On June 15th, Sweden took over the presidency of the European Council, and as part of its agenda, it co-organized the “Digital Assembly” event in Stockholm, together with the European Commission. With the aim of promoting an open, secure and digital Europe, the event sought to showcase different technological advances to underline a “Europe to be at the forefront of technology and develop a competitive digital single market based on a strong focus on cyber security during the Digital Decade”.

The Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), partner of QSNP, managed the network, providing the control a key management infrastructure during the entire event, and in collaboration with LuxQuanta – also partner of QSNP- and the Italian company QTI, they carried out a live demonstration of a quantum secure communication. The live video conference call was executed to recreate a mini version of the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI) and showcase the level of maturity of quantum technologies for telecommunications. The ultra-secure video-call used the protocol of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) to enable a secure call between the parties and enable them to talk safely. This QKD technique encrypts the keys shared between the two parties using the principles of quantum mechanics, making an interception impossible without being detected.

For this demonstration to take place, the team used a hybrid classical and quantum network using remote connections to the quantum devices in Spain and Italy.

As explained in the image, the quantum layer used LuxQuanta’s link in Barcelona and QTI’s link in Florencia to transport the keys using the QKD protocol and establish a secure channel for the nodes. The keys were introduced into two crypto devices placed at the UPM in Madrid. With these quantum keys, the crypto devices generated an encrypted channel between two endpoints in the network – two in Stockholm and one in Stockholm and other in Madrid – were created. The first was used for the on-stage demonstration, were a videoconference by Telsy was held live, and the second for the rest of the assembly, to show a continuous and stable connection in the communication.

UPM developed and supplied the SDN-based software for the network as well as the key management, including extracting the key from the quantum devices, created by LuxQuanta and QTI, and providing it to the encrypting devices. All these key exchanges were done following the standards developed for the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). LuxQuanta, also part of the QSNP, provided one of the quantum links that were used to generate the keys. Other companies that participated include Rohde and Schwartz, providers of the crypto devices, and Ericsson and KTH, who gave local logistic support.

As Vicente Martin, Principal Investigator of the Quantum Information and Computing Research group (GIICC), Director of the Center for Computing Simulation (UPM), and partner in the QSNP, mentions, “we need to recall that all the technology used during this demonstration has been developed by projects within the Quantum Flagship, an ambitious program launched in 2018 to carry out research and development in the field of quantum technologies. And by all the technology exhibited, we not only mean technology that is visible, but the one that is implemented within such devices, such as Quantum Random Number Generators (QRNGs), a key factor to making this technology work. The Start-ups and Spin-offs that have fabricated these generators are also part of these European Flagship”.

More than 800 visitors, including politicians/policy makers and industry representatives, were able to visit the booth, see the mini-EuroQCI demo and have an overview of what a quantum communication channel and video call actually looks like. Both devices from LuxQuanta and QTI were on display, as well as a complete quantum link from QTI. For most of the two-days conference, the quantum encrypted video-call between Stockholm and Madrid remained opened and active, mainly to show continuity, robustness and stability of the call. As part of the live demonstration, Vicente Martin, from UPM, and Sebastián Etcheverry, CTO of LuxQuanta, were present to give an overview to all the visitors present about how technology worked and what they were seen on screen.

Vicente Martin (beside Carme Artigas), and Juan Pedro Brito, from UPM, together with Sebastian Etcheverry, fom LuxQuanta, show the QKD setup to Carme Artigas, the Spanish Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence

“For this exhibition we were able to combine quantum technologies from five different companies, from three different European countries and display it in a fourth country. Putting everything together and making it work was a challenge. We considered it a huge success to show a large audience that quantum communications are real and can be deployed in complex environments” Martín concludes.

About QSNP

QSNP is a project of the Quantum Flagship initiative within the Quantum Communication research pillar. Its main objectives are to develop advanced technology for quantum secure communication networks against the ever-increasing power of computers and sophistication of algorithms (even for quantum computers), integrate quantum cryptography technology at component, system and network levels, also into classical communication, and establish this technology for quantum-safe critical governmental infrastructures, private telecommunication market sector and future quantum internet. It will work towards further developing and deploying post-quantum protocols based on QKD and integrating them into the classical network adding a new layer of ultra-secure communications. Ultimately, it seeks to create a sustainable European quantum communications technology ecosystem