Opinion Interview: Huawei and the UK 5G Infrastructure Debate.

By: Shahzad Nadeem

Head of Smart Cities

23rd April 2020

3 minute read

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The Internet of Things is the bedrock of smart, connected and secure cities.  A network of sensing and communication technologies enables the collection and analysis of data, making life easier and more efficient for everyone. 5g is an integral part of this ecosystem.

Shahzad, Head of Smart Cities, has extensive international experience of working in the telecoms market and we interviewed him to give his opinion on the current Huawei debate in the news this week:

Q: Shahzad, are the proposed restrictions realistic?

A: As Oliver Dowden, the UK telecommunications minister, puts it – “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K.’s telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run” says it all. It is about national security and not just economy.

Following on from the initial decision back in Jan 2020 to restrict Huawei to ‘non-core’ part of 5G infrastructure and 35% of market share, UK government has been under domestic pressure to take a hard line on the telecommunication equipment provider. Tougher sanctions from US to restrict Huawei’s access to semiconductor chips and blacklisting of 38 companies linked to Huawei has made the future direction quite clear.

It may look at bit unrealistic due to the heavy presence of Huawei in the current infrastructure but given the grace period till 2027, all 5G related equipment already installed will be taken out gradually.

Q: Is there a history of challenging mobile infrastructure companies?

A: Telecoms infrastructure being at the core of any country’s economy and security, obviously the selection of vendors and suppliers is not purely based on financial reasons. The international politics coupled with national security requirements play an important part in the selection of vendors. Although there are examples where telecom procurements have been made on grounds other than finance, something of this scale as in the case of Huawei, is quite unprecedented.

Q: What is the recipe for Huawei’s success in Europe so far?

A: Huawei’s disruptive entrance in the market with very low cost equipment and support to a level that they built parts of networks at their own expense was just overwhelming and surprising for the market.  A gradual, low cost, less risk and shared-ownership based marketing brought Huawei in the forefront in Europe and now they stand as a force to reckon with.

Q: Do you think the proposed restrictions will work?

A: Huawei’s contribution to UK economy so far and the potential for further contribution is quite evident. It is claimed that Huawei has always found ways to work around restrictions in the past but the ones we are currently dealing with are very fundamental and serious. This is quite clear however, that Huawei will not be able to sell 5G infrastructure in UK after Dec 2020 and already deployed assets will be dismantled by 2027.

Getting Huawei out of competition at a stage when UK is leaving EU and the economy has shrunk due to Covid-19, will have an imminent impact on the market competition and will give leverage to the European vendors. There are current programs in UK at government level to promote open RAN development in UK but these will take their due course.

 

Shahzad specialises in smart cities, mobile networks, MNOs, MVNOS, MVNEs, wholesale, m2m and IoT. If you would like to comment or discuss this topic further, please get in touch.

The Internet of Things is the bedrock of smart, connected and secure cities.  A network of sensing and communication technologies enables the collection and analysis of data, making life easier and more efficient for everyone. 5g is an integral part of this ecosystem.

Shahzad, Head of Smart Cities, has extensive international experience of working in the telecoms market and we interviewed him to give his opinion on the current Huawei debate in the news this week:

Q: Shahzad, are the proposed restrictions realistic?

A: As Oliver Dowden, the UK telecommunications minister, puts it – “This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one for the U.K.’s telecoms networks, for our national security and our economy, both now and indeed in the long run” says it all. It is about national security and not just economy.

Following on from the initial decision back in Jan 2020 to restrict Huawei to ‘non-core’ part of 5G infrastructure and 35% of market share, UK government has been under domestic pressure to take a hard line on the telecommunication equipment provider. Tougher sanctions from US to restrict Huawei’s access to semiconductor chips and blacklisting of 38 companies linked to Huawei has made the future direction quite clear.

It may look at bit unrealistic due to the heavy presence of Huawei in the current infrastructure but given the grace period till 2027, all 5G related equipment already installed will be taken out gradually.

Q: Is there a history of challenging mobile infrastructure companies?

A: Telecoms infrastructure being at the core of any country’s economy and security, obviously the selection of vendors and suppliers is not purely based on financial reasons. The international politics coupled with national security requirements play an important part in the selection of vendors. Although there are examples where telecom procurements have been made on grounds other than finance, something of this scale as in the case of Huawei, is quite unprecedented.

Q: What is the recipe for Huawei’s success in Europe so far?

A: Huawei’s disruptive entrance in the market with very low cost equipment and support to a level that they built parts of networks at their own expense was just overwhelming and surprising for the market.  A gradual, low cost, less risk and shared-ownership based marketing brought Huawei in the forefront in Europe and now they stand as a force to reckon with.

Q: Do you think the proposed restrictions will work?

A: Huawei’s contribution to UK economy so far and the potential for further contribution is quite evident. It is claimed that Huawei has always found ways to work around restrictions in the past but the ones we are currently dealing with are very fundamental and serious. This is quite clear however, that Huawei will not be able to sell 5G infrastructure in UK after Dec 2020 and already deployed assets will be dismantled by 2027.

Getting Huawei out of competition at a stage when UK is leaving EU and the economy has shrunk due to Covid-19, will have an imminent impact on the market competition and will give leverage to the European vendors. There are current programs in UK at government level to promote open RAN development in UK but these will take their due course.

 

Shahzad specialises in smart cities, mobile networks, MNOs, MVNOS, MVNEs, wholesale, m2m and IoT. If you would like to comment or discuss this topic further, please get in touch.

Coronavirus and the Flat Earth Society

By: Dr. Nigel Whittle

Head of Medical & Healthcare

14th April 2020

3 minute read

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I have recently become fascinated by the world of Flat Earth believers.  Once a belief in a flat earth (or a hollow earth) was largely the preserve of cranks, perhaps the same people who would write long missives to prominent scientists (as happened regularly to my PhD supervisor) in spidery green-inked handwriting, explaining how cancer was the result of ‘bad vibrations caused by oscillations in the primary aether’.  Why am I interested? Well, the world has become a much nuanced environment; gone are the days of black & white, truth & lies, facts & non-facts.  To some extent this is a good thing, as simplistic explanations are rarely correct, particularly in the complex world that we inhabit. But when reality becomes divided into facts and ‘alternative facts’, surely something has gone wrong with our thought processing?

So, Flat Earth?  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this is pure nonsense. The world isn’t flat, there is no uncertainty, no nuance, and there is a mountain of evidence generated over the past 2,000 years that incontrovertibly proves the earth is a spinning globe. So why do people persist in the belief, and why does there seem to be an increasing interest in the subject?

interest in flat earth society,

The commonest retort from Flat Earthers is to “do your own research” and the truth will be revealed. And by conducting bad experiments or by cherry-picking data it is possible to come up with some surprising results. But for the most part, ‘doing your own research’ means looking at YouTube videos made by other Flat Earthers.  And that is the crux of the issue, not so much a distrust of mainstream science, but an inability to understand how science works.  Newton said that he was “standing on the shoulders of giants”, and each increment of science is built on a previous discovery. Richard Feynman said that “science isn’t hard, there is just a lot of it”. Anybody who wants to criticise or comment on a scientific issue needs to have some basic understanding of science. It’s not enough to say “the world is flat because I can’t feel it spinning”; arguments from personal incredulity carry no weight.

So what does this have to do with Coronavirus, you are asking? You may be aware, and if you aren’t you soon will be, of an increasing belief that Covid-19 is caused by the roll-out of 5G networks. You may have heard of people in the UK attempting to burn down 5G towers, but you probably aren’t aware that the £20 note has a picture of a 5G mast underneath an image of a coronavirus.  Have a look, that can’t be coincidence, surely?  Well, yes.  And the infection began in Wuhan soon after the roll-out of a 5G network in that Chinese city, right? Well, no.

Obviously this is all nonsense, and carries the same weight as a belief in a Flat Earth.  A review in 2005 based on a study of more than 1,300 peer-reviewed studies on the biological effects of radio frequencies declared that those commonly used for 5G transmission posed “no adverse health effects” aside from the heat produced by wireless devices.

But my point is that we live in a world where, despite a supposed distrust of experts, everyone has become an armchair expert.  But ‘experts’ who have no understanding of the science and with no comprehension of how science works. The internet has provided unparalleled access to knowledge but sadly most people just choose to skim the surface, ignoring the vastness of scientific understanding that underpins our whole society.

Is there a solution? Better management of the internet may be one answer, so that people aren’t slowly constricted by a cocoon of like-minded ideas – YouTube and Facebook have huge responsibilities here that they regularly shirk. Better teaching of science to show the progression and development of ideas through the years has to be important. But ultimately it is up to ourselves to challenge unscientific attitudes, to confront unsubstantiated rumours whenever we hear them, and most of all to promote science as the best tool we have to help mankind.

What are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you.

I have recently become fascinated by the world of Flat Earth believers.  Once a belief in a flat earth (or a hollow earth) was largely the preserve of cranks, perhaps the same people who would write long missives to prominent scientists (as happened regularly to my PhD supervisor) in spidery green-inked handwriting, explaining how cancer was the result of ‘bad vibrations caused by oscillations in the primary aether’.  Why am I interested? Well, the world has become a much nuanced environment; gone are the days of black & white, truth & lies, facts & non-facts.  To some extent this is a good thing, as simplistic explanations are rarely correct, particularly in the complex world that we inhabit. But when reality becomes divided into facts and ‘alternative facts’, surely something has gone wrong with our thought processing?

So, Flat Earth?  I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this is pure nonsense. The world isn’t flat, there is no uncertainty, no nuance, and there is a mountain of evidence generated over the past 2,000 years that incontrovertibly proves the earth is a spinning globe. So why do people persist in the belief, and why does there seem to be an increasing interest in the subject?

interest in flat earth society,

The commonest retort from Flat Earthers is to “do your own research” and the truth will be revealed. And by conducting bad experiments or by cherry-picking data it is possible to come up with some surprising results. But for the most part, ‘doing your own research’ means looking at YouTube videos made by other Flat Earthers.  And that is the crux of the issue, not so much a distrust of mainstream science, but an inability to understand how science works.  Newton said that he was “standing on the shoulders of giants”, and each increment of science is built on a previous discovery. Richard Feynman said that “science isn’t hard, there is just a lot of it”. Anybody who wants to criticise or comment on a scientific issue needs to have some basic understanding of science. It’s not enough to say “the world is flat because I can’t feel it spinning”; arguments from personal incredulity carry no weight.

So what does this have to do with Coronavirus, you are asking? You may be aware, and if you aren’t you soon will be, of an increasing belief that Covid-19 is caused by the roll-out of 5G networks. You may have heard of people in the UK attempting to burn down 5G towers, but you probably aren’t aware that the £20 note has a picture of a 5G mast underneath an image of a coronavirus.  Have a look, that can’t be coincidence, surely?  Well, yes.  And the infection began in Wuhan soon after the roll-out of a 5G network in that Chinese city, right? Well, no.

Obviously this is all nonsense, and carries the same weight as a belief in a Flat Earth.  A review in 2005 based on a study of more than 1,300 peer-reviewed studies on the biological effects of radio frequencies declared that those commonly used for 5G transmission posed “no adverse health effects” aside from the heat produced by wireless devices.

But my point is that we live in a world where, despite a supposed distrust of experts, everyone has become an armchair expert.  But ‘experts’ who have no understanding of the science and with no comprehension of how science works. The internet has provided unparalleled access to knowledge but sadly most people just choose to skim the surface, ignoring the vastness of scientific understanding that underpins our whole society.

Is there a solution? Better management of the internet may be one answer, so that people aren’t slowly constricted by a cocoon of like-minded ideas – YouTube and Facebook have huge responsibilities here that they regularly shirk. Better teaching of science to show the progression and development of ideas through the years has to be important. But ultimately it is up to ourselves to challenge unscientific attitudes, to confront unsubstantiated rumours whenever we hear them, and most of all to promote science as the best tool we have to help mankind.

What are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you.

There’s a Hole in My Bucket… Is There? Then Maybe You Didn’t Specify Your Bucket Properly.

By: David Eliston
Senior Consultant, Product Design

8th April 2020

3 minute read

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We all know that when we buy something, we want the best we can get for the price. The same is true for engineers specifying products. The problem is that there isn’t really a ‘best’. There’s only ever something that will meet, or preferably, exceed your requirements under a specific set of criteria.

For example, when there’s a requirement for a product or piece of equipment to have to operate outside in all weathers it’s sensible to want to make it waterproof. The decision then is “How waterproof does it have to be”? The natural environment isn’t quite as well controlled as a test lab, so it’s understandable to want to add an element of safety to the waterproofness rating and over-specify it; say, by increasing an IPX5 requirement to IPX6 or an IPX6 requirement to IPX7. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a valid approach. The test conditions for IPX6 and IPX7 are quite different and IP X7 isn’t necessarily better (or more “waterproof”) than IPX6.

The water ingress part of the test for IPX6 demands that powerful water jets from all directions for 3 minutes cause no harm to the product. The test for IPX7 is that immersion under 1m of water for 30 minutes causes no harm. These are two completely different tests. The water jet test blasts 100 litres of water per minute on to the device under test and could force water through seal interfaces. A typical home shower flows more like 10 litres a minute by way of comparison. The IPX7 immersion test under 1m of water only applies the pressure from the head of water. But that doesn’t mean it’s a lower spec test either. It’s just different.

When designing a product to meet an IPX5 or IPX6 test, the engineer might put flanges or shrouds around vulnerable areas to prevent the direct impact of the jet forcing water through the sealing interface. But these mitigations wouldn’t help with the IPX7 test, as the water pressure will be more or less equal on all surfaces and seals regardless of this. So does this mean that IPX7 is harder to achieve than IPX6?

Imagine we were trying to seal the lid onto a plastic sandwich container with a rubber seal. The pressure from the 1 metre head of water over the surface area of the lid would be giving additional compression to the seal and actually help to keep the container watertight. So does this mean IPX7 is easier to achieve than IPX6 then? If the test doesn’t represent the intended environment, then the test method is distorting the results you are getting and could be causing the designer to make inappropriate choices.

The message is, understand what the environment is and specify product requirements and tests accordingly. This gives the designer the freedom to use their knowledge and experience to best effect rather than designing to an artificial set of product needs.

And if your bucket still leaks…Then don’t try to fix it with straw.

We all know that when we buy something, we want the best we can get for the price. The same is true for engineers specifying products. The problem is that there isn’t really a ‘best’. There’s only ever something that will meet, or preferably, exceed your requirements under a specific set of criteria.

For example, when there’s a requirement for a product or piece of equipment to have to operate outside in all weathers it’s sensible to want to make it waterproof. The decision then is “How waterproof does it have to be”? The natural environment isn’t quite as well controlled as a test lab, so it’s understandable to want to add an element of safety to the waterproofness rating and over-specify it; say, by increasing an IPX5 requirement to IPX6 or an IPX6 requirement to IPX7. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a valid approach. The test conditions for IPX6 and IPX7 are quite different and IP X7 isn’t necessarily better (or more “waterproof”) than IPX6.

The water ingress part of the test for IPX6 demands that powerful water jets from all directions for 3 minutes cause no harm to the product. The test for IPX7 is that immersion under 1m of water for 30 minutes causes no harm. These are two completely different tests. The water jet test blasts 100 litres of water per minute on to the device under test and could force water through seal interfaces. A typical home shower flows more like 10 litres a minute by way of comparison. The IPX7 immersion test under 1m of water only applies the pressure from the head of water. But that doesn’t mean it’s a lower spec test either. It’s just different.

When designing a product to meet an IPX5 or IPX6 test, the engineer might put flanges or shrouds around vulnerable areas to prevent the direct impact of the jet forcing water through the sealing interface. But these mitigations wouldn’t help with the IPX7 test, as the water pressure will be more or less equal on all surfaces and seals regardless of this. So does this mean that IPX7 is harder to achieve than IPX6?

Imagine we were trying to seal the lid onto a plastic sandwich container with a rubber seal. The pressure from the 1 metre head of water over the surface area of the lid would be giving additional compression to the seal and actually help to keep the container watertight. So does this mean IPX7 is easier to achieve than IPX6 then? If the test doesn’t represent the intended environment, then the test method is distorting the results you are getting and could be causing the designer to make inappropriate choices.

The message is, understand what the environment is and specify product requirements and tests accordingly. This gives the designer the freedom to use their knowledge and experience to best effect rather than designing to an artificial set of product needs.

And if your bucket still leaks…Then don’t try to fix it with straw.

hiring policy, diversity, inclusion, STEAM, great chesterford, technology consultancy

The Future, Now!

Nicholas Hill, Plextek

By: Nicholas Hill
CEO

12th March 2020

5 minute read

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During my first experience of the engineering workplace, as a sponsored thick-sandwich student with Marconi Radar Systems, it never would of occurred to me that selecting which students to accept onto the scheme would be something that managers might lose sleep over. At the time I remember feeling quite an insignificant cog in a massive machine, just another cohort of would be future employees.  I’ve just been looking through a number of applications for our own internship scheme and it struck me just how many factors might influence the choice of which candidate to select. Some of those factors are obvious, such as the need for ability, particular skills or potential performance in the role. Others are less obvious, such as alignment with the company’s values or diversity policy.

“These young people are the future of our company. In decades to come their outlook and world view will set the tone of the organisation, influence its culture and drive its behaviour.”

What is really important?
Due to the nature of the work that we do, we always look for candidates with exceptional technical ability and a keen interest in technology.  We are also looking for clear, open minded thinking and a willingness to challenge anything that doesn’t seem right.  We need people who are strongly self-driven, but able to work closely with others.  The pace and variety of our projects demands individuals who are quick to pick up an unfamiliar topic and learn fast.
This is a lot to ask for, but we also have a particular culture at Plextek that we need to preserve:

– supportive and collaborative rather than competitive;

– inclusive of different personality types and views;

– absent of office politics;

– based on peer respect rather than hierarchy.

There are clearly many factors to consider when reviewing potential interns.  I’ve picked out some examples that I hope will illuminate the complexity of our choices:

High Achieving: All of the applicants were very high achievers, but one in particular jumped out as an extremely high achiever: top grades at A-level, attending a top university and a multiple competition winner. Based on a strictly academic assessment this candidate would be the obvious choice.  By selecting the most competitive high performer, we’d help our business objective of beating our competitors by raising our own collective performance. On the other hand, this candidate was less strong in some attractive characteristics that were evident in other candidates.

Ethos: One applicant was appealing because of a clear focus on helping other people. In particular, they worked as a STEM ambassador to encourage younger students to pursue a career in engineering.  This is such an important activity, with far too many young people dropping STEM subjects at sixth form as ‘too hard’ and not seeing pursuing STEM subjects as a means to improve the world. The outlook that this candidate displayed aligned strongly with our values as an organisation.

Diversity in thought: A third applicant had chosen engineering as a way to make a positive impact in healthcare instead of pursuing what might be considered the default choice of medicine. This was interesting in itself. But they also worked hard to encourage young girls to consider physics and engineering, working against the prevalent culture bias that treats these as a ‘boy’s subjects’. This behaviour aligns strongly with our own outlook by promoting diversity in engineering.

Privilege: Some candidates had clearly come from privileged backgrounds and didn’t need the financial support of our scholarship scheme. For others it was clear their parents were of limited means and the sponsorship opportunity would mean they could support themselves financially, reducing worry for their families. This felt like an important factor to consider.

Leaders or Managers?  Two candidates talked about leading teams, both of which had achieved impressive results. However, while one described it as very much as an exercise in leadership, the other majored on the work that the team had done and what they had learned from the team during the project. The second of those felt rather more aligned with our own team ethos.

This is just a flavour of the many factors influencing the selection of candidates on a graduate scheme. While important, we shouldn’t treat this as a narrow exercise in gauging a person’s potential to deliver difficult technical work against tight deadlines. As these young people are the future of our company, in decades to come their outlook and world view will set the tone of the organisation, influence its culture and drive its behaviour. Suddenly this seems like a very big decision, and certainly not just another cohort of future employees.

 

If you would like to be part of the Plextek team, please visit our Careers pages.

Quantum Computing and How Cryptography Will Have to Change

By: Laurence Weir
Technology Lead, Biomedical Engineer

23rd January 2020

5 minute read

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The creation of quantum computers is one of the ethereal technological challenges of the modern age, along with the likes of nuclear fusion reactors, and low-cost space travel. Algorithms designed for quantum computers will offer results which have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. Problems like protein folding (used to find new Cancer drugs), or SETI (the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence), will be solved many orders of magnitude faster than is currently possible with supercomputers. However, this also means most of our secure data is at risk.

Back to basics; the state of a “bit” in computing, is binary;

1 OR 0. HIGH OR LOW. VOLTAGE OR GROUND.

With the inception of quantum computing and the quantum bit, or “qubit”, this is going to change. Qubits are not just 1 or 0. They are 1 and 0 and everything in between. Those without a background in quantum mechanics, feel free to just go with the flow.

Conventional binary computers offer amazing abilities to solve linear logical problems. Many of these problems can be simplified as:

“WE KNOW INPUTS A,B,C…, AND HOW THEY INTERACT TO PRODUCE OUTPUTS X,Y,Z…”

These algorithms almost instantaneously change their outputs to changes in inputs. Problems such as:

“HOW MUCH MONEY DO I HAVE TO SPEND THIS WEEK?”

“WHEN IS MY TRAIN GOING TO ARRIVE?”

“WHAT IS THE WEATHER GOING TO BE LIKE TOMORROW?”

However, with qubits, in a quantum computer, as well as being able to solve do everything the conventional computer can, new problems will be solvable. These can be simplified as:

“WE KNOW OUTPUTS X,Y,Z…, BUT HOW DID WE GET TO THIS?”

These problems are solved right now using either brute force algorithms, or rely on being able to identify patterns. Here are some examples:

“HOW TO WIN THIS CHESS GAME?”

“HOW DO I FOLD THESE PROTEINS TO CREATE A CURE FOR CANCER?”

“HOW DO I BREAK THIS PASSWORD?”

For instance, a password in binary is just a fixed series of 1’s and 0’s. A traditional computer can crack this by trying every combination of 1’s and 0’s, perhaps also intelligently predicting what series are most likely. However, with limited processing power, and a long enough password, solving this takes longer than is reasonable (usually the age of the universe). However, with enough qubits, a quantum computer is able to solve it. The qubits instantly try every combination of 1’s and 0’s, and the password is cracked.

The modern cryptographic method involves multiples of two primes to create very long numbers. Certain numbers only have two factors, both of which are prime numbers. For instance, the number 889. To find them might take you several minutes by hand. A conventional computer would be able to brute force it by checking a list of primes. However, if the number was 2000 digits long, this search algorithm would take too long. Again the quantum computer is able to solve it by just using two groups of qubits representing the two primes.

BTW…THE PRIME FACTORS OF 889 ARE 7 AND 127.

When this quantum computer potentially emerges over the next decade, it will be able to break every encryption method and protected piece of information. It will also be able to impose its own encryption on the data which can never be broken by conventional computing. The owner of the quantum computer will be in sole possession of most of the world’s protected data.

Before that happens, the designers of quantum computers will have to overcome immense technical hurdles. A single qubit right now costs around $10k to create, compared to around $0.0000000001 for a conventional computer bit. These $10k qubits are still not of good enough quality for large scale computers. This creates compounded problems to develop error corrective algorithms to overcome this poor quality. At the moment, controlling multiple qubits simultaneously is very difficult. Lastly, each qubit requires multiple control wires.

Regardless of these challenges, we are now looking at a post-quantum era to which we should be designing our cryptography. In 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) put out a call to propose algorithms that would not be able to be solvable by a quantum computer. They are analysing 26 leading candidate before implementation in 2024. IBM has selected one, in particular, called CRYSTALS (Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices). This method generates public and private keys based on “lattice algorithms”. An example of which is; A set of numbers is produced, as well as the sum of a subset of those numbers. Determining the different combinations of numbers which made up the final answer is currently unsolvable by quantum computing due to the multidimensional nature of the problem.

Therefore, quantum computing will solve many of life’s problems but will make some of our current cryptographic methods redundant. We will have to start soon moving to new methods to keep our future data safe.

If you want to know more about Quantum Computing, please get in contact with us below.

The creation of quantum computers is one of the ethereal technological challenges of the modern age, along with the likes of nuclear fusion reactors, and low-cost space travel. Algorithms designed for quantum computers will offer results which have a profound impact on nearly every aspect of our lives. Problems like protein folding (used to find new Cancer drugs), or SETI (the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence), will be solved many orders of magnitude faster than is currently possible with supercomputers. However, this also means most of our secure data is at risk.

Back to basics; the state of a “bit” in computing, is binary;

1 OR 0. HIGH OR LOW. VOLTAGE OR GROUND.

With the inception of quantum computing and the quantum bit, or “qubit”, this is going to change. Qubits are not just 1 or 0. They are 1 and 0 and everything in between. Those without a background in quantum mechanics, feel free to just go with the flow.

Conventional binary computers offer amazing abilities to solve linear logical problems. Many of these problems can be simplified as:

“WE KNOW INPUTS A,B,C…, AND HOW THEY INTERACT TO PRODUCE OUTPUTS X,Y,Z…”

These algorithms almost instantaneously change their outputs to changes in inputs. Problems such as:

“HOW MUCH MONEY DO I HAVE TO SPEND THIS WEEK?”

“WHEN IS MY TRAIN GOING TO ARRIVE?”

“WHAT IS THE WEATHER GOING TO BE LIKE TOMORROW?”

However, with qubits, in a quantum computer, as well as being able to solve do everything the conventional computer can, new problems will be solvable. These can be simplified as:

“WE KNOW OUTPUTS X,Y,Z…, BUT HOW DID WE GET TO THIS?”

These problems are solved right now using either brute force algorithms, or rely on being able to identify patterns. Here are some examples:

“HOW TO WIN THIS CHESS GAME?”

“HOW DO I FOLD THESE PROTEINS TO CREATE A CURE FOR CANCER?”

“HOW DO I BREAK THIS PASSWORD?”

For instance, a password in binary is just a fixed series of 1’s and 0’s. A traditional computer can crack this by trying every combination of 1’s and 0’s, perhaps also intelligently predicting what series are most likely. However, with limited processing power, and a long enough password, solving this takes longer than is reasonable (usually the age of the universe). However, with enough qubits, a quantum computer is able to solve it. The qubits instantly try every combination of 1’s and 0’s, and the password is cracked.

The modern cryptographic method involves multiples of two primes to create very long numbers. Certain numbers only have two factors, both of which are prime numbers. For instance, the number 889. To find them might take you several minutes by hand. A conventional computer would be able to brute force it by checking a list of primes. However, if the number was 2000 digits long, this search algorithm would take too long. Again the quantum computer is able to solve it by just using two groups of qubits representing the two primes.

BTW…THE PRIME FACTORS OF 889 ARE 7 AND 127.

When this quantum computer potentially emerges over the next decade, it will be able to break every encryption method and protected piece of information. It will also be able to impose its own encryption on the data which can never be broken by conventional computing. The owner of the quantum computer will be in sole possession of most of the world’s protected data.

Before that happens, the designers of quantum computers will have to overcome immense technical hurdles. A single qubit right now costs around $10k to create, compared to around $0.0000000001 for a conventional computer bit. These $10k qubits are still not of good enough quality for large scale computers. This creates compounded problems to develop error corrective algorithms to overcome this poor quality. At the moment, controlling multiple qubits simultaneously is very difficult. Lastly, each qubit requires multiple control wires.

Regardless of these challenges, we are now looking at a post-quantum era to which we should be designing our cryptography. In 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) put out a call to propose algorithms that would not be able to be solvable by a quantum computer. They are analysing 26 leading candidate before implementation in 2024. IBM has selected one, in particular, called CRYSTALS (Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices). This method generates public and private keys based on “lattice algorithms”. An example of which is; A set of numbers is produced, as well as the sum of a subset of those numbers. Determining the different combinations of numbers which made up the final answer is currently unsolvable by quantum computing due to the multidimensional nature of the problem.

Therefore, quantum computing will solve many of life’s problems but will make some of our current cryptographic methods redundant. We will have to start soon moving to new methods to keep our future data safe.

If you would like to learn more about quantum computing please get in contact below.