China is set to launch a computer network that will be impossible to hack. It will use quantum key distribution and the country plans to use it for defence, finance and other fields.
Unlike traditional encryption, which works by hiding the key needed to read a message in a complex mathematical problem, quantum networks send message embedded in particles of light. If a hacker attempts to breach the network, the quantum nature of the particles will alter the communication and cause it to be aborted. This will mean that the message is impossible to read or intercept.
“We plan to use the network for national defence, finance and other fields, and hope to spread it out as a pilot that if successful, can be used across China and the whole world,” said Zhou Fei, assistant director of Jinan Institute of Quantum Technology, the Financial Times reported.
The development comes as China says it will be the world leader in artificial intelligence by the year 2030.
The introduction of quantum communication sees China striding ahead of the west in the technology stakes, as it has so far been reluctant to invest in the technology.
“For a long time, people simply didn’t think it was needed,” says Prof Myungshik Kim of Imperial College, London.
“The mathematical difficulty of the current coding system was so high that it was not thought necessary to implement the new technology.”
Another issue with the new technology is the cost: “We have to admit that when China invests into something, they have the financial power and manpower that is beyond probably anything else in the world except the US military,” says Valerio Scarani, a physicist with Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore.
China’s new quantum communications network will be the longest in the world, travelling 2,000km from Beijing to Shanghai and passing through a message hub in Jinan.
According to the China Daily, the network cost £15 million ($19.5m) to develop and is capable of encrypting 4,000 pieces of data per second.
However, this is not the first time that the country has dabbled in developing quantum networks. Last year, China launched a satellite to test how effective quantum communication is over long distances that cannot be connected by cables.
Furthermore, a link has been established between Shanghai and Beijing, allowing the two hubs to communicate securely and letting them know if anyone is listening in.
Source: BBC News
Featured Image Credit: PA