To Quantum and Beyond

Defining Singapore’s nascent quantum communications industry, Mr Chune Yang Lum, CEO & Co-founder of SpeQtral, explains how his startup is preparing for the quantum computing revolution by testing it in space.

CEO and Co-Founder of SpeQtral, Mr Chune Yang Lum.


Quantum computing is a game-changing technology that weds the most mystifying subject in all the sciences (quantum mechanics) with the most impactful force in the industry today – computing.


However, this is one side of the coin as quantum computers also introduce cyber threats. For data communications requiring the highest security, such as in government communications, power grids, datacentres, and financial institutions, steps must be taken immediately to mitigate this risk.


This is where the next-generation model of secure communication comes in: quantum communications.


Enter SpeQtral: a Singapore-based startup developing a satellite-based Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system for quantum communications and cybersecurity.


Mr Chune Yang Lum, CEO & Co-founder of SpeQtral, highlights that understanding and implementing QKD is as essential as advancing quantum computing technologies.


He said, “The emergence of quantum computers will spur breakthroughs that impact various industries, from pharmaceuticals to advanced materials. It would be a matter of time before such technology is used for malicious activities.”


“At SpeQtral, we have made it our mission to deliver tamper-proof and computationally uncrackable encryption keys for security against present and future advances in computing.”


Mr Lum explained that generating these keys involves using the quantum properties of light particles known as photons.


“If an eavesdropper attempts to intercept these photons between the sender and the recipient, the quantum properties would be disrupted, and the parties would know that the key distribution has been compromised.”


Going Beyond the Limitations of Earth


Today’s internet already uses photons to carry data through optical fibres, he added. “QKD can be implemented on existing optical fibre infrastructure, but it is typically limited to about 50 to 100 kilometres due to optical losses.”


“So, for example, if you want to send keys between Singapore and its embassy in the United Kingdom, there is no practical method to perform QKD via the undersea fibre optic network between these two nodes. And hence, we looked beyond earth.”


Formerly from the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), some of SpeQtral’s staff were part of the core team that launched a nanosatellite ‘SpooQy-1’ in 2019. They tested QKD capabilities that include demonstrating ‘quantum entanglement in space.


Mr Lum said, “The objective may be simple, but it is challenging to control and maintain quantum states in space.”


Testing in that environment involves surviving challenges such as vibrations from the rocket launch and temperature fluctuations. The next step would be to test the transmission of quantum communication signals between the satellite and ground stations.”

SpooQy-1 is a 30x10x10-centimetre nanosatellite weighing 2.6 kilograms. It acts as a precursor to future satellite-to-ground QKD missions and capabilities. Since the launch, SpeQtral has assisted in the operations of the satellite alongside CQT.


SpeQtral is now working towards sharing QKD keys across the globe between multiple nodes. This next phase is essential for the industry. It demonstrates potential commercial capabilities so that users can plan to integrate such technology into their communication networks.


Collaboration that Drives Innovation


Mr Lum highlighted that quantum technology is a relatively young field from a commercial standpoint. He underscored that CQT is primed to develop new quantum technologies, given its extensive R&D experience in this field since 2007.


“Singapore already has an early start in the quantum arena as CQT has been nurturing researchers in this emerging field for a long time. Building up the local expertise in this field and continuing to attract top talents should be a priority to remain competitive in the global commercial landscape.”


He shared that it is also essential that like-minded players in the industry come together and find synergies to develop different innovations, which advances the quantum technologies industry.


Mr Lum also added that SpeQtral had partnered with Japan-headquartered Toshiba Digital Solutions Corporation, which would promote reliable and ultra-secure quantum cryptography solutions to government agencies and companies in Southeast Asia.”


“We are firm believers in collaboration. While SpeQtral already has a few ongoing initiatives, we are always open to further collaboration opportunities. This spirit of innovation is what drives SpeQtral. It is a vital ingredient for Singapore to position itself in the global market,” said Mr Lum.


“Our vision is that satellite-based QKD would serve as the backbone of the global quantum-secure communication infrastructure. This bridges intercontinental distances and connects local fibre-based QKD networks in various metropolitan areas.”


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