You might have heard of the NEOM, the ‘mega-city’ currently being developed in South Arabia as a destination to test and implement all future technologies. BUT you probably won’t have heard of UK-based company Arqit just yet.
If I’m right and you haven’t, here’s the lowdown…
Arqit is a quantum encryption technology company. It exists to maintain and improve our hyperconnected world by confronting the threat that new technologies could have on our safety, security, and connectivity. How? By creating additional new technologies that support positive advancements and/or alleviate any potentially negative ones. The majority of their work so far has been on a product called QuantumCloud™, which is a downloadable piece of software that uses Aventur’s quantum encryption technology to keep our data and communications safe when passed from one device to another. This technology is important because, as technology develops and the rise of quantum computing comes ever closer, the encryption techniques we rely on today become less and less effective in keeping us all safe. There will inevitably come a day where we all rely on technology like Arqit’s to prevent cyber criminals from accessing our data.
So now you know who Arqit is, it’s time to explore what exactly they’re doing with NEOM.
Well, according to the latest information released by Arqit, the two organisations (Arqit Limited and NEOM Company, the company Saudi Arabia set up to take charge of the NEOM project) plan to “future-proof the fintech payments industry with a quantum safe and highly energy-efficient platform”.
But what does this mean?
It means that – assuming that trading of any kind in the vicinity of NEOM will consist solely through cryptocurrencies – the NEOM Company has recognised a need to ensure the safety of these transactions well into the city’s future.
Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain
For those who don’t know a huge amount about cryptocurrencies (referred to as ‘digital currencies’ in the Arqit X NEOM press release), they are digitised currencies that rely entirely on a data storage method known as ‘blockchain’. When first developed, blockchain was revolutionary. This is because it can store data (for example, transaction information for those using cryptocurrencies) instantaneously and without prompt. This data is then time-stamped and added into a ‘block’ of data in chronological order. The blocks are also stored in chronological order in what’s known as a ‘chain’ (hence the name ‘blockchain’). The way this data is stored is pretty clever because the ‘block’ and ‘chain’ layout makes it incredibly difficult for potential cyber criminals to access data once new data is stored in front of it, making the window of opportunity for hacking incredibly small. It is also stored in a ‘decentralised’ process, which means that no one computer, person, team, or device has any kind of centralised ‘admin’ access to the database. It is owned and run by a number of different teams/devices which would all need to be hacked simultaneously in order for a hack to be successful. This is extremely time-consuming and expensive, meaning that, while it is still possible to hack data stored in a blockchain, it is not really “worth it”. BUT this could all change very soon. With the rapid development of quantum computers, it is becoming more and more possible that hackers may soon be able to break into a blockchain in almost no time at all and at almost no cost.
This is where Arqit can step in. As the leaders in quantum encryption and thus the technology with the capacity to keep blockchain safe from quantum computers, they are pretty much the saving grace here. Their technology can be implemented by the devices connected to a blockchain in order to encrypt and protect the data stored in it.
By the looks of it, Arqit plans to support NEOM in much the same way. By providing their quantum encryption expertise, they plan to work together with NEOM Company to develop a platform that will be used by devices throughout the city. The platform will ensure devices can securely store payment data safely and without additional cost.
My Final Thoughts
All this may be the biggest application of Arqit’s technology so far, so it will be interesting to see if and how it works. I might be alone in this one, but I am certainly excited to see this partnership come to fruition!