Britain’s BT and Japan’s Toshiba on Wednesday launched the first commercial trial of a quantum secure network that will block encryption vulnerabilities that will emerge when quantum computing becomes mainstream.
Professional services group EY will use the network to connect two of its London locations, one at London Bridge and the other at Canary Wharf, the companies said.
Quantum computers are unreliable and expensive today, but the technology, which is being developed by companies such as Google, IBM and Microsoft, offers the ability to process data millions of times faster than supercomputers.
Rather than storing information in bits – or zeros and ones – quantum computing uses a property of subatomic particles in which they can exist in different states simultaneously. They can then become “entangled” – meaning they can influence each other in observable ways – leading to an exponential increase in computing power.
BT chief technology officer Howard Watson said quantum technology could potentially be used to crack current encryption keys during data transmission.
Quantum key distribution (QKD), however, uses photonics to transmit the encryption key in fiber networks, he said. If the QKD is hacked in transmission, its state is modified and therefore the attack will be detected in real time.
He said BT and Toshiba, with EY as their first test customer, “are paving the way for new commercial explorations for quantum technologies”.
BT will provide the end-to-end encrypted links over its Openreach private fiber networks, while Toshiba will provide the QKD hardware and key management software, the companies said.