On Wednesday, Britain’s BT and Japan’s Toshiba launched the first commercial trial of a quantum-secured network aiming to block vulnerabilities in encryption that will emerge when quantum computing becomes mainstream.
The companies explained that professional services group EY will use the network to connect two sites in London, one at the London Bridge and another at Canary Wharf.
The technology behind quantum computers is being developed by companies including Google, IBM, and Microsoft. It offers the potential to crunch data millions of times faster than supercomputers, even though quantum computers are unreliable and costly.
Quantum computing uses a property of sub-atomic particles that can exist together in different states. The sub-atomic particles can become entangled, influencing each other’s behavior in an observable way and increasing computing power. This is in contrast to storing information in bits (zeroes and ones).
Quantum technology could potentially break current encryption keys while data is being transmitted, said BT Chief Technology Officer Howard Watson.
He said that quantum key distribution (QKD) uses photonics to transmit the encryption key in fiber networks. Therefore, an attack can be detected in real-time if the QKD is hacked in transmission because its state will be changed.
With EY as their first trial customer, Watson said BT and Toshiba were “paving the way for further commercial explorations for quantum technologies.”
The companies said that BT will provide the end-to-end encrypted links over its Openreach private fiber networks, while Toshiba provides the QKD hardware and key management software.