Quantum Computing

How UPM is Leading European Efforts in Developing Quantum Communication Technologies


As Europe seeks to strengthen its position as a global leader in critical quantum technologies, the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) took part in a demonstration showing that the university is at the forefront of developing quantum communication technologies. This demonstration is the latest example of UPM’s cutting edge leadership in quantum communications. And its research leaders are convinced: quantum communications could one day give Europeans the ability to communicate and complete transactions, with an unprecedented level of quantum proof security. .

During recently”Digital Assembly”, co-organized by the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission, the university in collaboration with European quantum and security companies showcased the development of a groundbreaking software-defined network (SDN) framework for ultra-secure video conferencing demonstrations.

Advances are at the heart of technology in developing secure quantum communications, commented Dr. Vicente Martín Ayuso, Principal Investigator of the Quantum Information and Computing Research Group (GIICC), Director of the Center for Computational Simulation (UPM), and Spanish coordinator of the national plan on quantum communication.

“Quantum communication has received significant interest from businesses and organizations because of its unparalleled security features,” says Vicente Martín. “In an era where cyber threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated, traditional encryption methods are increasingly vulnerable. Quantum communication leverages the principles of quantum mechanics to provide an unprecedented level of security by encoding information in a quantum state. This makes it nearly impossible for unauthorized parties to intercept or tamper with transmitted data without being detected.”

The live videoconference, which took place on June 15 in Stockholm, featured representatives from leading European organisations. The transmission is protected by cutting-edge technology based on quantum communication, taking advantage of the unique properties of quantum mechanics to achieve an unprecedented level of security. Through a process called “quantum key distribution”, data transmitted during video conferencing is impenetrable to any eavesdropping or decryption attempt, even from a quantum computer.

UPM’s Legacy of Leadership in Quantum Communication Research

The demonstration highlights UPM’s long history of leadership in quantum communications technology, in particular, but also draws attention to Europe’s overall leadership in creating native technologies, while emphasizing the ability to forge strong cross-border collaborations within continents, according to Vicente Martín.

From prototypes to real networks: integrating classical and quantum

“UPM, for example, has been working on the integration of classical and quantum networks since 2009,” says Vicente Martín. “First on a small scale and then as a network deployed both in the field and at the production facilities of Telefónica, a major worldwide Telecommunications company. The technology used, not only from the quantum key distribution side – QKD –, but also from the network side, has evolved a lot and we have created what can be considered the “brain” of a quantum communication network. We have done that also in a way that can be integrated in standard telecommunication networks, using as many technologies as possible that integrate well with what is used today in optical communications.”

UPM’s important role in the demonstration stems not only from their extensive expertise, but also their contribution to the design of the network itself. UPM researchers have developed a new SDN-based software capable of managing all network elements, including quantum communication devices, encryption, and applications, with seamless transparency and a high level of security for users.

Looking to the future: interoperability needs to be at the heart of the quantum communications infrastructure

The main goal of this software is to enable the creation of complex quantum networks and facilitate the integration of various devices from different industry providers. This capability is critical to quantum communications, a technology that is still in its infancy, with advances, patents, and commercial products emerging from different regions around the world, each with its own language and specifics.

Deployment of UPM SDN-based technology over production network infrastructure offers versatility and heterogeneity, making the Madrid quantum network, coordinated by UPM, the leading reference in the field of quantum communications. The software played a key role during the Digital Assembly demonstration, ensuring interoperability among European providers participating in a simulated pan-European “network” connecting the event’s main stage and the quantum booth.

“The demonstration follows Europe’s long-term view, as represented by the European Quantum Excellence program and the European Quantum Communications Infrastructure,” said Vicente Martín. “The first intends to develop the technology – not just for quantum communications – and the second will deploy the technologies developed in the first, along with many others needed to provide a large-scale, ultra-secure quantum communications infrastructure connecting all of Europe. We are now in the first stage, but we can already show how several manufacturers from Europe can work together to provide a service that may be routine at the final EuroQCI.”

Managing complex collaborations is a requirement for groups building complex quantum ecosystems. This demonstration offers proof that this European partnership is possible. In addition to the SDN framework developed by UPM, the connection relies on two pairs of quantum devices provided by QTI (Italy) and LuxQuanta (Spain), which form the quantum layer of the infrastructure. This device creates a secure quantum key, ensuring the highest level of protection for communications. Additional support was provided by Ericsson (Sweden), KTH in Stockholm, TELSY (Italy) and the PETRUS consortium, led by Deutsche Telekom and consisting of Airbus, the Austrian Institute of Technology and Thales SIX. This collaborative effort spans multiple European projects and initiatives, including EuroQCI-Spain, QUARTER (Spain), NQCIS (Sweden), EQUO (Italy), SEQRET (Germany) and QSNP, an initiative of Quantum Flagship.

European Quantum Network Catalyst

The success of demonstrations such as those carried out at the Digital Assembly event, highlights the reliability of EU-based quantum communication initiatives, such as the UPM-led “MadQCI”, Quantum Communication Infrastructure of Madrid. Which, in its fourth generation, serves as the technological foundation for an ever-growing, increasingly sophisticated, and secure super-secure quantum communications network. It is a one-of-a-kind quantum network that continues to help spawn real-world applications, and is developed with the participation of industry partners, such as Telefónica.

MadQCI relies on shared quantum and classical infrastructure, including fiber optics, to support potential use cases such as network security, protection of critical infrastructure, and e-health services.

UPM’s groundbreaking research in quantum communications has paved the way for the development of MadQCI’s four generations of cutting-edge states, according to university leaders. This innovative network has received renewed attention and support from initiatives focused on EU and national investment, positioning it as a key player in future EuroQCI projects.

The implications of this achievement extend beyond the technical realm, as it opens up new avenues for collaboration and business prospects. By actively contributing to network growth, UPM aims to develop a thriving business ecosystem in the quantum communications sector, catalyzing further progress in this transformative field. As this network of innovators and entrepreneurs grows, MadQCI can serve as the center of a unique ecosystem centered around quantum security. Plans are underway to develop a quantum communications incubator that will nurture and support new talent within this ecosystem.

Finally, because finding and retaining talent is a significant challenge in the quantum technology industry, MadQCI will establish a talent pipeline to provide the “human strength” needed to drive this quantum revolution.

MadQCI’s roots, then, served as the foundation for what would eventually become EuroQCI, says Vicente Martín. New partners will join for the next generation of MadQCI.

“What we have prepared in this demonstration is a ‘Mini EuroQCI’ which is built with European components and includes all the necessary elements for a true Quantum Network,” said Vicente Martín, who lives in the Digital Assembly’s quantum session.

Europe and the Quantum Future

Zooming out for the big picture shows that the demonstration of video conferencing is a single – but important – step towards a much broader – and audacious – vision of the quantum era in Europe, which UPM has fostered.

The collaborative efforts between UPM and European institutions and companies on this project have not only strengthened Spain’s strategic position, but also strengthened Europe’s stance in the competitive quantum cybersecurity race. UPM’s active participation, with Italian, Spanish, German and Swedish companies, among others, highlights its important role as a driving force in the development of a functioning and reliable quantum communications infrastructure.

This cutting-edge development has garnered UPM, among other Spanish institutions, significant new investment to co-develop quantum technology, channeled through the National Program of Complementary Actions in Quantum Communication, coordinated by UPM, and their active participation in the European Quantum Excellence Program. and EuroQCI. These initiatives collectively aim to establish Europe as a network of research centers for quantum security innovation. And certainly Spain, in the long term, as the cyber and security center of Southern Europe.

Throughout this demonstration, Europe has taken a step forward, demonstrating that EuroQCI’s vision – a new cyber-secure, quantum-resistant communications infrastructure – is possible. And that, through this collective effort, privacy may have a way: the EU way.

Within this framework, UPM’s scientific prowess and joint efforts hope, in the medium to long term, to help governments and citizens revolutionize the way they communicate and share data. Use a secure network that is quantum resistant, and keep their information and privacy in a safe place.


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