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Quantum Random Number Generators: cheaper, faster and more secure

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - QRANGE (Quantum Random Number Generators: cheaper, faster and more secure)

Reporting period: 2020-04-01 to 2022-03-31

Random numbers play a crucial role in many applications, in particular in cryptography, games and computer simulations. It is of fundamental importance that they are truly unpredictable, as any deviation may adversely affect modelling or jeopardise security. Notably, recent breaches of cryptographic protocols have exploited weaknesses in the random number generation.
In this context, schemes exploiting the inherent randomness of quantum physics have been investigated and quantum random number generators (QRNG) were commercially available before the project started. However, QRANGE has pushed the QRNG technology even further, allowing for a wide range of commercial applications.
We targeted the development of three different prototypes, which are cheaper, faster and more secure than existing devices: a) A fully integrated low-cost QRNG based on standard CMOS technology with a target cost of the order of 1€ for large-scale production. b) A high-speed phase-diffusion scheme (based on the interference of laser pulses with random phases) with bit rates of up to 10Gb/s. c) A self-testing QRNG, which allows for a continuous estimation of the generated entropy, with few assumptions on the devices. Moreover, we made a considerable theoretical effort for modelling the devices, designing efficient randomness extractors and studying new semi device-independent concepts. Finally, we worked with the relevant institutions towards a certification scheme of QRNG devices compliant with the highest security standards.
QRANGE addressed many key points of the Quantum Technologies Flagship and is aligned with its objectives, taking quantum technologies from the laboratory to industry, with concrete prototype applications and products.
The conclusions are the following:
• QRNGs can be integrated in a wide spectrum of use cases, taking advantage of testable security and high random bit rates.
• The security of QRNGs is based on a physical modelling based on first principles. The prototypes developed are basically certification-ready by design and exhibit high-quality entropy sources.
• The ITU-T recommendation X.1702 is the first standard world-wide on QRNG entropy source architecture.
• Optical QRNGs show a significant potential for cost and size reductions, which will give the technology a significant share of the RNG market within this decade.
• Self-testing QRNG concepts allow to prove a certain level of entropy generation in real time, a method which is not accessible to non-quantum RNGs.
• Fast QRNGs beyond GB/s bit generation rate are technically feasible, show potential for cost and size reduction, and constitute important technology for HPC and QKD use cases.
• Theoretical improvements of the entropy source architecture and design are still possible. They increase the security and simplify the implementation by relaxing the constraints in the security proofs.
• Randomness extraction can be optimised by adapting the existing methods to quantum entropy sources.
The main goal of QRANGE was to produce prototypes, which can be used in practice in different applications. In the first half of the project we specified the applications, use-cases and markets for the three different types of QRNG being developed. We also made significant contributions to certification framework in collaboration with entities like the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector and the BSI (German Federal Office for Information Security). These are important steps for developing standards and classification schemes that recognise the conceptual difference of QRNG compared to other RNGs, and to facilitate their market uptake.
A use-case includes a QRNG to augment the security of IoT devices – exploiting the compact low-cost devices that we are developing. We also developed high-speed systems, which are of particular interest for high-performance computing (HPC) – these have been successfully tested in the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre as well as by the HPC in Galicia. This QRNG was also integrated into a quantum key distribution (QKD) system that was being developed in the quantum flagship project Civiq, showing the great potential for QRNGs in a wide range of security scenarios. Indeed, we developed QRNGs that are capable of “self-testing”, that is, they monitor their own behaviour and if this doesn’t meet certain criteria, either due to component failure or possibly hacking, then there is a warning and the secure system is not compromised.
Throughout the project there has been an effort to reach out to different groups that might be interested in QRNGs. These range from talks and exhibitions such the Mobile World Congress, one of the largest mobile industry and technology events in the world. Videos of some of this can be found on the Quantum Flagship’s media channels with some being viewed over 80,000 times. The project was also featured in a special on the EuroNews platform that was translated into 9 languages.
The QRANGE project brought together a mix of academics, small and large industries. Apart from presenting our results at over 60 conferences and workshops, there were also several schools addressing a broad spectrum of participants. One of the bonuses of the publicly available documentation provides in-depth discussions and explanations of the quantum advantage in a technical way without heavy jargon. The commercial partners can use the public deliverables as a basis to create marketing content, or as has already been done, to train a company’s business development unit.
QRANGE is aligned with the QT Flagship’s vision of scientific leadership, competitive quantum industry and making Europe a dynamic and attractive region for innovative research, business and investments in QT. Indeed, our results on different levels are significantly beyond the state of the art:
Economic and industrial impact: The systematic understanding of use-cases and the progress in standardisation of QRNG mean a true value for the commercial exploitation of this technology. We believe that our activities will lead to a higher acceptance of QRNGs after the end of the project. It will extend the current market share of QRNGs by increasing the awareness and the acceptance of this technology.
Technical innovation: The QRNG chip will eventually result in the world’s first fully integrated QRNG chip for the mass market. The high-speed QRNG prototype is the world’s first industrialised quantum entropy source with multi Gbit/s throughput. Finally, the promising self-testing quantum QRNG implemented in an integrated circuit is currently tested and eventually could significantly reduce the cost of the devices and facilitate large scale production. In summary, we are confident that the developed and industrialised QRNG products will be able to compete on the RNG market.
Theoretical concepts: The theorists in this project have a double role. On the one hand, they work on next-generation concepts to optimise QRNGs to improve their functionality, the security, or reduce the complexity. In this area, we saw progress in optimising self-testing and device-independent schemes. On the other hand, current implementations are supported with more detailed modelling and understanding of the fundamental difference between classical and quantum RNGs. With this the circle is closed, as this leads to strong arguments for the dialogue with (future) business partners, standardisation institutes and other stakeholders.
QRANGE developed test module for quantum random number generators (QRNG).