Technologies for the era of quantum computers

Headergrafik Innovation Quantencomputer

A few years ago, they were considered miracle machines, now we are getting closer to using them – quantum computers promise exponential performance gains over conventional computers. Bundesdruckerei is exploring the potential of this new generation of computers and developing procedures to protect existing systems from their computing power.

Calculating between zero and one

The discussion is still restricted to specialist circles, but soon quantum computers are likely to have practical relevance. The computer generation of tomorrow makes use of the laws of quantum mechanics, leaving binary systems behind. While in a classical computer every bit takes on either the value zero or one, quantum computing has a whole range of other states thanks to the principle of superposition. The behaviour of particles that underlies quantum technologies may push the boundaries of what is intuitively conceivable, but this does have implications of great consequence. That’s because the way quantum computers work enables numerous simultaneous computing processes, so that previously unsolvable tasks can be completed in the shortest possible time.

Quantum advantages and security risks

The power of quantum computing offers enormous opportunities for solving a wide range of complex problems, ranging from personnel scheduling and energy network optimization to material simulation. At the same time, quantum computing poses risks for existing security procedures: Quantum-based computing power poses risks for established encryptions which until now have been practically impossible to crack. Where even a – conventionally working – supercomputer would need hundreds of thousands of years to simply ‘try out’ encryptions, a quantum computer could crack them in no time at all. Classical security systems must be prepared for this.

The funded PlanQK project: Unlocking quantum-assisted AI (QAI)

Quantum computers are still a rarity. Since their use is fundamentally different from conventional computers and requires a high degree of specialization, they are currently used by just a few experts. In the PlanQK project, a platform is being created to combine expertise and make it easier for users to access quantum-assisted AI applications. In this way, medium-sized companies that cannot build up their own expertise in quantum computing and artificial intelligence will also be able to benefit from the new technologies.

The platform offers addressees professional support and provides them with specific algorithms and applications. In addition, users will have access to quantum computing capacity. Since 2021, the IBM Q System One quantum computer at IBM’s headquarters near Stuttgart has been the first computer of its kind on European soil. The computing capacities of this quantum computer are also open to PlanQK’s partners.

Security component for quantum computers

One focal aspect of the PlanQK project is the ‘security building block for digital ecosystems’. The aim is to protect future identity systems from attacks carried out using quantum technologies. Based on quantum mechanical equations and principles, cryptographic methods are being studied to learn how QAI can be integrated into security concepts – to detect anomalies, for example. Bundesdruckerei is exploring how data can be best tailored to the functioning of AI and quantum computing through optimum structuring and processing.

Many research findings have immense beneficial side effects for industry and science. This is also the case with quantum computers: They are highly sensitive – they require extreme cooling and it must be ensured that particles do not interact with the housing or electrical fields. At the same time, new software concepts for Q computers are emerging. On the whole, we are also learning a lot for conventional technologies – from efficient semiconductor design to field shielding and classical algorithms, which can often also be designed quite differently and much more efficiently than before.
Dr. Manfred Paeschke, Chief Visionary Officer at Bundesdruckerei GmbH

PlanQK funded project

Platform and ecosystem for quantum-assisted artificial intelligence

The PlanQK project is developing a platform for quantum-assisted artificial intelligence (QAI). In addition to professional exchange, the platform is intended to provide access to QAI applications for users especially in the SME sector.

    The project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, is part of the innovation competition entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence as a Driver for Economically Relevant Ecosystems’.

    Term: 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2022

    Under the coordination of StoneOne AG, Bundesdruckerei cooperates with the following partners:

    • Universität Stuttgart
    • FU Berlin
    • Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
    • Fraunhofer-Institut für Offene Kommunikationssysteme FOKUS
    • Accenture Dienstleistungen GmbH
    • DB Systel GmbH
    • d-fine GmbH
    • FCE Frankfurt Consulting Engineers GmbH
    • HQS Quantum Simulations GmbH
    • Planerio GmbH
    • regio iT gesellschaft für informationstechnologie mbH
    • Telekom Innovation Laboratories (T-Labs)
    • TRUMPF Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH + Co. KG
    • DB Systemtechnik GmbH
    • Smart Reporting GmbH
    • VIRALITY GmbH
    • Komm.ONE AöR

    The project explores fields of application in which business and administration can make practical use of quantum technologies. These technologies include:

    • Anomaly detection in network communication   
    • Detection of anomalies and fraud in financial transactions
    • Municipal registers
    • Modelling of energy networks – quality of supply through storage arrangement
    • Scheduling and duty roster optimization
    • Route planning
    • Prediction of material and process properties

    Cooperation with CERN: Basic research meets IT security

    Since 2019, Bundesdruckerei has been engaged in a close interdisciplinary exchange with scientists at CERN in Geneva. The focus is particularly on the question of how findings from quantum physics can be transferred to IT systems. For example, novel methods could use the quantum mechanical principle of ‘entanglement’ when generating cryptographic keys.

    PoQuID: Post-quantum cryptography

    So-called post-quantum cryptography is relevant to almost all areas of life – from ID cards to e-mail communication and online banking, from telemedicine to access systems. After all, a large part of the conventional systems used today will remain in operation when the first quantum computers have arrived in everyday life and could then be used for potentially powerful attacks.

    From the crypto building block to the complete system

    Cryptographic procedures have a long lead time. That is why researchers at Bundesdruckerei have been working on quantum-resistant encryption methods for many years. In the PQCRYPTO project, which was launched in 2015, renowned European universities and industry partners came together to develop several encryption components that were able to demonstrate their robustness against quantum-assisted attacks.

    In the world of the day after tomorrow, the methods and products required for secure identities will differ from those of today. The only way to come up with the right answers is to be proactive.”
    Dr. Manfred Paeschke, Chief Visionary Officer at Bundesdruckerei GmbH

    Quantum-resistant cryptography for ID systems

    In the PoQuID project, innovators are building on the groundwork laid by PQCRYPTO. Security methods that are compatible with established structures are being tested, and quantum-resistant encryption is being implemented. Demonstrators check the security of the cryptographic procedures in the ID card and document verification device.

    The project mandate includes participation in relevant standardization bodies, such as DIN, ISO or ICAO. “Every ID document must comply with internationally recognized protocols. After all, a highly secure passport should not only work in Germany, it should also be possible to read this passport at the Argentinian border,” says Dr. Manfred Paeschke, Chief Visionary Officer at Bundesdruckerei GmbH.

    The funded PoQuID project

    The aim of the project is to develop practical, usable post-quantum cryptographic procedures for sovereign documents.

    Funding by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy within the framework of the ‘WIPANO – Knowledge and Technology Transfer through Patents and Standards’ programme

    Term: 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2021

    • Analysis, selection and development of practical, usable post-quantum crypto methods
    • Implementation on smartcards
    • Application in a sovereign context (machine-readable travel documents, eID)
    • Contribution of the results to national and international standardization
    • Significant performance improvement, for example, for smart cards, IoT, mobile devices
    • Bundesdruckerei GmbH
    • Fraunhofer Institute for Applied and Integrated Security AISEC
    • Infineon Technologies AG

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