As representative of the Forum, I would like to state the background and aims to its establishment.
The Quantum ICT Forum was established to contribute to the realization of a creative society by working on the development and diffusion of quantum ICT, that is, quantum information and communication technology.
Information and communication play major roles in achieving a highly creative and sustainable society. Series of acquisition-prediction-action cycles across the physical world and the virtual world will improve the productivity of the industry through the efficient use of resource, and protects the social activities with accurate disaster prediction and failure detection. To push forward such cycles and create a sophisticated society, it is required to establish efficient processing and analysis of large quantities of data collected from various places, decision of the optimum actions, and accomplishment of the order sent from the artificial intelligence. Highly sensitive and highly accurate sensors, high-speed computers, and communications with low latency and guaranteed security are thus necessary.
Quantum ICT is a radical solution to these challenges. Here, I say “radical” because the principle of information processing would be changed to a new one based on quantum mechanics by changing the way to represent information from conventional bits to quantum bits. The quantum bits have vector characteristics, whereas conventional bits are represented only by zero and one. Therefore, quantum bits enables information processing exactly in different dimensions. It is predicted that quantum computers will solve time-consuming problems for conventional counterparts, quantum cryptography can never be decrypted by any computers, and quantum measurement/sensing will outstrip conventional methods in accuracy and sensitivity.
The potential of quantum ICT was already known from the mid 1980s to 2000s, but its realization has long been in question. However, in the 2010s, quantum key distribution networks were built, and these networks demonstrate practical feasibility by accomplishing stable operation in realistic environments. Moreover, with the commercialization of quantum annealing machines and the construction of quantum computers with tens of gates using superconducting qubits, expectations for their realization have risen rapidly. Quantum ICT has come to be recognized worldwide as an emerging technology in the foreseeable future, rather than a technology that may or may not be realized.
Prior commercialization of such new technologies is necessary to maintain our industrial advantage. Moreover, information and communication technology is directly connected to the ability to manage our society efficiently. Cryptography is also the key to national security. For these reasons, the United States, China, EU, and other countries are investing large amount to accelerate R&D in quantum ICT. In the private sector as well, giants such as IBM, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, and others are actively investing in quantum computers, and startups developing quantum software are being founded one after another.
In Japan, on the other hand, world-leading results are obtained in basic research, such as invention of superconducting qubits, proposal of quantum annealing, proposal and demonstration of optical lattice clock, and development and security certification of the world’s fastest quantum cryptography systems. Nevertheless, we have to admit that Japan is behind in large-scale system demonstration and practical applications. Moreover, our research project was designed for hardware and efforts i for quantum software were not sufficient to make effective use of quantum properties. Despite of the current situation, we still believe that Japanese research ability as a whole remains competitive. Therefore, in order to win the R&D race against other competitors, we need to increase the scale of activities and make effective use of limited resources. The Quantum ICT Forum is here willing to promote the R&D activities on this field.
We are going forward with three activities.
The first is dissemination of information, the second is support for standardization and practical application, and the third is providing places for exchanges and collaboration.
For example, we hear extreme opinions on quantum computers; some insists that quantum computers outperform conventional computers in all the areas that require large-scale computation, while others emphasize the technical problems on constructing large-scale computers and insist that quantum computers are meaningless. We believe that such an excessive expectation as well as denial is harmful to the sound growth of technology. The Quantum ICT Forum will work to establish proper understanding in society by disseminating scientifically based information and correctly conveying the current status, future possibilities, and even limits of the quantum ICT.
The Quantum ICT Forum also issues technical explanations and guidelines in order to promote the proper use of quantum ICT, thereby lowering the barriers for non-experts of the quantum ICT to enter this field. Moreover, we assist to formulate the proposal of R&D strategies for quantum ICT through roadmaps and surveys on technical trends.
Next I would like to cover our support for standardization and practical application. It will be important to strengthen our bargaining power to make our technologies adopted as international standards and to dominate related technologies. We have already committed to international standardization activities for quantum cryptography at ITU-T, ISO, and the European standardization organization (ESTI). We provide technical assistance in standardization activities for quantum cryptography. Recently, Y3800, ITU-T’s first recommendation on quantum cryptography, was adopted based on proposals from Japan. We will continue to support standardization of quantum cryptography as well as quantum computers and quantum measuring/sensing, which are expected to start soon.
Also, when considering application of quantum ICT, it will be important to try various ideas using actual devices in actual environment. Quantum cryptographic systems and network are already under test on the Tokyo QKD Network. We are working as a go-between for device developers and users, by offering a test-bed environment for quantum computers and quantum measuring/sensing.
Finally, the Quantum ICT Forum provides an open space for exchanges and collaboration. In future R&D, we need to consider application even in the basic research phase; the linear model is no longer sufficient. To promote quantum ICT activity, unified R&D activities over quantum cryptography, quantum computers, quantum measuring/sensing, and classical (non-quantum) are crucially important. Moreover, quantum ICT is based on a broad range of disciplines including mathematics, physics, electrical engineering, information science, computer engineering, machine learning, and quantum chemistry as well as social science in the future. We will go forward with collaboration for people of various backgrounds as well of those in different positions such as basic research and application research/industrialization, seeds and needs, or industry/academia/government, and for those in different fields. We will promote such inter-field collaboration by providing opportunities for personnel exchanges, interdisciplinary workshops, and so on. The Quantum ICT Forum will also support education in quantum technologies and contribute to fostering human resources prepared for quantum ICT.
The Quantum ICT Forum has its roots in the Meeting of the representatives on commissioned research projects on Quantum Information and Communication research funded by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT) started in September 2001. In this meeting, researchers and officers from NICT and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications gathered to discuss the research activities and promotion scheme. Since then, the forum’s structure has evolved to deepen collaboration with people in related fields and overseas.
To respond the global attention on quantum information technology, in October 2017, the Quantum ICT Forum was established with the participation of a broader range of people with interest in quantum information technology, including potential users. Upon discussions on the direction for the future, in October 2018, we decided to restructure the forum as a general incorporated association in order to work more autonomously over the long term. Preparations were thus conducted with registration as a general incorporated association being made on May 30, 2019, and we have started full activities in November 2019.
A forum was an open space in ancient Rome, where people gathered, learned, or traded, as well as making discussions. We at the Quantum ICT Forum too aim to be a venue for people gathering and performing open technical development that advances quantum iICT to bring about a creative and innovative society.
I thus close my greetings by asking for your support into the future in order to advance the Quantum ICT Forum and Japan’s quantum technologies.