top of page

Search Results

92 items found for ""

  • Weekly Takeaways:April 21,2022

    Theme of the Week Evolution Long ago, we looked to the stars to know our place in the world. With a clear view of the celestial sky early explorers knew their north-south latitude. To know their east-west longitude position, they needed an accurate clock to account for the Earth's rotation. By WWII, radio broadcasts replaced stars as the location reference using systems like LORAN. With the dawn of the space age these RF beacons moved to satellites. Launched after the Vietnam war, GPS is still the primary position and time reference for the world. But progress has slowed since then. Russia has devolved back into using their LORAN system as they jam GPS. China has built their own system with optical links for better accuracy. And the US government is looking at GEO orbits, optical links and advanced clocks for future GPS. But if we want 6G, the quantum internet, and self-driving vehicles, we need to evolve. Last Week's Theme: Dual Use, Not Equal Use Industry News “Putin is Holding GPS Hostage,” according to the chair of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee John Garamendi. “Putin would not even need not go through the trouble of shooting down satellites and risking all-out war. He could do it with the flip of a switch.” George Beebe, former Chief Russia Analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, concurs: “GPS is an enormous bargaining chip for Vladimir Putin.” The UK is looking at options to reduce its reliance on GPS. “We are currently critically dependent upon GPS; the loss of which will have a major impact in capability and economically,” according to the former UK Cabinet Office PNT Strategy Technical Lead Andy Proctor. A Defense Intelligence Agency report titled “2022 Challenges to Security in Space” highlights that “China and Russia continue to rapidly “mature” their counterspace capabilities.” Between 2019 and 2021 “the combined operational space fleets of China and Russia” have grown by approximately 70%, following a 200% increase between 2015 and 2019 across “nearly all major space categories.” Similar concerns were raised in two other reports: the “Global Counterspace Capabilities Report” prepared by the Secure World Foundation, and the “Space Threat Assessment 2022” prepared by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. NATO unveiled plans to set up a “modified version of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)...to speed up trans-Atlantic cooperation on critical technologies, and help NATO work more closely with private-sector entities.” The initiative will include 10 accelerator sites that provide financing for startups, and more than 50 test centers to allow startups “to solve real-world problems — such as operating in a GPS-denied environment.” Space startups received $15.4 billion in investment in 2021 as the number of investment deals increased to 241, up 48% from 2020, for an average deal size of $64 million, up 35% year over year, according to the BryceTech “Start-up Space 2022” report. Conferences Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, May 9 - 12, Denver, CO IQT San Diego, May 10-12, 2022, San Diego Commercialising Quantum, May 17 - 19, London, UK Photonics for Quantum, June 6 - 9, Rochester, NY 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, 2022, New York 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 Denver Startup Week, September 19-23, Denver, CO International Timing and Sync Forum, November 7 - 10, Dusseldorf, UK US National PNT Advisory Board, December 9 - 10, Washington DC The More You Know... In the wake of World Quantum Day, lots of articles talked about the quantum arms race: A Forbes article “World Quantum Day: A Love Letter” highlights a recent McKinsey report that "shows that while China is currently investing $15 billion in quantum computing, and Europe over $7 billion, the US is only committing around $2 billion” A recent “Quantum Warfare” report suggests that “There is tremendous potential for military applications of quantum technology… with the potential to change the conduct of warfare and the outcomes of battles.” The America COMPETES Act of 2022 has passed the House and Senate. It identifies Quantum information science and technology as a Key Technology Focus Area with allocations for a Quantum Network Infrastructure and Workforce Development Act under the National Science Foundation (NSF). China has claimed that the Act "intends to curb and suppress China's innovation and development," while The Economist reports on China’s plans for expanding innovation in interior cities like Hefei, the site of a multi-billion dollar quantum research facility. The Quantum Insider prepared a brief but educational history of quantum computing. Speaking of quantum computing, a list of “10 Difficult Problems Quantum Computers can Solve Easily” includes finance, weather forecasting and drug development.

  • Weekly Takeaways:World Quantum Day Edition

    Theme of the Week Happy World Quantum Day! The goal of World Quantum Day is to promote "public understanding of Quantum Science and Technology around the World." Why today? Because 4/14 is a reference to the first digits of Planck’s constant (4.14 ×10−15 electronvolt seconds), a fundamental constant governing quantum physics. Kind of like 3/14 is "Pi Day" and 5/4 is "Star Wars Day" (May the Fourth be with You). From Theory to Reality A century ago the fundamentals of quantum mechanics was the subject of heated debate. Quantum physics is hard, partly because it is difficult to observe quantum processes. So quantum experimentalists took on the challenge of proving these early theories by building specialized hardware that has since migrated out of the lab. This led to the First Quantum Revolution in the mid-20th century, which saw the introduction of lasers, transistors, and atomic clocks. We are now in the Second Quantum Revolution, enabled by hardware that can detect and manipulate single quantum objects. This has opened the door to advancements in quantum computing, sensing, and communications, that may impact the future just as profoundly as the laser and transistor. There has been a lot of progress in the last century. Industry News A recap on major quantum news over the last year: Reports that talk about the impact of quantum development “Quantum Technologies” Capgemini report found that a nearly a quarter of surveyed US organizations are working on quantum technologies, though, like in a lot of areas quantum, China is the leader with 43% of their companies active with quantum technologies. "The Quantum Decade" IBM report as a "playbook for achieving awareness, readiness, and advantage" in quantum computing. "A Guide to a Quantum-Safe Organization" QED-C report to help organizations prepare for a post-quantum world. Reports and articles on China's lead in quantum development: “State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2022” National Science Board report highlighted that R&D funding in the United States, while still highest in the world, was ceding ground to China. “Chinese Threats in the Quantum Era” Booz Allen Hamilton report claims that China has "multibillion dollar investments to enable breakthroughs in the field—and an $11 billion National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences." “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China” DoD report noted that China’s 14th Five-Year Plan includes plans to install satellite-enabled, global “quantum-encrypted communications capability” by 2030. Other reports out of China: Their leading quantum research group and QuantumCTek (fresh off a record IPO) have been added to a US trade blacklist for "acquiring and attempting to acquire U.S.-origin items in support of military applications". Developed what it calls a Satellite Quantum System in a bid to combat any adversary intrusion into its power infrastructure. Article claims that they have “achieved a series of breakthroughs in quantum technology including the world's first quantum satellite, a 2,000-km quantum communication line between Beijing and Shanghai, and the world's first optical quantum computing machine prototype.” Articles about other governments stepping up their quantum research: The United States has a number of quantum projects in development, including the Chicago Quantum Exchange. To fund future quantum initiatives, the US is combining elements of the $250B U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 with the America Competes Act of 2022 into one bill. Europe is developing "value chains in critical sectors for space such as quantum", and a broadband constellation that will “leverage quantum encryption to secure the network.” Russia is setting up a National Quantum Laboratory as a "key step to the development of all domestic industry of quantum technologies." Korea is developing “quantum cryptography communication networks in both the public and private sectors”, bringing together 26 companies including SK telecom, KT, and LG. Articles and reports about private quantum investment: "The Quantum Insider Annual Report" tracked $3.2B of quantum investment in 2021, as well as their Top Ten Quantum Technology Predictions for 2022. “Quantum Tech 2022: A Stampede Of Unicorns Is Headed For Your Industry,” Forbes claims that “Technologies based on the fundamental properties of quantum mechanics will revolutionize industries, changing business models forever.” “Quantum Security Report” by The Quantum Insider forecasts a Quantum Security Market worth $10B by 2030. Conferences Lots of quantum-focused conferences coming up soon. Here's a small sample: IQT San Diego, May 10-12, 2022, San Diego Photonics for Quantum, June 6 - 9, Rochester, NY Quantum.Tech Boston, June 14-15, Boston, MA Quantum 2.0 Conference and Exhibition, June 13 - 16, Boston, MA Quantum Information Science International Workshop, July 12-14, 2022, New York Optics + Photonics, August 21 - 25, San Diego, CA IEEE Quantum Week 2022, September 18 - 23, Broomfield, CO The More You Know... To learn more about quantum mechanics, we recommend these resources: The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind, lecture series and book Why Everything You Thought You Knew About Quantum Physics is Different presentation and Beyond Weird book by Philip Ball Quantum Computing Since Democritus lecture notes by Scott Aaronson Free e-books: "Quantum Communications: A Primer", prepared by Xairos "Q is for Quantum" by Terry Rudolph "Understanding Quantum Technologies" by Olivier Ezratty For further educational material hosted by quantum enthusiasts check out: Quantum Curious for a range of online resources Quantumapalooza for links to online learning opportunities, hosted by Harrisburg University 2021 Quantum Investment Summit panel discussions, hosted by the Quantum Startup Foundry Different Approaches to Getting Started on your Quantum Journey webinar hosted by Quantum.Tech. Chicago Quantum Summit webinar on quantum technology For news about the dynamic world of quantum companies and technology check out: Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C) is a quantum advocacy group that hosts Quantum Marketplace events, reports, and job postings. The Quantum Insider, hosts conferences, releases reports and provides industry connections. QURECA hosts webinars and provides industry news and connections. Inside Quantum Technology hosts conferences and has a good daily newsletter Quantum Computing Report hosts quantum market and investment analysis, with a weekly newsletter you can sign up for here

  • Weekly Takeaways:April 12, 2022

    Theme of the Week Dual Use, Not Equal Use Recently Russia has been jamming GPS in Ukraine, the Black Sea, Finland, Norway, and Turkey. While this has grounded commercial flights and degraded networks, it is not creating problems for the military. GPS is a textbook example of a dual use technology used for both military and civilian applications. But that doesn’t mean they have equal capabilities. GPS was originally developed for military use only. It was only made available for civilian use after the KAL 007 tragedy, but with a built-in degradation. When that was lifted in 2000, it created 764 new companies and trillions of dollars of economic benefit for one of “the largest venture outcomes in history." But there are still restrictions on civilian use that throttle commercial progress. For example, timing from GPS enabled 4G LTE wireless networks, but is not good enough for 5G. It is time to split off a dedicated commercial solution from dual use. Last Week's Theme: A Single Point of Failure Following up from good set of meetings at Satellite 2022 in Washington DC and Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Check out Xairos: Spaced Ventures presentation Apogeo Spatial article “Global Timing with Quantum Technologies in Space” Startups Stars podcast interview on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube Angels & Entrepreneurs feature: “Using quantum physics, it’s [Xairos] addressing a problem that impacts some seriously big markets" with "the potential to revolutionize society.” Industry News As part of the next moon race, the European Space Agency (ESA) kicked off their Moonlight Initiative to “identify the best way to create a lasting link with the Moon” and look at “feasible system concepts for creating the lunar network” using optical communications. Meanwhile China is moving forward with three more lunar exploration missions before 2030. A new “Quantum Technologies” report found that a nearly a quarter of surveyed US organizations are working on quantum technologies, though, like in a lot of areas quantum, China is the leader with 43% of their companies active with quantum technologies. China is also the leader in quantum research, having invested $13B since 2015 (the United States is in distant second with $2.1B of investment) and in quantum networks, where China has rolled out a network extending across the country. The European Patent Office (EPO)’s recent Quantum Technologies and Space report “finds that patent applications filed in space-related quantum technologies have increased some 400% over the last 5 years” led by China and the United States. Meanwhile Samsung is adding quantum random number generation (QRNGs) to enhance the security of their new flagship cell phones. In the wake of support from private space companies in Ukraine, the U.S. Space Command has released a commercial integration strategy to make it easier to work with commercial space companies. According to SPACECOM Commander Gen. James Dickinson the goal is to “make it easier, more efficient, more feasible for a commercial company to enter into an agreement.” The extent of the Australia - UK - US partnership known as AUKUS was outlined in a White House Fact Sheet, and includes quantum collaborations to “accelerate investments to deliver generation-after-next quantum capabilities. It will have an initial focus on quantum technologies for positioning, navigation, and timing.” Did you ever want to play with quantum optics? Then check out the Quantum Game. Conferences Colorado Photonics Industry Association Expo and Gala, April 14, Broomfield, CO Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, May 9 - 12, Denver, CO IQT San Diego, May 10-12, 2022, San Diego Photonics for Quantum, June 6 - 9, Rochester, NY 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, 2022, New York 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 Denver Startup Week, September 19-23, Denver, CO International Timing and Sync Forum, November 7 -10, Dusseldorf, UK US National PNT Advisory Board, December 9 - 10, Washington DC The More You Know... Not a surprise for this audience that Russia and China have the capability to knock out GPS satellites. But a recent NBC report is bringing this news to the general public. There also now suspicions that Russia has been disrupting commercial satellite and Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine and Europe. The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has issued an alert over potential threats to satellite networks and a recommendation for better satellite cybersecurity, expressing concern about “evolving attacks by criminals, terrorists, and nation states.” This also includes the capability to hack an operational on-orbit satellite. A Telesat GEO satellite was recently hacked as part of an assisted demonstration during a recent hacker convention. Concerns about satellite security has inspired the US government to host hacking contests and led to additional funding in the recent defense budget.

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 8, 2022

    Time for the Quantum Internet There is lots of hype and confusion around the Quantum Internet. At the simplest level it is a network of quantum computers. But unlike the regular internet, it can do more than just share information between computers. “The power of quantum computing is in having a large number of qubits… If you can link those “live” qubits, you’ve linked the internals of your quantum computers, and you’ve effectively created a bigger quantum computer.” So it won't act like today's internet. Instead, it will harness the power of interconnected quantum computers. According to Vint Cerf: “Scaling of quantum computers is facilitated by the distribution of entanglement. In theory, you can make a larger quantum system if you can distribute entanglement to a larger number of distinct quantum machines.” And just like the original internet, development is underway through public private partnerships. It will need new tech, standards, and an entanglement distribution network, ideally through satellites. And it “will need incredible time synchronization.” Industry News The Department of Defense (DoD) CTO announced a list of “critical technology areas” that includes quantum science. The European Commission (EC) announced their Space Policy priorities in 2022, including developing “an ultra-secure infrastructure thanks to quantum encryption” and “value chains in critical sectors for space such as quantum." The EC Commissioner also announced they are close to unveiling a plan for a broadband constellation which “will also leverage quantum encryption to secure the network.” The strange saga of the mysterious Shijian-21 continues. It was launched last October to supposedly “test and verify space debris mitigation technologies”, but there were concerns that it could observe and disrupt other satellites. On January 22, it disappeared from its regular position in orbit and was then observed to rendezvous with and move a dead BeiDou satellite. According to Forbes, “Quantum Tech 2022: A Stampede Of Unicorns Is Headed For Your Industry”, “Technologies based on the fundamental properties of quantum mechanics will revolutionize industries, changing business models forever.” New market reports: The Quantum Insider forecasts a Quantum Security Market worth $10B by 2030, and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme predicts a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) market worth 405B Euros by 2031. The More You Know... So it is official: the ISS is ready for the space trash bin. The single most expensive object ever built will be dumped into the Pacific Ocean in 2031. But it has outlasted its purpose as better replacements are being developed. Future astronauts don’t need to apply to NASA; all you need is a ticket from Blue Origin, SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, Axiom Space, among others. This is the democratization of space. What was once the domain of international space agencies is now owned by the private sector. Satellite communications. Rockets. Earth Observation. Space tourism. Lunar exploration. Next up: GPS.

  • Weekly-takeaways-March 29

    A Single Point of Failure Imagine a scenario where a single point of failure can bring down our modern society. It starts with grounded airlines, and ATMs and credit cards not working. By the end of the day all communications are lost, and within a few days the power is out. This is the world after a GPS outage, the sword of Damocles that hangs above us all. The impact is billions of dollars a day as the world grinds to a halt. This almost happened on January 26, 2016 with a simple operator error. But these close calls happen all the time; GPS is hit with thousands of outages a year and prone to jamming and interference. More scary is that it is a big fat juicy target for bad actors that have shown that GPS is vulnerable to anti-satellite missiles, "kamikaze" and "kidnapper" satellites, blinding, jamming and spoofing. The only way to take the target off of GPS is to build an alternative. Last Week's Theme: A Call for Backup Industry News A quick recap of news from the past few months: GPS jamming by Russia has been reported in Ukraine and even Finland, but at least they have not acted on their threat to blow up the GPS satellites using their 'Star Warrior' anti-satellite (ASAT) missiles. China also has an ASAT missile, as well as the capability to ‘melt down’ satellites by covertly placing explosives on a satellite and the recent launch of a potential "satellite crushing weapon." They also have the capability to blind GPS satellites with ground-based anti-satellite lasers. “We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened,” admits US Space Force General David Thompson, and that our satellites are attacked "every day." Space debris is also a concern as it is estimated that "19% of tracked space objects threaten GPS." A review highlights GPS-related problems experienced by commercial aircraft, UAVs, cargo ships, drones, among many other incidents. GPS is also susceptible to spoofing, or the the ability to fake a GPS signal. Spoofing was suspected as the cause of downed US drone in Iran, used by drug traffickers on border drones, multiple strange incidents near Russian VIPs, a drone that wandered into Iranian airspace, and "circle spoofing" in China and Iran. The rest of the world has developed GPS replacement systems that make GPS more of a target, including China's BeiDou, Russia's GLONASS, Europe's Galileo, and UK's OneWeb. And even the local timing infrastructure is also vulnerable, as demonstrated by an IBM hacker. Conferences Space Symposium, April 4 - 7, Colorado Springs, CO Pacific PNT, April 11 - 13, virtual Colorado Photonics Industry Association Expo and Gala, April 14, Broomfield, CO Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems, May 9 - 12, Denver, CO IQT San Diego, May 10-12, 2022, San Diego Photonics for Quantum, June 6 - 9, Rochester, NY 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, 2022, New York 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 Denver Startup Week, September 19-23, Denver, CO International Timing and Sync Forum, November 7 - 10, Dusseldorf, UK US National PNT Advisory Board, December 9 - 10, Washington DC The More You Know... Have you ever wanted to impress your friends and family with your quantum expertise? First step is to brush up on your quantum mechanics. Some recommendations: Here’s How You Can Teach Yourself Quantum Physics, by Sunny Labh Beyond Weird, by Philip Ball What is Quantum Entanglement? All about this 'spooky' quirk of physics, by John Loeffler Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum, by Leonard Susskind The harnessing of quantum properties has led us to a second quantum revolution in three areas: quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum sensing. While quantum computing gets all the press (and investment), quantum communications and sensing have better maturity and near term potential. Some good resources to learn about this are: Quantum Tech Made Simple, by Frey Wilson, PhD Shaping the Long Race in Quantum Communication and Quantum Sensing, McKinsey & Company Explainer: What is Quantum Communication?, MIT Technology Review Quantum Communications: A Primer

  • Xairos Takeaways-March 10, 2022

    Theme of the Week Space will Not be Held Hostage The new space promise isn’t just about building companies or new innovations. It is about creating open access to space. This has been highlighted over the past two terrible weeks. As the Ukraine conflict escalated, Russia has threatened to: Blow up the GPS satellites; Recall their astronauts from the ISS and let it de-orbit; Refused to launch the OneWeb satellites; And halt the delivery of launches and rocket engines. But these threats don’t work any more. Commercial companies that didn't exist during the original cold war now hold the keys to space: There are already plans to shelve the ISS and replace with new space stations. SpaceX, Blue Origin, and others build their own rocket engines and can launch your satellite. Maxar, BlackSky, and Planet are providing imagery of the conflict in Ukraine. Starlink and Viasat are providing communications even in the face of hostility. They are stepping up to provide critical access for Ukraine and the world. And while GPS is still vulnerable there are commercial alternatives in work by Xairos and others. Now, more than ever, space cannot be held hostage. Last Week's Theme: Time is Money Achievements The world has changed a lot since our last newsletter. Lots to report but we will pick up on our news and marketing next week. In the meantime, let us know if you are attending Satellite 2022 in DC or Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

  • Weekly Takeaways-March 15, 2022

    Theme of the Week A Call for Backup Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the Cold War extended into the skies. Today, space is no longer under government control, as Russia is finding out. Russia undoubtedly expected on knocking out the world’s access to Ukraine. Instead, new space stepped up to provide critical communications and surveillance. A government leader has to be cautious to avoid escalation. But private companies don’t have that burden; Russia can’t invade SpaceX. The best they can do is threaten to ground western satellites, a move destined to backfire. Unfortunately, there is no commercial backup for GPS - yet - and Russia knows this. Russia has been jamming GPS for decades, so no surprise that is jamming in Ukraine. But now there are reports of similar interference in Finland that grounded Finnair flights. It is no coincidence that this occurred after Finland’s president met with POTUS. All of this illustrates that America needs a commercial GPS backup. Because, as Forbes points out: "Hoping that GPS will not be targeted is not a plan.” Last Week's Theme: Space will Not be Held Hostage Industry News As GPS jamming is rampant near the Russia border, military vehicles are trying out “leading-edge quantum equipment” including the “world's first atomic clock of its kind to help ensure pinpoint accuracy”. The US military is now preparing to defend the moon. No, seriously. As China and others plan for lunar bases, the US Space Force is planning “to develop a lunar surveillance system, known as the Cislunar Highway Patrol System” and “test a lunar spy satellite known as the Defense Deep Space Sentinel.” And when you are sitting on the moon you will need cell service. Nokia is on the case. Japanese researchers are proposing a terrestrial location-based services using cell networks that can be used “to serve in tsunami forecasting and earthquake early warning systems.” This could someday be supplemented by very sensitive quantum gravity sensors. The Space Entanglement and Annealing QUantum Experiment (SEAQUE) is set to launch to the ISS later this year to test a new type of entangled photon source based on integrated optics and the characterization of radiation effects on single photon detectors. This projects joins a number of other space-based quantum projects that are currently in development. SpaceX’s service into Ukraine has impressed the US Space Command, and spurred the EU, India and other groups to recognize the need for space-based communications. The US is still looking to strengthen technology competition against China by combining elements of the $250B U.S. Innovation and Competition Act of 2021, passed by the US Senate, and the America Competes Act of 2022, passed by the US House, into one bill. The More You Know... On Sunday morning you may have noticed that some of your clocks are off by an hour. Daylight Savings Time strikes again! Today it is a petty annoyance, but it wasn't long ago when all clocks needed to be manually set. Now we take it for granted that our phones, computers, and connected electronics sync automatically. But sync to what? To the GPS master clock, with a software correction to match your local time zone referenced to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the international time standard. Surprisingly, GPS time differs from UTC by exactly 18 seconds. Leap seconds are periodically added to UTC to account for changes in the Earth's rotation. But GPS has not added in the 18 leap seconds since 1980 to ensure there are no timing jumps that would disrupt sensitive digital networks. All of this is described in an entertaining presentation by Dr. Patrizia Tavella, the Director of the Time Department at the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures in Sèvres, France. To learn more, please email us.

  • The Privatization of Time

    By David Mitlyng, MBA A Modern Horror Story with A Timeless Ending? Imagine you wake up one morning and your location apps are offline. Traffic is halted and planes are grounded worldwide. By evening, you lose cell service. A few hours later, your internet, which has been slow all day, blanks out. You wake up the next day and the power is out. Drive over to the next town, the same thing. ATMs and credit cards don't work, gas stations and grocery stores are closed. The culprit …… GPS is down. Why? Who knows? Maybe the satellites were destroyed by Russian "kamikaze" satellites or Chinese "kidnapper" satellites. Or maybe they were blinded, jammed, or hacked. It may not even be intentional; maybe it was interference or an operator error, or even space junk. The US is unable to communicate to find out why. The Reality This is more than just a fictional story – it is a well-known within government agencies and private industry that our reliance on GPS is a major problem. It was even highlighted recently at Space Symposium by Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond: “Over the last two years, China and Russia have continued to build an entire spectrum of threats, including “reversible jammers” and “ground-based laser systems capable of blinding or damaging satellites...China has a satellite with a robotic arm that is on-orbit today. This technology could be used in the future to grab other satellites. Both have ground-based missiles capable of destroying our satellites in orbit.” As one example of this, consider the events of January 26, 2016, when communications, emergency radios, and digital broadcasts around the world went offline. Even power grids started to malfunction and network engineers scrambled frantically to prevent a global communication meltdown. The culprit: a simple a 13-microsecond error in GPS clocks. Despite its name, GPS is not about maps; it’s about time. Over half of the $1.4T in economic benefits comes from its role as the world’s timekeeper. GPS is not nearly secure or accurate enough for modern networks, a problem that is going to get worse. Because of this there is a multi-billion dollar effort is underway to build a GPS replacement. The Importance of Timing for the World All of the world’s data run through very precisely aligned networks. Think of these data networks as analogous to a train network. Now consider what happens if the clocks at each of the train stations are only accurate to ten minutes. Conductors would be forced to maintain a ten-minute buffer - the train scheduled to depart at 8 am would be held up until the clock on the wall says 8:10 am. As a result, only six trains an hour could leave a platform (bandwidth is reduced) and ten minutes would stack up at each station down the line (latency increases). The same thing happens in a network: the efficient flow of data, like trains, requires very precise synchronization. But, as mentioned previously, GPS is not up to the task. Because of this, a $1.5B industry of timing solutions has emerged that attempts to provide network stability in times when GPS is offline. What will this timing solution do for us? Telcos that are moving to 5G standards need to implement new technologies that require precision timing between the backhaul network, base stations, and mobile handsets. Better precision timing potentially unlocks double the bandwidth and four times the users within an existing network. Bandwidth is golden. Bandwidth=dollars gained. Precision timing is also valuable for Private Networks for Industry 4.0 facilities that utilize Time Sensitive Networks (TSN) for automated manufacturing. Increased, secure, reliable time=efficiency increase which=dollars gained. Timing is also critical for financial transactions, both for exchanges and the traders they serve. Exchanges require verifiable financial timestamps for transactions made by a global network of customers. Precision timing also helps reduce latency for high-frequency traders. Reliable, secure time=dollars gained. For defense and government agencies, secure and precise timing is necessary for secure communications, data fusion, deep space missions, power grids, and time difference of arrival (TDOA) for locating signals. Secure, reliable, time=effective, reliable, and safe networks. Who Owns Time? In spite of the critical role that timing plays in the modern world, it can be argued that nobody really owns time. GPS has become the de factor timekeeper for the world, but only because of circumstance. GPS was originally started as a DoD project in 1973 during the height of the Cold War and was only intended for use by the United States military. But it happened to come online right as the world’s networks were moving from analog to digital, and there was a need for a global timing reference to grease these new networks. Civilian use was allowed following an executive order from President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. The military kept the best signals for internal use, which was made available for the general population by the Clinton Administration in 2000. Even now, there is a call to develop a next-generation GPS system for US, DoD use only. Government replacements for GPS has already begun by government agencies around the world, including Beidou in China, Galileo in Europe, GLONASS in Russia, NavIC in India, and Michibiki in Japan. And there is always a trend towards privatization within the United States – consider that the internet, computers, cell phones, all started as development US government projects. And this trend has accelerated within the space industry. Consider the privatization of launch vehicles, satellites, even lunar and Mars missions that were once the domain, of NASA alone. The time is right for a new global timing solution.

  • Quantum Tech Made Simple…

    By Frey Wilson, PhD … Explaining the basics of quantum technologies and debunking some of the common misconceptions. “So, what does quantum mean?” The literal meaning of the word quantum is simply ‘the smallest possible finite amount of stuff’… and the unexpected effects produced on this scale. We call the usual, everyday effects, ‘classical’. “Okay then, what are quantum technologies?” We can harness these unexpected effects to solve challenging problems or do novel things. There are 4 key areas where new technologies are emerging – computers (including machine learning and simulation), imaging, sensing & measurement, and communications. Time synchronization fits into the last of these. “So quantum technologies are a thing of the future?” Several technologies which have been around for a while use quantum effects – LEDs, MRI machines, lasers, and even the transistors which our current computers rely on. The development of those technologies is now considered to be part of the 'first quantum revolution ’. The ‘second quantum revolution’ refers to those now under development. Some of these are even available today! ¨It seems that ‘quantum’ technologies basically mean faster/better…” There is a misconception that a quantum solution to an engineering challenge (for example, quantum computing) means that is, therefore, superior in every way. For example, quantum computers are not ‘ultra-fast versions of normal computers. They usually meet a specific need – quantum computers solve problems which are unable to be solved with the usual computing logic (which revolves around addition and multiplication, etc.). The existence of quantum computers would not mean that it would be quicker to start up your laptop and open Microsoft Word! Quantum cryptography solves the unique challenge of preventing quantum computers from undoing current cryptographic standards. Quantum time synchronization overcomes current limitations with the current global time sync methods. “Quantum physics is basically indistinguishable from magic!” On the scale of ‘the smallest finite possible amount’, there are a few key effects which we can use to our advantage. Whilst these are very challenging to understand compared to our usual grasp of how the world works, we can predict and explain these effects well. “What are the key features of quantum physics?” We can distil these down to about 6 central tenets… 1. Discrete units: Anything that can be considered ‘quantum’ is called a ‘quantum state’ – and these states are ‘discrete units’ meaning that they come in set amounts. For example, 1, 2, 4, 193, or another integer amount of photons in a beam of light. This applies to lots of different properties – the amount of energy that an electron in an atom has or the amount of charge a particle has. These discrete amounts are called ‘quanta’. 2. Wave-particle duality: Quantum states sometimes look and behave like waves, and sometimes look and behave like particles. Even both at the same time. 3. Uncertainty principle: Measurement of quantum particles is hard. Certain related properties (e.g. energy and time, or position and momentum) cannot both be known with an exact precision simultaneously. The limit for this precision is related to a value called ‘Planck’s constant’. 4. Superposition: Not only is measurement hard, but a quantum particle that isn’t measured will behave differently to one that we do observe and measure. Up until we measure it, it behaves as though it is doing all possible things at once. We call this superposition. Because of this, we can only ever know a probability that a quantum state will behave a certain way. This concept is where the famous ‘Schrödinger’s cat’ thought experiment comes from. 5. No-cloning theorem: Partly because measurement is so hard, it is impossible to create an identical and separate copy of an arbitrary unknown quantum state. A consequence of this is that, if you encode some information on a quantum state (this is called a ‘qubit’, short for quantum bit), then it ensures information cannot be exactly copied. It is this tenet which forms the basis for security in many proposed quantum protocols. 6. Entanglement: Under some conditions, groups of quantum states can be generated such that their properties are correlated beyond what is possible in classical physics. It can be thought of as an extension of superposition, with multiple quantum states. This means that, even at a great distance or when separated by barriers, two entangled quantum states would have related properties. If you changed a property in one, the other would also be affected. This is the key property that we leverage for our time synchronization method. “How do we use this for time synchronization?” We can use the last of these properties, entanglement, to communicate easily with a remote party, perhaps on the other side of the globe. If we both have a source of entangled photon pairs (and a receiver to detect them with) we can send one half of the pair to the other party (and measure for ourselves the other half), and vice versa. We can both now check when the sent photons were detected at our receiver. Armed with this information, and comparing correlated properties, we can negotiate the time difference between the clocks at our receivers. As a bonus, the no-cloning theorem means that we could put checks in place to check for spoofing. “Isn’t time synchronization already ‘done’?” Currently, time synchronization is performed by two parties sending classical radio signals to each other. The two compare measured properties, such as the phase, and use this to calculate the distance between themselves (and other reference points). From this, they can calculate their relative timing and positioning. This is how GPS (global positioning system) currently works. The limitations on this method have a proportional effect on how accurate GPS can be. Harnessing quantum effects to synchronize clocks means that we get picosecond precision (10-12) with a global reach. This translates to around millimeter precision for GPS. Another limitation with GPS is that it is relatively straightforward to spoof – the no-cloning theorem of quantum particles means that this is much harder. “Quantum physics is basically indistinguishable from magic!”

  • Weekly Takeaways-September 20, 2021

    We all rely on GPS for our modern lives. If GPS were to go offline for more than a few hours, the disruptions would spread quickly: from navigation apps, to ATM and credit card transactions, to cell phone service, to internet, before finally the power goes out. And it is not the position and navigation piece that is the biggest concern - it is the timing. After all, we can all survive without our driving directions for a while. But try to live without communications or power. Indeed, this has been a concern about GPS for two decades. And despite a GPS replacement being signed into law in 2018, a backup still hasn’t been built. The push now is to incentivize private companies to offer an alternative position, navigation and timing (APNT) system. If the United States has a GPS backup or APNT in place, the GPS satellites become less of a target. In early 2020 the US Government punted with Executive Order 13905 and put the onus on private industry and individuals to have their own GPS backup plan. As we highlight in our overview video, this is the opportunity that Xairos seeks to address and the topic of a TTI/Vanguard presentation by our Product and Strategy Lead, Tanya Ramond, MBA PhD: “It’s All About Time: Satellite-Based Quantum Synchronization”

  • Weekly Takeaways-September 27, 2021

    It is well understood that all modern networks and electronics rely on a timing signal from GPS that is not nearly secure or accurate enough for the job. How do you solve this problem? With entangled photons! Our Product and Strategy Lead, Tanya Ramond, describes the path to a new space-based timing architecture using quantum technology in a recent TTI/Vanguard presentation that you can check out here. The quantum links form the core of a secure and accurate time distribution between satellites and ground nodes. The last mile timing distribution can utilize traditional methods, but will benefit from the recent Facebook Time Appliance which was released as an open source design. The timing accuracy improvement yields huge benefits for distributed databases: “making the timekeeping 80x more precise (making any time discrepancies 80x smaller) made a distributed database run 3x faster - an incredible performance boost on the same server hardware, just from keeping more accurate and more reliable time.” But the long term goal is an accurate and secure timing system that is completely independent of GPS, providing benefits for all telecommunications, networks, industrial robotics, IOT devices, autonomous vehicles, and position devices.

  • The Xairos Time Appliance (XTA)

    Facebook likes time: A giant leap forward for the time and synchronization industry By Tanya Ramond, MBA PhD In August 2021, Facebook announced the release of its Time Appliance, a PCIe card that accesses master time from GPS, preserves that time accuracy by means of its miniaturized atomic clock and distributes the time via NTP. This turns any computer server into a time reference source without dependence on internet connectivity. It also allows multiple computers in a network to be synchronized together with nanosecond accuracy. The Facebook Time Appliance advances the performance of time appliances from the millisecond range into the microsecond PTP distribution, and nanosecond time resolution. While this sounds impressive on its own—and it is—what is monumental is the fact that the entire design for this Time Appliance is open source. The full design and blueprints can be found online, and anyone who can populate a PCB can make their own for less than $2k. This moves the time appliance hardware into the realm of the affordable for countless new users, democratizing the time server. This was arguably the biggest leap forward in computing in a decade. Why? Facebook’s motivations for open sourcing this hardware were multiple. They claim that the decision to open source was to ‘set the industry free from vendor lock’. Current time and synch hardware is proprietary, which makes it difficult to keep up with upgrades. If a component is faulty, the part must be shipped back to the vendor for repair, or else replaced. Addressing security concerns is difficult or impossible to do. Closed source 20 year old code is a security risk, which is a big concern for database managers. With an open source approach, security concerns can be addressed right away. The time and synch industry has remained ‘unchanged for the last 20-25 years and it was time to move it forward. Facebook started the Time Appliance Project in March 2020. This is an open community led by engineers at Facebook and NVIDIA, with project leads hailing from heavy-hitting companies such as Broadcom, Equinix, Nokia, Seagate, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and Intel. The purpose is to ‘provide a platform to bring together, discuss, standardize and share technologies and solutions across industries with the datacenter applications and datacenter network infrastructure as the main interest… to enable datacenter time-sensitive applications such as consistency in distributed systems, edge computing, AR/VR and IoT’. In short, however, the upshot will be opening up new markets based on more, better, and more accessible timing solutions. There are multiple use cases that open up. These include but are not limited to the following: Database performance efficiency: Better timing in distributed databases means that less computational overhead is required to compensate for timing uncertainty. A recent blog post from NVIDIA cites that ‘making the timekeeping 80x more precise (making any time discrepancies 80x smaller) made a distributed database run 3x faster — an incredible performance boost on the same server hardware, just from keeping more accurate and more reliable time.’ Autonomous vehicles: Autonomous vehicles have a multitude of sensors where data ingest over all sensor streams, synthesis, and processing must be done at a minimum of latency and high precision. Gaming: What teenage (or older) kid would not salivate over eliminating time lag on pulling the trigger and being the first to conquer [insert otherworldly beast name here]? 5G: Delivering the Gigabit/sec data bandwidths and fast internet connectivity that 5G promises relies on precise timing solutions Xairos is uniquely positioned within this ecosystem to ride this new wave of market expansion. Xairos offers its own Timing Appliance (Xairos Timing Appliance or XTA) that in principle operates the same way as the Facebook Time Appliance, but with unsurpassed accuracy and security. Because the XTA transfers time independent of GPS, it is not spoofable like current GPS-based methods. And the XTA uses quantum-based optical methods which unlock 1000x better time transfer accuracy than GPS. All delivered via a satellite-based platform to deliver the geographic reach global users require. XTA uses quantum-based optical methods which unlock 1000x better time transfer accuracy than GPS.

bottom of page