In the world of IT, it really doesn’t matter how much data you can transmit if you can’t send it safely and securely. Now, Toshiba researchers in the UK have created the first high-speed network connection that is theoretically impossible to hack, tapping the quantum properties of photons encrypt data that was beamed through more than 30 miles of optical cable.

Quantum encryption involves one party sending a “key” to another party that is embedded in the quantum properties of a photon string. The laws of quantum mechanics protect this data, ensuring that if any third party messes with the quantum key, the key will be altered and the foul play will become evident.

While this concept isn’t new, it wasn’t previously feasible. The most efficient way to pass encoded quantum strings back and forth was through the air, but even the best attempts at that could only transmit the key several hundred meters. Toshiba was seeking a way to integrate quantum broadband into existing infrastructure that would allow photon transmission across greater distances.

Of course, sending photons through existing optical fiber isn’t new either, but Toshiba’s breakthrough came on the back of a new photon detector that can actually pick up individual photons at the hard-to-detect wavelengths required for long-distance data transmission. The transfer rates are nothing to scoff at either; the1 megabit-per-second data speeds the team achieved are fast enough to stream video.

New Scientist