Science and Technology

Técnico participates in project to develop quantum communication networks for European Defence

The project “Disruptive SDN secure communications for European Defence” (DISCRETION) was one of the 26 projects selected by the European Commission under the 2020 call of the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). The proposal ranked first in the call “Cyber situational awareness and defence capabilities, defence networks and technologies for secure communication and information sharing”.

The “DISCRETION” project aims at integrating and combining the technologies of software defined network (SDN) and quantum key distribution. This combined with legacy optical networks will build a highly secure, scalable and resilient network control architecture for advanced tactical operation services and create a degree of autonomy for European defence forces.

Compared with the traditional approach, where the network configuration and management interfaces are typically proprietary and tied to a specific manufacturer, SDN represents a revolution that supports further network evolution, opening it to potentially disruptive technologies like Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and quantum technologies in general. This technology will reinforce the European Defence’s autonomy in secure communications and will enable European armed forces to also use Radio Spectrum for military activities.

The members of the consortium are Deimos (coordinator), Instituto Superior Técnico, Instituto de Telecomunicações (IT), Altice Labs, Adyta Lda, Telefonica Investigación y Desarrollo S.A.U, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH and Nextworks.

The Técnico team is composed of professors Ricardo Chaves (INESC-ID researcher) and Paulo Mateus (IT researcher). “This project is an important step towards greater collaboration between industry, academia and the government for the improvement of Cybersecurity at national and European level”, stresses professor Ricardo Chaves, coordinator of the “DISCRETION” project at Técnico. Professor Paulo Mateus highlights the importance of the project, once “it allows the participation of Instituto Superior Técnico in the modernization of national and European defence” and “promotes cooperation between IST mathematicians and engineers”.

Experience shows the potential of the project

An application of these technologies was demonstrated in Lisbon on 30th June, with an experimental test supported by the General Staff of the Portuguese Armed Forces (EMGFA), and the National Security Office (GNS). Some of the Portuguese partners in DISCRETION – Deimos, IT, Instituto Superior Técnico and AlticeLabs – have set-up a pioneer experiment, consisting in the interchange of messages between two Portuguese Defence facilities (5km apart from each other) using a quasi-quantum link and fiber optics.

According to General Rocha, from EMGFA “this experiment allowed to demonstrate the national capabilities of the Portuguese industry, academia and defence internationally, and to start DISCRETION in a perfect time”. Admiral Gameiro Marques, Head of the Cybersecurity group – National Security Office, highlighted “the development of projects of this nature will enable Portugal – and Europe – to have its own technology in these areas, including encryption machines and the respective cryptographic key production processes”.