Quantum Key Distribution

The new age of secure communication,
powered by quantum physics

Introduction to Toshiba’s Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology

Toshiba’s Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) system delivers digital keys for cryptographic applications on fibre-optic based computer networks. Based on quantum cryptography, it provides a failsafe method of distributing verifiably secret digital keys with significant cost and key management advantages. Proven to work in multiple network field trials, the system can be used for a wide range of cryptographic applications, including the encryption or authentication of sensitive documents, messages or transactions.

The need for such robust levels of security is not limited to one specific sector or use-case. In healthcare, the technology has been applied to ensure the secure transmission of genome data in Japan, with personal medical information naturally some of the most sensitive available.

Elsewhere, it is critical that QKD systems are now implemented within areas such as the public sector to provide government with secure communications, and within the finance industry to protect banking network infrastructure. Equally, in the age of IoT and smart cities, the necessity for a robust, tamper-proof and ultra-sensitive infrastructure is essential to ensure day-to-day life operates without disruption both now and in the future.

Twin Field QKD
Twin Field QKD

Twin-Field Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)

Until recently, the typical range of QKD had been limited to a few hundred kilometers of fibre-optic cable. Toshiba has discoveredA separate window will open. a way to enhance the key rate and transmission distance of QKD, potentially allowing fibre links beyond 500km via a Twin-Field QKD protocol. This enables the protection of sensitive data transmitted in optical networks between cities, allowing for the creation of a secure link between cities like London, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Dublin.

In Twin-Field QKD, light pulses are sent from both ends of the fibre to a central location, where a photon is detected. Provided it is impossible to tell which end of the fibre the photon came from, this technique effectively doubles the transmission distance at a given rate. Although conventional systems may be daisy-chained together to increase the total transmission distance, this requires that the intermediate stations are in a secure location. In contrast, no physical protection in the central location is necessary for the security of Twin-Field QKD. This would enable a bank in London, for instance, to move highly sensitive customer data to a data centre in Leeds within the current conventional fibre-optic network without the fear of the data being compromised.
Very recently Toshiba has made the first experimental demonstration of Twin-Field QKD, reportingA separate window will open. the first demonstration of QKD with a channel loss exceeding 80dB, corresponding to over 500km of ultra-low loss optical fibre.

Quantum communication with BT

Quantum communication with BT

Toshiba has worked closely with BT for a number of years on the development of quantum cryptography, and were among the first to showcase the operational capabilities of the technology back in 2016. Toshiba and BT have been key partners in the UK Quantum Technology Programme that has recently been extended for five years. Toshiba leads the Innovate UK-funded AQuaSeC project, in which BT is a project partner, developing next generation QKD technology. Toshiba has also been an active participant in a number of Horizon 2020 projects funded by the EU Commission.

Quantum communication with BT

Pioneering Technologies & Products

A global leader in developing high-speed quantum cryptographic systems, Toshiba has pioneered several technologies which contribute to its high performance QKD solution. The company has the capability to achieve secure data communications across fibres longer than 150km. This is before taking into account Toshiba’s research into Twin-Field QKD, which promises to extend the maximum operational distance of a QKD system beyond 500km without requiring quantum repeaters - meaning such functionality could be feasible using the standard optical fibre prevalent within existing technological infrastructures. This greatly reduces the complexity and cost of deployment for organisations as they can use the same fibre infrastructure used for other data.

This co-operability with current technology is another core element of Toshiba’s QKD system. Having developed a proprietary weak light detection technology which allows for faster and more efficient key exchange, Toshiba’s offering - developed at Toshiba Research Europe, Cambridge, UK - is fully operational on conventional fibre networks.

The system is also easy to manage, with initiation handled automatically and an intuitive programming interface providing the user with access to key materials. The technology includes pioneering 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.

In bringing this QKD technology to market, Toshiba is delivering next-generation quantum security at a time when the cyber-threat landscape is a greater concern for enterprises than ever before.

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