Paul van Gerven
7 October

Emerging from stealth mode, Qutech spin-out Q-bird is working with the Port of Rotterdam to put a multi-user quantum network to the test. “Our technology is based on a special implementation of quantum key distribution (QKD) that uses a central hub to connect users that want to exchange secure communications,” explains Q-Bird’s co-founder and director Remon Berrevoets. “That means that it’s possible to implement a quantum network in a cost-effective way, scalable to many end-users, and using mostly off-the-shelf equipment.”

Qutech Qbird
In Q-bird’s system, quantum keys enabling secure communication between two users are distributed by a central node. Attempt to eavesdrop on that process will be detected. Credit: Simplot for QuTech

Initially, the seaport will host the central hub and use it for secure data exchange between the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Portbase and a number of nautical service providers. In the future, more users might be added to the setup. Securing communication systems would “improve the safety of tens of thousands of sea ships yearly and for a significant part the economical traffic that comes after,” a press release reads.

The quantum communication system has previously been put to the test in collaborations with KPN using Cisco hardware and with digital infrastructure provider Eurofiber using Juniper hardware. The project in Rotterdam is funded by the Quantum Delta NL SME program and the Port of Rotterdam.