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Initiate standardization work for quantum info technologies
IEC 2021-11-23

When is the right time to begin standardization work on new and emerging technologies?

Starting too early risks stifling innovation by promoting immature or inferior technologies, as well as giving specific countries or companies an unfair advantage. Starting too late risks fragmentation and locking consumers into vertical markets, possibly at the cost of safety and efficiency.

According to a new IEC White Paper on Quantum information technology (QIT), the right time to start is when a number of global companies have developed either commercial products or prototypes. At the same time, no standardization work can happen without a global pool of experts who are prepared to work together.

There must also be a consensus among multiple stakeholders, such as industry, consumers and regulators. Once these conditions have been met, other considerations include technological and market maturity, the level of risk, regulatory needs and the political climate.

The IEC White Paper points out that quantum technologies are at different levels of maturity. While quantum computing may still be 10 or 15 years away from going mainstream, quantum key distribution (QKD), for example, already offers well-established commercial solutions.

QKD is a secure encryption method that encodes messages using the properties of light particles. The only way for hackers to unlock the key is to measure the particles, but the very act of measuring changes the behaviour of the particles, causing errors that trigger security alerts.

In the field of quantum sensing and metrology, a number of prototypes are under development around the world. These include the development of medical imaging solutions capable of detecting cancer cells that are five times smaller than anything state-of-the-art magnetic resonance machines can find.

Quantum LiDAR prototypes promise to boost the safety of self-driving vehicles by eliminating blind spots and detecting objects at a distance of 200 Km or greater. Others are working on tools for underground exploration that will be capable of detecting sinkholes and volcanic activity that are currently invisible to the most sophisticated sensors.

The White Paper recommends that the IEC should develop a mechanism to assess when these and other emerging technologies are ready for standardization. This should happen in close collaboration with other organizations “to promote commercialization via a fair and open global marketplace”.

The authors argue that standards should not only be based on sound science but also need to be “driven by industry needs and be flexible enough not to prematurely eliminate competing technologies”.

Download your free copy of the IEC White Paper on Quantum Information Technology here.

(Source: IEC)

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