The UK’s first industrial quantum-secure network, created by the DETI partnership, BT and Toshiba Europe Ltd, has successfully shared live data for remote manufacturing using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), over a 2 month trial period. This is the first time the capability has been demonstrated using ‘off the shelf’ components and is the first phase of a programme exploring the practical application of this technology to accelerate the shift to smart factories.
The processing power of quantum computing, when it comes onstream, will challenge the security of today’s encryption technologies. This has serious implications for design and manufacturing industries which rely on ultra-secure data transmission. QKD has been identified as one of the solutions to secure communications, but its suitability for real-world manufacturing applications has been largely untested – until now.
The DETI (Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation) programme team, which takes novel digital technologies out of the lab and tests them on the factory floor, worked with BT and Toshiba to install a quantum-secure network, between the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), near Bristol, using BT Openreach’s ‘standard’ fibre optic infrastructure.
The trial routed data across a dedicated connection, a 7km long QKD enabled encrypted tunnel, between the NCC and CFMS sites, to enable the remote operation of the NCC’s composites Overbraider machine – a highly complex device that weaves strands of carbon fibre from 288 separate spools to create precision hollow composites components, such as aircraft engine blades.
In the trial, the NCC and CFMS teams shared production data and quality-critical measurements using Toshiba’s QKD system to transmit encryption ‘keys’ – a stream of single encoded photons. This can distribute thousands of cryptographic keys per second, making it possible for both the data and the quantum keys to be transmitted using the same fibre, eliminating the need for costly dedicated infrastructure.
Over the course of the Overbraider trial, the QKD system generated on average, between 0.7 and 0.8 terabit (Tbit) of secure key each week [Figure 1], with the link operational for six months.
Marc Funnell, Director of Digital & DETI at the NCC, said:
“If the UK is to unlock its digital engineering capability and smarter products, the secure communication of data inside and outside of the factory will be critical to success; Quantum is pushing us to think differently about how we do this.
“Congratulations to the team who have taken the first step, by successfully demonstrating the capability of a QKD enabled link, built on commercially available solutions within six months.
“Working with our DETI partners and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, we will now look to extend the scope of the trial and integrate QKD into our 5G test bed bringing this technology closer to the machines and IoT devices. As per NCSC guidance, as quantum-safe cryptography mechanisms mature, we will implement this alongside our QKD deployment.”
Professor Andrew Lord, Head of Optical technology, BT, said:
“BT is proud, together with Toshiba, to supply a complete QKD-based security solution to NCC, and our commercial design, using Openreach fibre access products, is entirely in keeping with NCC’s ambitions towards state of the art security, fully integrated into their existing communications network.”
Andrew Shields, Head of Quantum Technology Division, Toshiba Europe Ltd, said:
“Working with the NCC, CFMS and BT has enabled us to demonstrate our secure quantum communication technology within smart manufacturing applications. By multiplexing the quantum signals on ordinary data carrying fibres, we were able to integrate QKD with a standard BT fibre product, demonstrating that QKD is now ready to be deployed without expensive, dedicated infrastructure.”
Nathan Harper, Head of CFMS Engineering Compute Services, said:
“The project demonstrated how QKD can be used in real-world situations. Digital engineering offers significant benefits across a range of industry sectors, but these can only be achieved if large amounts of digital data can be shared securely. Quantum computing has the potential to undermine current IT encryption methods, but this project demonstrates that QKD is ready for commercial use and we can continue to share sensitive data across public networks.”
The quantum enabled link was established as part of the DETI test beds funded by the West of England Combined Authority and using the quantum solution installed by BT and Toshiba supported by Innovate UK’s AQuaSeC project.
Further information on the QKD trial can be found on the DETI website: http://bit.ly/DETIResults
Organisations interested in learning more about the quantum programme or accessing the 5G-ENCODE and DETI and test beds can email email@example.com for further information.
Richard Knight, Mettle Communications – firstname.lastname@example.org – 07725 996625
The National Composites Centre (NCC) is the UK’s world leading composites research and development centre; where innovators come when they need to make things lighter, stronger, smarter and more sustainable. Its key focus areas are Composites, Digital Engineering and Sustainability. With access to 'beyond' state-of-the-art technology and the best composites engineering capabilities in the world, the NCC collaborates with customers to solve the most complex engineering challenges of our time.
Part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the NCC works across all manufacturing sectors and has forged strong links with aerospace, energy, defence, space, construction, infrastructure, auto, rail, marine and biomedical. It works with organisations across the board from micro enterprises through SME to disrupters, supply chain and OEMs, providing businesses with a de-risked environment to design, develop, test and scale their ideas and get them to market fast.
Visit www.nccuk.com for more information
Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) is a research, innovation and skills initiative that brings together leading companies, technology disruptors and universities to push the boundaries of the digitally enabled engineering of the future, to help UK businesses maintain engineering leadership. DETI is a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), delivered by the National Composites Centre (NCC) in partnership with the Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS), Digital Catapult, the University of the West of England (UWE), the University of Bristol, and the University of Bath. DETI is funded by £5m from WECA, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry.
Toshiba Corporation leads a global group of companies that combines knowledge and capabilities from over 140 years of experience in a wide range of businesses—from energy and social infrastructure to electronic devices—with world-class capabilities in information processing, digital and AI technologies. These distinctive strengths support Toshiba’s continued evolution toward becoming an Infrastructure Services Company that promotes data utilization and digitization, and one of the world’s leading cyber-physical-systems technology companies. Guided by the Basic Commitment of the Toshiba Group, “Committed to People, Committed to the Future,” Toshiba contributes to society’s positive development with services and solutions that lead to a better world. The Group and its 130,000 employees worldwide secured annual sales surpassing 3.4 trillion yen (US$31.1 billion) in fiscal year 2019.
Find out more about Toshiba at www.toshiba.co.jp/worldwide/about/index.html
BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK.
For the year ended 31 March 2020, BT Group’s reported revenue was £22,905m with reported profit before taxation of £2,353m.
British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.
For more information, visit www.bt.com/about
The Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) is a not-for-profit specialist in digital engineering. As a trusted and neutral provider, our vision is to be the recognised, independent, digital test bed for the design of high value engineering products and processes. Facilitating a greater understanding of how a product will perform throughout its lifecycle, our digital capabilities form the foundation for Through-Life Engineering Services, creating a virtual replica of systems and processes used for investigation of options and opportunities, in advance of physical development.