Podcast | High-Speed Quantum Networking in NYC— with Qunnect

The phrase “quantum internet” gets tossed around a lot, usually as a placeholder for something that will fix many nonspecific issues in the future. The core concept of quantum networking is a real thing, though, and is more robust today than you might think. How does it work? How fast is it? And is it really running in the Big Apple? Join Host Konstantinos Karagiannis for a chat with Noel Goddard from Qunnect as they explore all this and potential business use cases.

Guest: Noel Goddard from Qunnect

The Post-Quantum World on Apple Podcasts

Quantum computing capabilities are exploding, causing disruption and opportunities, but many technology and business leaders don’t understand the impact quantum will have on their business. Protiviti is helping organisations get post-quantum ready. In our bi-weekly podcast series, The Post-Quantum World, Protiviti Associate Director and host Konstantinos Karagiannis is joined by quantum computing experts to discuss hot topics in quantum computing, including the business impact, benefits and threats of this exciting new capability.

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Noel Goddard: Quantum networking has the promise to make extremely sensitive networks so that you can detect hackers almost instantaneously. That’s, of course, of use to the government and the military. But our entire world revolves around being able to share secure keys, to be able to do things like e-commerce transactions and other types of financial transactions.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: The phrase “quantum internet” gets tossed around a lot, usually as a placeholder for something that will fix many nonspecific issues in the future. The core concept of quantum networking is a real thing, though, and is more robust today than you might think. How does it work, how fast is it and is it running in my hometown, the Big Apple?

We cover all this and potential business use cases in this episode of The Post-Qantum World. I’m your host, Konstantinos Karagiannis. I lead Quantum Computing Services at Protiviti, where we’re helping companies prepare for the benefits and threats of this exploding field. I hope you’ll join each episode as we explore the technology and business impacts of this post-quantum era.

Our guest today is the CEO at Qunnect, Noel Goddard. Welcome to the show.

Noel Goddard: Thanks so much for inviting me.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: You reminded me that we were at the Q2B show, and these quantum shows pop around. It’s a small community in some ways.

I’d love to start at a high-level for the audience. Could you describe the promise of quantum networking and its future uses?

Noel Goddard: I always think of quantum tech as having several verticals. The one that everyone is more familiar with because of the popular press is quantum computing. But the other two are quantum networking and quantum sensing. One of the things that is maybe not as well understood is that quantum networking and quantum sensing are things that are here today.

Quantum computing is in the early stages of being something people can access and do things with. But the ability to use quantum for networking and sensing applications has been around for a while. In the sensing camp, atomic clocks, we all use them with GPS in our normal lives. The idea that you can network them to be able to do things that are a different type of precision navigation and timing is important. That’s one interesting use of quantum networking. When we think of quantum networking, we think of a grand picture of something that people sometimes call the quantum internet. But the way we think of it is, the quantum internet is simply quantum devices connected by quantum channels.

In the example of atomic clocks, being able to connect those with quantum channels would allow you to access types of precision that you couldn’t do otherwise. That’s the quantum side of it. And in the field of secure communications, quantum networking has the promise to make extremely sensitive networks so you could detect hackers almost instantaneously. That’s, of course, of use to the government and the military. But our entire world revolves around being able to share secure keys, to be able to do things like e-commerce transactions and other types of financial transactions. And critical infrastructure also rolls off of keys and that type of thing. The idea of being able to assure that type of security for both the national-defense side and for economic security is a big application for quantum as well.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: It’s fair to say that just like quantum computers, the quantum internet isn’t going to replace the internet. It’s just going to be this other niche thing. I hear things that make me cringe. People are, like, “But this will all be fixed when we have the quantum internet.” I don’t know about that.

Noel Goddard: In fact, I was on a panel recently, and one of the questions I ask the participants about is “quantum internet.” You hate the term or like the term. A lot of people in our field don’t like the term at all. But I like the idea of thinking beyond the communications application, because quantum networking got stuck. Basically, everybody thinks of it as only being able to exchange secure keys, but there’s something bigger. There’s a bigger promise.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: We’re going to talk about a couple of those possibilities today. Tell us about Qunnect.

Noel Goddard: We’ve been in business since 2017. It was founded by two graduate students at Stony Brook University to spin out a quantum memory technology. One of the reasons we’re in quantum networking is because very early on, when people started to envision whether quantum could be used for networking, there were concerns about, how do you spread quantum at distances when you can’t get over a very basic feature? You can’t repeat quantum information the way that we repeat digital information, which allows us to use all the fiber infrastructure we have. Those digital style repeaters would break the quantum, which would break all the advantage that you’d have in a quantum system.

The key technology to being able to do that in a quantum repeater as an analog was a quantum memory, so we spun out as a quantum-memory company. I met the team because they applied to a seed fund that I was at at the time. It was called Accelerate New York. We were backing technologies that were mostly hard tech and biotech — everything but software, for the most part — that were starting to get off the ground in New York state. And as part of that, since we were typically first money in, I ended up mentoring the team in the early days.

My own background was physics — I was a professor of physics before I started into the startup world myself. I obviously resonated with what they were doing. They invited me to join the team in January 2020, which was just before the pandemic. And then we survived the pandemic together. But it turned out to be a good time to step back and evaluate what the purpose of the company is, and what are the technology gaps?  
We’ve always wanted to have something very real, and what we settled on is that Qunnect wanted to build a product suite that was a drop-in solution to transform telecom-typical infrastructure into quantum networks, and what were the basic products we needed to build in order to do that? That’s been the mission ever since then. That’s where we are today. It’s the foundation for the larger big idea of the quantum internet.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: We’re going to talk about a few of those pieces that’ll be required. You said you have a background in physics but also biology. Does the medical-sensing use case particularly appeal to you? Is that something you’d want to see expand with Qunnect?

Noel Goddard: I love to see applications. It’s always great to do that. Biology is different than physics because physics is all about, take something very pure and figure out how to take this beautiful phenomenon and somehow translate it into something that might be an instrument. Biology is, take something infinitely complex and, hopefully, parse through all of the other details in order to find something that is useful for allowing you to say something conclusive. I have skepticism about how useful devices will be that are quantum in diagnosis of disease, but It’s important to always test boundaries.

My skepticism is there because it’s one thing that it works on a very controlled environment. It’s another thing that you put it in a hospital and you screen patients routinely. Quantum is still just a little too delicate right now, but it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be trying, because by doing so — I often think of how much technology was developed in order for America to do the moonshot. There’s a huge amount of technology that needed to come into place. It ended up spawning all these industries that did important things besides just going to the Moon.

Quantum has a little bit of that sense. There are a lot of ancillary technologies that have to be improved that to some extent have been hitting ceilings. And medical diagnostics certainly has some of those moments as well. There are lots of beautiful imaging equipment and other things that never actually make it to the clinic because they are very good at something that is in a very controlled environment, but not so great at things that have to reach millions of patients.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: It sounds almost like a 2024 cliché to say this, but this might be a place where AI helps one day.

Noel Goddard: Sandbox is a very interesting tool in that space. SandboxAQ may have figured it out. The only way that you get beyond the fact that it’s very difficult to do diagnostics on a huge variable set is to be able to have learning algorithms that can somehow parse through the noise and variability. The idea behind SandboxAQ’s medical device is that the device takes the measurement and then the AI ends up parsing through the noise to get information.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Yeah — we had Paul from Sandbox on just a couple episodes ago. That was a pretty cool approach.

Let’s dig into the recent announcement from your company surrounding GothamQ. For starters, what is GothamQ?

Noel Goddard: We named it after New York because we obviously have a love story with New York, like so many other companies that land here. It’s a high-energy place — lots of stuff going on all the time. One of the things we determined to do with this last funding round was to take products that we had de-risked into prototypes and put them in their intended environment as part of our growth as a company. We’ve always wanted to deploy these on real fiber networks, wo we ended up building a network in New York City. We called up a commercial fiber company. They stitched together existing fiber for us to be able to use for piloting and connected it to our laboratory. Then we started to put our instruments on it.

GothamQ is our network. The first branch of it was a loop. In physics, it’s often easier to talk to yourself than to someone else at the beginning so you don’t have to actually coordinate all the other synchronisation issues. But then we expanded it to NYU, which we’re an industry partner with. They have campuses in Brooklyn and in Washington Square and Manhattan. Now we have a data center in Tribeca, which is interested in connecting to us. And the same is true also for Columbia.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: On that network, how does your approach to quantum networking differ from what other companies have tried?

Noel Goddard: That’s, I suppose the most exciting part of the announcement — the numbers we’re starting to see in terms of performance don’t look that different than regular networking. One of the criticisms of quantum anything, and especially quantum networking, has been that it’s slow. All the normal value props for doing anything in the networking space have to do with better bandwidth, better data rates, better algorithms for compression, etc. That’s what normal telecom service providers and media streaming services, etc. are looking for. Quantum wins on security, not on speed. That limits, of course, what you’d like to do with it.

But what we’ve always wanted to do is show that we can start operating at speeds that are feasible. It’s always disheartening when you read a paper and you’re, like, somebody was able to get a qubit every four seconds or every 10 seconds or something like that. That’s not a real data rate. What we were able to prove on GothamQ is that we could go as high as 500,000 bits per second — entangled photon pairs that we could preserve with extremely high quality, running it for 24/7 metrics. The stuff was on for 15 days and never had a hiccup.

The reason we were so proud of this result is because not only had we built things that generate very high-quality entanglement, but we also had built other instruments that preserve that entanglement in an active way so that it looks like a network. It’s not simply an experiment. There are all sorts of beautiful physics that are developed in all the academic labs to prove what can be done in quantum networking. But they’re taking data once for a paper. They’re not turning it on and leaving it on so you can do something with it. Our type of networking is distributing entangled photons over real optical fiber and preserving their fidelity so you can use them for something.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Listeners might have a hard time visualising what that means. You know, some modalities in quantum computing are easier to understand than others. Networking might add an extra layer of complexity. Could you simplify what that looks like? What’s being sent?

Noel Goddard: Generating entanglement, there are lots of ways to do it. Quantum networking relies on the idea that things are secure as long as they stay entangled because they’re entangled until you look at them. You can think of an eavesdropper as the interference that looks at it and destroys the entanglement. But the truth is, if you have entanglement and you would like to distribute it, you have to make sure the channel that connects you and me is also not going to destroy it the same way as something that looks like an eavesdropper.

We create very high-purity entangled pairs of photons, and it comes from a process where we pump an atomic vapor with two lasers. What we get out of it naturally is a photon pair that’s entangled in polarisation. When you buy sunglasses, and they ask you if you want polarised lenses or not, and then you try to look at your iPhone, and you realise you can’t see your iPhone — that’s a good example of the fact that polarisation has a specific register in which it allows light through, to pass. You can use that orientation to carry information. You can think of anything within the 360 range as being something that is information you’re trying to transmit. But because the pair was created at the same time, you know something about the two things that were created, because they have to follow the rules of physics.

If we create a pair of photons, we know that they are either both horisontally polarised or both vertically polarised. When you send them through the fiber, the fiber is made of glass. It has a tendency to rotate it away from being horizontal or vertical. You need to correct for that. Otherwise, you’ve just corrupted your information. The experiment goes such that we create a pair. We send one into the telecom fiber. We keep one at home base. The one in the telecom fiber travels through and necessarily suffers some of this rotation.

But we have some instruments on either side of the fiber itself that act like noise-canceling headphones. They’re actively testing the fiber all the time, the same way as your headphones actively test the environment. And then they’re creating a compensation signal the same way your headphones create a compensation signal for canceling the noise. We’re canceling the problem in the fiber, and then what comes out is the same thing you put in with very high fidelity. That’s what we would call preserving. We generate high quality, we put it into the network, we preserve that quality and then we can validate it at the end with a test measurement.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: The goal is that the fiber is not in any way making an observation before you get to the other end.

Noel Goddard: And that you stay high-fidelity enough that if you want to detect an eavesdropper, you don’t confuse it for a fiber problem.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Anton Zeilinger was doing primitive versions of this back in the day. We’ve come a long way. You’ve got to walk before you can run, obviously.

Noel Goddard: OG entanglement.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: What’s the performance increase you achieved? Can you let our listeners get a sense of where it was just a year ago or so?

Noel Goddard: For our own metrics, we’ve definitely improved from the earlier days. We were injecting something around a million photons and preserving something around a little less than half of those that were passing through on our very earliest measurements. Then we improved the source technology so the source now can produce as high as 80 million pairs per second, which is almost unheard of for an atomic source. For people who think of things in terms of hertz, you could think of it like megahertz type of rates.

The other side of it is that the fiber itself has an intrinsic loss. The fiber is going into a piece of glass. Inherently, you’re going to lose some photons in the transition. You can’t do anything about that. Our usual experiments now run something like injecting something like four to five million pairs per second and picking up on the other side something like 200,000 pairs per second. Again, the fastest we tend to run it would be more like 10 million pairs injected, 500,000 pairs recovered — something like that. We could do more, but as you start to push instruments in general, they have a tendency to not perform as exquisitely. You always pay a cost, so there’s always a compromise.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Then it becomes a matter of creating a protocol that makes sense of that, just like we have protocols for all types of networking.

Noel Goddard: Correct. That is a big difference between computing and networking. In computing, everybody needs to get to the point where, it’s like they always say: three nines — the 99.999. In terms of fidelity and networking, you have the luxury that you can operate less than that if you build the protocol correctly.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Going back to Shannon, we were always talking about doing the best we could with all the loss we’re suffering. There’s a protocol that has to be done, and then there’s hardware. Could you talk about the types of hardware you’re creating and maybe you envision creating in the future to make this a reality?

Noel Goddard: It’s grown bizarrely organically. We built the hardest thing first. We built the quantum memory first and commercialised it because at the time, the U.S. government had specific grants to be able to support memory research. We had some small business awards from the Department of Energy that helped us with that. To date, we’ve sold five of those.

What does a quantum memory do? It literally catches and releases one photon at a time without destroying its entanglement so it preserves its quantum state. This sounds a little crazy to anyone who thinks about, “What would you use?” You have something that’s only one bit at a time that’s going through. But everybody in the community knows that these things eventually have to be multiplexed, so that will happen. In fact, there was a paper that just came out of China about spatially multiplexing something like this, so these things can be done. It’s just the normal evolution of technology: It has to start somewhere. Quantum memory is now on generation two in our laboratory. The first one we put out, it’s a good tool, but in order to make it good for networking, it needs to have very low loss with all the other components.

Something that gets tucked under the rug way too often in our fields is that nobody wants to deal with the ugliness of quantum devices — they have to match very well in order to talk to each other without losses. If you’re going to make mini nodes with many instruments, those losses compound quickly, and you’re not doing networking right. You go back to the one-bit-per-minute type of thing, and that’s not going to work.

That’s the same sort of philosophy. Since the beginning, we knew that the types of design constraints we had to fit have to be telecom-compatible, have to be something that’s remotely addressable. You have to be able to monitor it and control it via software that has to be low-maintenance enough that it can sit by itself in a deployed situation and you don’t need a graduate student to tweak something every five minutes. That last piece is tough for quantum instruments because their precision very often requires them to be nurtured, so they have a little high maintenance on that side. We spend a lot of time dealing with all those problems, and then one of the things we’re very strongly opinionated about is that it’s good to work in a type of physical system that’s easy to synchronise between many distant locations.

We work in the field of atomic vapor. It’s the same idea as why atomic clocks are so good. Atomic clocks work because whether their atoms are the same, whether they’re in space, whether they’re under the water, whether they’re on a mountain, whether they’re at sea level, they all behave identically to some ferociously tight level of precision. That’s why you can use them for clocks. It’s the same reason that we’re using them for generating entanglement, referencing our networks and storing entanglement, because it’s something that’s easy to imagine in distributed systems.

To generate entanglement, we take this literally. It’s like a little cylinder of atomic vapor. We pump it with two lasers, and what we get out are the two photons we want continuously. One is telecom frequency, naturally, and the other one is a frequency that’s very good for free-space communications or for feeding into other types of quantum instruments, like our memory. We’re constantly producing these. The telecom one goes immediately into the fiber. The 795 one is either used for testing if we’re doing something like the networking experiments, or being stored in the memory.

Because everything’s done in rubidium, what’s nice is that it’s like the exact wavelength we need for the memory. It also takes out any need to do frequency conversion, which is another type of loss step. Then we have the noise-canceling headphones I mentioned earlier. There’s an active compensation system we put on any fiber that we’re using for networking, and then, at the end, we have a validation device.  
To validate entanglement is to ask whether what you got is still correlated identically to what was kept. If you were creating a pair, and every time I create an h, you should receive an h, and you’re not receiving an h, something has happened, so we have a validation device that checks all that. When these things get sent, obviously, they need to have a little time stamp on them to be able to do that last piece. We have some electronics that do those things as well.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: You envision this always remaining dark fiber. It’s going to have to be a dedicated path, basically.

Noel Goddard: It’s dark fiber, but you can have splices and switches. Anything that is quantum-neutral, that doesn’t measure, is fine. But more recently, what we’ve started thinking about a lot in terms of technology uptake and adoption is not using quantum for the message itself, like people do in QKD, but instead as a physical layer of security on top of normal networking.

The digital data stream obviously has a huge number of mathematical algorithms that protect it in different ways. It doesn’t have a lot of physical devices and physical types of algorithms that protect it. But if you’re good at distributing entanglement, and entanglement is very sensitive to being disturbed, maybe the right thing to do is to think about a network as just a big physical sensor, like a mesh, and start blurring the lines between quantum networking and quantum sensing so you could use it for something that is more immediate to cybersecurity.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: In some ways, when it comes with something, especially, the network is the computer. The networks work together.

Are you looking at repeaters of some type? Wouldn’t that just be like a miniature quantum computer that’s specialised?

Noel Goddard: If you’ve ever had the chance to hear IonQ talks, very often they will talk about the fact that their processors are effectively also repeaters, or can be used as such. The short answer is, yes, that could be the case. We’ve always been interested in showing that our memories can be used for what everybody has hypothesized would be a standard repeater-type structure, which is, if you have two pairs of entangled photons, you interfere one half of each pair. You then share the entanglement between the two remaining ones, but you can’t do anything with them if you can’t catch them and release them to do something else.

In a network context, the memory is so important because it allows you to introduce temporal control — to be able to either wait for other transactions to happen because there were failures in some of those transactions or because you want them to specifically act with some other part of the network. It’s definitely on our roadmap.

Our second-generation memory’s performance is knocking it out of the park. If you stay tuned, probably in the next four to six months, there’s going to be a paper on our memory source coupling of our second-generation memory. It will be the core of our next memory product, and the idea is that it will be the core of where we’re going.

Our product suite right now is a bunch of components, but this is the year that we go from components to systems, and those systems are going to be our products, plus some third-party things like those time taggers — to be able to put it into one software interface and enable researchers to do exactly what we do here, which is basically do the entanglement distribution protocol on any piece of fiber so we can start equipping testbeds. Then those will start to be preloaded with protocols in our larger scheme.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: You mentioned IonQ, and one thing they take seriously is this idea of interconnect. They’ve been one of the earlier ones to dig in. Are you working on any interconnect protocols to make quantum computers work together on your future networks?

Noel Goddard: We’re not doing it yet, but we’re interested in doing it. This came to us a few years ago when we were thinking about how to do the entanglement source. The standard way to generate entanglement in the field is to pump a crystal, and then the crystal gives you two photons of the exact same wavelength. The optics of that are fairly simple. It’s a robust device. The problem is that what you get out are these extremely broad-line-width photons, and things like quantum computers, quantum sensors, quantum memories all require narrow-line-width photons. You end up creating a loss mismatch when your source isn’t well matched to whatever it needs to interface with.

One of the exciting things we hope to do with our entanglement sources, naturally is gigahertz line width. And the advantage of that is that it’s much more natively compatible with all the things I just mentioned. But because it’s also two different frequencies, the chances that you can get nearer to the wavelength of something you want to couple to, and then you can do a frequency conversion over a smaller gap, is good.

We certainly would like to start working with some groups. We’ve been talking to a few groups about starting into the interconnect problem. I will say candidly, our value proposition as a company was always about doing things over fibers — longer distances. Most of the interconnect problems are things that are either in a freezer or in a room. We don’t necessarily satisfy their need the same way. We work in a compromised situation. The best selling point on our memory is that it works at room temperature, but by working at room temperature, you have to accept compromises. We don’t have the same coherence time as people who are working at 4k or at millik — that’s just the way it is. And I suspect those technologies will be much more useful to the interconnects that are at the room scale.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: It’ll be interesting. I know a lot of systems are changing their temperature approach in the future. Everyone’s hoping for warm quantum computing too — like 4k, like deep-space warm — but it’s still an order to magnitude.

We both live in New York, as you mentioned, and there are obvious potential customers here for quantum use cases. We have financials here. Obviously, it’s the financial headquarters of the world in some ways. But do you have any thoughts on our area’s future role in quantum information science? Chicago, Colorado, they have their own hubs growing right now, their type of hub. What do you envision New York City will be?

Noel Goddard: There’s a new consortium called Quantm, which has been put together by the Westchester County Office of Economic Development, because we do have a few companies within New York that are already larger versions of quantum companies — IBM, of course, being one of them. It will be hard for New York to rival what’s happening in the Chicago ecosystem because we just don’t have the sheer mass of people in a very small distance. Having two national labs in Chicago and several large universities with a very large quantum-oriented staff is a huge nucleus of research activity.

We have us in Manhattan, and the surrounding five boroughs. There are a couple of startup companies that are doing interesting things and, certainly, professors at the universities associated with New York City that are doing some interesting quantum things, but not a lot of spinouts yet, and we have a well-established business to the north. But as you go just slightly out of the city, you have Brookhaven and Stony Brook out on Long Island, and you have the air force research lab up in Rome, New York.

Of course, if you go a little further over in the state, you get to Cornell and all the photonic stuff that’s happening in Rochester. All that can be pulled together to wade in and do some interesting things together. I always look to national labs as being places that can host facilities in progress. For instance, if they’re hosting testbeds, those are nice opportunities for other technologies that might be in the research community to use a common facility. Hopefully, that’s going to grow in the New York ecosystem. I know that both the air force research lab and Stony Brook, Brookhaven, have been interested in doing that in the years ahead.  
It’s going to be tough to compete with the sheer critical mass of Chicago. What I like about the Colorado ecosystem is that it’s built around a lot of enabling technologies. First, you have NIST, which, of course, when we were talking about atomic clocks, is a mecca, and you have a lot of great researchers who are at the University of Colorado system and everything that’s going on in that region.

But then you also have this large economic-development grant that was centered there, largely because you have all the companies that were formerly feeding the NIST ecosystem now also working in quantum, which is great. Laser companies, photonics companies, photonic filtering companies, they’re all there — and coding companies. That’s what we would mean by enabling technologies. And that’s very important for quantum. I often say that quantum has this craft or artisanal manufacturing space right now, because some of the stuff that we do is so far out that there aren’t contract manufacturers that you can ask to do it for you. We do all our manufacturing in-house, but I don’t think quantum will scale until we can get over that little hiccup. We’re an artisanal manufacturing field right now.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: It’s not very suited to Manhattan, for sure. Quantum deals with the very small, but the stuff we use to deal with the very small is very big.

Noel Goddard: Yes, exactly. And rent is what it is.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: I live in the Lower East Side, and I can’t imagine anything quantum actually existing anywhere near here, except me.

If you had a dream Qunnect headline for three years from now, what would it be?

Noel Goddard: Candidly, I always like use cases, the same thing you were talking about. My dream headline would be something much more around the idea of “Qunnect Technology Enables Use Case X.” But I’d love to see it go into finance. But realistically, we all know that the sales uptake in finance is extremely slow. That’s why you don’t see headlines about blockchain protecting everything in banking today. That was an interesting tech with, again, some niche applications, which would be very good, but it wasn’t something that was adopted by everybody in five seconds for normal global banking.

I’ve always been one of these people who doesn’t like the idea that quantum is only useful when you start thinking about the horrific bad side of RSA being broken, or ECC. My hope would be that we stay more on the positive side and say that just like PQC algorithms coming out right now, by Qunnect actually building these devices that can be in use, we would start enabling true use case scenarios. That’s something I’d like to see. I don’t want quantum to be a curiosity. I want quantum to be used.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: It sounds like you’re describing with that mesh almost like an out-of-band network that can provide extra secure layers, maybe keys — something on the side. There are many uses for that.  
Before I let you go, I would love your thoughts and perspective on women in QIS. And shockingly, not every other episode has a woman guest. I would love to get your take on how you feel it’s going. Is it on track to equality?

Noel Goddard: I’m a poser because I wasn’t trained as a quantum physicist. I started off in in chemical physics, but doing photonic builds during graduate school, and, ironically, in levitated droplets, which is, again, they act like fantastic resonance cavities. In those days, people weren’t as quantum-obsessed as they are today, but it was another way of studying these types of phenomena that are important to quantum.

I’ve always felt this way, and it’s the reason I chose to be a professor in the CUNY system: Research opportunities that are afforded to undergraduates are definitely something that makes the difference in people becoming researchers or not. Students need to understand what getting a degree in science means. Whether research fits you or not, that is the time to discover it. There’s a terrible attrition as women start going through the process of graduate school, and then what happens after graduate school is, they’re going into professorships, etc. because life gets in the way.

The time to capture interest of any student is in the undergraduate years because they have enough to understand the basics of the science but they don’t exactly understand how science equals job, and we’re all pretty privileged in the academic sphere to be able to chase whatever questions we want to. It has the same sort of creativity potential as being an artist. It’s just with this underlying framework of the world of science underneath it, and inspiring students in high school and other things, of course, is important, but making sure that they understand that there are viable career options is something that happens when they get an opportunity to do real research.

When I was a faculty member, one of the first things that happened to me, which I was very surprised about, is that I had a huge number of women apply to work in my lab, and it was a funny moment because it wasn’t happening to my colleagues, who, at that point, were all male. I didn’t think actively about being a role model in any way. But I started to recognise that one of the problems is that, particularly if you come from a family that you’re the first educated or in a situation where you’ve never met a scientist and know what they do — I come from a family that doesn’t have any academics or any scientists in it as well, so I have some appreciation for this — you don’t know what that job looks like. The idea that you can do this job is an important first step for a lot of younger students, and then retention is a big deal.

The thing that drove me to work at CUNY is that I was a postdoc at Harvard, and Harvard has no problems getting any type of money to do anything they would like to do. It leads to, unfortunately — obviously, there’s a lot of beautiful science that comes out of Harvard, but also there’s a lot of excess. And in the summer programmes Harvard often offers to college students that don’t have research opportunities within their own institutions, it’s extraordinary to see the difference between the haves and the have-not moments. These students come in, and they’re so excited to actually be able to have the opportunity to do research. We have to invest in our public systems to have the same type of quality experiences, because it comes from everywhere.

The cool thing about science is, it doesn’t matter where you come from and what you do. It’s just, are you interested? Can you do this? Are you inspired? And what carries everyone to the finish line is the fact that they are OK failing and getting back up. Research is not just about the eureka moments. It’s about the three months of something not working, and then when it does work, it’s a pretty fantastic feeling.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: You’re from a quantum-networking company, and there’s a whole other type of quantum networking you and other people have to do. We have to reach out and let people know these amazing opportunities exist, and then they can dream bigger with them.

Noel Goddard: And with our relationship with NYU and other schools in the city, we’re hoping to give more opportunities here too. I don’t typically think startup companies are always the best place for the types of opportunities for undergrads because there’s a little bit of a stretch there. That’s a big gap to fill, but certainly for students who are in the latter stage of being in their engineering degrees and science degrees, that’s sometimes a good match.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Thanks so much for your insight, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this networking thing takes off now as it becomes more of a reality.

Noel Goddard: Thanks so much for the opportunity to share our news with you.

Konstantinos Karagiannis: Now, it’s time for Coherence, the quantum executive summary, where I take a moment to highlight some of the business impacts we discussed today in case things got too nerdy at times. Let’s recap.

Quantum networking, as the phrase implies, enables quantum devices to communicate. These devices could be sensors, clocks and quantum computers, which will all be able to work together in powerful ways on a quantum network. Also, quantum networks can be used as an out-of-band way to send keys to secure classical devices on a separate classical network, much like you get a text message when logging into a web browser.

Qunnect has been working for about seven years on solving some of the unique challenges of quantum networking. In classical networking, photon loss increases with distance but is easily fixed by adding repeaters. In quantum networking, the no-cloning principle makes this approach a no-go. Instead, quantum entanglement is used with photon pairs swapping in a chain to transmit information. Getting this to work is tricky and could easily result in a broken chain when some swaps occur.

Enter quantum memory, which allows an entangled photon to be stored until the other part of its pair makes a successful swap. Chaining this setup allows for reliable communication. Noel wants to see this technology make its way to numerous use cases in the future.

Recently, Qunnect made some news by building a fiber-optic network to demonstrate an implementation of sending entangled photons in New York City. Called GothamQ, this network achieved a speed of 500k entangled pairs per second. Room-temperature atomic vapor generated these entangled photons, and the system preserved their fidelity over 34 kilometers of the fiber and minimised the quantum bit-error rate. They managed a 99.84% network uptime over 15 days of constant operation. That uptime feels better than my cable provider in New York City, to be honest.

That does it for this episode. Thanks to Noel Goddard for joining to discuss Qunnect, and thank you for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe to Protiviti’s The Post-Quantum World, and leave a review to help others find us. Be sure to follow me on all socials @KonstantHacker. You’ll find links there to what we’re doing in Quantum Computing Services at Protiviti. You can also DM me questions or suggestions for what you’d like to hear on the show. For more information on our quantum services, check out Protiviti.com, or follow Protiviti Tech on Twitter and LinkedIn. Until next time, be kind, and stay quantum-curious.