Israel's government has handed a tender to build a national quantum communications system to Hebrew University, Jerusalem. The project aims to develop homegrown technology to protect data privacy, although given the privacy risks inherent in quantum computing, there are questions over who or what the system will be directed at.
The University says the US$2.13 million system, to be developed at its Quantum Information Science Center laboratory, will use single photons as the communications medium — quantum bits make it possible to perform calculations in new ways that are not possible in current communications systems or even supercomputers.
Current methods of encrypting data are increasingly vulnerable to attacks, as the increased power of quantum computing comes online.
Quantum communication systems use the laws of physics to secure data and are therefore resistant to attacks.
Professor Nadav Katz, Director of the Quantum Information Science Center, said the project would position Israel in the "leading edge" of research toward ultimately secured communication systems. While a fresh tender, the center was originally founded in 2013, and recruited an interdisciplinary team of over 20 researchers from physics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, philosophy and engineering to its ranks.
However, the privacy conscious and techies alike may be disappointed in the project's objectives — rather than focusing on protecting individual data, the system will instead be designed to beef up the government's quantum communications capabilities, and give Israeli officials the ability to protect themselves against hackers and other potentially malicious forces.
Quantum information research is one of the biggest growth areas in 21st century science, promising dramatic improvements in computation speed and secure communication. Based on the inherent wave-like nature of matter and light, it will theoretically lead to massive leaps forward in human ability to fabricate, control, measure and understand advanced structures.
Competition in the field is rapidly gathering pace, with China in June showing off the results of its first Earth-to-satellite quantum entanglement experiment last week, using the Micius satellite launched in 2016. The satellite is said to have "teleportation-like" communication capabilities, which cannot be hacked.Sputnik