Honeywell goes quantum to protect utilities from future threats

Operational technology specialist Honeywell is to incorporate quantum computing-hardened encryption keys into its smart meters for electric, gas and water meters, through a partnership with sector specialist Quantinuum that it said will provide consumers with heightened protection from future cyber threats.

The deal makes Honeywell the first to deploy quantum encryption in such a way, and the organisation hopes it will “set a new benchmark” in protecting critical utilities, and their customers, from cyber incidents, as well as ensure the underlying infrastructure can function without interruption.

The partnership centres on Quantinuum’s Quantum Origin technology, co-developed with Honeywell and launched back in 2021, which its developer claims is the world’s first commercial product built using quantum computers that “delivers an outcome classical computers could not achieve”.

It’s a cloud-hosted cryptographic key generation platform that derives keys using the output of a quantum computer to try to ensure data is protected at a foundational level against current and future cyber attacks. This is held to be an advantage over more traditional services because the technique renders the keys unpredictable.

“By integrating Quantinuum’s quantum computing-hardened encryption technology into our smart meters, we’re advancing data security for our customers and shaping the dialogue on how the utility industries should approach cyber security in the quantum era,” said Hamed Heyhat, president of smart energy and thermal solutions at Honeywell.

“This integration underscores the necessity for continuous innovation to stay ahead of the evolving threat landscape,” he said. “It’s a level of protection that is imperative in our increasingly digital and interconnected world.”

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Tony Uttley, Quantinuum president and chief operating officer, added: “Robust cyber security requires a multifaceted approach, taking advantage of the latest technologies. Our work with Honeywell demonstrates the importance of using the power of today’s quantum computers to create a more resilient cyber infrastructure to better protect customers.”

How to respond appropriately to the threat quantum computing poses to existing cyber security measures continues to exercise the industry.

However, as the pace of innovation accelerates, it’s already abundantly clear that organisations operating in sectors which are more likely to be attacked, or on which an attack would cause significant disruption or even threat to life, such as the utilities that constitute a core element of a country’s critical national infrastructure, should already be thinking about the potential impact.

The quantum-enhanced smart meter products are available now across Europe and North America.

Quantinuum’s background

Formed in 2021 from a merger of a previous organisation, Cambridge Quantum, and Honeywell’s own Honeywell Quantum Solutions, Cambridge-based Quantinuum is on a mission to use quantum computing to positively transform the world, and besides cyber security, is working on applying the emergent technology to areas such as drug research, healthcare innovation, materials science, energy transformation and climate breakdown.

Its technology regularly breaks records for quantum volume – a metric developed at IBM that establishes the capabilities and error rates of a quantum system – most recently reaching a volume of 524,288 (2¹⁹) in July 2023. Its operating system is largely open source, although it does include some proprietary code, and it publishes data on its performance to its GitHub repository.

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