POLIQI: POLItecnico di Milano Quantum Infrastructure
Agreement signed to create the first quantic communication network
A partnership agreement has been signed between the Politecnico di Milano, the Lombardy Region, ARIA (Regional Agency for Innovation and Procurement), Intesa Sanpaolo and the Italian Army's 1st Transmissions Regiment: the main objective is to create a post-quantum ultra-secure network (i.e., a network that is secure even after the arrival of quantum computers) in Milan, the first city in the world to do so. This quantic communication network, called POLIQI, will make it possible to experiment with the most advanced technologies for data transmission and cyber-security.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Ferruccio Resta, Rector of Politecnico di Milano; Fabrizio Sala, Regional Councillor for University Education, Research, Innovation and Simplification of the Lombardy Region; Colonel Valerio Golino, Commander of the Italian Army’s 1st Transmissions Regiment; Lorenzo Gubian, General Manager of ARIA SpA; and Fabio Ugoste, Manager of the Central Cyber Security and Business Continuity Management Department at Intesa Sanpaolo.
Last March, the Politecnico di Milano and the Lombardy Region signed an agreement by which they committed to create, under a co-financing arrangement, a network for the exchange of “quantic keys” based on 5 nodes distributed within the urban fabric of Milan using fibre optic cables already installed in the city as the channel of communication. This is the very first time that a veritable network of quantum communication, and not simply point-to-point transmission, has been created. Three of the network’s five nodes will be physically located at Intesa Sanpaolo, the Caserma Santa Barbara Barracks, headquarters of the 1st Transmissions Regiment, and the Lombardy Region’s Regional Agency for Innovation and Procurement. The other two nodes will be located in the Politecnico di Milano’s Leonardo and Bovisa Campuses.
Mario Martinelli, Professor in Optical Communications at the Politecnico di Milano and the project’s scientific coordinator, explained:
The POLIQI network and the innovative quantum nodes that allow it to be created were fully designed by the Politecnico di Milano (which has already filed two patents to protect them) and will be made in collaboration with national technological partners, many based in Lombardy. This is the concrete response to the rise in the level of threat to sensitive data that is taking place in all strategic sectors of the economy and society. The post-quantum experiments – to be made possible through the active participation of the three partners with which the agreement was signed today – will lay the foundations for increasing digital security throughout the country.
This Agreement falls within the scope of the Lombardy Region’s “Programme of interventions for economic recovery: development of new partnership agreements with universities for research, innovation and technological transfer”.
Hacker attacks are increasingly frequent, against both institutions and the productive sector; investing in tools that can put the territory in the best possible condition to protect itself is a priority for us. In fact, this project will make it possible to develop and experiment with the most advanced security technologies for data transfer applications in financial, administrative, healthcare and intelligence contexts
affirmed councillor Fabrizio Sala.
The new network will use the BB84 cryptography protocol, which is based on the transmission of single photons, the elementary particles of light, and information coding that takes advantage of the quantum principle of the superposition of states (in this specific case, the states of polarisation possessed by the photon). Security from all interceptions will therefore be based on physical principles and as such it will be “unconditionally” secure, a term which means that no present or future computing power will ever be able to “open” the code created using this protocol.
The BB84 protocol has been becoming more important over recent years, precisely because it represents a response to the threat against conventional cryptography (based on mathematical algorithms) that will be posed by the extraordinary computing power that will soon be possessed by “quantum computers”.