DC Quantum Leap
Historic start for DC Quantum Leap

March 19, 2024 was a historic day for almost all participants at the launch event of the Diplomatic Council Quantum Leap initiative: for the first time in their lives, they were able to take a live look at a quantum chip - clearly visible under a microscope. There were also excellent presentations by Harald A. Summa Chairman of the new initiative, and Matthias Reidans, a luminary in the field of quantum technology from Rosenberger-OSI. "There was the industrial revolution, the technical revolution and the digital revolution, and now we are entering the age of quantum technology," said Harald A. Summa right at the beginning, emphasizing the historical dimension of the new quantum era. It was an excellent start for DC Quantum Leap. The aim of the initiative is to build an ecosystem for quantum technology in order to enable a broad spectrum of commercial players to participate in this future billion-euro market, over and above current technical and scientific research and development.

Pre-competitive circle for data centers

Among the participants on March 19 were the managing directors of numerous well-known data center operators. The adaptation of data centers as key components of the Internet to quantum technology is a key issue for the new era. The discussion was correspondingly lively and concrete.

DC Quantum Leap offers data centers that join Harald A. Summa's initiative the opportunity to exchange ideas in a pre-competitive circle about which steps make sense to prepare for future quantum technology. Rosenberger Optical Solutions & Infrastructure has been a recognized expert in fiber optic-based connectivity, cabling solutions and infrastructure services for data centers, local area networks, mobile networks and industrial applications since 1991. The parent company Rosenberger Hochfrequenztechnik GmbH & Co. KG already offers several quantum technology products in the field of quantum computing hardware. Data centers will be the "home" of quantum computing. According to the speakers, the first step will not be to have "quantum computers everywhere", but rather the majority of "quantum power" will be obtained from the cloud - i.e. data centers. "It's about upgrading high-performance data centers with quantum computer modules," Matthias Reidans explained the next steps.

Quantum as a service

There was a consensus among the heads of the data center industry present that sooner or later quantum computers will find their way into data centers, which are currently still conventional. As Harald A. Summa puts it: "As a kind of turbocharger for existing high-performance computers, they will scale specific applications and unleash further innovative power, particularly in generative AI. As quantum as a service, they will be available in the cloud to a wide range of users in industry and research."

Opinions differ on the question of when this innovation cycle will become more relevant in practice. According to Matthias Reidans, this point in time is imminent. He points to developments at European manufacturers such as IQM, AQT and eleqtron, some of which are already able to supply stable, high-performance quantum computers at affordable prices, and to further technological breakthroughs in the USA, China and Canada.

Quantum experiments at DE-CIX

In addition to Harald A. Summa and Matthias Reidans, Thomas King, Chief Technology Officer of DE-CIX, the largest Internet exchange point in Europe, was also in the audience that evening. He was able to report on the findings from experiments with quantum technology in data transmission. Quantum computing requires completely new transmission paths because photons are sent on the journey instead of electrons (as in conventional computers). At DE-CIX, a test link is being set up between Frankfurt and Berlin, together with 15 partners such as Fraunhofer.

Acute: quantum-resistant data encryption

There is a great deal of consensus regarding the topicality of quantum-resistant encryption. Quantum computers are capable of cracking the vast majority of conventional encryption systems. This harbors the danger that criminals are already taking possession of data today that they will be able to decrypt in a few years' time. Consequently, it is important to encrypt data today in a quantum-secure manner. At the same time, the current asymmetric encryption methods must be replaced by symmetric ones in order to achieve quantum protection. In technical terms, this is known as post-quantum cryptography.

The Quantum Leap boss issued an urgent warning about insecure infrastructures. During the evening, Harald A. Summa offered a glimpse into the future of photon-based key distribution via satellite: "It is conceivable that billions of keys will be distributed via satellites in the future to ensure the security of the quantum world." In the next few years, hundreds of satellites equipped with photon transmission modules will reach orbit.

Quantum technology explained simply

At the event, Harald A. Summa gave a cursory overview of the diverse research and development activities in the field of quantum technology. Matthias Reidans succeeded in making the physical principles particularly easy to understand for the participants by drawing a comparison between quantum computing and the recording and playback of information on a traditional record - analog instead of digital. To the amazement of many of those present, the expert from Rosenberger-OSI explained that today's quantum computers use similar functional mechanisms in the "handling" of wave information and can deal with "fuzziness" as a quantum computer. The participants learned that precise quantum computers are still a long way off. However, people around the world are working hard to "focus" computing results and develop suitable programming languages.

Whether everyone present really understood what Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Schrödinger's cat (which, for reasons of political correctness, should no longer be associated with an accidental death for the good of science), quantum entanglement, wave functions, strong parallelization or Planck's constant (the physically smallest length) have to do with each other and why quantum computers work faster than the speed of light, remains to be seen. Nor is it necessary to understand the implications.

Ion trap you can touch

In addition to the quantum chip, there was another hands-on technology on the evening: An ion trap brought along by Matthias Reidans from the ambitious Siegen-based quantum computer forge "eleQtron" wandered from hand to hand. The trap is used to collect and manipulate ions so that they can function as qubits in quantum chips. "Quantum computers reach their decisive performance level from around 1,000 functional, i.e. logical, controllable qubits," said the Rosenberger-OSI expert. He continued: "The 'quantum advantage' will then make its unstoppable way and suddenly burn itself into the consciousness of the digital society."

Quantum computing at room temperature

"Don't quantum computers only work in extremely cold environments?" the managing director of a data center wanted to know, something many people had already heard about. The answer astounded many of those present: "You can already buy a quantum computer that works at room temperature," clarified quantum technology expert Matthias Reidans. He added: "You can put it into operation in an ordinary data center in the usual 19-inch format". The Innsbruck-based company Alpine Quantum Technologies prefers to design such systems with low operating requirements. 

Many industries affected

During the evening, the speakers made it clear that numerous industries will be affected by the emergence of quantum technology from research and development laboratories and its penetration into the economy. These include, for example, the energy sector, environmental and climate protection, finance, industry, chemicals, logistics and traffic control and, above all, the application area of artificial intelligence. The combination of AI and quantum computing results in performance boosts that are still difficult to imagine today, some of whose effects can only be guessed at.

Quantum sensor technology in medicine

At this historic event for many participants, it also became clear that quantum technology means much more than just dealing with quantum computers. This technology also enables a quantum leap in sensor technology in the truest sense of the word. For example, the computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods commonly used today to look inside the human body will be replaced in future by quantum sensor methods, which will enable much better and therefore more meaningful imaging.

Conclusion: time is of the essence

Quantum computers will not replace conventional computers "overnight", but they will complement them very quickly. To prepare for this, the infrastructure - data centers and transmission paths - must be adapted now. It is high time to make data stocks and transmissions quantum-resistant. When the "quantum advantage" threshold is reached, which will significantly overtake conventional computer systems in terms of performance, data and data transmissions that have been securely encrypted up to now will be exposed. Quantum technology, with its almost unpredictable performance potential, will usher in a new era in many areas beyond computing, such as medicine. A new quantum economy with multiple positive effects is just beginning to emerge. With Quantum Leap, the Diplomatic Council is bringing together the key players who want to help shape and benefit from the quantum economy.

How to participate in Quantum Leap

Companies that want to get involved in the Quantum Leap initiative can register via the following link: