EuroQCI Spain members exhibit a mini EuroQCI demonstration during the Presidency event of Sweden

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 DIGITAL ASSEMBLY

The Digital Assembly is an annual event hosted by the European Commission and the holder of the spring presidency of the Council of the European Union. It is a forum to address important issues of the digital transition. In 2023, the Digital Assembly of 2023 (DA23) was hosted by the Swedish presidency at Scandinavian XPO during Q2 2023, running from June 15-20th.

The Swedish Presidency has been seeking to build a conference program that addresses current EU initiatives as well as ongoing debates on the conference theme. Thus, the conference provided an opportunity to showcase the status and potential of initiatives within the Digital Decade, the EU Cyber Security Strategy as well as the Twin transitions.

The Swedish Presidency also aimed, with this event, to build upon related conversations previously held within the Troika, such as the Digital Assembly 2022 conference in Toulouse and the conference EU Secure and Innovative Digital Future held in Prague 2022. The main idea in mind has bee, since the beginning,  to stimulate the European discourse on the EUs digital transition and cyber security by providing a platform for multistakeholder dialogue.

The target group for DA23 was, essentially, government officials, regulators, private sector representatives and the academia. Non-governmental organisations were also approached to contribute their perspective on the topic at hand. EU Commissioners and the Troika ministers in the European Union responsible for digital issues were invited, as well as high-level business and public policy decisionmakers.

By bringing together a multitude of stakeholder in a quad helix constellation the project will stimulate debate, collaboration and innovation on the conference theme.