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article imageQuantum technology advances digital communications

By Tim Sandle     Sep 26, 2014 in Technology
Technologists have shown that information stored as quantum bits can be "exponentially compressed" without losing information. This technological feat will be useful for a new generation of communications and computer storage.
The reason why the research is of interest is because quantum compression is of great importance for modern digital communication. By compressing data, this allows movies to stream quickly over the Internet. Furthermore, compression enables music to fit into digital players, and the process allows millions of telephone calls to bounce off satellites and be transferred through fiber optic cables.
However, up until now it was uncertain whether information stored as quantum bits (qubits) could be compressed and still continue to function. A way forwards has been outlined by Aephraim M. Steinberg (University of Toronto). Steunberg is a researcher based at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. The new research indicates that quantum information stored in a collection of identically prepared qubits can be effectively compressed into exponentially fewer qubits, without loss of functionality.
According to Phys.Org, standard digital compression is relatively uncomplicated. As the research explains, if there are a string of 1,000 zeros and ones and we are only interested in how many zeros there are, then a computer is capable of counting them and recording the number. However, in the quantum realm it is more complex. A qubit is not necessarily a whole (discrete) number; instead it can be in what is called a “superposition” between both zero and one. The problem is, when a computer attempts to measure the qubit, the qubit collapses to either a zero or a one. A further complication is that a computer can extract different values depending on how it undertakes the measurement. Measured one way, a qubit could reveal a value of either zero or one. Measured another way it could show a value of either plus or minus.
The solution is with holding onto a smaller quantum memory while at the same time maintaining the possibility of extracting as much information at a later date as if all of the data had been held onto.
In a study, the research team used qubits that appeared as photons. These photons carried complex information, and this information was based on the spin of the photon. The study showed that the information held in three qubits could be readily compressed into two qubits. The technologists further found that the process of compression was exponential. This meant, for example, that it would only require ten qubits to store all of the information about 1,000 qubits; and it would only need twenty qubits to store all of the information of about a million quibits. This discovery offers enormous potential for computing and communications.
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