quantum computing applications

Members of the National Quantum-Safe Network (NQSN) team are pictured in a lab at the Centre for Quantum Technologies that will host a network node. (Source – NUS)

Singapore to trial quantum computing applications

While China and Japan are testing quantum computing applications vigorously, Singapore is also keeping with the pace. With 2022 expected to be the year quantum computing applications experience real-world use cases, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is well on course to be a lead the testing in Southeast Asia.

The country’s Quantum Engineering Programme (QEP) is expected to start conducting nationwide trials of quantum-safe communication technologies that promise robust network security for critical infrastructure and companies handling sensitive data. Supported by the National Research Foundation, Singapore (NRF), the project kicks off with 15 private and government collaborators on board.

Quantum-safe communication technologies are designed to counter the threat of quantum computing with specialized hardware and new cryptographic algorithms. They could secure communication systems for governments, critical infrastructure such as energy grids, and companies handling sensitive data in areas such as healthcare and finance.

The new National Quantum-Safe Network (NQSN) will deploy commercial technologies for trials with government agencies and private companies, conduct an in-depth evaluation of security systems, and develop guidelines to support companies in adopting such technologies.

According to Assistant Professor Charles Lim, lead Principal Investigator (PI) for the NQSN, from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Centre for Quantum Technologies at NUS, Singapore can build on its heritage in quantum science, optics, and cybersecurity engineering to become a trusted global provider of quantum network technology and services.

“In NQSN, we will bring quantum innovation to deployed optical networks, where we can study operational issues such as a quantum network’s reliability and resilience together with our industry partners,” said Lim.

One of the companies contributing to the network is Horizon Quantum Computing. The Singapore-based company that provides software development and deployment tools for quantum computing applications. Horizon Quantum Computing is set to become a node on the National Quantum-Safe Network and has committed to supporting research and experimentation over the network that could build the foundations for a future quantum internet.

The first startup to host a node on this quantum-safe network, Horizon Quantum Computing has deep expertise in quantum internet applications. Back in 2008, its CEO, Dr. Joe Fitzsimons, invented the first universal blind quantum computing protocol with Dr. Anne Broadbent and Dr. Elham Kashefi, allowing secure delegation of quantum computation in a cloud.

The protocol has since emerged as an important use case of a future quantum internet because the first applications of quantum computing for businesses will likely rely on remote hardware hosted by the manufacturer. Fitzsimons’s work on blind quantum computing is cited in quantum internet proposals worldwide, including America’s Blueprint for the Quantum Internet.

Under the MOU with NUS and NRH, the initial plans for the deployment are for 10 network nodes to be installed across Singapore. The nodes will be connected to provide a public network that can act as a living lab for organizations wanting to experience quantum-safe communication technologies and separable government and private networks trialing dedicated users’ applications.

Horizon Quantum Computing will support proofs of concept and testbed activities for the development, exploration, and translation efforts of this network. Moreover, the collaboration extends beyond quantum-safe communication and encompasses research collaboration opportunities in more general quantum communications and quantum internet applications.

For Fitzsimons, as a company focused on enabling users to create and deploy quantum applications, ensuring this can be done without compromising the privacy or integrity of those applications is a key concern for Horizon.

“Data having to cross international borders or to be stored and processed on off-premises equipment in unencrypted form can limit commercial use cases of quantum computation. We see our collaboration with NUS and our participation in quantum communications experiments in Singapore as an important step towards developing the secure computing capabilities that will ultimately be necessary to fully unlock the potential of cloud-based quantum computing,” he added.