Berlinale – Where innovations premiere

It is well known that the Berlinale is where we often first see masterpieces of the cinematic art; however, it doesn’t just celebrate the best in film, it also showcases innovations, including those in network services.

These developments have really shaped the Berlinale’s move towards digital cinema. It has also offered us the opportunity to test our latest technologies, independent of festival operations, and optimise them for our customers and the wider telecoms industry. This year it’s the premier of quantum encryption!

Science fiction becomes reality

There are numerous examples where science fiction films were ahead of reality, and we now use similar technologies without giving them a second thought. These include the handheld computers from Star Trek, which many consider to be the forerunners of the iPad and AI that outperforms humans not only in chess like supercomputer HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The possibilities of traversing time and space with the help of quantum mechanics have also been negotiated on the big screen for a long time. So, what better place to test film-ready technologies like quantum-based encryption than the world’s largest public film festival?

Reality has caught up with then movies, and the age of quantum computing has begun. In 2021, IBM unveiled Germany’s first quantum computer and, according to a study by Sopra Steria and the F.A.Z. Institute, almost two thirds of German companies and public authorities expect quantum computing to have a noticeable impact on data processing in the next ten years.

This also increases the demand for secure data transmission. With the support of the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI and ADVA, we are testing a quantum encrypted connection in the Festival Network for the first time, combining different encryption technologies. These connections cannot even be cracked by quantum computers.

A quantum leap with security

The use case involves a Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) based connection between the Colt network node and the Berlinale Palast. This encryption technology has so far only been feasible for short distances and fixed locations, but it currently offers the highest possible security standard.

In the process, the QKD system generates a tap-proof key via a separate optical fibre, which is transferred to the DWDM system (Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing) via a standardised interface.

The advantage is that established optical transmission systems with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption can be used. AES is a symmetrical encryption method in which the same key is used for encryption and decryption. AES keys are available in different bit lengths. To crack 256-bit keys, supercomputers would need several million years. The QKD devices for secure quantum key exchange are commercially available and come from a Swiss company.

Encryption for success

Currently still quite niche, the technology is slowly gaining a foothold in public authorities and the financial sector. An initiative from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which wants to create a pilot network for tap-proof communication through the QuNET project, is also driving awareness.

Whether innovative ideas first appear in a movie script or corporate innovation hubs, it is only a matter of time before quantum encryption becomes the norm for a wide range of industries. Colt will continue to be at the forefront of innovation and deliver what our customers need.

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