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Army Quantum Technology Challenge 2022

14 October 2021
Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 promo image

The Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 (QTC22) has been released (see Call for Submissions 22266). Its Demonstration Day has been scheduled for 11 August 2022 and will be held in conjunction with the Army Innovation Day and the Chief of Army’s Symposium at the Adelaide Convention Centre.  The Challenge themes are:

  • Locating electromagnetic emitters in the battlespace: Can quantum sensors detect, locate and identify electromagnetic emitters with greater precision, range and bandwidth, whilst reducing (or at least not increasing) detector size, weight and power?
  • Identifying threats and critical information in signals and images: Can quantum computers identify and classify features in signals and images more precisely and efficiently?
  • Securing our communications against quantum computers: Can post-quantum cryptography be practically employed to secure communications from the growing threat of quantum computers?

QTC22 is the second iteration of the new annual series of Quantum Technology Challenges (see the QTC21 problems and solutions, and the video of the QTC21 Demonstration Day).

The Challenges see teams of Australia’s world-leading quantum scientists and engineers competing to show how quantum technologies can solve important Army problems and deliver unprecedented capabilities. Teams undergo an initial selection process. After which, the selected teams are awarded seed funding and have ~6 months to develop their solutions before demonstrating and pitching them at the Demonstration Day. The pitches and demonstrations are evaluated on Demonstration Day by an expert panel, drawn from across Defence and industry. The top-ranked teams are then invited to submit proposals for the further development and evaluation of their solution over the subsequent 1-2 years.

The Challenges are the flagship of Army’s Quantum Technology Roadmap, The Roadmap is Army’s plan to leverage Australia’s national strategic strength in quantum technology research, its emerging quantum industry and cooperation with aligned nations, to gain and retain an early quantum advantage. The key objectives of the Roadmap that the Challenges address are the:

  • stimulation of an innovation ecosystem that is focussed on the development and application of quantum technologies in land operations
  • rapid identification of the most disruptive and advantageous applications of quantum technologies in the land domain before competitors.

The Challenges achieve this by enabling Army to:

  • issue challenges that test specific hypotheses of quantum technology applications in land operations
  • provide forums for the generation of new ideas and the critical discussion of quantum technology applications in land operations
  • establish networks and mutual understanding with Australia’s quantum technology research and industry community
  • assess the abilities of participating teams and their suitability for future Army quantum technology projects.

The benefits to participating teams are:

  • seed funding and the chance to win further funding to pursue their innovative ideas
  • catalysis of partnerships between quantum industry, research and defence industry  
  • new networks in Defence and a tangible track record to create and pursue opportunities with Defence and broader industry.

So, if you are a quantum company, researcher or defence company, team up and invent a solution to the QTC22 challenges. Be sure to respond to the Call for Submissions. Be bold!

Read on if you wish to know more about the QTC22 themes and their respective challenges.

Theme 1: locating electromagnetic emitters in the battlespace

Friendly and enemy forces use electromagnetic emissions for a variety purposes, including communications (i.e. radio), detection and targeting (i.e. radar) and control of robotic and autonomous systems (i.e. UXVs). Consequently, locating and identifying enemy electromagnetic emitters is a key resource for Army intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting. But, this is becoming increasingly challenging for a variety of reasons, including the rapidly growing density and diversity of emitters in the battlespace, countermeasures to existing means of detection, and the increasing range of communications, weapons and targeting systems. Thus, Army is seeking technologies that can detect electromagnetic emitters with greater precision, range and bandwidth, whilst reducing (or at least not increasing) the burden of detection (e.g. detector size, weight, power, consumables and cost).

Current electromagnetic emitters typically emit radio- or micro- waves. The emissions are generally intermittent, vary in pulse length and may hop between frequency bands. Current locating methods generally employ a network of listening stations that contain collectors (i.e. antennas, amplifiers etc) and detectors. Measurements of the time of arrival and amplitude of an emission at each station can be used to estimate the location of its emitter. Measurements of other signal characteristics, such as frequency, pulse length and their variation, can be used to identify the emitter. Thus, the key metrics for detectors in the stations is their bandwidth and how precisely they can measure the time of arrival, amplitude, frequency and duration of signals.

Your challenge is to demonstrate a quantum sensor that has the potential to be employed as a detector for locating and identifying electromagnetic emitters in the battlespace. How precisely can your sensor detect the time of arrival, amplitude, frequency and duration of radio- and/ or micro-wave pulses? What is the bandwidth of your sensor? What advantages does it offer over existing technologies?

Theme 2: identifying threats and critical information in signals and images

The number, diversity and sophistication of sensing and imaging systems in land forces are growing dramatically. The efficient and precise identification and classification of features in the volumes of data they yield is critical to the greater employment of robotic and autonomous systems, improvement of intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting, and acceleration of human and augmented decision making in Army. The problem is that the implementation of current signal/ image processing and machine learning methods demand significant classical computing resources. Thus, either limiting the accuracy and precision that can be obtained in a given task or how close the task can be performed to the sensor (i.e. at the network edge). The latter is important to enhancing the resiliency and performance of communication networks by minimising transmission of unfiltered data. The recent DST Group led Quantum Computing: in focus event highlighted significant opportunity in this area for quantum computing and Army wishes to explore its application. 

Your challenge is to demonstrate how a quantum computer can more precisely identify and/ or classify features in signals and/ or images than a classical computer (of similar size, weight and power) in the same amount of computing time. Use simple examples to perform your demonstration and extrapolate to problem scales that are more relevant to Army’s uses. Make reasonable estimates of the size, weight, power and operation times of the classical and quantum computing hardware required to perform the computations at scale.

Theme 3: securing our communications against quantum computers

Via Shor’s algorithm, large-scale quantum computers will pose a threat to many widely used public key cryptosystems by providing an efficient means to factor semi-prime numbers. In the future, yet to be discovered quantum algorithms may also provide efficient means to attack other cryptosystems, including those employed by militaries. Given that there is significant uncertainty in the time until such large-scale quantum computers and new quantum algorithms are developed, it is critical for Army to begin to understand how to secure its communication systems against quantum computers. In particular, the key considerations, constraints and limitations of the new technologies required for this security.

Post-quantum cryptography methods are highly attractive because they employ classical communications hardware, and so are likely to be more practical, scalable and nearer-term than quantum communications technologies. Leading methods include the round 3 finalists of the NIST Post-Quantum Cryptography Standardisation process. However, post-quantum cryptography methods will likely require upgrades to the current classical communications infrastructure due to their expected reduction in software efficiency. It is currently not clear how substantial these upgrades will need to be, what new constraints and limitations they will introduce, and what degree of security against current and future threats they will provide.

Your challenge is to demonstrate the implementation of one or more of the round 3 finalists of the NIST standardisation process to secure a simple communications network. Use your demonstration to identify the key considerations, constraints and limitations of the methods and the requirements they place on the classical communications hardware.

The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.

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