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NUS and Thales to develop quantum technologies

The National University of Singapore and Thales have joined hands to test quantum technologies for commercial applications in security and sensing

The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Thales have teamed up to test quantum technologies for commercial applications.

The partnership will see industry and academic experts from Thales and NUS’s quantum engineering programme (QEP) develop capabilities to test and evaluate interdisciplinary quantum security technologies. They will also explore potential research collaboration opportunities in the fields of new materials and design for quantum sensing.

QEP is an initiative launched in 2018 by Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF) and hosted at NUS. The projects under the collaboration with Thales span technologies for security and sensing and will involve QEP researchers across Singapore’s institutes of higher learning and research centres.

Chen Tsuhan, NUS deputy president for research and technology, said the partnership will accelerate innovation and development of quantum solutions that are becoming commercially attractive. “The success of this collaboration will also bolster Singapore’s attractiveness as a testbed and springboard for deploying new quantum technologies,” he added.

To support quantum research, Thales will provide its SafeNet Luna hardware security modules and high-speed network encryptors that support interfaces to quantum devices. The algorithms and quantum random number generation technology in the equipment will make it easier to implement quantum-safe crypto and combat the threats of quantum computing.

The equipment is expected to be deployed for proof-of-concept trials and test beds in Singapore. In May 2021, Thales launched a network encryption solution capable of protecting enterprise data from future quantum cyber attacks. It supplements standard encryption with a scheme resistant to quantum computing that is under consideration for international standards.

“Quantum technologies open almost infinite possibilities for the future and our researchers see real potential in three types of quantum applications, namely in sensors, communications and post-quantum cryptology,” said Kevin Chow, country director and chief executive of Thales Singapore.

Read more about quantum technology in APAC

Chow added that while the NUS partnership involves the use of Thales’s network encryption technology, the company continues to work with the research ecosystem in Singapore to explore new areas, including the use of new materials for quantum sensing or in secured quantum communications.

Thales, which has 33,000 engineers globally, is looking to become a key player in the so-called second quantum revolution, which exploits subtle properties of quantum physics and requires mastery of associated technologies.

Quantum communications, for example, relies on quantum physics to secure encryption keys that protect confidential messages sent over public networks, while quantum sensors can use quantum physics to make precise measurements. In future, quantum sensors may even help vehicles navigate without the use of global positioning systems, power new medical imaging technologies and contribute to many other fields.

A third family of quantum technologies, quantum computing, harnesses quantum physics to process information in new ways. It brings the promise of surpassing supercomputers for some data problems but also carries the threat of being able to break some of today’s standard encryption.

In 2020, SK Telecom unveiled the world’s first 5G smartphone equipped with a quantum random number generator chipset. Developed together with Samsung and ID Quantique, a supplier of quantum key distribution systems, the smartphone features quantum enhanced cryptography that generates true random numbers that cannot be hacked.

These numbers can be used to enable two-factor authentication for T-ID, SK Telecom’s single sign-on service, biometric authentication for the SK Pay mobile payment service, along with a blockchain-based wallet to store and secure electronic documents such as certificates and insurance claims.

In 2019, researchers from Singtel and NUS had successfully coordinated the paths of photons across a fibre network to drive wider adoption of quantum key distribution.

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