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ID Quantique Joins the Quantum Space Race

ID Quantique SA (IDQ) today announced that it has joined the quantum space race. After having launched the first ground-based commercial Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system a decade ago based on optical fibers, IDQ now hopes within a few years to offer a new service based on satellite communications.

Due to the forthcoming arrival of the Quantum Computer, QKD is rapidly becoming a requirement for companies looking for high level and long-term confidentiality.

Traditional encryption is at a growing risk of being broken as hacking technology advances to process data more quickly and efficiently. The advent of quantum computing will also render today’s encryption solutions vulnerable.  QKD, (aka quantum cryptography) allows companies to encrypt their data in a way that is not vulnerable to attacks by quantum computers in the future.  In combination, Quantum Random Number Generators (QRNGs) and QKD provide quantum-safe encryption that will protect data long into the future.

“Companies around the world are realizing how vitally important quantum-safe encryption will be in the next five to ten years,” said Grégoire Ribordy, CEO of IDQ. “Due to the threat of “download now, decrypt later”, it’s time to act now and not wait if you have data that will still be sensitive in the long term”.

However, the current distance limitation of ground-based QKD still restricts the adoption of this innovative technology. This restriction will be lifted by QKD over space, where the key distribution takes place between an orbiting satellite and ground stations. The quantum communication race has now reached space.

A few months ago, we reported on the new Chinese quantum communication satellite, Micius. This satellite, launched in August 2016, has now completed in-orbit testing[2]. Experiments on quantum communications can now begin.

The European Space Agency (ESA) has already reacted to the challenge by launching a new program, Scylight[3], which will support optical communications technologies for space. The Scylight program includes a specific provision for quantum cryptography technologies and initial service demonstrations.

Switzerland has been a bit faster to recognize the importance of space for secure communications. In January 2015, the SERI/Swiss Space Office launched a call for ideas for a small mission[4] and later selected three potential projects. One of the selected proposal was submitted by ID Quantique and its partner Altyn. Named QuSat, the proposal is to design and put into orbit a small satellite, which will distribute keys and enable secure communications world-wide.

The security of the keys is based on the principles of quantum mechanics. QuSat will complement ground-based quantum key distribution systems, which are restricted to local distribution. The emphasis of QuSat, in contrast to the science-oriented Micius, is towards a fully practical, low-cost key distribution system. Both the space component and the ground component, which will include numerous key distribution stations, have to be optimized for practical use.

QuSat has been selected as the final contender and its corresponding feasibility study (known as Phase A in space jargon) will be funded. This study, expected to last one year, will comprise both a detailed technical study, to ascertain the technical relevance of the project and define all its parameters; and a market study, designed to find the first potential customers for the key distribution service.

Another key part of the project is to find the right technical and go-to-market partners to develop the solution with ID Quantique and Altyn.

ID Quantique, the world leader in ground-based commercial quantum key distribution systems, and its partner Altyn, clearly position themselves as serious contenders in the quantum space race, which will provide the ultimate security for global communications.


About ID Quantique

Founded in 2001 as a spin-off from the Group of Applied Physics of the University of Geneva, ID Quantique is the world leader in quantum-safe crypto solutions, designed to protect data for the future. The company provides quantum-safe network encryption, secure quantum key generation and Quantum Key Distribution solutions and services to the financial industry, enterprises and government organizations globally.  IDQ’s quantum random number generator has been validated according to global standards and independent agencies and is the reference in highly regulated and mission critical industries – such as security, encryption and online gaming – where trust is paramount.

IDQ’s products are used by government, enterprise and academic customers in more than 60 countries and on every continent. As a privately held Swiss company focused on sustainable growth, IDQ is proud of its independence and neutrality, and believes in establishing long-term and trusted relationships with its customers and partners. For more information, please visit https://www.idquantique.com/.

Contact Info:

Catherine Simondi – Marketing Director at ID Quantique

catherine.simondi@idquantique.com or +41 22 301 8371


About Altyn

ALTYN is a consulting company providing engineering and management support in the conception, design and development of satellite projects and commercial space applications, based in Geneva. ALTYN was founded in 2012 by José ACHACHE, a leading international expert on Space with a significant track record as architect and manager of numerous space missions, including COPERNICUS, the multi-billion EU program for Environment and Security, and its “Sentinels” series of satellites, now the largest provider of Earth observation data in the world. ALTYN also provides coaching and investment support to numerous startups in the space, media and biotech sectors.

Contact Info:

José Achache – Managing Director at Altyn

jose.achache@altyn.ch or +41 78 867 13 43


[2] See the report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) at : http://english.cas.cn/newsroom/news/201701/t20170119_173537.shtml

[3] See the Scylight overview at : https://artes.esa.int/scylight/overview

[4] The call is reported in the news from the Swiss Space center : http://actu.epfl.ch/news/call-for-ideas-for-a-small-mission-2015-2/

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