AT&T Foundry, Caltech form Quantum Technologies alliance

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The science behind quantum computing cuts across disciplines including physics, engineering, computer science and applied mathematics.

Forget quantum computing. The AT&T Foundry innovation center in Palo Alto, California, and the California Institute of Technology are launching a new alliance all about quantum networking.

Well, it still involves the computing part. But networking adds another dimension. The two entities said they're combining forces to form the Alliance for Quantum Technologies (AQT), which aims to speed quantum technology development and emerging practical applications.

Quantum networking is the process of linking quantum computers and devices together, thus creating fast and secure networks beyond what’s possible today with traditional processors.

The collaboration also involves a new a research and development program named INQNET (INtelligent Quantum NEtworks and Technologies). The program will focus on the need for capacity and security in communications through future quantum networking technologies.

“Quantum computing and networking holds the potential to radically transform how we connect as a society. It will make the impossible possible, as the internet once did,” said Igal Elbaz, vice president, ecosystem and innovation at AT&T, in a prepared statement. “The AT&T Foundry was founded to advance new products and services through innovation and collaboration. It’s the ideal place for this work as quantum technologies become a rapidly developing field in industrial research.”

Here’s how different it will be: Quantum computers won’t have a keyboard, monitor or mouse. They’ll be complex physics experiments with cryogenics for cooling, lasers and other solid-state, electronic, optical and atomic devices.

No doubt, moving quantum computing from the R&D lab to the real world requires solving technical and engineering challenges. The science behind quantum computing cuts across disciplines including physics, engineering, computer science and applied mathematics.

“With quantum technologies and quantum engineering we’re experiencing a revolution in the applied fundamentalIt is quite thrilling to accelerate the progress by integrating systems and ongoing R&D and especially by bringing together the experts,” said Maria Spiropulu, professor of Physics, California Institute of Technology, in a press release. “The spirit of innovation and collaboration at the AT&T Foundry is the culture we hope permeates throughout this endeavor. I expect the catalysis effect on science and technology to be analogous.”

One of the first demonstrations of intelligent and quantum network technologies will be in quantum entanglement distribution and relevant benchmarking and validation studies using commercial fiber provided by AT&T.

AT&T's first foundry opened in Plano, Texas, in March 2011, followed by one in Ra'anana, Israel, in June 2011 and another in Palo Alto, California, in September 2011. It also has facilities in Atlanta and Houston. The foundries serve as test beds for new technologies and give AT&T an opportunity to work with startups.