A German project is aiming to carry quantum keys over LiFi light-based links for the first time for secure networks.
LiFi (light-based WiFi) is inherently more secure than radio-based wireless networking as it is more sensitive to interception and so has been initially adopted by military and defence applications.
The €2m QuINSiDa project (Quantum-based Infrastructure Networks for Safety-critical Wireless Data Communication) is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to develop a new approach to secure optical data transmission in wireless networks. This aims to show how quantum keys, generated by photonic systems, can be carried directly over LiFi networks.
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The three year project is led by KEEQuant in Fürth with the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) and Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF) a. The industry partners are wireless network management specialist Infosim in Würzburg, system developer BESCom Elektronik in Hamburg and networking system maker Telco Tech in Berlin.
Previous research has focused on long-distance secure data communication for applications in the global data infrastructure, for networking government or military facilities, or for information exchange with satellites. However, the connections to the end user on the last kilometre have so far still been served by classical technologies and thus remain vulnerable to attack.
In quantum key distribution, quantum states in the form of light are prepared and exchanged between participants in the network when the keys are generated. When the quantum states are received, they are measured and post-processed to produce keys that are identical on both sides but secret to an attacker.
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The QuINSiDa project is the first to combine both technologies into a QKD over LiFi system. This makes it possible to carry the quantum keys, which until now has typically been thought of more in a building-to-building scenario, all the way to the end user.
“The intention of the project is to demonstrate a quantum-based data communication network that wirelessly and flexibly connects multiple end users to a secure backbone infrastructure or which can be deployed separately as a secure campus network,” says Dr. Imran Khan Managing Director of KEEQuant.
The idea is to use a flexible wireless data communication network in a point-to-multipoint scenario to simultaneously secure the individual communication channels based on quantum keys.
Using an optical communication network means every participant who registers in LiFi channel is also visible to the quantum channel to allows secure key exchange. Different wavelengths of light are used to separate the LiFi channel and the quantum channel. This separation can be optimized by the receiver by using appropriate optical filtering against interference.
This is a completely new interdisciplinary approach that has not yet been presented in scientific publications or in current market developments, he says. The approach will be investigated by the project partners primarily with respect to security-critical applications, such as equipment for public utilities, including banks, hospitals, utilities, public services, telecommunications nodes, and government facilities.
Special attention will be paid to the security of the overall system with simultaneous, interdisciplinary integration of network management software, classical cryptography with post-quantum cryptography, QKD technology and LiFi technology.
A demonstration system is planned to bring the technologies together in a network to explore applications and use cases. Following the project, these will be exploited by the participating companies and incorporated into safety-critical applications.
The cost reduction in QKD that will arise in the next few years due to production in medium quantities will also allow broader market penetration. The interdisciplinary networking between the different communities (QKD, optics, telecommunication, security) will also stimulate the integration of the novel technologies into existing security technologies.