BT and Toshiba install first quantum secure industrial network in UK to protect production facilities’ information transfers

Today, BT and Toshiba Europe Limited announced the first industrial quantum-secure network in the UK. It transmits between the National Composites Centre (NCC), the world-leading composite research and development facility in the UK, and the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), a pioneer in new digital engineering capabilities and a not-for-profit organisation.

Innovate UK’s AQuaSec project funded the network, and it shows how Quantum Key Distribution can ensure that data sent between industrial sites are secure during situations where security is extremely crucial. QKD is a very advanced technique using a single stream of photons to share data between locations. It is un-hackable by conventional means.

BT Group intends to spearhead quantum security and quantum cryptography with the new network

QKD is replacing the classical approach of physically transporting data in storage drives between the NCC and CFMS sites in Emerson’s Green and Filton in North Bristol, as well as at the University of Bristol. This will help save time and enhance security. Photons travelling over fibre optic cables over 6km long will replace physical transport. The encryption keys are also sent as a stream of ‘encoded’ photons.

Standard Openreach fibre is how Toshiba’s UKD distributes thousands of cryptographic keys every second. This innovative function allows both the data and quantum keys to be sent on the same fibre. There will be no need for dedicated methods to send keys separately. While the current network stretches over 6 km, the maximum range is 120 km, allowing for secure data-transmission across major cities.

The quantum network also enjoys benefits due to Toshiba’s Active Stabilisation technology, allowing the system to continue sending out data even in harsh conditions. This does not require user intervention either. Due to this, there is no need to recalibrate the system due to temperature changes in fibre lengths.

‘This first industrial deployment of a quantum-secure network in the UK is a significant milestone as we move towards a quantum-ready economy. We’re excited to be working alongside our long-term partner in Toshiba, as well as the NCC and CFMS as industry-leading bodies in the UK, to demonstrate the ultra-secure nature of quantum cryptography. The power of quantum computing offers unprecedented opportunity for UK industry, but this is an essential first step to ensure its power can be harnessed in the right way and without compromising security.’

Prof. Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Technology, BT

Both BT and Toshiba are global leaders when it comes to quantum cryptography through decades of research and years of collaboration. This happened at the BT Labs in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, and the Toshiba Cambridge Research Laboratory, respectively. Today is the first UK development of QKD, but Toshiba already plans to integrate this in sites located in the US and Japan. These are Toshiba’s Proofs of Concept (PoCs). The areas will be highly sensitive, including locations such as healthcare and financial services. Installing the network shows how BT is commited to developing such technologies to help secure the UK’s future networks for users. Around £60 million is spent each year to spearhead the development of quantum technology, in areas like AI and data visualisation as well as quantum networks.

In a post-Brexit world, quantum computing is expected to have an important role in transforming the UK’s economy. It is projected to have an instrumental impact in the future of connected smart factories and Industry 4.0. Last month, the UK government announced the creation of the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC), which is expected to reach completion in 2022. The Centre will help the UK stay at the forefront of the quantum technology race, and is part of the £1 million National Quantum Technologies Programme as well as the commitment to a quantum future.

About BT

BT Group is the UK’s leading provider of telecommunications and networks as well as global communications services and solutions. It serves customers in 180 countries. In the UK, its main activities are providing fixed voice, mobile, broadband, and TV as well as other products and services related to networks. Elsewhere, BT provides managed services and network services as well.

About Toshiba

With over 140 years of experience in many different businesses, Toshiba Corporation leads a group of companies ranging from energy to electronic device companies. They posses world-class AI and information processing technology. Toshiba’s contributions lead to a better world, focusing on developing technologies to enable them to do so.

About NCC

The National Composites Centre (NCC) is one of seven centres forming the High Value Manufacturing Catapult. It focuses on adopting cutting edge technology and using it to manufacture advanced composites that are sustainable and high-value. Its new composite products are built to benefit the UK.

About CFMS

A not-for-profit specialist in digital engineering, the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) designs high value engineering products and processes. It facilitates a greater understanding of how a product will perform in its entire life-cycle, and has a digital test bed for this purpose. This virtual replica of systems investigates options and opportunities to advance physical development.

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