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Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 (QTC2022)
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Quantum technologies exploit the fundamental laws of nature to reach the ultimate limits of sensing, imaging, communications and computing. They are diverse, complex, and generally early in technical readiness and demand new ways of thinking about the employment and exploitation of technology. Their true capabilities, limitations and most disruptive applications are still being discovered. This combination of disruptive potential, ambiguity and complexity presents both strategic risks and opportunities to land forces. As a result, the Australian Army finds itself in an accelerating global competition to understand, co-develop and exploit quantum technologies in land operations.
The emergence of quantum technology is part of a larger transformation of warfare, where geopolitics, demographics and technology are driving changes in the character of warfare at a rate faster than which many of Army’s processes, concepts, capabilities and structures are designed. Army has termed this change Accelerated Warfare and has mounted the strategic response: Army in Motion. Army has identified that the emergence of quantum technologies will impact two of the major technological drivers of Accelerated Warfare: robotics and autonomous systems, and cyber and information warfare.
In response, Army released the Army Quantum Technology Roadmap. The Roadmap articulates 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 Department of Defence via the Australian Army and the Land Capability Division (Defence) is seeking proposals that will demonstrate solutions to The Challenge (defined below) at the Quantum Technology Challenge 2022 (QTC2022), tentatively scheduled to be held on 11 August 2022 at the Adelaide Convention Centre. This date and location may change in response to COVID-19 travel restrictions and Defence suitability requirements.
In this Challenge, Defence wishes to test if:
- quantum sensors can detect, locate and identify electromagnetic emitters with greater precision, range and bandwidth, whilst reducing (or at least not increasing) detector size, weight and power
- quantum computers can identify and classify features in signals and images more precisely and efficiently
- post-quantum cryptography can be practically employed to secure communications from the threat of quantum computers.
The following three sub-themes define specific examples of the above in land operations. These examples have been chosen because they are both sufficiently specific and tangible for respondents to make appropriate assumptions and produce meaningful results, whilst also being generalisable to other situations and tasks in land operations.
Proposals must directly address one of the sub-themes.
Sub-theme 1: locating electromagnetic emitters in the battlespace
Context: 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.
Task: Your objective 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?
Sub-theme 2: identifying threats and critical information in signals and images
Context: 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.
Task: Your objective 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.
Sub-theme 3: securing our communications against quantum computers
Context: 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.
Task: Your objective 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.
Overview of CFS Process
Important: Please note that this is an overview only. Full details of the CFS process are set out in the CFS Terms and the Deed of Participation.
The CFS competitive selection process is as follows:
- Applicants are to submit a short written proposal using the format dictated in Annex A. Proposals that do not adhere to this format may not be considered.
- After assessing the written proposals, Defence may select a shortlist of applicants to progress to interview.
- In the interview, applicants will pitch their proposal and discuss it with Defence representatives. An indication of how the interviews will be conducted is contained in Annex B. Applicants who are not available for interview during the nominated period may not be considered further.
- Following the interviews: Defence may select approximately six proposals and invite them to enter into a simple contract arrangement to enable the selected applicants to demonstrate their solution and deliver a solution report, presentation and pitch at QTC2022 on a funded basis. The requirements of the demonstration, report and presentation are detailed in Annex C.
- Defence acknowledges the low technical readiness of some quantum technologies, and is therefore amenable to demonstrations that primarily use simulation and/or early prototype devices in simulated environments.
Potential applicants are encouraged to respond to this CFS only if their solution can reasonably be expected to be ready for demonstration at QTC2022. Where this is not the case, an innovation submission can be made through the Defence Innovation Hub (DIH) portal as an unsolicited innovation proposal - Priority Innovation Notice at the following link: https://www.innovationhub.defence.gov.au/call-for-submissions/. Proposals submitted through this method at the DIH are less time constrained than time sensitive QTC2022 submissions.
You must submit a response to this CFS using (AusTender reference 22266) on AusTender by 12:00 noon (local time in the Australian Capital Territory) on Tuesday 22 November 2021 Technical Readiness Levels
Defence may consider proposals based on technologies that are immature i.e. at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 3-4, or mature technologies which are applied in new initiatives through quantum Proposals based upon technologies above TRL 5 will not be assessed in accordance with Clause 3.4(k) of the CFS Terms. Defence is particularly seeking proposals based upon technologies that, with appropriate funding, can be progressed to TRL 5-6 within 12 to 15 months following the QTC2022. However, this is not a requirement for application.
The Call for Submissions (CFS) competitive selection process is as follows:
a. Applicants are to submit a short written proposal in response to the requirements outlined in the Challenge Statement;
b. After assessing the written proposals, Defence may select a shortlist of applicants to progress to interview;
c. In the interview, applicants may pitch their proposal and discuss it with Defence representatives;
d. Following the interviews, Defence may select approximately six applicants and invite them to enter into a simple contract (AUSDEFCON Short Services) for them to provide a concept demonstration of their solution, to deliver a solution report and to participate in a question and answer session on their proposal at QTC2022, on a funded basis; Further detail on the process is available in the Challenge Statement and Deed of Participation.
Submissions are open to Australian permanent residents or citizens only, who must hold an ABN.
By making a submission, you acknowledge that if you are successful, you will be required to agree to terms and conditions that govern the QTC2022 event. As part of your response to the CFS you will be procured to attend and participate in the QTC2022 event. These terms have the following key features:
a. you must not materially alter your proposed Quantum Technology concept from that described in your submission;
b. you will attend and participate in the QTC2022 event at your own risk;
c. of any funding provided by Defence under contract for QTC2022, no more than $5,000 including GST may be spent on event attendance costs;
d. you will be required to attend event briefings and comply with all Defence safety and security requirements;
e. you will be required to obtain, at your own cost, all necessary approvals, licences or permits required to attend the QTC2022 event before the date you will be expected to participate in QTC2022;
f. you must fully disclose to Defence if any technology or equipment includes problematic substances, problematic sources or dangerous equipment or material before any such equipment is brought to the QTC2022 event;
g. you will be responsible for removing all equipment, technology, rubbish and other items you bring after the completion of your involvement in the QTC2022 event; and
h. you will be required to participate in the QTC2022 event in a co-operative and collaborative manner and to comply with all reasonable directions given by Defence in relation to QTC2022. Participants must not act in a manner that would bring Defence into disrepute.
Under contract from Dec 2021 for all deliverables complete at the QTC2022, likely August 2022.