Our digital society is built on encryption, which ensures that our data do not fall into the wrong hands. The requirements for encryption are constantly getting stricter as hostile hacker attacks increase and computer processing power grows.
To remain at the forefront of technological developments and maintain data security, four Danish universities and four government ministries are establishing the Danish Quantum Communication Infrastructure project (QCI.DK), which is the first step towards creating a national quantum-proof network. Initially, the infrastructure will consist of a network in the Copenhagen Metropolitan Area and a long-distance connection to Odense.
“There is a global race to develop quantum technologies, which will lead to significant changes in society. Denmark is in a good position and with this research project we get the opportunity to test the huge potential of the technology on our data infrastructure. By establishing an experimental quantum communications network between four ministries, we get closer to actually getting the technology into society. This is positive because it also has an enormous potential for businesses and industry,” says Morten Bødskov, Minister for Industry, Business and Financial Affairs.
Secure connection based on the laws of physics
The purpose of QCI.DK is to establish and test an experimental quantum-proof network between the public authorities involved in the project: the Ministry of Industry, Business and Financial Affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Higher Education and Science.
“Quantum technology research is moving fast these days. We’re starting to really see the potential of this technology, but also the security threats associated with it. Our contribution to the European EuroQCI is part of an ambitious initiative that has wide support in the Danish Parliament. This year alone, with the agreement on the research reserve funds, we’ve allocated more than DKK 200 million to quantum research. And this is crucial if Denmark is to stay at the forefront of this research field,” says Christina Egelund, Minister for Higher Education and Science.
The project both involves installing the physical infrastructure and educating the partners and other stakeholders in quantum key distribution (QKD), which is the quantum technology that underlies the network.
Quantum key distribution is one of the most mature quantum technologies. It’s a hardware solution in which optical quantum signals are exchanged over the existing fibre network between a sending and receiving device. The signals are used to establish a common encryption key. The key can then be used to secure the communication between the parties.
“The special thing about this technology is that it uses the inbuilt randomness of quantum processes instead of building on mathematical complexity. And already during the key exchange, it can reveal whether an outsider is listening in on the line. This ensures that the communication itself is never compromised. Furthermore, it enables encryption that is not threatened by quantum computers,” says Tobias Gehring of DTU Physics, the QCI.DK project manager.
Denmark has a strong international position in the field of quantum technology and the project has solid support thanks to a wide range of partners, including, in addition to the universities and ministries, the Danish E-infrastructure Cooperation (DeIC) and the quantum startup Sparrow Quantum.
“QCI.DK is a unique project based on a strong collaboration between universities, authorities, and private businesses, aimed at tackling the data security challenges of the future. Together, the parties will apply the promising quantum technologies and create an infrastructure that can maintain Denmark’s leading position within quantum technology,” says Rasmus Larsen, Executive Vice President, Provost at DTU.
QCI.DK is Denmark’s contribution to the European initiative EuroQCI, which aims to establish a secure quantum communication infrastructure spanning all EU member states and to protect sensitive data and critical infrastructure against cyberattacks.