Now there’s something that I wasn’t expecting any time soon: a quantum-powered smartphone. Yet here we are, with an announcement from Samsung and Korean provider SK Telecom that the world’s first 5G smartphone complete with a quantum random number generator (QRNG) is due to launch next week.
The current Samsung Galaxy flagship S20 series all come with a new secure element security solution including a dedicated security chip that can prevent hackers from stealing data even if they have their hands on your hardware.
The Galaxy A Quantum, however, turns the security dial up to 11.
Although it’s a Galaxy A71 5G at heart, the rebranded and updated smartphone comes complete with one important security extra: a QRNG chip developed by ID Quantique.
When random just is not random enough
Random number generators are a vital part of many security solutions, but they often aren’t as random as you might expect. Indeed, “pseudo-random” number generators are not uncommon, but these are a weak spot cryptographically and, as such, are something of a honeypot for hackers. What the ID Quantique QRNG brings to the security party is not only a genuinely random number generator but one able to generate perfectly unpredictable randomness.
The QRNG chip found in the Samsung Galaxy A Quantum is provably random, has full entropy from the first bit, and has been both designed and manufactured specifically for mobile handsets.
The quantum randomness is achieved by way of “shot noise” from a light source captured by a CMOS image sensor. A light-emitting diode (LED) and an image sensor are contained within the chip, and that LED emits a random number of photons thanks to something called quantum noise, ID Quantique explains. Those photons are then captured and counted by the image sensor pixels and provide a series of random numbers fed into a random bit generator algorithm.
The algorithm further distills the “entropy of quantum origin” to create the perfectly unpredictable random bits. If any failure is detected during the physical process, the stream is disabled and an automatic recovery procedure starts another.
With uses such as two-factor authentication, biometric authentication for mobile payments, and blockchain-based document storage wallets, the QRNG will be put to good use.
A new chapter in quantum security history
Grégoire Ribordy, co-founder and CEO of ID Quantique, said, “With its compact size and low power consumption, our latest Quantis QRNG chip can be embedded in any smartphone, to ensure trusted authentication and encryption of sensitive information. It will bring a new level of security to the mobile phone industry. This is truly the first mass-market application of quantum technologies.” Ryu Young-sang, vice-president at SK Telecom, said the Galaxy A Quantum is a “new chapter in the history of the quantum security industry.”
The Samsung Galaxy A Quantum will launch in Korea on May 22. Although there is no news of any launch outside of Korea at the moment, SK Telecom and ID Quantique already have quantum communication network-building projects in both the U.S. and Europe. “Going forward,” SK Telecom said, it will “expand its footprint in the quantum security business by integrating QRNGs to more devices and networks.” If the Galaxy A Quantum proves to be a success, I see no reason why this couldn’t be something we see more of securing flagship devices around the world very soon.