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Quantum Key Distribution

Challenge

Hackers steal data constantly, so protecting it is an ongoing challenge. Today’s information encryption technology has been compromised and will be obsolete in just a few years. Battelle has partnered with ID Quantique and developed a working network of computer facilities that safely pass information keys to unlock their own encrypted data. This technology, known as Quantum Key Distribution is the only key transfer method that is provably secure from an information-theoretic standpoint to help secure the sensitive data we deliver.

Developments in communication technology have created a world of faster and more convenient exchange of information. Data that is essential to business operations need to be accessible across departments and transferrable to other companies that work within a network. These might include financial date, medical records, patent information, trade secrets and pharmaceutical formulas.

However, all of this proprietary information that passes through our current communication channels are susceptible to unauthorized access. As the world develops faster computer technology and more powerful quantum computers, the current data protection methods will no longer be effective.

Solution

In 2013, Battelle installed the first commercial QKD system in the U.S., connecting our headquarters in Columbus, Ohio to our production facility in Dublin, Ohio. The QKD hardware used in this link is the Cerberis model from ID Quantique. Combined with ID Quantique’s Centauris encryptor, this provides a 1Gbps link with Layer2 encryption. The link between facilities requires dedicated dark (unlit) fiber.

The partnership with the City of Dublin and dubLINK provides access to dark fibers that are located at the production facility in Dublin and continues in a ring around the metropolitan area of Columbus. Battelle built its own fiber link to connect the Columbus headquarters to this ring, providing the continuous dark fiber link needed for the QKD network to function.

Outcome

QKD’s greatest limitation in the U.S. is the maximum distance it can travel along a fiber. Battelle is working with ID Quantique to create a new quantum device called a QKD Trusted Node™. The QKD Trusted Node will allow a quantum network to expand the distance of QKD and to allow multiple destinations while retaining the secure nature of QKD. We are planning a prototype, which will be used to start connecting other Battelle offices in the metro area. The connection of three sites will create the Battelle Quantum Network (BQN) that will serve future Trusted Node sites in Columbus, creating a ring in Columbus that Battelle and others can connect to for secure keys.

Using the Trusted Node, we plan to further expand the BQN out from the Columbus, Ohio metro area and connect to our offices near Washington, DC. The total distance for this network would be more than700km/420mi, making it the largest known QKD network in the world.