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  • Weekly Takeaways-December 19,2023

    Theme of the Week The Big 5-0 Happy Birthday GPS! Fifty years ago, GPS was born and our modern world changed forever.It was a bumpy road at first, but today there is no doubt of the value it has brought society: GPS has spawned nearly $2 trillion dollars of economic benefit and a half trillion dollars a year of revenue for over 700 companies, providing position and timing to 8 billion GPS receivers, one for every human on Earth.GPS was originally envisioned as a military program designed “to drop five bombs in the same hole.”But there was an interesting side effect that no one anticipated in 1973 – the rise of digital communications that needed precision timing. Synchronous optical networks (SONET) protocols were invented in the mid-1980s as a way to use lasers and fiber optics to move lots of data – but, as the name suggest, it needs synchronization.GPS was the only game in town.Since then, the precious timing signal provided by GPS enabled data, communication, and financial networks.But its success was also holding back the improvement needed for future applications like 6G, trusted financial transactions, the quantum internet, and efficient data centers and power grids.When GPS was first developed, there wasn't the extensive terrestrial infrastructure that could provide timing distribution and satellite systems were prohibitively expensive.Today there are over a four billion kilometers of installed fiber optics and 1 billion cell sites globally, and the cost of access to space has dropped two orders of magnitude.Fifty years on, GPS is more valuable than ever - but the newer generation is coming. Last Week's Theme: The Lonely Halls Meeting Industry News Russia is starting to exert its electronics warfare (EW) advantage against Ukraine: "Ukraine discovered in March that its Excalibur GPS-guided shells suddenly started going off-target, thanks to Russian jamming. Something similar started happening to the JDAM-ER guided bombs...while Ukraine’s HIMARS-launched GMLRS long-range rockets also started missing their targets." And drone "losses to Russian EW, which either scrambles their guidance systems or jams their radio-control links with their operators, have at times been running at over 2,000 a week. The smitten drones hover aimlessly until their batteries run out and they fall to the ground." The UK Risk Register added the Loss of Positioning Navigation and Timing (PNT) Services as a significant national risk, noting that: “A loss of PNT services, either due to technological failures or malicious activity, would have catastrophic and cascading effects across the UK and globally." Space monitoring startup LeoLabs claims that Russia and China "seem to be timing potentially threatening on-orbit activities to coincide with US holidays — presumably when fewer American skywatchers are actually looking." The biggest solar flare since 2017 hit the Earth last week triggering “a shortwave radio blackout over Central and South America” and “likely one of the largest solar radio events ever recorded.” The increase in solar activity could impact power grids, networks, satellites – and birds. A recent study suggests that “space weather, including solar storms, can impact Earth by disturbing the geomagnetic field," disrupting nocturnal bird migration. The threats from space aren't just coming from solar storms and gamma rays - there are also cosmic rays. Scientists “detected an ultrahigh-energy cosmic ray with an “energy level of approximately 244 exa-electron volts” that “is approximately one million times higher than what the most powerful human-made particle accelerators can produce.” NASA recently broke their record for long distance optical (laser) communications from the Psyche spacecraft by transmitting valuable data over 19 million miles - a video of a cat named Taters. Conferences GeoBuiz 2024, January 9 - 11, Monterey, California Photonics West, January 27 - February 1, San Francisco, California Q2B Paris, March 7 - 8, Paris, France Satellite 2024, March 18 - 21, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 8 - 11, Colorado Springs, Colorado Quantum.Tech, April 24 – 26 2024, Washington D.C. Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, May 7 - 9, San Diego, California ETSI/IQC Quantum Safe Cryptography Conference, May 14 - 16, Singapore European Navigation Conference, May 21 - 24 , Noordwijk, Netherlands The More You Know... As GPS passes the half century mark (some credit the “Lonely Halls” meeting on Labor Day 1973 as the birth date, but the official date is the December 17 program approval) you can check out this “GPS at 50” timeline.There are actually two other important dates in the GPS story: September 1, 1983, the downing of a Korean Air Lines flight by Soviet missiles after drifting into prohibited airspace, and May 1, 2000, when the intentional degradation of the GPS signal for civilian users was turned off.These two events opened GPS up to the wider world.But there is a dark side: we are now way too over-dependent on a signal that is trivially easy to jam or spoof."Receiving signals from satellites 20,000 km above Earth is challenging. First, the path loss in receiving signals over that distance requires extremely sensitive receivers, typically to –150 dBm sensitivity, and good antenna placement...By comparison, a smartphone’s receiver usually operates with a signal strength down to –120 dBm, or 1,000× stronger than a GNSS signal."

  • Weekly Takeaways-November 22,2023

    Theme of the Week The Lonely Halls Meeting Over Labor Day 1973 a small group of scientists convened at the now-famous “Lonely Halls” meeting and gave birth to a revolution. Their initial mission - figure out a way “to drop five bombs in the same hole” - led to GPS, a system that is now critical to our modern lives and spawned trillions of dollars of economic benefit. But, hard to believe now, it initially met resistance: “The Air Force never fully backed this system. They wanted it their way, but they didn’t want to pay for it… They were not happy.” So they leveraged the resources that they could muster, putting their careers at risk in the process, working their “way through the morass of “no” logs that they tended to throw in our path.” But their perseverance paid off: “By 1978, the concept was established, and the test results rolled in over the next two years and confirmed our claim of ten meter.” It worked too well, in fact. “The DOD, in its great wisdom, elected to deliberately perturb the satellite timing in a way that makes the ranging accuracy for a civil user less than it can be.” Today, a half century later, we are at a similar crossroad. GPS has become so valuable – and so pervasive – that it represents a single point of failure for modern society. But, ironically, that success has stunted new development. There is a need for something new, leveraging modern technology, to take the “bullseye off of GPS” and build off its success. What is needed is another Lonely Halls meeting. “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.” Last Week's Theme: As the World Turns Industry News Air taxi trials are rolling out in New York and other cities, raising concerns about their ability to navigate safely. JammerTest 2023 was completed by Norwegian and other authorities “to assess the impact of jamming and spoofing on satellite navigation systems” with a focus on spoofing. Over two decades ago US officials warned of a “Space Pearl Harbor.” But these concerns are growing based on China’s anti-satellite capabilities which include “dual-use spacecraft capable of rendezvous and proximity operations” that “could yield about 200 rendezvous spacecraft capable of forcibly docking and disabling U.S. critical satellites as early as 2026.” US officials are also concerned about satellite vulnerability to “advanced jamming techniques and illegal satellite uplinks. Our operations are hindered by compromised communication integrity and potential data breaches.” As the sun gets more active, spawning brilliant northern lights and sunspots fifteen times wider than Earth, scientists are working to “better understand increased solar activity that could potentially cause an “internet apocalypse”” And it isn’t just our sun we have to worry about – even a star two billion light years away can wreak havoc: “A powerful blast of gamma-rays that may have been the most powerful cosmic explosion since the Big Bang caused significant disturbance around Earth when it struck our planet.” NASA recently completed the longest optical communications link in history when it “beamed a near-infrared laser encoded with test data from nearly 10 million miles (16 million kilometers) away – about 40 times farther than the Moon is from Earth” between Earth and the Psyche satellite. The More You Know... One of the challenges coming out of the Lonely Halls meeting was the technology necessary to realize their new vision for “lighthouses in the sky.” This include development of the system design, GPS signal, space hardened atomic clocks, digital receivers, and the satellites themselves. A modern day Lonely Halls session can fortunately draw on existing technology, including: Cheap access to space Terrestrial communication infrastructure The golden age of atomic clocks Ubiquitous space-based optical communications hardware Commercial quantum communication systems Many of these developments are direct beneficiaries of the new space revolution. Fifty years ago, satellites were novel and bespoke, and even today each GPS satellite costs over $200M. The new space ecosystem, which was practically non-existent a decade ago, has now blossomed into $272B invested in nearly 1800 companies today. This enabled innovative space systems at a fraction of the "old space" cost and cheap access to space, with launch prices falling from tens of thousands of dollars to a few hundred dollars per kilogram.

  • Weekly Takeaways-October 26,2023

    Theme of the Week The Alchemy of Light In the olden days, alchemists were obsessed with turning lead into gold. They did not understand that lead and gold were different atomic elements. Today's scientists can actually make that conversion - but only with sophisticated manipulation at the atomic level. The same advancement is happening with the building blocks of light – the photon (see below). Throughout history light was easy to create - all you need is fire or a hot glowing material - but wasn't well understood. That changed in 1905 when Albert Einstein proposed the existence of discrete (quanta) energy packets of light that he called Lichtquanta, later named the photon. Thus was born the world of photonics, which led to the development of lasers and fiber optics. Unlike normal light sources, lasers created coherent (orderly) streams of photons of a specific wavelength for sensing and transmitting information and energy. And the evolution continues as we get more sophisticated in actually creating and manipulating the quantum properties of individual photons, a field broadly known as quantum communications. Today you can buy sources of single and photon pairs (transmitter), single photon detectors (receiver), and the equipment necessary to manipulate their polarization, time and energy. This can be used to generate truly random numbers, securely exchange random encryption keys, and even transfer time. And it opens the door to incredible new pie-in-the-sky applications like quantum radar, quantum imaging, quantum telescopes, and the quantum internet. But it is early days for the world of quantum communications - there are applications yet undiscovered. If you are interested in learning more about the difference between quantum communications, sensing, and computing, check out this presentation. Last Week's Theme: Security through Quantum Mechanics Colorado was announced as a U.S. Tech Hub for quantum technology (check out this promotional video), with support from the Xairos team, including being part of: The Elevate Quantum team contributor to the proposal The Colorado Quantum Convening with the Colorado Governor last month The quantum delegation to Finland last year Awarded a Colorado Advanced Industries grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development Preparing for presentation at the International Timing and Sync Forum titled "Quantum Time Transfer." Stay tuned for a recording of the presentation! Industry News Colorado was awarded U.S. Tech Hub funding for Quantum Technology as part of the U.S. Chips and Science Act. So you think the light from Deneb had a long journey? The James Webb Space Telescope has found a star, Earendal, that has that beat by roughly 28 billion years. GPS jamming in Israel is expanding as the Israel Defense Forces announced that GPS was “restricted in active combat zones in accordance with various operational needs." The New York Times article "Quantum Tech Will Transform National Security" highlights developments in China: "With its centralized method of funneling billions of dollars to military-affiliated universities, China has produced results that have nearly matched or exceeded the American approach." NASA's Psyche satellite that was launched to rendezvous with an asteroid on October 13 also contains a deep space optical communications payload. Conferences ITSF, Oct 30 – Nov 2, Antwerp, Belgium UK PNT Leadership Seminar, Nov 7, London, UK SLUSH, Nov 30 – Dec 1, Helsinki, Finland The More You Know... If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, straight up into the night sky is a bright star named Deneb. While it may look like a small twinkling dot of white light, it is actually made up of millions of individual packets of light, known as photons. And these photons from Deneb have been on quite a journey – formed hundreds of thousands of years ago and traveled another 2600 years just to reach your eye. Your eyeball actually has the capability to detect a single photon – the original single photon detector – but it needs to receive many photons at once to send a signal to the brain – more like an avalanche photodiode. But if you could see an individual photon, you would notice it isn’t white. That white twinkling star is an illusion created by a combination of photons of many other colors based on their wavelengths. That color/wavelength dictates the energy of the photon, and its speed if it travels through a medium (like the atmosphere, water, or the glass of fiber optics). While photons of all colors travel the same speed in the vacuum of space, they slow down when traveling through any material. This particular photon was likely created by the release of energy from Deneb’s nuclear reactions, only for that energy to be absorbed by your eye in that moment thousands of years later. Such is the life cycle of the photon. To learn more, please email us or schedule a meeting here.

  • Weekly Takeaway-October 20,2023

    Theme of the Week Security through Quantum Mechanics One of the fundamental principles of quantum mechanics is the Observer Effect. All small particles are in a superposition of many quantum states, but, once measured, "one knows its current state ." Most believe this is due to wave function collapse, but there are other interpretations. It is as though the full details of the quantum information is hidden within a box. You can measure one (and only one) property, but you can never "peek inside" and gain complete information. This quirk of quantum physics is the foundation for the security inherent in quantum communications, including the secure distribution of encryption keys known as quantum key distribution (QKD). It also lends itself well for secure time distribution, a critical resource for position, navigation and timing (PNT), networks, communications, and power grids. Time distribution today relies on easily hackable satellite RF signals and network time protocols (NTP). Indeed, security for timing doesn't exist the same way it does for encryption keys. But as the recent news articles below highlight, that needs to change. Last Week's Theme: The Future is Optical Participated in the APSCC Lunar Space Race and optical communications panel. A recap of our recent presentations: “Quantum Optical Communications as a Replacement for GPS” for Space Foundation “Quantum Time Transfer” for Open Compute Project “Network Security Post Quantum” for QED-C Quantum Marketplace "What is the Quantum Internet? And why should you care?" for the Gig City Goes Quantum event "Quantum GPS" fireside chat for the Art of Tech Preparing for presentation at the International Timing and Sync Forum titled "Quantum Time Transfer." Stay tuned for a recording of the presentation! Industry News The conflict between Israel and Hamas has, not surprisingly, seen an increase in GPS jamming in the region. This has led to flight disruptions in Israel, according to the Israel Airports Authority. GPS spoofing around the middle east has led to aircraft "being targeted with fake GPS signals, quickly leading to complete loss of navigational capability," with aircraft "almost entering Iranian airspace without clearance." Russian GPS jamming around Ukraine has hindered ships navigating in the Black Sea, leading a Romanian government official to express concern that "Romania’s infrastructure or commercial ships in (Romania’s) territorial waters could be hit by mistake.” The UK announced a "Framework for Greater Position, Navigation and Timing (PNT) Resilience" recently, noting that PNT services "are vital for the UK economy, Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) sectors and wider society." These disruptions and other vulnerability concerns have led the Wall Street Journal to claim that "America’s ‘Gold Standard’ GPS Risks Falling Behind Rival Systems" including the Chinese BeiDou system that "blankets the planet with 46 operational satellites, outnumbering the 31 satellites that the U.S. says serve GPS." Conferences ITSF, Oct 30 – Nov 2, Antwerp, Belgium UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2023, Nov 2, London, UK SLUSH, Nov 30 – Dec 1, Helsinki, Finland The More You Know... If Alice wants to share a secret with Bob, she can put the information in a box and send to Bob. Eve, the eavesdropper, wants to know what is in the box. In normal communications, Eve simply looks inside. The information is compromised, and Alice and Bob are none the wiser. But now Alice has a box containing a particle in a superposition of quantum states. While you can't know all of the quantum details of this particle, you can extract information following these fundamental rules: You can measure one, and only one, quantum property. This is analogous to asking a question: For example, you can ask about color ("are you black or white?") or you can ask about hardness ("are you hard or soft?"), but you can't ask about both ("are you white and soft?") The outcome is repeatable - if you measure the same property. For example, if you ask about color a thousand times in a row, you will get the same answer - black or white. However, the outcome is not repeatable - if you don't measure same property. For example, if you find out the color is white, but then ask about hardness, the next time you ask for the color it could be white or black. These fundamental rules, proven out in many experiments, is described in this entertaining presentation based on the book "Quantum Mechanics and Experience." So in this case Eve still has the ability to intercept the box meant for Bob. Eve can only ask it one question, but won’t know what question to ask. If the wrong question is asked, then the outcome changes for Bob. We can extend this extremely simple example to QKD (apologies to all quantum physicists!): Alice and Bob exchange many boxes, each one potentially representing one of a string of bits that make up a shared encryption key. While this sounds like a convoluted process, it has an important result that doesn't exist in any other type of communications - the ability to detect Eve by looking at the results from a sample of the boxes. To learn more, please email us or schedule a meeting here.

  • Weekly Takeaways-July 21, 2023

    The World Forever Changes Eighty ago today, J. Robert Oppenheimer was appointed to lead the Manhattan Project, the massive American effort to build the atomic bomb. The movie Oppenheimer, and book it is based on, talk about the lasting ramifications of his work. But his success also had a major impact to the world of quantum physics - the role of government funding, and their push away from theory towards practical research and development. Quantum mechanics began with theorists and mathematicians over a century ago in Europe. The first quantum revolution began in earnest with Einstein's suggestion of a "quanta of light" in 1905, and rapidly led to the foundations of quantum mechanics: the wave function and the Schrödinger equation, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the EPR paradox and “spooky action at a distance”, were all developed in papers and thought experiments that were hotly debated by some of the greatest scientists in history. But the rise of the Nazis fractured this vigorous community and scattered these scientists to the four winds, some of whom (including Einstein) settled in America. After the success of the Manhattan Project, the US government realized the value of encouraging these previously ignored scientists and researchers (see below). Thus began the second quantum revolution. The laser, transistor, MRI, and atomic clock, were all developed with government funding before becoming commercial products with massive benefits for all of society. Today we are in the third quantum revolution where we have moved beyond just harnessing quantum properties, but actively creating and manipulating quantum properties of particles. These breakthroughs are leading to quantum computers, quantum sensors, and quantum communications (including our technology) that have the capability to fundamentally transform society. But these developments needed (and many still need) the generosity of government funding. This is also the legacy of Oppenheimer. Last Week's Theme: What is Old is New Again Industry News The US Space Force chief of space operations expressed concern about advancing anti-satellite missile capabilities: “The destruction of a satellite may not have that same public effect as a missile attack into a civilian population, but from a military standpoint, you’ve still definitely created an act of war.” In light of the recent US Quantum Computing Cybersecurity Preparedness Act to prepare for quantum computers one day cracking encryption, Europe is considering their own quantum cybersecurity agenda to include “setting priorities for the transition to post-quantum encryption.” GPS jammers are illegal in the US but still pretty easy and cheap to find. France uses their National Spectrum Authority (ANFR) to locate active jammers, noting recent GPS disruptions “near Merville airport in March 2023… affecting planes and air ambulance helicopters,” that led their agents to seize a "sophisticated, multi-band jammer purchased online.” The first of a planned Chinese “constellation of 13,000 satellites code-named Guo Wang” meant to compete with StarLink was recently launched. A pair of US bills to address technology areas are in consideration. Concerns about the ease of satellite hacking led to a suggested bill to fund a Satellite Task Force, but it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. And the Quantum Sandbox for Near-Term Applications Act was introduced “to take a leap of action by expanding our quantum technology program to include the development and deployment of near-term applications that promote U.S. innovation for solving critical real-world problems impacting American society.” Not one, but two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME), are coming. According to NOAA’s latest forecast model, “It should hit Earth's magnetic field on July 22nd. The one-two punch of CMEs arriving on July 21st and 22nd boost the chances of a G2 or greater geomagnetric storm later this week.” Conferences Euroconsult, September 11 – 15, Paris, France APSCC, October 10 – 12, KL, Malaysia ITSF, Oct 30 – Nov 2, Antwerp, Belgium UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2023, Nov 2, London, UK SLUSH, Nov 30 – Dec 1, Helsinki, Finland The More You Know... The Manhattan Project and the resulting Atomic Age left an indelible impact on the world. But its success also left a legacy for the scientific community and their ability to aid society. Realizing the need to keep an advantage led to setting up US national laboratories, including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1931), Los Alamos National Laboratory (1943), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (1943), and Argonne National Laboratory (1946), Brookhaven National Laboratory (1947), and the Sandia National Laboratories (1949), to name a few. But it also started a partnership between the US government and universities dedicated to science and engineering, including MIT's Draper Laboratory (1932) and Lincoln Labs (1951) and Cal Tech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (1951), that "would be in the vanguard of the kind of large-scale research that Alvin Weinberg, the director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, would call Big Science." But the biggest beneficiaries would be the companies, supported by government projects, that set up R&D centers that were once famous for their innovation: Bell Labs (inventor of the transistor, the laser, the photovoltaic cell, the CCD, and information theory), Xerox PARC (laser printing, Ethernet, the modern personal computer, GUI, and the computer mouse), Lockheed's Skunk Works (the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird) are some famous examples. But alas, US federal R&D funding has dropped over the years, while other countries are accelerating theirs.

  • Weekly Takeaways-July 13, 2023

    Theme of the Week What is Old is New Again By the end of the 17th century, England had a problem. Their continental rivals were carving up the riches of the new world and the spice trade, and, as a result, held more ships and ports. The English ships couldn’t maneuver around them because they couldn’t figure out their East-West position, which required an accurate knowledge of local time. So they set up the Longitude Act with a cash prize to harness the ingenuity of industry. Lots of crazy schemes were floated, including a time relay across 600 barges spaced at ten mile intervals. But what if there was fog? What if a pirate took out a barge? A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Instead, England developed an network of observatories on "coastlines or ports around the world" to synchronize marine chronometers on passing ships. It was the world’s first synchronization network, and it propelled their domination of the seas and the rise of the British Empire. The modern world is even more dependent on accurate time synchronization. All networks, data centers, and power grids rely on a timing signal that starts from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). But in some ways GNSS suffers from the same problems identified centuries earlier; instead of fog, there are RF jamming devices. Instead of pirate ships, there are anti-satellite missiles. So governments are going back to the private sector to help solve this problem (see below). Last Week's Theme: Independence Day Achievements Busy week of meetings at QuantumBasel and elsewhere in Europe. Flurry of partnership activity ahead of summer break! Check out our upcoming Time Appliances Project presentation next Wednesday, July 19, at at 11am PST. You can simply join the meeting at: https://meet.goto.com/tap or dial in at: +1- 877-309-2073 using access code: 565-185-493. Following up from meetings at World of Quantum, Q4I, Quantum 2.0 Conference and European Navigation Conference, with new partnerships in work. Also preparing for presentations and panels at APSCC in October and the International Timing and Sync Forum in November. Our next Investor Sessions are next week so contact us if you want to join! Industry News Are we “Taking GPS for Granted?” Avionics News thinks so: “The U.S. government isn’t good at tracking interference with GPS signals, and an expert advisory committee on precision, navigation and timing to the government believes GPS is falling behind similar systems in China and Europe.” Russian jamming of GPS in Ukraine has been well known as noted in two recent interviews highlighted how effective it has been against guided munitions, even when outfitted with anti-jamming systems. UK’s Royal United Services Institute claims that the jamming “is risking their accuracy” due to “the sheer power of the jamming signal that can be brought to bear." And the Ukrainian Defense Minister also noted that: “The Russians come up with a countermeasure, we inform our partners, and they create a new countermeasure against this countermeasure.” And now this Russian GPS jamming has spilled into Estonia, impacting flights. Everybody seems to be working on quantum secure networks: researchers announced a “Demonstration of quantum-digital payments” using entangled photons, Vodafone announced a “quantum-safe Virtual Private Network (VPN),” HSBC announced they are “trialing quantum-safe financial transaction network,” and Sweden announced their “Swedish Quantum Agenda.” The Fourth of July may be over, but the “Sun is not done yet with the fireworks.” A coronal mass ejection has “a chance to deliver a glancing blow at our planet” tomorrow. Conferences Time Appliances Project, July 19, virtual Euroconsult, September 11 – 15, Paris, France APSCC, October 10 – 12, KL, Malaysia ITSF, Oct 30 – Nov 2, Antwerp, Belgium UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase 2023, Nov 2, London, UK SLUSH, Nov 30 – Dec 1, Helsinki, Finland The More You Know... For going on fifty years, GPS has been the dominant method of time synchronization for the world. There are 6.5 billion GPS receivers installed in nearly every smart phone, vehicle, and network in the world. But, like the time relay barges of yore, the GPS satellites, links, and even the receivers themselves are vulnerable. This has spurred a movement towards resilience through belts-and-suspender redundancy. Other countries have developed their own GNSS. And the US is following the lessons from the original Longitude Problem and turning to private industry for solutions. Fundamentally, GPS isn’t going anywhere – it is too embedded in our modern world. Instead, it will be backed up by other systems that effectively “take the bullseye off GPS.” And the specific timing needs of commercial enterprise users have spawned a multi-billion dollar market for timing and synchronization units. And they are starting to take a belts-and-suspenders approach to removing reliance on any single GNSS by adding multiple quality clocks for holdover and links to multiple signals of opportunity. History doesn’t necessarily repeat itself – but it often rhymes. To learn more, please email us or schedule a meeting here.

  • Weekly Takeaways-June 27,2023

    Time-of-flight refers to how long it takes for a photon to travel from point A to point B (see below). Knowing this travel time gives you a lot of potentially valuable information about what is happening between A and B, including: The gravity gradient of the Earth or moon, relativistic effects, or even gravity waves, by measuring the distance between satellites. Weather forecasting by calculating the pressure, temperature, CO2 concentration, and humidity in the atmosphere between cell towers and from satellites. Network security by detecting line breaks or network intrusions in fiber optic cables. Locating reference or rogue signals, or even a gunshot, using time difference of arrival. Detecting and locating people behind walls using multiple wi-fi routers. Obviously, time-of-arrival calculation requires very accurate synchronization between A and B. While this synchronization could be achieved by traditional means, Xairos' quantum clock synchronization (QCS) has added benefits as it directly measures the time a photon leaves A and arrives at B. It is fundamental to our protocol. This time-of-flight of individual photons can be used to glean even more valuable information about what is going on between A and B. Last Week's Theme: PNT? It should be TNP Industry News The recent European Radio Navigation Plan claims that “10% of the European Union (EU) GDP relies on the use of GNSS services", with an annual economic benefit of nearly $400B in the US and Europe alone. The plan noted that “satellite timing is needed to keep our power grids, financial services and mobile networks working …the effects of any outage would be far reaching and potentially very damaging to European economy. To address this threat, it is important to consider backup solutions.” There was another mysterious GPS outage, this time at the Panama Canal, following the DIA and DFW airport outages. This outage occurred last August and lasted three weeks. As we enter the most active solar cycle in two decades, there is a concern about how solar weather could impact GPS and other GNSS. A recent International Telecommunications Union (ITU) paper talked about the importance of synchronization, stating “Synchronization is more important than ever in today’s 5G networks and will be even more so in future mobile networks, where emerging radio technologies and network architectures support increasingly demanding use cases, such as time-sensitive networking for automated vehicles or controlling robots in smart factories.” A US House Committee held a "Advancing American Leadership in Quantum Technology" hearing focused on reauthorizing the National Quantum Initiative Act, noting that quantum technologies "are changing our nation's economic, strategic, and scientific landscape...and continued American leadership is essential if we want to capture their many benefits." This article highlights a few tricks to squeeze better performance out of your GNSS signals using ground control points (GCP), post-processed kinematics (PPK), and real-time kinematics (RTK). The Chicago Quantum Exchange is releasing a “Quick Quantum” video series to teach high-school students about “key concepts in quantum information science and engineering and show how these concepts can be used in real-world applications.” The More You Know... It is a common misconception that photons, or particles of light, travel the speed of light. They do – in a vacuum. In any other medium, like air, water, or the glass of fiber optics, they move slower than the speed of light (though, in reality, the photon isn't really “slowing down” – it is the effect caused by the photon’s electromagnetic wave interacting with the waves of the medium). The photon speed can vary based on the properties of the medium and the color/wavelength of the photon. These variations give up a lot of information about what is happening in the medium. For example, the photon speed in air depends on pressure, temperature, CO2 concentration, and humidity. For the glass in an optical fiber, a photon’s speed are set by the glass with slight variations due to physical or temperature shifts. But an accidental break or malicious intrusion could register as a change in the photon’s travel time. In addition, there is a lot of information that can be gleaned from the travel time of the individual photons. Each photon has a specific color or wavelength. And for a lot of materials, photons of different colors move at different speeds, which creates the famous prism rainbow effect. In air, glass or water, this means a red photon will arrive at B slightly faster than a purple photon that left A at the same time. And their relative speed can help provide insight into what is happening between A and B.

  • Weekly Takeaways-May3,2022

    Theme of the Week We Built a Glass House before the Invention of Stones “We are heavily dependent on space, and our adversaries know it,” warned the former secretary of the US Air Force years ago. And in the wake of Russia’s anti-satellite missile tests, and interference with GPS, Starlink, and Viasat, there is now concern that war could extend into space where critical satellites are sitting ducks. So how do you protect satellites? There is no one solution, but taken in combination: Make the satellite more secure through internal redundancy, radiation hardening, clock ensembles and on-orbit reprogramming. On-orbit protection with warning and self-defense zones, and bodyguard spacecraft. Disaggregation by replacing large expensive satellites with many smaller cheaper satellites. And splitting dual use satellites like GPS into separate commercial and military systems. Not only do they address different needs, but it will make GPS a less attractive target. Last Week's Theme: GPS Keeps the Lights On Industry News Russia quit the International Space Station (ISS) over sanctions imposed after their invasion of Ukraine. This is just another step towards the commercialization of space, even as some within the US government “still don’t believe in working with industry.” China recently launched a pair of commercial imaging satellites, and is moving forward with lunar missions including “communication and navigation services for future operations on the lunar surface.” In light of this, the Defense Intelligence Agency released an “overview of the threats to U.S. space capabilities” in their "2022 Challenges to Security in Space" report. “Space-based capabilities impact many day-to-day aspects of the American way of life. These capabilities enable functions that affect our homes, transportation, electric power grids, banking systems, and our global communications.” Quantum random number generation (QRNG) chips are coming to the new line of Samsung Galaxy Quantum 3 cell phones. And an online quantum random number generator is being launched through the Australian National University (ANU) Quantum Numbers (AQN) using “quantum technology to generate true random numbers at high speed and in real-time by measuring the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum.” Two new QKD networks announced around London and Chicago. In London, BT and Toshiba will connect Ernst & Young (EY) sites in Canary Wharf and near London Bridge. Toshiba and the Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE) plan to link the University of Chicago to the Argonne National Laboratory as part of a future multi-node US quantum network. Why is timing and synch important in telecoms? “Timing has always been important since we introduced digital switching… with TDD (time division duplex) for 5G networks we also need phase and time, that’s where it really gets tricky.” Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, May 9 - 12, Denver, CO IQT San Diego, May 10-12, 2022, San Diego and virtual Commercialising Quantum, May 17 - 19, London, UK and virtual Quantum.Tech Boston, June 14-15, Boston, MA Quantum 2.0 Conference and Exhibition, June 13 - 16, Boston, MA Connectivity Business Summit, June 14-15, New York, NY Quantum Information Science International Workshop, July 12-14, Rome, NY Small Satellite Conference, August 6 - 11, Logan, Utah Optics + Photonics, August 21 - 25, San Diego, CA ION GNSS+ 2022, September 19 - 23, Denver, CO IEEE Quantum Week 2022, September 18 - 23, Broomfield, CO International Timing and Sync Forum, November 7 - 10, Dusseldorf, UK The More You Know... Most communications today is encrypted. For almost all cases this encryption is based on the use of public key cryptography. The security of public key cryptography relies on mathematical problems that are believed to be computationally intractable even using massive supercomputers. For decades, the use of public key cryptography has been implemented via a system known as public key infrastructure (PKI). But a large enough fault-tolerant quantum computer could break PKI, so the race is on for a replacement. There are two potential options: quantum key distribution (QKD), which requires unique hardware but is potentially more secure, and post-quantum cryptography (PQC), which is essentially a new form of PKI. PQC uses new mathematical problems that are believed to be intractable even with quantum computers. Since it's a form of public cryptography, PQC is software based and therefore much cheaper and easier to implement within current networks. There are companies building QKD systems with commercial hardware and networks already available. But QKD is still in the early adoption phase, with system cost and scalability a barrier to deployment. PQC, on the other hand, will be easier to implement once a standard has been adopted. In the US, this process has already started, though the security of some of the PQC options have been challenged. Xairos is focused on secure, high precision time transfer​, not on key distribution. Performing time transfer beyond GPS precision already requires unique hardware, and current methods are insecure.

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 23, 2023

    Theme of the Week What do you call a Smart City without PNT? A city. Most definitions of a Smart City talk about a city that leverages connectivity for the Internet of Things (IOT), transportation, sustainability, and energy usage. But this technology already exists. So what is the city of the future really lacking? This: Self-driving vehicles, air mobility, flying taxis, and delivery drones can reduce traffic and emissions. But this won't happen without better navigation infrastructure. Vehicles are already being outfitted with cameras and lidar for proximity sensors. But these prevent collisions or spatial awareness - they don't provide guidance. And GPS and other space-based systems can’t provide effective navigation in urban canyons, tunnels, and parking garages. One solution was described in 2008 by Steve Jobs: in large cities, we are surrounded by wi-fi routers and cell towers that are natural beacons. The next step is to provide position and timing over these beacons as part of a larger mobility network. But these beacons need to be accurately – and securely – synchronized. Timing not only impacts the position accuracy, but in a future of flying cars you don’t want infrastructure that can be easily hijacked. Last Week's Theme: The Server Lights Are Big and Bright Industry News European leaders approved the IRIS² constellation as an “alternative to Starlink.” A key difference: “Security would be provided through quantum encryption.” “While every part of assured position, navigation and timing is critical to future U.S. Army missions, timing often seems to be overlooked,” according the US Army director of the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space (APNT/Space) Cross-Functional Team. SK Telecom and IDQuantique announced plans to unveil their “Quantum Cryptography One Chip” at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023. They are already providing quantum random number generation chips on the latest Samsung flagship phones – but only in Korea. Another large solar flare erupted Friday, but, fortunately only glanced the Earth. It still “created temporary radio blackouts on the sunlit side of Earth” and impressive aurora borealis displays. The peak may be over but you can still check out this aurora forecaster. The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) recently noted that the “U.S. military must stop building satellite systems from scratch and better leverage of the commercial space sector by buying commoditized systems and services.” This was echoed by the US Space Force: “Traditionally, the military has chosen to build expensive, bespoke solutions," but "there has been an increased emphasis on leveraging commercial systems and services when possible." There is also renewed interest in dual-use and defense focused startups among investors like Andreessen Horowitz, who recently hosted the American Dynamism summit geared towards startups taking “on our country’s most pressing issues to support the national interest.” In the past, disruptive companies emerged from crises in the tech industry, and there are some that believe that this will happen again and it won’t necessarily come from Silicon Valley. Conferences Royal Institute of Navigation LEO PNT Workshop, March 1, London Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Commercialising Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22 The More You Know... Quantumania isn't just the title of a superhero movie - in the real world there has been a lot of interest in quantum technologies recently. The incredible applications enabled by quantum technologies has created a sort of global quantum arms race. By some estimates (including recent McKinsey and Deloitte reports) China was the leader in global quantum funding. In the US, funding from the National Quantum Initiative Act led to a renewed government focus and new quantum testbeds in Washington DC, Chicago, Tennessee, and New York. This race is so critical that The World Economic Forum raised concerns about a growing quantum divide, since "quantum technology will exponentially accelerate the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

  • Weekly Takeaways-One Year Later

    When the invasion started, analysts expected them to immediately jam GPS signals. After all, Russia is an expert in this, and it was their modus operandi from the 2014 Ukraine incursion. There has been jamming, though not as widespread or effective as expected. Maybe because they also need GPS, they were holding back, or they needed their limited equipment to prevent drone attacks within their own borders. But Russia still used GPS to hold the world hostage: Jamming near the Finland and Norway border disrupted flights, seemingly to intimidate their leaders. Threatening to blow up GPS satellites with anti-satellite missiles. Russia realized a long time ago how critical GPS is to the world. If there was ever a widespread outage, all travel, financial transactions, communications, and even power grids would grind to a halt. It is a single point of failure, though the US and other governments are (slowly) working to remedy that. What Have we Learned? We need a GPS backup We need a commercial alternative that addresses commercial needs. A commercial alternative takes the bullseye off GPS and allows the military to build their own dedicated system. Starlink and others have proven that commercial space companies can provide invaluable services that even impress US military leaders. Space will be contested ground in future conflicts. Russia and China have demonstrated anti-missile capabilities. Even more scary, they have demonstrated kamikaze, kidnapper, and rendezvous satellites that can destroy our satellites, as well as lasers that can dazzle or disable a satellite. An anti-satellite missile is an obvious provocation. But these capabilities give plausible deniability if one of our satellites “mysteriously fails”. US military satellites are sitting ducks – they are expensive and take too long to replace. But you don’t need to knock out satellites to disrupt GPS. Jammers are cheap and, as we recently learned, could be easily deployed on a high-altitude balloon. Xairos has learned from these lessons for a future resilient system: A satellite-ground hybrid architecture that uses quantum optical links that are resilient to jamming or spoofing. Multiple payloads on multiple satellites, including hosted on other commercial satellites. On-orbit and ground spares in case of failures.

  • Weekly Takeaways-April 27, 2023

    Theme of the Week Back on the Horse Over the course of an eventful week the barriers to space were dramatically lowered. On Thursday, the largest rocket in human history flew for over 3 minutes before ending with a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.” Five days later, a private company attempted to join an exclusive club by putting a lander on the moon. On the face of it, these efforts were unsuccessful. But by all other metrics they were huge steps forwards. In the olden days (only a decade ago) space was the domain of government agencies. Their missions were infamous for being overly cautious, over budget and over schedule. Then came the new space paradigm: failure is an acceptable step towards success. All successful companies go through it – but unlike buggy beta software releases that are quietly patched later, space missions tend to be public and spectacular. Doesn’t matter that the ispace lunar lander likely crashed; they are already planning to return to the moon next year, joined by Astrobotics and Intuitive Machines later this year and Astrolabs in 2026. Of course, you have to be extra careful when it comes to sending humans into space. While the second Artemis mission will be nearly two years after the first successful mission, the next Starship test flight is expected within “a few months” with “hundreds of missions” before launching humans. When you have a long trail ahead, you can either wait for perfect conditions. Or you can start riding. Last Week's Theme: World Quantum Day Edition Industry News Reports are emerging of Ukraine’s effective GPS spoofing so that Russian “drones had been fooled into thinking they were in a no-fly zone, and had ceased operating.” Thales Alenia Space announced the TeQuantS quantum satellite “aimed at developing quantum space-to-Earth communications technologies,” with support from the European Space Agency (ESA), the French space agency CNES and Austrian space agency ALR. India announced a $730M National Quantum Mission “to scale-up scientific & industrial R&D for quantum technologies." The US Office of the Secretary of Defense requested $75M for a “Quantum Transition Acceleration” stating that “research and development of quantum technologies is critical to maintaining the nation’s technological superiority.” Meanwhile, the US Air Force is requesting $55.4B to fund research, development, test and evaluation efforts in fiscal 2024. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Quadrennial Homeland Security Review includes a focus on emerging technologies like quantum and space with the goal of “expanding its technology scouting efforts to understand new developments from the private sector.” The technology that enables the $700B smart city market continues to grow, but it also brings vulnerability, according to a “Cybersecurity Best Practices for Smart Cities” report: “The digital transformation of infrastructure can improve daily life, but increased connectivity may also expand attack surfaces and introduce new risks.” Included in the recent leak of classified documents: The Pentagon confirmed that Russia’s jamming of GPS was more effective than they originally let on: “A larger problem is that Russia is using GPS jamming to interfere with the weapons’ targeting process...American officials believe Russian jamming is causing the JDAMs, and at times other American weapons such as guided rockets, to miss their mark.” As part of China's broader strategy to establish dominance in space by 2045, they are developing the capability “to seize control of a satellite, rendering it ineffective to support communications, weapons, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.” The More You Know... Contested space and the need for commercial solutions was a common theme at Space Symposium: The head of the US Space Force wants to “aggressively dismantle old processes and procedures” citing the concerns about anti-satellite weapons and grappling satellites. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) released their annual Space Threat Assessment that mentioned GPS 37 times and the Ukraine conflict: “Commercial space capabilities are making a significant contribution to the fight and have provided Ukraine access to space that they do not have organically. Commercial space has served as a great equalizer, allowing Ukrainian forces to have the necessary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and command and control.” The Space Foundation estimated the value of the global space economy at $469B, with the commercial sector representing three-quarters of that and "roughly 55% higher than just a decade ago," even though space investment was non-existent until roughly five years ago, according to Quilty Analytics. The Secure World Foundation released their 2023 Global Counterspace Capabilities Report that, not surprisingly, highlighted the “growing concern from multiple governments over the reliance on vulnerable space capabilities for national security, and the corresponding proliferation of offensive counterspace capabilities that could be used to disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy space systems.” The Pentagon’s chief technology officer stated their goal to “incorporate the incredible innovation ecosystem of the commercial space economy and link them into our joint warfighting concepts to access and accelerate capability adoption.” The US government designated 16 critical infrastructure sectors “so vital to the United States that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact.” But surprisingly, space isn’t on that list, so the Foundation for Defense of Democracies argues it is time to change that.

  • Weekly Takeaways-March 2, 2023

    Unlocking Potential In your home there is a common piece of electronics that has enormous potential. It has the ability to: Detect and locate people behind walls. Forecast the weather. Provide positioning for vehicles, robots, drones, and even your lost keys. Sense an impending earthquake. And you are probably using it right now to read this newsletter: your wi-fi router. But it needs to be accurately synchronized to unlock this potential. With accurate time synchronization, the time of flight of signals can be accurately calculated. This, in turn, helps detect the presence of people and water vapor in the air. Time of flight can also be used to calculate distance, and therefore the position, of sensors and moving vehicles. Better timing synchronization is the key to unlocking potential in existing infrastructure. It can help power grids and data centers run more efficiently, reducing carbon emissions. It also can be used to unlock spectral efficiency and new applications in cell networks. And it doesn't require a wholesale change to infrastructure – after all, you already have a wi-fi router. Last Week's Theme: What do you call a Smart City without PNT? Industry News The European Union Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) recently issued a warning that “Since February 2022, there has been an increase in jamming and or possible spoofing of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS).” Hmmm, what happened in February 2022? The Russian jamming of GPS near the border of Finland and Norway continues to create problems there. According to the Finland National Communications Authority (Nkom), there was a fivefold increase in GPS failures over the airspace in Finland and that this jamming is continuing into 2023. Upgrades to the GPS system have been delayed yet again. In response to the tragic earthquake in Turkey, the University of Birmingham outlined their work on quantum sensors that could provide very sensitive gravity measurements that could provide early earthquake detection. As readers of this newsletter already know, there is some debate on what time to use on the moon. The European Space Agency released their ideas for Telling Time on the Moon as “part of a larger effort to agree a common ‘LunaNet’ architecture covering lunar communication and navigation services.” There is a race to find a post-quantum cryptography (PQC) standard to replace public key infrastructure (PKI) that can one day be cracked by quantum computers. NIST is holding a PQC competition, and one of the finalists, Crystals-Kyber, supposedly got cracked by AI. But NIST is saying otherwise, that the paper “does not claim to break the algorithm itself, but rather a particular “fifth-order masked implementation of the algorithm.” When the Australia-United Kingdom-United States partnership known as AUKUS was first announced, the focus was on nuclear-powered submarines. However, there are other elements to the agreement like the AUKUS Quantum Arrangement that could “prove just as significant.” Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, March 13 - 16, Vancouver, Canada Satellite 2023, March 13 - 16, Washington DC Commercializing Quantum US, March 23 - 24, San Francisco, CA Space Symposium, April 17 - 20, Colorado Springs, CO Commercializing Quantum Global, May 17 - 19, London UK Quantum 2.0 Conference, Denver, CO, June 18 - 22 The More You Know... Another large solar flare hit the Earth this week, causing GPS disruptions and radio blackouts as well as impressive aurora displays. But temporary GPS and radio blackouts are the least of our concerns. In September 1859, a very large solar event now known as the Carrington Event was first noticed by astronomers Richard Christopher Carrington and Richard Hodgson. It resulted in auroral displays in the tropics and caused sparking and fires in telegraph stations. If a similar event happened today, it could cause damage to electrical grids and GPS and other satellites, leading to “trillions of dollars in damage globally.” So what can be done? Fortunately solar activity is closely monitored so we can get some advance warning. But we also need a new hybrid satellite-terrestrial positioning architecture, with multiple satellites and nodes that can be quickly replaced.

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