We are increasingly dependent on digital tools for almost every aspect of our daily lives, which means we also rely on two fundamental technologies that have made the digital revolution possible: satellites and encryption. Satellites are used for everything from GPS to television to processing credit card data, and encryption protocols are integral not only to communicating with these satellites, but also for matters as private as personal medical records, or as mundane as texting your friends.
The problem is that the advent of quantum computing threatens to render current methods of encryption obsolete, which will put your sexts—and every satellite communication network—at risk of exposure. Researchers and government intelligence agencies are scrambling to develop quantum-proof encryption techniques, but figuring out how to export these techniques to the uniquely hostile space environment has proven difficult.
Yet based on two papers independently released today by Chinese and European researchers, secure quantum satellite networks seem closer than ever. In China, a team used a new quantum satellite to smash the record for transmitting a pair of entangled particles. Meanwhile, a separate group in Germany demonstrated that existing communication satellites could be used to transmit quantum information.
Entanglement is kind of like having a single particle existing in multiple locations at once
Based on the new research, some of the scientists involved think that we could see the beginnings of a quantum satellite communication network in as soon as five years.