Tuesday, 26th May 2020

UK organisations join pilot project to build the most secure communication infrastructure in Europe

Toshiba Research Europe Ltd (TREL), BT, the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the University of Cambridge, today announce that they will join the OPENQKD pilot project to install a test quantum communication infrastructure across Europe. The initiative will boost the security of critical applications in the fields of telecommunications, healthcare, electricity supply and government services.

Within the OPENQKD project, TREL will adapt its world-leading quantum key distribution (QKD) technology to demonstrate use cases for quantum security in networks in several European cities. TREL will supply commercial grade QKD systems to the networks, while BT will contribute its expertise on the requirements needed for robust operation in a network provider environment.

The networks will provide a testbed for the long-term verification of QKD technology, as well as a platform for the development of applications in different sectors and industrial standards. Healthcare use cases, developed through a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, TREL and BT, will be a particular focus of a network linking several biotech campuses in Cambridge, which has one of the highest concentrations of health sector companies in Europe.

The development of industrial standards, as well as a security evaluation process, for quantum technology in Europe is another important aspect of the OPENQKD project, to which NPL, BT and TREL will contribute strongly. Standards are essential for ensuring interoperability of QKD equipment and other devices in the network, enabling their seamless integration. They are also important for ensuring that new products are implemented in a secure manner and without potential vulnerabilities. The project will also develop ways in which the security of QKD systems can be tested against the published standards.

Andrew Shields, Assistant Managing Director at Toshiba’s Cambridge lab, commented: “Quantum communication technology is maturing very rapidly, with several large networks now in operation around the world. OPENQKD has a focus upon developing and demonstrating use cases for QKD technology, which will accelerate its commercial adoption in a number of different market sectors. We are delighted to contribute to this ecosystem of companies developing complete solutions that will secure the future IT infrastructure of European businesses and citizens.”

Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Research at BT, added: “We have been trialling QKD technology for several years now and see potential for its commercial exploitation in telecom networks. In OPENQKD we will be developing the necessary tools and knowledge for integration into operator networks and customer applications.”

Hannes Hübel, scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, and project leader of OPENQKD: “After successfully demonstrating the basic concept of QKD, quantum based cryptography has achieved a mature state and we are proud to lift quantum technology now onto a market-ready level – ready to be deployed in everyday-life applications.”

About the OPENQKD Project

The Europe Commission chose to fund OPENQKD following a Horizon 2020 call for proposals in 2018. Its mission is to develop an experimental testbed based on QKD and to test the interoperability of equipment supplied by different manufacturers. OPENQKD’s activities will take place all over Europe (in Austria, Spain, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Italy, UK, Greece and the Czech Republic). It will focus on several key fields of operations, especially the telecommunications sector, where data traffic in transit and at rest needs to be secured. Other applications, such as securing medical and governmental data or the transmission of secure control signals in the electricity grid will also be demonstrated and evaluated.

In addition, OPENQKD will address the development of a European ecosystem for quantum technology providers, application developers. It will also work to identify new use-cases by supporting start-ups and SMEs, as well as offering modern test facilities to new quantum stakeholders. A further objective for the project is to devise standards and security certifications for this infrastructure.

To achieve its ambitious goals, the OPENQKD project will last three years and have a budget of €15 million. Its consortium consists of 38 partners from 13 Member States and Horizon 2020 Associated States. The consortium partners cover a wide range of competences including quantum equipment manufacturers, network operators, system integrators, small and medium-sized enterprises, Research and Technology Organisations, universities, certification and standardisation bodies and end users.
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