SCIENTISTS from Heriot-Watt University have secured six-figure funding from Innovate-UK to work on a project led by BT.
The scientists are developing the core component in the first end-to-end quantum secured communications trial for 5G and connected cars.
This will help to create an ultra-secure link between 5G towers and mobile devices – essential to prevent hacking and to reassure the public about the integrity of mobile communications.
Heriot-Watt’s work will support BT to create the world’s most secure fixed-mobile communications link.
The Heriot-Watt team brings essential expertise of practical quantum key distribution (QKD) by leading the design, testing, and construction of the QKD transmitter and receiver prototypes.
Dr Ross Donaldson from Heriot-Watt University said: “Our focus is on how to create a core to this system that will still operate in very tough conditions.
“Up to now, most quantum communication research has concentrated on the integrity of long-range signals, but this is about delivering a constant service at short distances through the broad range of weather conditions which can cause connection issues.
“As our connected world becomes increasingly complex, the security of systems must keep pace with technological developments. Automated vehicles in the future will have their own connected systems with software updates being supplied from a central source.
“It is essential that these updates are sent securely without the risk of hacking or malicious tampering. Quantum-enabled technology provides a greater level of reassurance to manufacturers.
Prof. Andrew Lord, BT’s head of optical network research, added: “We are thrilled to have brought together leading UK partners from industry and academia in the AIRQKD project.
“Heriot-Watt University bring unique skills and with their expertise we will demonstrate a fully integrated Free Space Optics plus Quantum Key Distribution field trial.
“This will provide the essential security needed for future 5G applications such as autonomous vehicles.”