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Dr Robert Young

Quantum security solutions: security guaranteed by the laws of physics

Our growing reliance on information systems for day-to-day activities and the increased volume and sophistication of cyber-attacks make us vulnerable to crimes such as fraud, identity theft and counterfeiting. Currently available cybersecurity solutions rely on mathematics and are not completely secure. However, Dr Young, founder of the Lancaster-based start-up Quantum Base, is using the basic rules of quantum physics to build more secure solutions for the future.

The idea is not new: several companies already offer Quantum Security solutions, but they are extremely expensive and very bulky. Dr Young and his team are working towards a much smaller and cheaper version – about 1 cubic micrometre in size and costing around £1 rather than £100,000.

The secure communications link will be based on single photonic circuits, which could function as both the transmitter and receiver of the quantum security system, and will allow integration into embedded systems. A fully functional prototype is still two years away but Dr Young predicts that once available it will be able to detect any interceptions of communications with complete accuracy.

Meanwhile, Quantum Base is already marketing the world’s first Quantum Physically Unclonable Functions (PUFs) or Q-IDs – nanoscale devices that deliver an extremely high level of authentication. These devices can be used for any application requiring electronic ID verification, for example in SIM cards, Chip and PIN devices, and HDMI cables. An optical version is also available that can be used instead of holograms and QR codes, which are becoming increasingly easy to clone. For instance, pharmaceutical companies can combat counterfeiting by labelling individual tablets with unique optical Q-IDs, which can be authenticated against a database. In this way, Q-IDs could have wide ranging societal and economic impact in the future.

Quantum Base is currently valued at around £3 million, has attracted investors and is negotiating its first licensing agreement. The company has benefitted greatly from the involvement of co-founder Phillip Speed, a serial entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience in the ICT industry, and a diverse board of non-executive directors with vast experience in the corporate world. Long term, Quantum Base’s aim is to continue to develop new technology and license it to electronics companies, who can then use it to innovate. With the new game-changing technology just around the corner, the company is expected to grow exponentially in the near future.