Quantum computing and quantum information processing are next revolutionary technology expected to have immense impact. Quantum Technology is based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level. It concerns the control and manipulation of quantum systems, with the goal of achieving information processing beyond the limits of the classical world. Quantum principles will be used for engineering solutions to extremely complex problems in computing, communications, sensing, chemistry, cryptography, imaging and mechanics. Quantum field has not yet matured for commercialization, due to the extreme scientific challenges involved.
Quantum computers will be able to perform tasks too hard for even the most powerful conventional supercomputer and have a host of specific applications, from code-breaking and cyber security to medical diagnostics, big data analysis and logistics.
Quantum computers store and process information using quantum two level systems (quantum bits or qubits) which unlike classical bits, can be prepared in superposition states. This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of large numbers and searching large databases. The prime factorization quantum algorithm has important implications for security as it can be used to break RSA encryption, a popular method for secure communication. Indian physicists and engineers are preparing for a deep dive into the quantum world that holds the secrets for developing exciting technologies for computing, communication, cryptography and many more.
For deeper Understanding of Quantum computer technology please visit: Quantum Computing Technology: Advancements, Applications and Engineering
Quantum computers could accelerate the discovery of new materials, chemicals and drugs. They could dramatically reduce the current high costs and long lead times involved in developing new drugs.
Many groups are at the threshold of producing scalable quantum computers. Researchers at Google, D-Wave, IBM, MIT Lincoln Lab, and elsewhere have also developed superconducting qubits of high quality. Google In March 2018, unveiled the then the world’s largest quantum computer processor dubbed Bristlecone, which was a 72-qubit gate-based superconducting system, beating IBM which had developed a 50-qubit processor. IBM Quantum unveiled Eagle, a 127-qubit quantum processor in 2021. Osprey, IBM’s latest 433-quantum bit (qubit) quantum processing unit (QPU) and the world’s largest superconducting quantum processor. Osprey more than triples the 127 qubits on the IBM Eagle processor, first unveiled in 2021.
Quantum computing is a critical dual use technology with myriad potential civilian and military applications, ranging from drug discovery to encryption, hence the quantum revolution has many security implications. The advances in quantum computing would lead to any and all previously encrypted sensitive communications (from government and military secrets to bank transactions) vulnerable to be compromised.
In addition another important Quantum area is Quantum key Distribution(QKD) which leads to unhackable communications. China has developed regional quantum communications network as well as launched a Quantum satellite which would lead to unhackable military and strategic communications. Countries like China, United States, Canada, Japan, and some EU countries are also racing to develop quantum communication networks as they are virtually un-hackable. China launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite officially known as Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite. Researchers at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) in Japan and recently published in the journal Nature Photonics, demonstrated Satellite based “unhackable” Quantum Key Distribution, or QKD.
For deeper Understanding of QKD technology please visit: Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) Technology: Advancements, Applications and Market Trends
Similarly, researchers from the National University of Singapore have built a nano-satellite with a quantum communication payload, and scientists from the University of Waterloo have demonstrated the first quantum key distribution transmissions from a ground transmitter to a quantum payload on a moving aircraft. Now India has planned to catchup other countries in Quantum Information sciences, including quantum computers and quantum key cryptography.
Third importanat area is Quantum sensors which are leading to many military and security sensors such as submarine detection.
The range of quantum technologies is expected to be one of the major technology disruptions that will change entire paradigm of computation, communication and encryption. It is perceived that the countries who achieve an edge in this emerging field will have a greater advantage in garnering multifold economic growth and dominant leadership role.
For deeper Understanding of Quantum Sensor technology please visit: The Quantum Sensor Revolution: Pushing the Boundaries of Measurement
India faces critical challenges in Quantum Area
However, Indian efforts have lagged behind in this race in many aspects which are needed. Indian investment in Quantum is too little compared to billions invested by China, US and Europe. US which has pledged to invest $1.2 billion in next five years, Europe’s investment of 1.2 billion pounds. China is investing 1.2 billion to build national laboratory for Quantum information Sciences. I compariison indian private sector participation—and investment—remains lacklustre.
The number of researchers and lack of quantum infrastructure is another factor. Estimates of people working on quantum technology are 100-200 researchers. “That is not enough to compete with IBM,” said Anirban Pathak, a professor at Jaypee Institute of Information Technology, and a recipient of DST’s QuEST funding. In addition, there’s the lack of a coordinated effort. “There are many isolated communities in India working on various aspects: quantum hardware, quantum key distribution, information theory and other fields,” said Bera. “But there is not much communication across various groups. We cross each other mostly at conferences.” This has also resulting in lagging number of patents.
Another problem is lack of FDI into R&D funding. A 2019 working paper by New Delhi-based Institute of Studies in Industrial Development highlighted that inward FDI into India for R&D from 2005-2016 was a meagre 0.4% of the overall FDI inflow into India. Multiple studies on Indian patents data show that the results from R&D performed in India are usually transferred to MNCs abroad, which further develop them and then take patents on innovations abroad. While there may be various commercial dynamics behind this trend, an important legal barrier is section 3(k) of the Patents Act, 1970. This excludes “computer programmes, per se or algorithms” from patentability in India. This has created much confusion in the Indian intellectual property regime. Faced with such jurisprudence, R&D firms prefer to file for software patents abroad. Quantum information scinece is also dependent on the success of quantum algorithms and software running on Quantum computers hence to participate in the quantum race, it must amend section 3(k) to explicitly allow patentability of computer programmes or algorithms in India.
But, there are critical challenges which need to be addressed for India to be a front runner. There continues to be a significant gap when it comes to the skilled workforce that can operate in the quantum space for India to compete with the larger global players. We also need to massively improve our hardware capabilities, including procuring the necessary equipment, establishing fab labs and so on, said Vivek Shenoy, Chief Technology Officer, QNu Labs- an organisation that is currently leading the quantum encryption market in India.
The Quantum Computing breakthrough is poised to unlock new technological realms for the world. However, it also presents unfathomable security implications. Its incredibly fast processing capability also means that it can overpower any security infrastructure including military, nuclear commands, government bodies, and global financial institutions and so on. This makes it imperative for governments, industries and large organisations to ensure timely safeguards for the same. The Y2Q (Years to Quantum) moment, as it is most commonly known, is on the horizon and we need to act now, said Shenoy. India must promote home-grown organisations to come up with new quantum technologies identified under the National Mission on Quantum Technologies. We also need to scale our hardware capabilities and strengthen the existing infrastructure to facilitate the development of new technologies.
Finally, India’s private sector and investors have not stepped up in the game. “If India wants something bigger, Indian tech giants like Wipro and Infosys need to step in. They have many engineers on the bench who can be involved. Academia alone or DST-funded projects can’t compete with IBM,” said Pathak.
Lieutenant General (retd) Rajesh Pant, national cybersecurity coordinator, who reports to the Prime Minister’s Office, identified many gaps in the Indian quantum ecosystem. “There is an absence of a quantum road map. There is no visibility in the quantum efforts and successes, and there is a lack of required skill power,” Pant said at an event in December, while highlighting the advances China has made in the field. “As the national cybersecurity coordinator, this is a cause of concern for me.”
After falling behind, indian government has initiated many syeps to catch up. The government in its budget 2020 has announced a National Mission on Quantum Technologies & Applications (NM-QTA) with a total budget outlay of Rs 8000 Crore for a period of five years to be implemented by the Department of Science & Technology (DST). “Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, cyber security with wide-spread applications. It is expected that lots of commercial applications would emerge from theoretical constructs which are developing in this area. It is proposed to provide an outlay of ` 8000 crore over a period five years for the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications,” she added.
Their applications which will receive boost include those in aero-space engineering, numerical weather prediction, simulations, securing the communications & financial transactions, cyber security, advanced manufacturing, health, agriculture, education and other important sectors with focus on creation of high skilled jobs, human resources development, start-ups & entrepreneurship leading to technology lead economic growth.
The DST official said that the government is planning to launch a national mission on quantum technology. “It will be a multi-departmental initiative to enable different agencies to work together and focus on the adoption of research into technology,” the official said, adding that “the mission will have clearly defined deliverables for the next 5 to 10 years.” While the details are still in the works, the official said equipping India for building quantum-secure systems is on the cards.
National Quantum Mission
The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the National Quantum Mission in April 2023. NQM will accelerate quantum technology-led economic growth and nurture the ecosystem in the country.
“NQM is going to give India a quantum jump in this arena,” Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh told reporters. India will be the sixth country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France and China.
India’s National Quantum Mission (NQM) is a government initiative aimed at promoting research and development in the field of quantum technology. The mission was launched in 2021 with a budget of INR 8,000 crores ($1.1 billion) over a period of five years.
The NQM has several objectives, including building a robust ecosystem for quantum technology development in India, fostering collaborations between academia and industry, and promoting research and development in areas such as quantum communication, computing, sensing, and cryptography.
Quantum technologies are rapidly developing globally with a huge disruptive potential. The next generation transformative technologies that will receive a push under this mission include quantum computers and computing, quantum communication, quantum key distribution, encryption, crypt analysis, quantum devices, quantum sensing, quantum materials, quantum clock and so on. The areas of focus for the Mission will be in fundamental science, translation, technology development, human and infrastructural resource generation, innovation and start-ups to address issues concerning national priorities.
The Mission will be able address the ever increasing technological requirements of the society, and take into account the international technology trends and road maps of leading countries for development of next generation technologies. Implementation of the mission would help develop and bring quantum computers, secured communications through fibre and free space, quantum encryption and crypt-analysis and associated technologies within reach in the country and help address India specific national and regional issues.
To achieve these goals, the NQM plans to establish several national laboratories, research centers, and test beds across the country. It will also support the development of quantum computing hardware and software, quantum communication networks, and quantum sensing technologies.
The NQM is expected to have a significant impact on various sectors, including defense, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications, by enabling the development of advanced technologies with the potential to transform these sectors.
The mission also aims to train a large number of scientists, engineers, and students in the field of quantum technology and establish India as a leader in quantum research and development. The mission will help prepare next generation skilled manpower, boost translational research and also encourage entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development.
By promoting advanced research in quantum science and technology, technology development and higher education in science, technology and engineering disciplines India can be brought at par with other advanced countries and can derive several direct and indirect benefits.
With a solid research base and workforce founded on significant and reliable government support, it can lead to the creation of innovative applications by industries, thereby stimulating economic growth and job creation, which will feed back into a growing quantum-based economy. The government’s financial and organizational support will also ensure that both public and private sectors will benefit. It will establish standards to be applied to all research and help stimulate a pipeline to support research and applications well into the future.
“The new mission targets developing intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in eight years in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology,” he said.
He said satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2000 km within India, long distance secure quantum communications with other countries, inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km as well as multi-node quantum network with quantum memories are also some of the deliverables of the mission.
What Will NQM Do?
The mission will help develop magnetometers with high sensitivity in atomic systems and atomic clocks for precision timing, communications and navigation.
It will also support design and synthesis of quantum materials such as superconductors, novel semiconductor structures and topological materials for fabrication of quantum devices.
Single photon sources/detectors, entangled photon sources will also be developed for quantum communications, sensing and metrological applications.
Four thematic hubs (T-Hubs) will be set up in top academic and national research and development institutes on the domains – quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing and metrology, and quantum materials and devices.
“The hubs which will focus on generation of new knowledge through basic and applied research as well as promote R&D in areas that are mandated to them,” the minister said.
The mission can take the technology development ecosystem in the country to a globally competitive level. The mission would greatly benefit communication, health, financial and energy sectors as well as drug design, and space applications. It will provide a huge boost to National priorities like Digital India, Make in India, Skill India and Stand-up India, Start-up India, Self-reliant India and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), Singh said.
Overall, the NQM is a significant step towards India’s vision of becoming a leader in science and technology and a major player in the global knowledge economy.
Indian Quantum Initiatives
Research in these areas at Indian laboratories has received a boost with promised funding support from the government’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), as well as small individual projects from the Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Prime Minister’s Office.
In March 2021, The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) demonstrated quantum key sharing in free space over a distance of 300 metres for the first time in the country. The demonstration included a live video-conferencing with quantum key encrypted signals between two line-of-sight buildings at Space Application Centre in Ahmedabad. The space agency is now gearing up to demonstrate the technology between two Indian ground stations. A number of key technologies were developed indigenously for the demonstration including a NavIC receiver for time synchronization between the transmitter and receiver modules. NavIC or Navigation with Indian Constellation is India’s regional version of satellite-based positioning system.
Department of Science & Technology’s Quantum Science and Technology (QuST), C-DAC & DRDO
Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India has initiated a new directed research programme on “Quantum Information Science and Technology (QuST)”. The broad objectives are development and demonstration of quantum computers; development and demonstration of quantum communication & cryptography; development of quantum-enhanced and inspired technology; development of advanced mathematical quantum techniques, algorithms and theory of quantum information systems.
As a part of the programme, it will invest a sum of Rs 80 crore in a span of three years to facilitate research in this field. Meanwhile, once the basic work has been done, i.e. after three years, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) are expected to jointly pool in a sum of Rs 300 crores to push QuEST to Phase 2, that would ensure that India’s quantum computing programme matches international standards. DST held the first ever meeting for its QuEST programme at IIIT-Hyderabad where delegates discussed a road-map that would help in laying the groundwork for building quantum computers in India.
For quantum computing the expected deliverables are design of quantum register, 4-qubit quantum computer initially and possibility to scale up no of qubits, Gate implementation and quantum algorithm realization, 4-qubit quantum entangled state. Decoherence effects on entanglement generation, development of methods to overcome the same, and their demonstration.
Quantum communications deliverables are generation of entangled states between two locations. Multiparty entanglement generation, detection, and quantification. Demonstration of Quantum teleportation, remote state preparation, quantum dense coding. Demonstration of quantum key generation between two locations and its security analysis. The duration of the projects is for 3 years and extendable upto 5 years depending upon technical progress of the project and overall progress of QuST programme. The scheme “promises to revolutionize the future computation and communication systems which will ultimately have a huge impact on the nation and our society as a whole,” the DST’s portal reads.
Recently, C-DAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing), a national premier R&D organisation under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India, and Atos — a noted digital transformation company, has announced their Cooperation Agreement for technology advancement in the areas of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and exascale computing. Thee Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IIT Roorkee) has also partnered with Microsoft Garage India and introduced a full semester elective course on quantum computing. The course will provide access to Q# Programming Language practical examples, Microsoft Quantum Development Kit, and Microsoft Quantum Faculty.
More recently, DRDO announced a new initiative: of the five DRDO Young Scientists Laboratories that were launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January 2020 with the aim to research and develop futuristic defence technologies. One lab set up at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay is dedicated to quantum technology.
DRDO achieves milestone in quantum QKD technology
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Dec 2020 achieved a milestone in Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology that underwent maiden trials at two of its laboratories establishing highly secure communication. The trials were conducted at Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI) at Hyderabad under realistic conditions. QKD is a secure communication method that uses cryptographic protocol involving components of quantum mechanics.
Developed by Bengaluru-based Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) and Defence Young Scientists’ Laboratory – Quantum Technology (DYSL-QT), Mumbai, the technology enables two communicators to produce a random secret key known only to them and later it can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. The quantum communication using time-bin QKD technology was performed during the trials and the setup demonstrated validation of detection of a third party trying to gain knowledge of the communication.
Defence sources said quantum based security against eavesdropping was validated for the deployed system at over 12 km range and 10 decibel attenuation over fibre optic channel. Continuous-wave laser source was used to generate photons without depolarisation effect. DRDO Chairman Dr G Satheesh Reddy said the maiden trials of the newly developed technology have been highly successful. “This is a great achievement as quantum based communication offers a robust solution for secure communication. QKD is a significant achievement towards the development of futuristic quantum communication technologies,” he told TNIE.
In Feb 2022, A joint team of scientists from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, for the first time in the country successfully demonstrated Quantum Key Distribution link between Prayagraj and Vindhyachal in Uttar Pradesh, a distance of more than 100 kilometres. This technological breakthrough was achieved over a commercial grade optical fibre already available in field. With this success, the country has demonstrated indigenous technology of secure key transfer for bootstrapping military grade communication security key hierarchy. The performance parameters have been measured and have been found to be repetitively within the reported international standards at sifted key rates of up to 10 KHz. This technology will enable security agencies to plan a suitable quantum communication network with indigenous technology backbone.
RRI transfers quantum encryption key safely between building in Feb 2021
Similarly, the ISRO, in collaboration with the RRI, has started a mega-project called “Quantum Experiments Using Satellite Technology (QUEST)” for the promotion of quantum science in India. Sinha, along with members of her Quantum Information and Computing Lab and theory colleagues at RRI, will play a key role in developing these technologies in the coming years with support from ISRO.
For the first time in India, scientists part of the Quantum Experiments using Satellite Technology (QuEST) project from the Raman Research Institute (RRI) have claimed a breakthrough that will enable safe communications across strategic sectors ranging from banking to defence. This is India’s first reported free space quantum key distribution experiment which connects two buildings using an atmospheric channel. This is a breakthrough milestone for the QuEST as this will pave the way for longer distances using atmospheric channels, ultimately culminating with ground to satellite based secure quantum communications. Scientists claimed that this will be an important stepping stone towards the Centre’s vision of connecting up different nodes in the country through free space and fibre based channels.
QuEST, carried out by RRI’s Quantum Information and Computing (QuIC) lab led by Prof Urbasi Sinha, is India’s first project on satellite-based long distance quantum communications. Started in 2017, QuEST is being implemented in collaboration with Isro. In 2020 Sinha’s team had developed a toolkit that enabled safe quantum keys distribution (QKD) — transfer of secret key that allows reading of encrypted messages — safely between devices.
“Once RRI is ready with an experimental payload, we will launch it on board one of our satellite missions,” M. Sankaran, deputy director of the ISRO Satellite Centre in Bengaluru and one of the conference participants, told this correspondent. According to Sinha, one of her first experiments “will be a collaborative effort with the Quantum Photonics Lab at Ontario’s University of Waterloo” that will aim to establish “a secure quantum key distribution link” between India and Canada. “It is good that both DST and ISRO have decided to fund research in this important area,” said Arun Kumar Pati, a leading researcher in quantum physics at the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, and a conference participant. “We are 10 years behind and have to catch up.”
RRI, Indian Navy ink pact for developing secure maritime communications using quantum tech.
Raman Research Institute (RRI), an autonomous institute of the department of science and technology (DST), has joined hands with the Indian Navy to develop secure maritime communications using quantum technologies.
“Under this agreement, RRI’s Quantum Information and Computing (QuIC) lab will lead the research efforts towards developing quantum key distribution techniques that the Indian Navy could leverage in the nation’s efforts towards securing free space communications,” the Ministry of Science & Technology said in a statement.
IIT Alumni Council Partnered with Russoft & Moscow State University to Build World’s Largest & Fastest Hybrid Quantum Computer
The Indian Institute of Technology’s Alumni Council has signed an agreement with Lomonosov Moscow State University and Russoft to access and transfer key technologies from Russia to build the world’s largest and fastest hybrid quantum computer in India. Under the agreement, the Russian state-owned companies will transfer critical modules in cryogenics, cryptography and modularised cloud management technology to IIT Alumni Council. The deal with the companies, which are key Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) owners, are part of the Quantum Mission, the company said in a statement.
“IIT Alumni Council believes that technology could play a much greater role in solving the nation’s problems and to achieve the mission of Atma Nirbhar Bharat,” said Ravi Sharma, President, IIT Alumni Council. “The agreement with Russia is the first step to aggregate key technologies from leading global players. The next step is to integrate these technologies into a high throughput, high-speed Quantum Computer, interfacing that with smartphones and laptops for distributed computing,” he added. These technologies will be used to support solutions for solving infrastructure challenges in areas such as healthcare, agriculture, transport and logistics, pollution and weather forecast.
Quantum Computing, which is several million times faster than the largest supercomputer in India, will make existing supercomputers obsolete. It will also collapse cost of genome testing from over ₹1 lakh per sample to under ₹1,000, facilitating genetics-based personalised medicines to avoid unnecessary universal vaccination which may have safety issues.
This computing capability allows real world events to be emulated in the virtual world. For example, architects can now see a proposed building on screen in photo-like quality before actually constructing it, the statement added. “The most promising areas for Indo-Russian joint projects with high potential are Information and Communications Technology, space exploration, climate change, quantum technology and data security,” said Valentin Makarov, President of Russoft. The IIT Alumni Council is the largest global body of alumni, students and faculty, spread across all the 23 IITs and partnering Technical Institutes of Excellence (TieNet).
Indian Army launched Quantum Lab in Dec 2021
With the due support from the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), the Army has established the Quantum Lab at Military College of Telecommunication Engineering, Mhow (MP) MCTE to lead research and training in this key developing field.
Surpassing the Super-power computers, the most powerful computing that works on the principles of quantum mechanics will benefit the Indian Armed Forces in various spheres. The research undertaken by the Indian Army in the field of Quantum Technology will help leapfrog into next-generation communication and transform the current system of cryptography in the Indian Armed Forces to Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC). The key thrust areas consist of:
– Quantum Key Distribution,
– Quantum Communication,
– Quantum Computing,
– Post-Quantum Cryptography
With this initiative on the table, it will set an apt example of Civil-Military fusion with Self-Reliant India as a key driving factor. The initiatives have incorporated Academia (such as IITs) DRDO organizations, Research Institutes, Corporate firms, Startups, and Industry players for fielding progressive solutions.
With the announcement of the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications, interest in quantum computing has been surging in India and it is an opportune time to make it ubiquitous and accessible to a diverse audience to unlock its true potential. Since making the quantum computer accessible via the cloud in 2016, IBM has focused on developing an ecosystem of developers, scientists, educators, and professionals through open-source access to its real quantum hardware and software (Qiskit is an open-source quantum software development kit built by IBM).
Over 1,100 participants registered for the two-week long Qiskit Challenge India, of which 67% were first time users of Qiskit, and the majority of them were undergraduates. During the challenge participants were introduced to quantum computing fundamentals and then tasked to apply the learning to address an open problem in the field of quantum machine learning. Today, there are 1,400 students trained on Qiskit in India, in addition to Qiskit Advocates, who are actively assisting and contributing to the Qiskit community.
QNu Labs, a Bengaluru-based startup, QNu Labs was incubated in 2016 at IIT-Madras. The strat-up offers three quantum products: Tropos, a random number generator, Armos, a quantum key distributor, and Hodos, a quantum secure platform for key management. All these are primarily targeted at industries like banking, telecommunications, IT infrastructure, defense, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). All the above products are assembled either in the company’s in-house optics lab or with the help of manufacturing partners. The startup, however, has to import a number of the components. The team has filed a total of three patents so far and is planning to file eight more in the near future. They have also graduated from the Cisco Launchpad accelerator and the Netapp Excellerator programmes, recently.
QNu Labs, the first company in India to offer commercially available Quantum Safe Security Products, announced the launch of the Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) called Tropos and Quantum Key Distribution System (QKD) called Armos, which are deployment ready in India as well in international markets. With this launch, QNu Labs aims to address the increasing issues around data security & privacy, which have become a key concern for enterprises, governments and defense organizations across the world.
Srinivasa Rao Aluri, Co-founder and Chairman, QNu Labs, said, “We are proud to have achieved the vision of an Indian deep tech company with full indigenized Quantum Safe Security products which can be deployed globally. Lot of people told us that India can’t build deep tech products in India and discouraged us from spending our own money in this venture. But our belief, concept and vision of “New India” that will be a technology leader in deep tech made us work relentlessly towards our mission. Eventually we were able to make the first Quantum Key Distribution Product right here in Bangalore.”
QNu labs were instrumental in successful field trial of the first quantum secure link in India running between two defence locations in North India. This link was set up between two defence establishments, about 50 km apart. Two dark fibres were used, one for the quantum channel and one for clock synchronisation. Two C-DOT encryptors were used at each station that would retrieve the ultra-secure key that Armos would generate and encrypt all data flow between these two stations. This setup ran continuously and flawlessly for five days, with keys being refreshed every one minute between the routers, said Shenoy .
Hackers are now carrying out attacks which are based on “Harvest Now, Decrypt Later”. In such attacks, the primary strategy adopted by hackers is to copy and store encrypted data and decrypt it at a later stage using quantum computers. As a result, forward security is very much necessary today, and the window to act is narrowing fast. QNu Labs intend to protect data at a national level and to have a global impact. We are not only ensuring a robust security mechanism for our clients but also ensuring the behavioural shift across industries so that they do not have to wait for the Y2Q moment to maintain proper safeguards. They can do so today by deploying our solutions that not only cater to the cybersecurity needs for today but also for the future, said Shenoy.
Tropos, the random number generator, adopts the principles of quantum mechanics to generate truly random numbers. These numbers are needed for various applications like lotteries, one-time-pads, and key generation in cryptography. Most conventional computers cannot generate true random numbers as they are either subject to bias or can be predicted easily. Armos, the 19-inch hardware box quantum key-distribution product, provides protection to data while it is at its most vulnerable: in transit. It works by encoding single photons of light sent through a dedicated fibre optic channel.
The Heisenberg Uncertainty principle ensures that any attempt at meddling with these keys causes a detectable disruption. An alert and a report on the location of the intrusion are generated. Since the hardware destroys any keys that are compromised and spawns new ones, the attacks are deterred even before they happen. Prithvi Kini, Head of Operations at QNu Labs, explains.
“Armos is very user-friendly and the deployment does not disrupt existing crypto infrastructure. It seamlessly interfaces with the existing encryption network to create quantum-safe security.” She adds that a lot of effort went into the making of this product, with references drawn from digital electronics, optical technology, mathematics, and quantum physics.
“Since many of the Optical Fibre Cables (OFCs) that are used today are quite easy to tap and only as safe as the security of their keys, there is always a possibility for information to be leaked. However, at QNu Labs we use something called quantum cryptography, which employs photons (light particles) to provide random keys, such that attackers will not be able to access or clone them,” says Sunil, Founder and CEO, QNu Labs.
Besides QKD (Armos) and QRNG (Tropos), QNu Labs has also developed some of the critical sub components such as Single photon Detectors, Time to Digital Convertors and Clock Synchronization modules critical for the realization of Quantum Safe Security products and solutions. Some of these sub-components can be used in other applications being focused under the National Mission – Quantum Technologies and Applications.
The company’s third offering, Hodos, is a quantum secure platform that integrates the existing infrastructure for the users to plug and play. QNu Labs is set to extend its global footprint with the launch of an entity in the US. Sunil says, “Everybody is dependent on data in today’s world. Hence, the need to have a fool-proof security system is more than imperative. China is already on its way in building quantum fibres and networks. This means the need to use quantum cryptography is even more if people want to truly protect their data. By introducing the QKD-based Armos, we are accelerating the world’s transition towards future-proof security,” quips Sunil.
There are multiple areas that QNu Labs is working in. The most important area being QKD and its various offshoots – to increase distance, detect and take countermeasures against intrusion, free-space and satellite QKD. Beyond QKD, QNu is working on Hardware Security Modules, which are based on its QRNG technology. The QRNG technology is being enhanced to fit into servers as a PCIe card or a USB dongle.
In a separate research stream, QNu is working on Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC) that enables us to create a hybrid and quantum-secure key distribution network based on new and upcoming mathematics-based key exchange mechanisms. This ties in nicely with the QKD scheme, extending the reach of QKD and creating a true quantum-secure network. QNu research team works closely with leading academic institutions and researchers around the world, leveraging both their expertise and insight to improve both QKD and PQC.
As a unique offering, to strengthen the ecosystem further, they have built a training and experimentation platform, “Questio” for academic institutes to build skills and train students with hands-on experiments in the quantum space. QNu product roadmap includes development of Quantum Hardware Security Modules, Free Space & Satellite QKD, Post Quantum Cryptography solutions which will become the base for critical infrastructure in the future. QNu Labs smart and efficient products/solutions focus on catering seamless security for the cloud and internet space.
Indian Army issues RFP for procurement of Quantum Key Distribution technology
The Ministry of Defence said the Indian Army has started the process of procurement of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology developed by a Bengaluru-based cybersecurity company by issuing a commercial Request for Proposal (RFP).
The MoD said in August 2022 that under the umbrella of its initiative ‘Innovation for Defence Excellence’ (iDEX) under Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), the QNu Labs, a Bengaluru-based cybersecurity start-up has broken distance barriers by innovating advanced secured communication through QKD systems. “The project was curated by iDEX-DIO with the Indian Army. After the successful trials, the Indian Army has now initiated the process of procurement of QKD systems developed by QNu Labs by issuing commercial Request For Proposal (RFP) and its deployment,” the MoD said in a press statement.
The ministry said that in the case of the system developed by the QNu, the quantum communication link was established over 150 kilometres in terrestrial optical fiber infrastructure. QNu Labs’ co-founder and CEO Sunil Gupta was quoted in the release as saying, “The vision of putting India on the forefront of deep technologies in the field of data security through the use of quantum technology has finally borne fruit. Winning the Open Challenge-2 of iDEX has provided a launching pad to QNu Labs to achieve this stellar success.”
Wipro signs MoU with Tel Aviv University for research in quantum computing in Jan 2021
According to the MoU, Tel Aviv University’s Center for Quantum Science & Technology faculty members will work with Wipro and its customers to analyse use cases and potential applications of quantum computing for the Indian IT major’s large organisational clients. According to the MoU, Tel Aviv University’s Center for Quantum Science & Technology (QuanTAU) faculty members will work with Wipro and its customers to analyse use cases and potential applications of quantum computing for the Indian IT major’s large organisational clients.
Tel Aviv University researchers and Wipro scientists will develop and study various approaches, define potential research solutions and implement these solutions, a press release stated. The MoU is being seen as a direct continuation of Tel Aviv University’s collaboration with Wipro on machine learning through support of funded research. “TAU sees great importance in strengthening its international collaborations, and the connection with Wipro, a great technological power from India, is certainly an important achievement for research in Israel,” Professor Yaron Oz, Head of QuanTAU, said.
The variety of research areas include foundations of quantum theory, quantum information, computational methods, nano-quantum systems, quantum optics, physical quantum devices and superconductors, the Bengaluru-based company said. “Quantum mechanics, or quantum theory, was developed at the beginning of the 20th century, revolutionising the understanding of physical systems, and today we are in the midst of the so-called ‘second quantum revolution’, in which basic quantum concepts are applied to computers, simulation, sensors, communication and material science”, Wipro said in a message to Tel Aviv University.
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