Chinese quantum-encrypted satellite sends first ‘unhackable’ message

11 Aug 2017

Image: Atthapol Saita/Shutterstock

Thousands of kilometres above Earth, a Chinese quantum-encrypted satellite sent the first reportedly ‘unhackable’ message down to our planet, and that’s a big deal.

As we heard from space law expert Laura Keogh this week, the internet of things (IoT) is already beginning to move outside the boundary of our atmosphere and into space.

With a considerable amount of the world’s telecommunications being run through satellites, China has set out its stall to be the world leader in securing space-based communications, starting with a quantum-encrypted satellite.

Launched last year, the satellite was a testbed to see whether it would be possible to generate encrypted messages using the mysterious science of quantum physics.

Now, according to the BBC, that same satellite has transmitted a series of ‘unhackable’ messages to Earth.

The satellite called Micius successfully transmitted messages to receiving stations up to 1,200km away and has the potential to send data at speeds up to 20 times that of fibre optic cables.

China’s intention is to launch a fleet of these satellites to encrypt messages and prevent them from being intercepted, either by the military or the public.

IoT nanosatellite start-up secures $3m in funding

Sticking with space and IoT, Swiss company Else – which plans to manufacture and launch 64 cube satellites (cubesats) with IoT applications – has bagged $3m in funding.

According to SpaceNews, the company said the funding was part of a seed round and was led by Airbus’ investment arm, Airbus Ventures, to support the launch of two test cubesats next year.

“We believe in the development of machine-to-machine communications and we have been convinced by the cost-effective innovative satellite constellation and network technology which Else will be providing,” said Airbus Ventures chair Francois Auque in a statement. “We are happy to foster further cooperation between Else and Airbus.”

If all goes well, the 64 satellites will begin launch in the first quarter of 2019, and will all be in orbit by 2021, at a cost of less than $50m.

Singapore gets new NB-IoT network

A company called M1 has launched a new nationwide narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) network within Singapore as part of an effort to pilot an energy management system.

According to ZDNet, this news follows on from the city state’s plans to build a large, national network, with Nokia announced last year.

M1 CEO Karen Kooi said the new network will accelerate Singapore’s digitisation and open new opportunities within the IoT space.

“We look forward to working closely with government agencies, technology partners and customers to enable smart solutions for everything and everyone,” she said.

Earlier this year, the Singaporean government committed $2.4bn to make the country a digital role model for the world, with the roll-out of thousands of sensors with data analytics applications.

Apple free to test 5G technology in California

Apple is looking to up its game in the telecommunications stakes after receiving approval to test new 5G technologies near its headquarters in California, according to Business Insider.

The process began back in May of this year with an application for a permit to the American Federal Communications Commission.

This does not suggest that Apple is looking to actually develop its own 5G network, rather, it’s believed to be testing millimetre-wave technology to examine its devices’ ability to cater to the proposed 5G standard to be set out by the 3GPP organisation.

However, millimetre-wave technology is just one part of 5G connectivity and it has been suggested that Apple is playing catch-up with some of its rivals in the mobile space.

“Google, Samsung, Microsoft – they’ve all been given licenses for this a while ago,” said Tristan Veale, analyst at Futuresource Consulting to Business Insider. “It makes sense that Apple would be on board.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic