Included in the Hub partnership are many UK Universities (Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Kent, Queen’s Belfast, Oxford, Sheffield, Strathclyde, and the lead – York), industry partners such as ADVA, BT, Fraunhofer UK, ID Quantique, Teledyne e2v and many more, and public sector bodies such as the National Dark Fibre Facility, National Physical Laboratory and RAL Space.
The Hub is funded through the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, a ten-year £1 billion public and private investment underpinned by the UK government, aiming to accelerate the translation of quantum technologies into the marketplace, boost British business and make a real difference to our everyday lives. The programme aims to create a coherent government, industry and academic quantum technology community that gives the UK a world-leading position in the emerging multi-billion-pound new quantum technology markets.
Current secure communications systems have vulnerabilities, some already exposed today and others that may become apparent in the future as computing power and hacking techniques improve. Secure communications based on quantum physics can eliminate some of these vulnerabilities, providing systems whose security is underpinned by the laws of Nature. The basic features of quantum physics that enable secure communications are that information encoded in a quantum system cannot be copied; and that information encoded in a quantum system is irreversibly changed when somebody reads it, so that no hacking goes undetected.
Our researchers in the UK Quantum Communications Hub are developing such quantum secure communications technologies (for example, quantum key distribution – QKD) for a range of applications and users: from government agencies and industry to commercial establishments and all of us at home. In particular:
- we are miniaturising quantum systems to make them cheaper to produce and purchase, and easier to incorporate on mobile phones and home computers through quantum chips;
- we are working towards quantum secured banking apps and ATM facilities to counteract online fraud;
- we have built a UK Quantum Network (linking the cities of Cambridge and Bristol via London using standard optical fibre) to help incorporate quantum security into the conventional telecommunications infrastructure;
- we are developing prototype quantum secured approaches for digital signatures – allowing recipients to ‘sign’ digital messages to confirm they are genuine – and advanced various other “next generation” technologies, beyond basic QKD;
- we are investigating the power of quantum random number generators – which are of paramount importance in many forms of cryptography, modelling and simulation;
- with RAL Space, we have started work on developing ground-to-satellite quantum communications links to address the longest distance communications, intercontinental and across oceans;
- and we are undertaking cryptographic, security, vulnerability analysis and testing of all our technologies with the view to develop effective and protective countermeasures – all from the perspective of providing practical and secure applications and services.