In a recent publication, the UK Government Office for Science highlights the opportunities presented by the emerging field of quantum technologies. The Quantum Age: Technological Opportunities recognizes the global effort to commercialize quantum science, moving it out of the laboratory and into viable real-world applications.
The report looks to the future, beyond the second quantum revolution, and recognizes that the UK faces an opportunity to take the lead in this new generation of technologies. It also places an emphasis on the societal and economic benefits that could be realized from early innovation in quantum technologies.
The Quantum Age report strongly advocates for the continued development of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme and goes on to make 11 key recommendations. Two of those recommendations relate specifically to Quantum Key Distribution.
Recommendation 7: The National Quantum Technologies Programme should fund collaborative work between UK quantum communications and cryptography research groups, leading to joint technical developments of both quantum key distribution (QKD) and post-quantum cryptography (PQC), as well as work on digital signatures and other uses of these technologies.
Recommendation 8: The National Cyber Security Centre should support a pilot trial of QKD using realistic data in a realistic environment, with the facilities for the trial being provided by the Quantum Communications Hub. Such a trial should serve to stimulate the supply chain and show UK leadership in secure communications.
In recognising the dual roles of QKD and post-quantum cryptography in providing long-term data security, the report’s authors also acknowledge the threat to cyber security presented by quantum computers:
“The cryptography that underpins the security of many digital services relies on the fact that it is very difficult to find the prime factors of large numbers. So, quantum computers that can factorize large numbers readily would have serious security implications.”
In addition to the call for QKD to be tested on real-life networks, using real-life data, the report also understands the need for universal standards to be developed. Further research into QKD will ensure that future applications will be practical, secure and cost-effective.
The report also recommends the establishment of an independent body to scrutinise quantum products and services. This body would be responsible for conformance testing and be given the authority to issue compliance certifications.
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