GIG CITY GOES QUANTUM
Chattanooga touts quantum network training with new programs at UTC, Chattanooga State
BY DAVE FLESSNER / STAFF WRITER
Chattanooga’s Gig City is seeking to take a quantum leap into the next generation of computer and communication technologies with a new education initiative to capitalize on EPB’s new fiber-based Quantum network.
Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly announced a new initiative Thursday known as “Gig City Goes Quantum” for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Chattanooga State Community College to expand both their degree and nondegree training in quantum technologies to help prepare workers for the emerging new technology.
Quantum computing is already an industry generating more than $500 million a year in research and sales,
according to an estimate by the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, and EPB’s unique citywide fiber network will allow for the deployment of the first commercially available quantum network to test new uses and technologies using quantum physics and quantum-based systems in Chattanooga.
“The launch of EPB’s Quantum Network last fall has positioned Chattanooga to lead in quantum information technology, but there’s still a lot we need to do to prepare our city to thrive in a new quantum age,” Kelly told a gathering of researchers and entrepreneurs Thursday in Chattanooga.
Kelly said quantum technologies are part of the next major frontier in computer technology, cybersecurity and digital communications and will require new skills for workers to take advantage of Chattanooga’s unique capabilities.
UTC Chancellor Steve Angle said the university has already allocated $1 million for quantum development and education, including the addition of one of the first quantum nodes in the Multidisciplinary Research Building on M.L. King Boulevard, which houses the SIM Center and other advanced computer networks.
“UTC students will have unique access to experiential learning by being able to use a real-world quantum network on our campus through the EPB Quantum Network,” Angle said in an interview Thursday.
Angle said Chattanooga’s Quantum Network has already helped to recruit top faculty to the university, and he hopes to apply quantum technologies across engineering, computer science, business and even the arts programs at the university.
At Chattanooga State, computer networking and programming programs will add quantum technology instruction as it evolves to help prepare workers for what local officials hope will be a growing ecosystem of quantum businesses and talent.
“We need ambitious workforce development strategies to prepare the range of talent who will fill tomorrow’s quantum jobs, from physicists who will design systems to the technical professionals who will maintain and repair them,” Chattanooga State President Rebecca Ashford said during Thursday’s event at the Gilman Lofts.
The new initiative, which has created its own website — gigcitygoesquantum.com — will offer educational resources for students in fifth grade through post-college graduate programs. The initiative will be kicked off on World Quantum Day, April 14, with a variety of demonstrations at Chattanooga State and Tyner Academy.
Kelly announced the initiative during a plenary meeting Thursday of the 4-year-old Quantum Economic Development Consortium, which is meeting in Chattanooga to see EPB’s new network.
EPB, the public utility that built the fastest citywide internet service in the Western Hemisphere using its fiber optic network, has deployed those same fiber links to pioneer a new quantum network that could be the backbone for the next generation of the internet.
EPB and a San Diego-based research firm known as Qubitekk have been working over the past seven years on a quantum cybersecurity network for the protection of the U.S. electric grid and are now expanding the quantum network and opening it to other users in the first-of-itskind, communitywide service.
The EPB Quantum Network is designed to generate, distribute and measure qubits across an established fiber optic network connecting businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, government and universities to the quantum future.
EPB’s fiber optic network was originally developed in 2010 to help build a smarter electricity grid to improve power reliability, but the same fiber lines are used to build one of the world’s fastest internet networks across EPB’s 600-square-mile service territory.
Kelly said EPB’s fiber network helped Chattanooga become the first city to offer universal gigabyte-per-second internet speeds across the entire city a decade ago, creating Chattanooga’s moniker as “Gig City.” EPB has since increased its citywide internet speed potential to at least 10 gigs throughout its service territory and up to 25 gigs in selected areas for consumers who want to buy such a premium service.
A UTC study estimates that EPB’s gig service has helped spur nearly $2.7 billion in additional economic development and added more than 9,500 jobs. Kelly said “the sky is the limit” on the potential economic payoff for Chattanooga from quantum technologies and the new EPB Quantum Network.
Duncan Earl, the co-founder of Qubitekk that helped EPB develop its Quantum Network as an outgrowth of a Department of Energy study on cybersecurity, said in a news release that quantum technologies “hold the promise for revolutionary, groundbreaking possibilities that change how we all live and work.
“That is why it’s so important to prepare students for the industry’s future,” he said.
Ashford said she was particularly proud that Qubitekk has already hired a Chattanooga State graduate and is looking for additional talent as the Quantum Network is built out in Chattanooga.
The Company Lab is also promoting new quantum technologies with its next accelerator program for entrepreneurs focused on sustainable mobility and the use of Chattanooga’s smart city technologies. The accelerator is seeking business applicants and will kick off later this year.
“The commercialization of quantum technology is a major national priority to advance American ingenuity and security,” U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, said in a statement Thursday.
Fleischmann said research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory on quantum technologies should help advance new uses and commercial deployment in the region.