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Few countries are starting to experiment with quantum communication, but what are the capabilities of this technology in the future? What is the market for it? QuTech’s first model, Q*Bird, promises to establish a more reliable and hacker-free quantum internet system at the Rotterdam Port.

In bay and port areas, communication is essential to guarantee the safety of all economic activities and support the traffic of all ships and boats. This week, Qu Tech — a partnership between Delft University of Technology and TNO — announced the installation of an innovative quantum internet network at Rotterdam Port, which will provide a secure and hard-to-crack communication system in the region, so the partners say in a press release.  

The use of quantum communication networks is already being experimented with in a few different countries. Still, the so-called Q*Bird prototype developed by Qu Tech will potentially be the kickstart of a tech market tendency. This model was projected to establish a safe and uninterrupted internet connection. It promises its multiple users a consistent and cost-efficient communication channel at one of the most promising economic poles in the Netherlands. The system is also designed to avoid illegal tapping and hacker attacks, which could potentially cause severe accidents in critical areas of cargo transportation. 

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

How will the quantum internet system work at the Rotterdam Port? 

The Q*Bird will be first set up for testing before its practical application. According to TU Delft, the prototype has rising market potential, especially considering its low cost and capacity for expansion. The idea is to divide the port data between several maritime authorities and providers, establishing safe keys for all parties involved by utilizing quantum technology. At the same time, the system encrypts all important messages and information, guaranteeing a preserved digital ambiance. 

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