Europe Looking to the Future with Quantum Standards

Marks & Clerk

Technical standards are fundamental to commercialisation of many high-tech industries.  Our previous article (linked here) provided a primer to technical standards and how standard essential patents are used and likely to play a role in the quantum commercial landscape.

In Europe, CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and CENELEC (European Electrotechnical Committee for Standardization) have formed a focus group for quantum technologies (FCQT).  The CEN and CENELEC are associations which bring together the National Standardisation bodies of 34 European Countries.  Both CEN and CENELEC extend outside the EU and covers the UK, Switzerland, and Türkiye as well as other non-EU countries.

In March, CEN and CENELEC produced a Standardization Roadmap (linked here).  The roadmap raises a number of interesting points and seems to differ in two main respect from the way in which other standards have evolved.

First, the foreword thanks the members of the focus group who have provided written contributions.  However, over half of the listed names come from National research institutes or organisations as opposed to industry.  This is quite different from, for example, the telecoms standards groups which are dominated by large industrial players.   The big players in the quantum field have not yet been established and the make-up of the CEN-CENELEC standards focus group reflects that this is a relatively new field.  Standards are being developed at a national and regional level for quantum technologies at a much earlier stage in their maturity than has happened in other fields for example, video encoding, telecoms, data storage etc.

Second, the roadmap looks at every aspect of quantum systems, hardware, firmware and software for different applications and looks at the standardisation needs at a granular level.  To perform this analysis, the report is accompanied by a second document “Quantum Technologies Use Cases” (linked here).  Which looks at 9 use cases for quantum technology and breaks down each use case in terms of the components, protocols and algorithms needed.

The nine illustrated use cases are:

  1. Using a quantum computer as a secondary processor in the cloud
  2. Trapped-ion optical clocks and sensors
  3. Networks of quantum computers using trapped-ions
  4. Quantum simulations
  5. Assembly of an ion-trap quantum computer
  6. Cloud-based quantum computing
  7. QKD High-security metropolitan area network
  8. QKD secure cloud archive
  9. Integrating QKD with other encryption techniques and using KMS implementation to support healthcare services

Although there are currently industrial trials of some of the above use cases in progress, many of them are a long way from commercialisation.  The development of telecoms, video, and storage technology has been interspersed with many “formatting wars”, the most famous probably being Betamax v VHS and Blue-ray v HD-DVD.  Will the advanced standards planning of CEN and CENELEC avoid these wars in the quantum space? 

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