The Port of Rotterdam stakeholders will be able to participate and benefit from an untappable, multi-user quantum network for their critical communication systems. Several countries already experiment with quantum communication, but QuTech’s spin-off Q*Bird is the first to deploy a new type secure quantum network that can connect multiple users via a center hub in a cost-effective and scalable manner. This will ensure an untappable internet connection between many users, spread out throughout the harbour area.
Special quantum key distribution technique developed by Q*Bird
Previously a team of scientists and engineers at QuTech—a collaboration between the Delft University of Technology and TNO—has demonstrated an alternative, untappable method for sending encrypted information. The technology has such commercial potential that they have decided to spin-off out of QuTech under the name of Q*Bird. “Our technology is based on a special implementation of quantum key distribution (QKD) that uses a central hub to connect users that want to exchange secure communications,” explains Q*Bird’s co-founder and director Remon Berrevoets. “That means that it is possible to implement a quantum network in a cost-effective way, scalable to many end-users, and using mostly off-the-shelf equipment.”
Co-founder and director Ingrid Romijn: “Our quantum secure communication system has already shown to be fruitful during a proof-of-concept at major Dutch telecom provider KPN with Cisco hardware and the deployed testbed at digital infrastructure provider Eurofiber with Juniper hardware. The port of Rotterdam as a launching partner displays the enormous potential of our technology.”
Delft-based Single Quantum is the first European company to commercialize superconducting nanowire single photon detectors (SNSPDs). With their 10 years of experience developing their product, they will provide a major component for the central hub of the quantum communication system. On the technical side, this project enables a close collaboration between Single Quantum and Q*bird: two dutch high-tech companies with complementary expertise and global ambitions. By joining forces in this project, they will have a powerful societal impact in the region.
InnovationQuarter helped think about and implement this project, for example, by co-producing the Birch report (Dutch). During its research phase several leads have emerged that helped shape this consortium. Jacqueline Schardijn, Senior Business Developer Digital Technology, InnovationQuarter adds: “Birch has indicated that we need to capitalise on opportunities in the region, by also working as governments and industry, towards a working communication infrastructure. As such, I have spoken to various parties who have a strong interest in a working communication infrastructure.”
Commercial and European implications
“It is one of QuTech’s goals to license technology or birth spin-offs whenever we have technology that is market-ready” says Kees Eijkel, QuTech director of business development. “Q*Bird perfectly shows how we as a research institute create impact: by solving academic challenges, recognizing the societal implications, and making the technology available to the world.”
Director of the Quantum Internet Alliance and QuTech group leader Stephanie Wehner adds: “Delft has a unique position in the development of the quantum internet. We want to build prototype networks and a framework for a European quantum internet. The work of Q*Bird is a great case of the commercial opportunity such networks have.”
Funding for this project has been provided for 2/3rds through the Quantum Delta NL SME programme and 1/3rd by the Port of Rotterdam.