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Ex-defence officials develop quantum computing-resistant video conferencing for Navy

Last week, the Data Security Council of India-incubated start-up won the Ministry of Defence's Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) Open Challenge (IDEX SPRINT)for developing the solution for the Indian Navy.

February 22, 2023 / 10:23 AM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

New-delhi-based Scytale Alpha, a bootstrapped, deep tech start-up run by former defence and DRDO officials, has developed a video conferencing equipment for the Indian Navy that can withstand quantum computing, a piece of technology seen as a threat to end-t0-end encryption.

Quantum computing is based on the principles of quantum mechanics whose capabilities exceed what supercomputers are capable of today. Quantum computers have been known to break open encryption algorithms faster than a classical computer would and, in some cases, where classical computers cannot.

The Data Security Council of India-incubated start-up won the Ministry of Defence's Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) Open Challenge (IDEX SPRINT)for developing the solution for the Indian Navy.

Surendra Sai, director at Scytale Alpha, said that the portable equipment developed by Scytale Alpha can withstand quantum computing. "Our hardware and software-based solution has been hardened against quantum computing. Our solutions have been tested by the Navy, and the systems are robust enough," Sai said.

"Over the next six months, we will be working with the Indian Navy who has given us the requirement of building them a particular system. We aim to complete it in that time period," Sai, who was earlier a scientist with the Defence Research Development Organisation, told Moneycontrol.

The potential of quantum computers to break security could lead to severe consequences, said the World Economic Forum in a blog. "The quantum threat will increase data breaches of sensitive health and financial personal data, challenge the integrity of digital documents and break certain cryptocurrency encryption," the WEF said.

"Because of quantum computers, the traditional forms of encryption that we use in our communication channels are under serious threat. The first people who would be worried about such things are security agencies and the defence forces," Sai said  while explaining the need for such technology.

Currently iDEX is accepting applications for the Defence Start-up Innovation Challenge-9, which was thrown open by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh last week.

How it works

For the end-user, the 3ft-by-3ft video conferencing equipment will show a user-friendly video conferencing or a messaging solution. "But the underlying stack is end-t0-end encrypted. Parts of the technology are proprietary and we are in the process of patenting it," said Sai.

The portable device can be installed on different military platforms and is claimed to offer unlimited range for audio-video communications. Sai said that the system was in development for three years.

The three-year-old start-up's other two directors include Retired Wing Commander Satyam Kushwaha and Ojasvita Singh, a geoinformatics and surveying technology expert.

Sai said that they are not the only player who provide solutions such as these. "We are one of the few companies who are working in this niche area,  and we have  been working with academia, cryptologists to develop these solutions," Sai added.

Aihik Sur covers tech policy, drones, space tech among other beats at Moneycontrol
first published: Feb 22, 2023 10:23 am