BT and Toshiba install UK’s first quantum-secure industrial network between key UK smart production facilities

  • Date 26 Oct 2020

BT and Toshiba Europe Limited have announced the UK’s first industrial deployment of a quantum-secure network, transmitting between the National Composites Centre (NCC), the UK’s world-leading composite research and development facility, and the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), a not-for-profit research organisation that pioneers new digital engineering capabilities.

Funded by Innovate UK’s AQuaSeC project, the network demonstrates how Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) – an essentially un-hackable, cutting edge technique for sharing encryption ‘keys’ between locations using a stream of single photons – can be used to secure data traffic between key industrial sites where security is of paramount importance.

The technology solution is being used to replace a ‘manual’ approach of physically transporting sensitive data on portable storage devices between the NCC and CFMS sites in Emerson’s Green and Filton in North Bristol, as well as at the University of Bristol, thereby saving time and enhancing the security of critical data. Instead of physically transmitting the data, it is now transferred at high-speed over 6km of fibre optic cable, along which the encryption keys are also transmitted as a stream of single ‘encoded’ photons.

Using standard Openreach fibre, Toshiba’s QKD system enables the distribution of 1000s of cryptographic keys per second. Its innovative multiplexing compatibility allows the data and the quantum keys to be transmitted on the same fibre, eliminating the need for costly dedicated infrastructure for key distribution. While this first deployment covers a range of 6km, the current maximum range extends up to 120km – allowing ultra-secure data transmission across major metropolitan environments.

The network also benefits from Toshiba’s Active Stabilisation technology, which allows the system to distribute key material continuously, in even the most challenging operating conditions, without any user intervention. This avoids the need for recalibration of the system due to temperature-induced changes in the fibre lengths.

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