Quantum technology for cell phone encryption is coming

May 22, 2023

(Nanowerk News) In a few years, the protection of communications with quantum encryption may become a permanent fixture in mobile phones and thus protect communications from hacking. The technology has already been demonstrated in big data transfer in the financial sector in Denmark, and now DTU spin-out company Alea Quantum Technologies has developed a quantum mechanical random number generator so simple that it can be manufactured at low cost and low support. 4 gigabytes per second encryption. The technology is so simple that it can be developed into a chip version.

“Currently, quantum random number generators have been developed by companies around the world in countries such as Spain, Australia, United Kingdom and Switzerland. The reason why we persisted in developing a quantum mechanical random number generator is because our technology is very simple, and very fast, and we can provide a mathematical proof that the numbers are truly random, which few of our market competitors can do,” said Ulrik Lund Andersen , co-founder of Alea Quantum Technologies and Professor at DTU.

Laser diodes generate random numbers

The Alea Quantum Technologies random number generator comes from research in the quantum information group at DTU Physics and the bigQ basic research center. Five years ago, researchers came up with the idea for a random number generator based on laser diodes and detectors that are used to generate random numbers by means of measurements called laser beam vacuum fluctuations. DTU took out a patent for the technology, and it’s an invention that Alea Quantum Technologies has developed into a prototype in recent years.

The device measures 3 x 5 centimeters and will be tested by QTI company, Quantum Telecommunication Italy. Under the Digital Europe programme, the EU has awarded DKK 7 million for the further development of the technology, which will also in 2022 form part of a larger system being tested to provide quantum secure data transfer between two servers at Danske Bank. Since then, the random number generator has been developed into a high-speed model that is ten times faster than its closest market competitor.

Random number generator on a chip

The next step in the development was to get a solid investor to join the project to finance the development of a chip where the laser diode and detector are integrated in an electro-optical system at the micrometer scale. When this part of the technology development is implemented, the price of a quantum mechanical random number generator will be so low that it might be attractive to the big companies in the mobile phone market.

Alea Quantum Technologies hopes to sell a chip version of the random number generator to QTI and other companies looking to test it in their own encryption systems. The tests will be carried out in collaboration between Alea and the respective companies, so that the chip is integrated in the solution with the right interface. Along with the random number generator, Alea is also developing its own full encryption solution which will be available to customers in the future.

Standardization is necessary

Ulrik Lund Andersen emphasized that the marketing of quantum technology is still in a phase where researchers must refer to theoretical mathematical proofs. This is an important competitive parameter for Alea in that they can document that they are generating 100 percent genuine random numbers, unlike many other encryption systems which are based on mathematical algorithms and therefore are not truly random.

“In order for our technology to be integrated into commercial communication systems and become part of production networks and infrastructure, we depend on establishing new standards and certifications for quantum technology. The European standardization organization ETSI was among those working to develop this with expert input from researchers. It is really the key to broad market development that quantum technology receives international approval. But, until then, mathematical proof guarantees safety,” said Ulrik Lund Andersen.

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