It was only yesterday that we reported how Indian scientists from IIT have successfully developed a technology for securing Internet of Things (IoT). And now comes the news that a team of engineers from SK Telecom, a South Korean wireless telecommunications operator company, have created a tiny chip that has the potential of significantly helping in securing communications on a myriad of portable electronics and IOT devices all around the world.

What is equally fascinating is the fact that the chip in question is just 5 millimeters square in size, which means it is even smaller than a human fingernail. The chip though small in size is capable of doing big things. It can easily generate mathematically provable random numbers, which form the basis for highly-secure encryption systems. It is important to note here that this is the first time that someone has been able to produce such numbers in such a small package.

The chip is currently on display at the Mobile World Congress in the Mobile World Capital Barcelona from 27 February to 2 March 2017. Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry, organised by the GSMA and held in the Mobile World Capital Barcelona.

According to Sean Kwak, director at SK Telecom’s quantum technology lab, the chip is able to produce such mathematically provable random numbers by exploiting something called as the quantum shot noise. The chip includes two LEDs produce photons whose function is to bounce off the inner walls of the chip and get detected by a CMOS image sensor that’s also built inside the small chip. The shot notice is produced as a result of that detection and is very random in nature.

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For the uninitiated, random numbers have a huge role to play when it comes to cryptography as they are used to generate encryption keys. If these encryption keys numbers aren’t completely random in nature then a sophisticated analysis can easily be put to use to determine the original number and easily break the encryption as a result of it.

IoT experts are particularly joyous about the chip as it is capable of significantly improving the security of smartphones, intelligent cars and IoT devices, a topic which is being hotly debated all around the world currently. When it comes to IoT devices, the low cost nature of a majority of products often means that the developers have made use of what is called the quasi-random number generators or in some cases even a fixed key that does not change over the life period of the device.

It has been six long years since SK Telecom ventured into quantum encryption and security systems. The company started its journey in the space by setting up a lab at its R&D center in Seongnam.

[Image: Martyn Williams]

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