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

The 6km network uses Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) to ensure ultra-secure data transmission between the National Composites Centre (NCC) and the Centre for Modelling and Simulation (CFMS) in Bristol

1st October 2020, London: BT and Toshiba Europe Limited today announce 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.

“This first industrial deployment of a quantum-secure network in the UK is a significant milestone as we move towards a quantum-ready economy. We’re excited to be working alongside our long-term partner in Toshiba, as well as the NCC and CFMS as industry-leading bodies in the UK, to demonstrate the ultra-secure nature of quantum cryptography,” said Prof. Andrew Lord, Head of Optical Technology, BT. “The power of quantum computing offers unprecedented opportunity for UK industry, but this is an essential first step to ensure its power can be harnessed in the right way and without compromising security.”

“We are delighted to help the NCC and CFMS secure sensitive design and manufacturing data shared between their sites. Our solution can be implemented on standard BT fibre infrastructure and is applicable to a wide range of different applications, allowing organisations to ensure the long-term security of their data and protect it from even the most powerful computers,” said Dr. Andrew Shields, Head of Quantum Technology at Toshiba Europe Limited. “With the UK government’s assertion earlier this month that it wants to be the ‘world’s first quantum-ready economy’, quantum-secure networks are vital to it achieving this ambition, and we’re excited to be at the forefront of making this a reality.”

“We are delighted to be working with BT and Toshiba, participating in this pioneering deployment” said Marc Funnell, Head of Digital, and Director of DETI at the NCC. “Enabling higher levels of collaborative access for the distributed supply chain, it will unlock the potential for IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) where ultra-secure transmission and sharing of data is crucial. As part of Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI), a strategic programme of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), the quantum-secure link will demonstrate the potential for the distributed offsite control of factories. Linked with 5G-Encode, this will provide access to a 5G industrial test bed at the NCC which will showcase the security, reliability and connectivity required to advance UK manufacturing.”

“As more enterprises embrace digital technologies in different ways, securing the transmission of data becomes more critical," said Nathan Harper, Head of CFMS' Engineering Compute Services. "CFMS is pioneering the use of digital engineering, deploying technologies such as AI or digital twins in which the secure transmission of data becomes essential. Being part of the QKD trial, sharing data using advanced encryption techniques and understanding the performance of these with our partners is therefore both exciting and very useful.”

BT and Toshiba are global leaders in the development of quantum cryptography following decades of research – and years of close collaboration – at the BT Labs in Martlesham Heath, Suffolk, and the Toshiba Cambridge Research Laboratory, respectively. While today’s announcement marks the first UK deployment of QKD, Toshiba has multiple Proofs of Concept (PoCs) currently in operation globally – these include sites within the US and Japan, working within highly sensitive areas such as healthcare and financial services. The installation also demonstrates BT’s ongoing commitment to developing the technologies which will secure next generation networks for the UK’s individuals, businesses and infrastructure. The company currently spends in the region of £60m each year on security research and development, investing in technologies ranging from quantum secure networks such as this to industry-leading AI and data visualisation capabilities.

It is expected that quantum computing will play a key role in the transformation of the UK’s economy in a post-Brexit world, with the potential to have an instrumental impact in the future of connected smart factories and Industry 4.0. Last month the UK government announced the creation of the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) – expected to be completed in 2022 – which is intended to help the UK stay at the forefront of the technology. This was unveiled as part of the UK’s £1 billion National Quantum Technologies Programme, as further evidence of its commitment to a quantum future.

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Relevant links:

Toshiba QKD: https://www.toshiba.co.jp/qkd/en/index.htm

BT Labs: https://atadastral.co.uk/

NCC: https://www.nccuk.com/

CFMS: https://cfms.org.uk/ 



Notes to Editors

About BT  

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 three customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise and Global. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, 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 (BT) 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.btplc.com 

About Toshiba:

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

About NCC:

The National Composites Centre (NCC) is one of seven centres that form the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and focuses on accelerating the adoption of high-value, sustainable engineering solutions in composites, in order to stimulate growth, and enhance capability for the benefit of the UK.

The NCC has over 350 composite specialists based at its facility in Bristol and offers open-access to cutting-edge digital manufacturing technology for the design, and development of new composite products pulling through technology from the lab to large-scale production.

Visit www.nccuk.com for more information.

About CFMS:

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.

For further information about CFMS, visit www.cfms.org.uk, call 0117 906 1100 or email info@cfms.org.uk.