As part of the Quantum Delta NL programme, a consortium of the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Q*Bird, Single Quantum, Cisco, Eurofiber, Portbase, Intermax and InnovationQuarter has succeeded in being the first in the world to install a scalable quantum network connection in the port of Rotterdam. A test setup has proven that the use of quantum technology makes access to sensitive information impossible. In the future, this new communication system can improve the safety of the tens of thousands of seagoing vessels that visit the port annually, improve economic traffic and also improve the economic traffic that results from better against the threat of quantum computers.

Source: InnovationQuarter

Distribution of quantum keys

During the trial period, which started at the end of 2022, Q*Bird installed a central hub for creating a quantum network in the data center of Eurofiber. This central hub is connected to two end points at Portbase and Rotterdam Port Authority. During the trial period, these two endpoints exchanged data secured with quantum keys. The generation and distribution of the keys takes place within the quantum network, where Q*Bird uses a unique multipoint-to-multipoint configuration for the endpoints. Many new endpoints can be linked to the central hub, each of which can generate quantum keys.

Other quantum key distribution systems rely on a less flexible peer-to-peer configuration. Q*Bird is the only one in the world that offers this scalable system. The system can also be used for the security of other critical infrastructure networks in the Netherlands. Now that this test has been successful, new endpoints at Customs and a number of nautical service providers in the port will be connected to the central hub during the course of this year.

Ready for the future

The design built during the trial will make it possible that in the future multiple end users can be provided with a secure, untapping connection. The strength of this setup is the ease with which it can be expanded to many more users and the relatively low costs of expansion. Once connected, involved parties can be assured that the communication line has not been tampered with. If a hacker tries to steal the keys, the laws of quantum mechanics ensure that users are notified as soon as the keys are compromised. Another set of keys is then created to allow further messages to be exchanged securely.


Schematic illustration of the quantum key distribution system. A central node (Charlie) connects users Alice (left) and Bob (right). If an eavesdropping hacker tries to steal the secret keys, the laws of quantum mechanics ensure that users are notified if the keys have been compromised. Another set of keys is then created to securely encrypt further messages.

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