ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry to develop a hybrid quantum-classical communication network to enable quantum enhancements to information security and covertness on today’s classical military networks.
Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., released a broad agency announcement on Monday (HR001123S0035) for the Quantum Augmented Network (QuANET) project.
The QuANET program seeks to augment existing software infrastructure and networking protocols with quantum properties to mitigate some of the attack vectors that are pervasive on classical (non-quantum) networks.
QuANET will develop a hybrid quantum-classical communication networking that readily will accept quantum enhancements to security and covertness on today’s classical networks. Quantum computing harnesses the phenomena of quantum mechanics to deliver a huge leap forward in computation to solve certain problems.
All digital communications today use a network stack with layered software protocols: the higher layers are closer to applications on computers and servers, while the bottom layers are closer to the network cables.
State-of-the-art networks commonly rely on security at the top layers of the stack, assuming that this security also mitigates potential attacks on lower-layers. Unfortunately, advanced persistent threat attacks are defeating many of these capabilities, and are increasing cyber defense costs.
The QuANET program seeks to augment existing software infrastructure and networking protocols with quantum properties to mitigate these attack vectors by blending existing quantum communications capabilities into networks operating today in military and critical infrastructure.
Quantum information must co-exist with classical information using quantum-time synchronization augmenting clock synchronization tasks and time-of-flight tests; quantum sensing and metrology to augment situational awareness around message propagation; and embedding of classical information into quantum systems to mitigate information theft and data corruption.
QuANET seeks to create is an environmentally hardened configurable network interface card that connects quantum links with classical computing nodes to extend capabilities already available in classical networks.
The initial design of QuANET will focus on integrating current quantum capabilities into classical infrastructure, and seeks solutions for networks that scale up to the size of a metropolitan area network (MAN).
DARPA’s QuANET is a 51-month four-phase program. Phase 0 is three months and focuses on designing quantum-network interface cards (qNICs). Phase one is 18 months and focuses on building the qNIC and prototype data stream. Phase two is 18 months, and focuses on integrating data stream and topological augmentation capabilities with the fabricated qNIC using fiber optic networks. Phase three is 12 months and focuses on scalability of fiber-optic quantum-augmented networks and the initial design for over-air link extensions.
The project has four technical areas: quantum networking interface card; data stream quantum augmentation; topological quantum augmentation; and providing an integration testbed and test and evaluation team.
The quantum network interface card will focus on ruggedizing and shrinking a quantum network interface card (qNIC) that connects quantum links with classical computing nodes; sending and receiving quantum information, timing, sensing, and classical information.
Data stream quantum augmentation will build algorithms, protocols, and software infrastructure that use quantum timing and sensing information to augment classical information.
Topological quantum augmentation will build algorithms, protocols, and software to integrate quantum secure communication links into a mostly classical network running TCP/IP.
The integration testbed and test and evaluation team will consist of government partners who will provide an integration testbed and a separate test and evaluation team to provide a classical network infrastructure and quantum links.
Companies interested should upload abstracts to the DARPA BAA website at https://baa.darpa.mil no later than 25 May 2023. Upload full proposals to the DARPA BAA website at https://baa.darpa.mil no later than 7 July 2023. DARPA briefed industry on the QuANET program on 11 May.
Email questions or concerns to DARPA at [email protected]. More information is online at https://sam.gov/opp/60917f7ea74845bf8f6aaa1382813f86/view.