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  • Weekly Takeaways-January 25, 2022

    Theme of the Week The Clock Lock All networks, communications, and power grids require a common time standard. This is the role that GPS fell into - a global clock delivered from space via a weak RF signal. But this signal is woefully insecure and easy to jam and spoof (see below). Information security comes from the CIA triad (no, not that CIA), to protect against outsiders getting access to (confidentiality), modifying (integrity), and disrupting access to your information (availability). The signal from GPS does not meet this security level because it is: Unencrypted (at least for civilian users), breaking Confidentiality Unauthenticated, breaking Integrity Easy to jam, breaking Availability But a future timing service for fixed enterprise users has to be secure - there is too much at stake. A new technology is needed. Industry News Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has joined the growing chorus of experts calling for the US to catch up with China in technology investment, including quantum, through government and private sector cooperation under the $110B United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021. “China has made it a point to invest a tremendous amount in artificial intelligence, in quantum, in robotics, and in cyber, and their whole intent is to try to jump ahead of the United States,” Panetta said. The National Science Board biennial State of U.S. Science and Engineering 2022 report highlighted that R&D funding in the United States, while still highest in the world, was ceding ground to China. The US Government released a National Security Memorandum “on Improving the Cybersecurity of National Security, Department of Defense, and Intelligence Community Systems,” and instructs the National Security Agency to release documents relating to “quantum resistant protocols, and planning for use of quantum resistant cryptography where necessary.” Following on the heels of a Seraphim report that showed record investment in space, the Space Capital Space Investment Quarterly reported: "VCs invested $17.1B into 328 space companies in 2021, accounting for 3% of total global venture capital flows. This beats the previous annual record year of $9.1B, set in 2020." No surprise that the last two years have hastened the migration of workers and startups out of Silicon Valley. According to PitchBook and CNBC, investment in Silicon Valley and Seattle startups dipped below 30 percent for the first time and was 40 percent lower than 2014. The More You Know... The Association of Old Crows hosted an interesting presentation on the history of GPS spoofing. According to the Resilient Navigation and Timing Foundation, jamming is relatively commonplace. While the US does not track this, the European GNSS Agency evaluated nearly 451,000 reported jamming events and found that roughly 10% were intentional. But spoofing, the ability to fake a GPS signal, is more sophisticated. As a concept, it has been around a long time and was even featured in the 1997 James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies." But over the last decade it has become a reality: December 2011 - An American drone was downed in Iran allegedly due to GPS spoofing. June 2013 - UT Austin researchers coerced a ship off course using a spoofing device. December 2015 - the DHS reported that drug traffickers are spoofing border drones. October 2016 - Users and taxis near the Kremlin mysteriously reported that they were at the airport. 2017 - Strange locations were reported in isolated incidents in the Black Sea, Russia, and Africa. Suspiciously, this all seemed to occur wherever Russian VIPS were traveling. June 2018 - Article demonstrated a universal spoofing device that can spoof GPS, Galileo, and Beidu signals all at once with $400 of materials. April 2019 - car at the Geneva Motor Show seemed to magically transport to the UK and the year 2036, according to their navigation displays. June 2019 - Iran shot down a drone that wandered into their airspace for reasons that were unclear, though spoofing was suspected. May 2020 - Reports of the curious case of "circle spoofing" in China and Iran. There were even reports of ships worldwide appearing to be transported to Point Reyes, California.

  • Weekly Takeaways-January 3, 2022

    Out with the Old... Towering above San Francisco is iconic Sutro Tower, a three-legged monument to obsolescence. Originally built in the 1970s to broadcast TV and radio signals throughout the hilly bay area, it has now been supplanted by cell towers, cables and fiber that provide streaming services. But it still operates. And even though few people use them, the TV signal is free. GPS, like Sutro Tower, was also built in the 1970s and provides a free* signal. And it is also obsolete. For the general user with a location app it works fine - most of the time. But, surprisingly, the majority of GPS' value is as a timing signal for communication and data networks. And it is not nearly secure, resilient or accurate enough for this application. It's time for something new. Last Week's Theme: A Present from China Industry News "Yet another government report detailing bad things that will happen because of our foolish over reliance on GPS for timing." According to a new report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “The impact of a long lasting, widespread GPS outage on mobile phone networks would likely be staggering.” According to this report, a "long lasting" GPS outage is only 24 hours. Which is not hard to achieve if you have the right equipment, such as this GPS jammer available on Amazon for only $14.98! In the future, we may no longer get our position from GPS - we may get them from 5G signals. At least Qualcomm thinks so. China has developed what it calls a Satellite Quantum System in a bid to combat any adversary intrusion into its power infrastructure. Chinese researchers published a paper where they described a drill using Mozi to protect its electric power grid against attacks. Remember when the Russia Channel One TV host Dmitry Kiselyov said, “if NATO crosses our red line, it risks losing all 32 of its GPS satellites at once?” Recently he upped the threat against the US and NATO, adding: “Otherwise, everyone will be turned into radioactive ash”. The More You Know... *So is the GPS signal really free? For the sake of argument let's ignore the cost to the taxpayer, which is roughly $1.8B a year. To the consumer using the location app, it is free - though only because your location data is monetized. But for the enterprise user that needs timing from GPS, the hardware and system costs are very expensive. Nearly half a million GPS-tied timing boxes are sold a year, ranging in price from a few to tens of thousands of dollars a box. A basic design meets older 4G timing standards with no holdover (backup in case of a GPS outage). More expensive designs meet newer 5G timing standards and/or provides up to 48 hour holdover. On top of this, telcos and data centers spend lots of time and capital to ensure the timing stability and performance of their networks. But they are running up against the natural (and two decade old) limits that the "free" GPS system can provide. To learn more, please email us or schedule a meeting here.

  • Weekly Takeaways-January 11, 2022

    The Train Station Analogy Imagine you are taking the train across town. You get to the train on time (at least according to your watch), but the clock at the train station is running five minutes late. So, the train leaves five minutes late. You get to your connecting station, but that clock is running five minutes fast. Your connecting train has already left. So, you have to wait for the next train. Such is the importance of synchronized clocks. Moving people is analogous to moving data across a network; better synchronization increases throughput, improves efficiency, and reduces latency. And while networks get more complicated (see below), the accuracy hasn't improved in decades. China reportedly has ground-based lasers that can shoot down satellites, and now they have developed a 1 Megawatt laser that can fit on a small satellite. A major solar event like the Carrington Event of 1859 "can cause big problems for GPS satellites". Fortunately, there is only a 2% chance of that happening in the next decade. 2021 was a record year for investment in startups, nearly doubling 2020. By the end of the year three SPACs a day were created and dry powder for new investment hit $750B, with the biggest increase in funds for early stage startups led by giant funds. In return, startups returned a record $774.1 billion in exit value. The Quantum Insider (TQI) released their Annual Report summarizing a big year in quantum, including $3.2 Billion of investment in the quantum sector as well as major technology developments. Looking forward, TQI also released their Top Ten Quantum Technology Predictions for 2022. Their list includes obvious predictions like #5: China’s Year to Shine, or #1. Go Public, Or Go Home. But we like prediction #8: Philosophers Join The Conversation "beyond how does quantum computing work to what does quantum computing mean." Is the brain a quantum processor? Entangled photons can be used for quantum computers, distributing encryption keys, and very accurate time transfer. They can also be used for quantum imaging. Researchers are using entangled photons to make "the invisible visible", where "one photon has a wavelength that can be captured on camera, the other is designed to interact with the object under examination in the invisible range." IEEE has published their list of 12 Exciting Engineering Milestones to Look for in 2022, including the launch of space-based optical systems that will enable deep space communications. The Train Station Analogy, Part II In the old days of analog broadcasts, synchronization was not necessary. This was analogous to all trains departing from one station: you arrive when you arrive. Accurate synchronization is critical as more stations are added and distances between stations decrease. And this is the trend within data and telecommunication networks.The one-way broadcast tower has been replaced by cell towers, which are splitting even further into microcells, picocells, and femtocells (think your wi-fi router). This trend is likely to continue, according to a recent report on 6G. Projected to be 100 times faster than 5G, 6G requires a new network topology that "will be more layered and more meshed, encompassing not only ground-based radio units but also unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), low earth orbit (LEO) and geostationary orbit (GEO) satellites, and high-altitude platform stations (HAPS)." All of which will need better timing accuracy.

  • Weekly Takeaways:January 18, 2022

    Read - Write - Wait Imagine you are collaborating with your team on a document. You ping each for inputs. And then you wait. This is, at a basic level, how distributed databases work. The benefits of distributed databases are obvious from the name - it allows distributed resources to act as one computer for better resiliency and efficiency. But the key disadvantage: the processing overhead associated with synchronizing all the sites. This processing overhead is analogous to your team project: more contributors mean more work is done in parallel, at the expense of coordination by the lead. Better synchronization maintains the correct order of the events and improves distributed database efficiency. As NVIDIA and Facebook noted in a blog post, better timing gives outsize performance improvement: “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.” Industry News If you drive a Honda, you may have noticed that your clock is stuck in the past. Honda's navigation system did not rollover in 2022, and instead are showing a date and time in 2002. There are rumors that Google is looking to spin out its quantum division Sandbox. Hey, look, all the charts are up and to the right. Techcrunch released their own metrics that showed that 2021 was "bonkers" year for startup investment, confirming the PitchBook-NVCA report. And 2021 was also "a record year of private capital invested in space, with a 60% increase to US$12.4nm", according to Seraphim. One of Cisco’s predictions for the top technology trends for 2022 is that “Quantum networking could enable a new type of secure connection between digital devices, making them impenetrable to hacks,” which would “lead to better fraud protection for transactions” and “re-shape the internet we know and use today.” Speaking of Quantum Leaps, the cult TV series from the 90’s is coming back. The DHS has designated 16 critical and business infrastructures. But surprisingly, space systems aren’t on the list, even though it impacts almost all of these critical infrastructures and the White House acknowledges that "Space activities are essential to our way of life" as part of the “United States Space Priorities Framework” (USSPF). Now there is legislation to designate space systems, services, and technology as the 17th sector of U.S. critical infrastructure. Researchers use quantum physics to explain how the brain works and consciousness itself, and now a recent paper titled “If time had no beginning” works uses quantum gravity to ask the question “Did time ever begin?”. Videos from the Chicago Quantum Summit have been posted online. The More You Know... The Chinese government published their 14th five year plan to address 11 strategic areas, including quantum information. According to a recent Deloitte report, this includes "satellite quantum networks as a key national research topic" and "aims to create a global QKD network by 2030." In response, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is moving through Congress to counter this. The concern is that China has figured out how to work with small, innovative startups, while the US government has not. As such, they are more rapidly bringing in commercial advancements. But the US is working to overcome this. The most recent defense authorization bill included new provisions and funding to more effectively work with innovative startups. This includes: $117 billion in funding for new science and technology Several studies on how to better leverage the commercial sector through changes in the DoD acquisition process Expand and streamline the use of Other Transaction Authority (OTAs) to streamline procurement from innovative startups Formalize the Commercial Solutions Openings (CSO) program, which was launched as a pilot program in 2017 to acquire “innovative technologies” through prize competitions and peer review of proposals Establish a pilot program to develop and implement novel acquisition mechanisms related to emerging technologies.

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 1, 2022

    Theme of the Week “I Hate GPS” “The idea that we are all hooked to a satellite…that doesn’t work in certain circumstances, does not work indoors or in valleys in Afghanistan, is ridiculous,” - former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. This quote sums up a Army War College article “Lost on the Next Battlefield: The Need to Replace GPS” GPS has been a concern for over two decades. And more recently there have been calls for something better from the White House, Congress, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and General Accounting Office. But progress has been slow. The author asserts that “the DoD should ask Congress to stop funding GPS," and replace it with a new solution that includes “A Common Timing Protocol” and “quantum-based PNT capabilities.” Industry News Why do we need a Quantum Internet? Work is underway from a range of public private partnerships to develop quantum networks. As a small sample of recent developments: The Chicago Quantum Summit presented initiatives to advance quantum technology for the Chicago Quantum Exchange. The European Space Conference hosted a Workshop on Satellite-based Quantum Key Distribution that included SES, DLR, and the European Space Agency. Russia announced they were setting up a National Quantum Laboratory as a "key step to the development of all domestic industry of quantum technologies." Korea announced that they are developing “quantum cryptography communication networks in both the public and private sectors”, bringing together 26 companies including SK telecom, KT, and LG. Japan announced that they will “revamp its national quantum technology strategy, aiming to become self-sufficient in the area,” while also working with US partners. In addition to commercial GPS jammers that are used by delivery, rental car and long haul vehicle drivers, there is concern about interference from the Ligado satellite that is coming online soon. An Executive Order and strategy to move the U.S. Government toward a “zero trust” approach to cybersecurity was just released. According to the Department of Defense (DOD) Zero Trust Reference Architecture “The foundational tenet of the Zero Trust Model is that no actor, system, network, or service operating outside or within the security perimeter is trusted.” More details from the PitchBook report highlights the record year in investment in 2021: US VC-backed companies collected nearly $330 billion in 2021 - roughly double the previous record of $166.6 billion raised in 2020. Nontraditional investors such as corporate VC funds, hedge funds, PE firms and sovereign wealth funds participated in nearly 77% of total annual deal value. More than $774 billion in exit value created by VC-backed companies. Early-stage VC deal activity in 2021 nearly doubled the prior record and eclipsed $80 billion for the first time ever. The More You Know... Lots of cities want to emulate the success of Silicon Valley. Ever since Hewlett and Packard set up in a garage in 1939, the Valley has been synonymous with innovation. But now it seems like these tech hubs are forming elsewhere as Silicon Valley waits for the next big thing. Deep tech may provide the next breakthrough, but it is "far more difficult than building a new app or disrupting another aging industry." As Jake Taylor noted: "building a quantum computer might be the most difficult task ever undertaken." Like the early startups that formed Silicon Valley, these deep tech companies need funding. And, like the OG of Silicon Valley, this investment is migrating elsewhere.

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 15, 2022

    Theme of the Week Ditch the Dial-Up You may recall the distinctive sound of the dial-up modem from the early days of the internet. The modem allowed people to use their existing telephone landline to access the web. But it didn’t work well because the telephone infrastructure was not designed for it. It was only a bridge until a broadband network could be built. The same thing with GPS. GPS was not intended or designed to be a timing resource for the world, yet that is what has happened. Developed by the Department of Defense in the 1970's, it took a pair of Executive Orders to make it available for civilian use. Because GPS delivers both position and timing, newly built networks started capitalizing on this timing signal. Like the dial-up modem, they took advantage of the existing technology. It is now time to upgrade and build a timing network optimized for modern networks. Last Week's Theme: Time for the Quantum Internet Industry News The US Chief of Naval Operations released a Navigation Plan that asserts that “...the Navy must establish itself as a key player in the U.S. quantum technology community. To do so, the Navy should host operational testing on board its platforms in two critical areas: quantum cryptography and quantum sensing.” China was the target of concern as the recognized leader in quantum technology. “[The United States] was ahead for so long, and in so many areas, that it hasn’t really had to do much thinking about what it means to be behind,” said physicist Mitch Ambrose. Speaking of China, their SJ-21 'space cleaner' satellite was observed grabbing and throwing away an old satellite by ExoAnalytic Solutions as shown in this informative video. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $350B America Competes Act, a bill designed to “curb the country's reliance on foreign powers like China," and includes $7B for investments in “10 regional tech hubs outside of the nation's five leading technology centers.” It is the companion to the $110B United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA), formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act, which is stalled in Congress. The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) just released their “Critical and Emerging Technologies List” of “particular importance to the national security of the United States”, including Communication and Networking Technologies, Networked Sensors and Sensing, Quantum Information Technologies, and Space Technologies and Systems. BryceTech just released their annual Smallsats by the Numbers report. By their calculation, 1,743 small satellites (defined as less than 600 kg) were launched in 2021, compared with 1202 in 2020. The majority belonged to Starlink and OneWeb, but there were 470 other smallsats launched. But those numbers are going to increase! Space industry veteran Greg Wyler announced the largest space seed investment ever for his new venture, E-Space, with plans to launch 100,000 small satellites to create a “multi-application cloud server in space” and “the most sustainable satellite network in history.” The More You Know... D-Wave became the latest quantum startup to go public in a $1.6B SPAC deal, joining fellow quantum computing startups IonQ ($2B IPO) and Rigetti Computing ($1.5B SPAC). There have already been a few exits by quantum communication startups, including: Arqit ($1.2B SPAC) QuantumCTek (largest IPO in Chinese history) IDQ (acquisition by SK Telecom and Deutsche Telekom)

  • Weekly Takeaways-February 22, 2022

    Theme of the Week Time is Money Despite its name, timing from GPS represents the majority of its $1.4T in economic benefit. It has been estimated that a sustained GPS outage would knock out banking, communications and power, impact 13 of the 16 critical infrastructure, and cost the US economy $1B per day. Even beyond that, better timing provides direct benefits for: Data centers that want to improve efficiency to reduce power consumption Telcos that want to increase bandwidth and users Financial networks that want to reduce latency for high-frequency trading Exchanges that require verifiable timestamps to eliminate fraud Future 6G networks and the Quantum Internet that need sub-nanosecond timing But timing from GPS has stagnated and will not improve. Something better is needed. Last Week's Theme: Ditch the Dial-Up Industry News SpaceX lost 38 satellites due to an increase in atmospheric density caused by a solar storm. There is further concern that geomagnetic storms will destroy more satellites as solar activity has increased lately with more giant flares expected. Some good articles explaining quantum entanglement and quantum encryption. The University of Colorado has expanded the CUbit Quantum Initiative to build “Colorado’s prominence in quantum information science and technology.” Space is getting crowded. SpaceX is launching 30,000 satellites, E-Space recently announced plans to launch 100,000 satellites, and even the EU is planning their own constellation (with a "secure quantum communication infrastructure"). So various agencies and private companies are working on debris removal strategies, and the US and China are even cooperating to avoid space collisions. The More You Know... With Russia’s recent activities in the Ukraine there is speculation that they will rely on LORAN for navigation instead of GPS or their own GLONASS, a terrestrial navigation system dating back to World War II. Even though it is a relic compared to these space-based systems, it has been “maintained to protect their homeland with navigation and timing services when signals from space are not available.” Especially since Russia has shown how easy it is to jam and spoof GPS.

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