be solved on traditional computers, quantum computers will be able to efficiently simulate other quantum systems. This could be very useful in basic sciences to help us understand particle physics, quantum chemistry, and more generally expand our understanding of the universe on scales ranging from atoms to galaxies.

What Was the Discovery?

All the applications above fall under the general umbrella of “quantum information processing”—using quantum systems to encode and process data. While quantum information processing can be achieved with any quantum particle (atoms, ions, electrons, superconducting circuits), single particles of light—or photons—are the best for traveling over long distances and connecting devices in the emerging quantum Internet. In the case of Lukens and his co-authors, the focus is on how to encode, manipulate, and measure information carried in some property of the individual photons.

One of the novel aspects of Lukens’ research is encoding this information in the photon’s color, or frequency, which means that the frequency of the photon corresponds to 0 or 1 – say the photon is 0 at red and 1 at green. Each frequency forms a “bin” in which a photon can exist, so that each photon can be described as a frequency-bin qubit. This is very similar to the principles of WDM, a widespread technology used in classical optical communications. WDM has great tools to control and use frequencies at high data rates, and it is only recently becoming clear how we can apply these ideas in quantum computing and make full use of these existing tools.

In order to develop large quantum networks with frequency bins, we will need to be able to apply quantum gates (basic logic operations) in parallel in optical fiber. Lukens and his co-authors discovered that they could have two different qubits and that they could apply two different gates, even on the same fiber.

The ability to have different gates on the same fiber and control the qubits in parallel is a technical achievement that could allow us to connect quantum nodes at different wavelengths, which otherwise would not be able to be linked together. This creates a quantum interconnect which takes quantum systems that are physically far away from each other and connects, or quantum entangles, them. This approach to building the quantum Internet leverages tools and technology from the classical Internet, providing a step forward to the many promising applications of connected quantum devices.

For more detail on the solution created by Lukens and Oak Ridge colleagues Nick Peters, Brian Williams, and Pavel Lougovski, as well as Purdue collaborators Hsuan-Hao Lu and Andy Weiner, check out the full article in Optica.

Marconi Society Names Four 2018 Paul Baran Young Scholars

Innovative researchers are honored for game-changing work advancing wireless and optical networking and disruptive healthcare applications

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA, September 11, 2018

The Marconi Society, dedicated to furthering scientific achievements in communications and the Internet, has named four 2018 Paul Baran Young Scholars, honoring them for their outstanding research and academic performance. The four will receive their awards at the Society’s annual awards ceremony in Bologna, Italy on October 2, 2018.

Dr. Di Che, a Member of Technical Staff at Nokia Bell Labs, is selected for his work on short-reach optical links for applications like data center inter-connectivity and optical access networks. His work is critical for companies like Google and Facebook, who build data centers around the world to support huge data transfers. These networks use large numbers of optical transceivers and Che’s proposed digital subsystems can be applied to upgrade existing systems in a cost-effective manner that increases speed while reducing power consumption.

Che’s advisor from the University of Melbourne, Professor William Shieh, says, “Di has conducted breakthrough work on coherent optical short-reach communications that significantly and cost-effectively increases the capacity-distance product. Some of this original work on novel digital optical subsystems has created new research directions which are being investigated in recent top-tier conferences like the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC) and the European Conference on Optical Communication (ECOC).”

Qurrat-Ul-Ain Nadeem, Marconi Young ScholarQurrat-Ul-Ain Nadeem, a PhD candidate at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), is recognized for her work in full-dimension (FD) massive MIMO technology. FD-MIMO has attracted significant attention from the wireless industry as a promising technology for Fifth Generation (5G) cellular systems. Her research bridged the gap between the 3GPP’s vision for FD-MIMO and the theoretical study of elevation beamforming by proposing efficient active antenna array designs, developing 3D channel models and characterizing spatial correlation functions to support and evaluate this technology. The proposed elevation beamforming schemes can significantly increase the number of served mobile broadband subscribers in 3D urban macro/micro scenarios while guaranteeing a significantly improved quality of service.

“Qurrat’s work establishes a proper link between the industry’s vision for FD-MIMO and the theoretical study of 3D beamforming,” says KAUST Professor Mohamed-Slim Alouini, Nadeem’s advisor. “She published pioneering works on the development of 3D channel models and spatial correlation functions. More recently, she put different aspects of FD-MIMO together to provide a mathematical framework for the design of elevation beamforming schemes in single-cell and multi-cell scenarios. Her works have gained a lot of visibility in a short time.”

Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, Marconi Young ScholarRajalakshmi Nandakumar is PhD candidate at the University of Washington conducting ground-breaking work that enables the detection of potentially life-threatening health issues using commonly available smartphones. Taking inspiration from the sonar-based navigation system that bats use, Nandakumar created technology that turns an ordinary smartphone into an active sonar system capable of detecting physiological activities, such as movement and respiration, without requiring physical contact with the device. Her technology has been licensed by a leading provider to help patients detect sleep apnea from the comfort of their own bedrooms, rather than in expensive and uncomfortable sleep lab settings. Nandakumar’s technology is also being tested to detect opioid overdoses.

“Rajalakshmi has a knack for selecting problems with high social impact,” says Dr. Shyam Gollakota, an associate professor at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering and Nandakumar’s advisor. “What’s incredible is that she has developed technology that seems like science fiction and has gotten it adopted by hundreds of thousands of people in the real world. It is rare for a graduate student to have such impact with even one application, and she is doing it time and again.”

Ding Nie, Marconi Society Young ScholarDr. Ding Nie, an RF Engineer at Apple, is recognized for his work in developing models and systems to greatly increase throughput in wireless systems. Over the past decades, technical advances and consumer demand started the shift to devices with multiple antennas. While multiple antennas should theoretically increase throughput, they often suffer from issues associated with coupling, or the transmission of power between the antennas. Nie developed new throughput bounds for today’s multi-antenna systems by understanding the effects of coupling, guiding the design of antennas and circuits that will lead to increased throughput and faster wireless communications for consumers worldwide.

“Ding is the kind of person that you can let loose on a problem with little guidance and he comes up with very original ideas for solutions. He made a big advance in solving an open problem by coming up with new results that let us apply Bode-Fano bounds to multi-antenna systems,” says Dr. Bertrand Hochwald, Nie’s PhD advisor at the University of Notre Dame. “Ding’s work is so important that it attracted funding and leaves a legacy in my lab for another group of researchers.”

Young Scholar candidates are nominated by their academic advisors. Winners are selected by an international panel comprised of engineers from leading universities and companies and receive a $5000 prize plus expenses to attend the annual awards event. This year’s Young Scholars will be honored at the annual Marconi Awards Dinner where Akamai Co-founder, Dr. F. Thomson Leighton, a pioneer in the content delivery network services industry, will receive the $100,000 Marconi Prize.

About the Marconi Society

Established in 1974 by the daughter of Guglielmo Marconi, the Nobel Laureate who invented radio, the Marconi Society promotes awareness of key technology and policy issues in telecommunications and the Internet and recognizes significant individual achievements through the Marconi Prize and Young Scholar Awards. More information may be found at www.marconisociety.orgSubscribe. Follow: LinkedIn,Twitterand Facebook


Hatti Hamlin

Paula Reinman

Yihong Wu creates new tools for digging into data

By Jim Shelton

Somewhere, buried deep inside mountains of information, awaits the human dimension of data. It’s the small subset of material that, when properly selected, sheds light on something important, such as public policy or DNA sequencing.

This is the scientific territory where Yihong Wu, a Yale assistant professor of statistics and data science, has set up shop. He’s made it his mission to find communities and networks within high-dimensional data.

All scientific fields deal with data, and more of it pours in all the time. But it’s not easy to make sense of it unless you do it in a principled, grounded way,” Wu says.

Wu is part of a wave of new faculty joining the Department of Statistics and Data Science, as Yale continues to weave data science into the fabric of campus research in all disciplines. The University Science Strategy Committee recently named data science as a top priority and recommended that Yale invest in a university-wide initiative to integrate data science and mathematical modeling research across campus.

Wu joined the Yale faculty in 2016. Earlier this year, he earned a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship, an award aimed at helping promising, early-career scientists.

Yihong’s work lies at the intersection of high-dimensional statistics, information theory, and computer science,” said Harrison Zhou, professor and chair of the Department of Statistics and Data Science. “He has made fundamental contributions in the important problem of estimating the number of unseen symbols in a population.”

Researchers have been working on this for generations, Zhou noted. In 1943, Ronald Fisher, Alexander Steven Corbet, and Carrington Williams wrote a seminal study about estimating species diversity, based on moth and butterfly collections; in 1976, Bradley Efron and Ronald Thisted came up with an estimate of William Shakespeare’s vocabulary based on a dataset of his recorded works.

In today’s research, in virtually every discipline, there is the variable of volume: a flood of data that streams in continuously. This material offers a wealth of possibilities, but it also poses problems. How do you store the information? How do you sift through it in ways that are financially feasible and can be done in a reasonable amount of time?

Wu tries to answer these questions with two guiding ideas in mind: design algorithms that give you provable, guaranteed results and get the information quickly.

The starting point is always a good statistical model on which we can determine the optimal procedure,” Wu said. “However, due to the combinatorial nature of the problem, it might be computationally expensive to solve.”

The problems run the gamut of academic, business, and social inquiry. For instance, Wu might be looking at data about protein interactions in the human body in order to select which proteins can help create new medicines. Or he might be analyzing ways to improve online social networks by incorporating certain user data into the decision-making process.

One approach to such challenges, he said, is to “relax” the problem. Wu and his collaborators sometimes use optimization techniques called convex relaxations to solve a relaxed version of the original problem. In other situations, Wu uses “belief propagation,” an iterative algorithm normally used in statistical physics that essentially passes messages back and forth to fill in gaps in information.

In my research, I focus on both the theoretical and the algorithmic aspects of statistical problems,” Wu said. “For me, good research is achieved by finding methodologies that are theoretically grounded and computationally efficient. Equally important to me is proving the statistical optimality of the methods I propose.”

A good example of this is Wu’s work that revisited the classic problem of predicting the number of unseen species based on a collection of samples. Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research broke new ground in making such estimates.

Previous studies had shown how to estimate the number of species for a population more than twice the size of the sample — but without a provable guarantee of accuracy. Wu and collaborators Alon Orlitsky and Ananda Theertha Suresh not only provided that provable guarantee, but they also expanded the size of the population that could be examined.

The possibilities for Wu’s research are equally expansive. Finding communities within data will have implications for looking at voting records, DNA chains, the blogosphere, traffic patterns, and an array of other data. Wu said the task requires expertise in both theory and practice, which is why he came to Yale.

The main attraction to me was the people we have here,” he said. “There is a very common interest in foundational studies, but with a firm focus on practical applications. You want your research to be useful, to have impact.”

Source: Yale News


Public Service Baked In

Public service seems to be baked into the DNA of the Marconi Fellows and Young Scholars.

I thought about this at a meeting we held with the FCC in Washington DC in March. Our board was convening in DC and we offered to meet with FCC staff on any topic they wanted to discuss. We did this previously in 2014, in a mutually beneficial encounter.

The conversation this year, which included John Cioffi, Guilhem de Valicourt, Zvi Galil, Joseph Kakande, Bob Tkach, and me, focused on how the agency could more effectively monitor communications reliability and performance and how the agency might improve the public emergency alerting system. For several hours, we exchanged ideas with FCC staff members (not commissioners) in an informal meeting free of any political overtones. These issues have real ramifications for the public, as recent natural disasters have demonstrated, so improving the FCC’s ability to do its job could have important public benefits.

The FCC staff members agree. They recently requested a second meeting, this time to discuss applying blockchain technology to the communications sector–primarily for supply chain risk mitigation, but also to improve other long-known problems like secure inter-domain routing, secure naming, and inventory management. Several of our Fellows and Young Scholars have agreed to speak with them.  I am still skeptical of the hyperbole surrounding blockchain technology, so this is an important conversation.

This is but one example of how our board, Fellows, and Young Scholars lend their time, energy and intellect to efforts that benefit the public. That’s why we plan to include occasional features on their activities. Not all of them are technology-related. For example, Len Kleinrock has supported the Community Karate Foundation (he’s a black belt) for decades, promoting the health benefits of karate training.

Bob Lucky, whose history of advisory and technical committee memberships takes the better part of a page to list, has now turned to a more local challenge—redeveloping an abandoned US Army base, Fort Monmouth, near his home in New Jersey. He spent four years chairing the planning effort to turn the base into a new town, helped obtain federal government approval, and now chairs the redevelopment.

Like many of you, Marty Cooper has devoted substantial time to serving on advisory committees and boards at universities and government agencies. He is a member of the FCC Technological Advisory Council, chairing their antenna working group, a Trustee on the board of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Advisor to the Dean of Engineering at UC San Diego, and a charter member of TIE International, a group which mentors and honors young entrepreneurs. Yet he still finds time to serve on the board of the Cinequest Film Festival.

Our Young Scholars continue this tradition serving in both technical and social impact capacities.  Eric Plum supports student research projects at his former secondary school in Germany, supervising projects and building and maintaining a bilingual project database that has helped 166 student teams win 379 science competitions at the regional, state, national and global levels.

Junwen Zhang is on the technical subcommittee of the Optical Fiber Communication Conference (OFC), sponsored by the Optical Society (OSA) and on the technical subcommittee of the Photonics West Conference sponsored by SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics.

Salman Baset represents IBM in external efforts to coalesce on an industry point of view on identity so that blockchain technology can support the 1.1B people in the world who have no officially recognized identity, helping to meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development goal of having a legal identity for each person on the planet.

I have written before about our Young Scholars’ Celestini Program, built to grow technical capability among students in developing countries by helping them apply technology to incubate solutions to problems that impact their local communities. Aakanksha Chowdhery, Guilhem de Valicourt and Joseph Kakande have spent countless hours starting this program in India and Uganda and it will expand this year to Colombia, Ghana and Rwanda.

This is only a tiny sampling of the interesting and important ways the Marconi Society continues to “benefit humanity.” I look forward to hearing about the service of others and we will feature more examples in the future. In the meantime, thanks for all that you do to keep the spirit of Guglielmo Marconi alive.