System Bits: Jan. 5

Quantum dot entanglement; robot vision; mapping Internet routing.

popularity

Faster quantum dot entanglement
Due to entanglement between distant quantum objects being an important ingredient for future information technologies, ETH Zurich researchers have developed a method with which such states can be created a thousand times faster than before.

In two entangled quantum objects the spins are in a superposition of the states “up/down” and “down/up”. Researchers at the ETH have created such states in quantum dots that are five meters apart. (Source: ETH Zurich)

In two entangled quantum objects the spins are in a superposition of the states “up/down” and “down/up”. Researchers at the ETH have created such states in quantum dots that are five meters apart. (Source: ETH Zurich)

The researchers expect that in many future information and telecommunication technologies, a remarkable quantum effect called entanglement will likely play an important role. The entanglement of two quantum objects means that measurements on one of the objects instantaneously determine the properties of the other one – without any exchange of information between them, they said.

Although Albert Einstein called this strange non-locality “spooky action at a distance,” physicists are now trying to put it to good use, in order to make data transmission immune to eavesdropping, for example.

To that end, the creation of entanglement between spatially distant quantum particles is indispensable but it is not easy and typically works rather slowly. But the ETH Zurich team has demonstrated a method that allows the creation of a thousand times more entangled states per second than was possible before.

Robot vision
To enable domestic robots of the future to truly see their environment, Imperial College London researchers are developing vision technology.

Specifically, researchers from the Dyson Robotics Lab at Imperial have developed technology called ElasticFusion that they believe could enable a robot to create a clearer representation of the environment that they are in and simultaneously determine where it is in that environment as an important initial step towards enabling robots to work closely with humans at home.

Imperial College London researchers believe ElasticFusion technology could hold the key to giving robots better vision. (Source: Imperial College)

Imperial College London researchers believe ElasticFusion technology could hold the key to giving
robots better vision. (Source: Imperial College)

The team said it is ultimately aiming for the technology to not only map the geometry of an environment, but also label different items within the environment. This would allow for more sophisticated processes to take place, such as robots being able identify devices such as the toaster or dishwasher, accessing information over the internet about how to use the appliance, and operating it.

Mapping the Internet’s boomerang routes
University of Toronto researchers have launched IXmaps, a visual, interactive database of Internet traffic routes, to help understand how Internet traffic moves, and how certain traffic routes (known as ‘boomerang routes’) move data through the United States and into the jurisdiction of the U.S. National Security Agency before returning to Canada.

They pointed out, among other things, that Canada’s Internet infrastructure is intimately linked to U.S. networks, not surprisingly. Many of the major Internet providers in Canada have networks that favor north – south connections, pushing Canadian data flows toward key American routing hubs in New York, Chicago, Seattle or California.

The most popular sites Canadians visit online, such as Google, Facebook, Youtube or Amazon, are based in the United States. When using these services, Canadians likely recognize the fact that their data leaves exclusive Canadian jurisdiction and is exposed to American mass surveillance under such laws as the Patriot Act.

They also mentioned that Canadians may be surprised to learn however that when accessing Canadian sites, even those in the same city, their data often still flows through the United States. IXmaps research has found thousands of Internet traffic routes in which both ends of a data transfer are located in Canada, but the information travels via the U.S. These are known as boomerang routes.

Exposing private or sensitive data, such as health information, student records, political affiliation, religious beliefs, financial information, controversial viewpoints or intimate communications, to foreign surveillance is highly problematic. Even when sharing relatively innocuous information on social media, Canadians have a right to expect their privacy rights will be respected.

There are several ways that companies and organizations can work to limit the risk of their customer or client data needlessly moving through the United States. Thanks to investment from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, there is now a national network of Internet exchange points across Canada that allow Canadian IXPs to peer and exchange Internet data within Canada. Consumers should be aware of and comfortable with their ISP’s level of commitment to maintaining data privacy, they added.