28 May 2010
The Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban’s spectacular 2010 Fifa World Cup venue, has scored not only an engineering first for an African stadium with its majestic arch. It has also become the world’s first “quantum” stadium.
Quantum “cryptography”, which in layman’s terms refers to anything written in secret code, is a new technique of providing ultra-high communication security by encoding data within quantum particles.
A person who tries to intercept an information feed protected in this way without being noticed must first break the established laws of quantum mechanics.
“This is the first public global event to use such a quantum-based encryption solution,” says Professor Francesco Petruccione of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Centre for Quantum Technology, which has led the project in partnership with the city of Durban.
“The project will provide a high-level security system along the optical fibre communication link between the stadium and the Joint Operations Centre during the World Cup,” Petruccione said last week. “To achieve this, we use quantum mechanical methods to distribute ultra-secure encryption keys.”
Information conveyed through optical fibre links is often not encrypted, and therefore vulnerable to tapping using equipment readily available via the internet, Petruccione noted.
The quantum-based system will make it virtually impossible for hackers to tap into communication between the two points via telephone, e-mail and video links.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize last week congratulated Petruccione and his team, comprising mainly academics and post-graduate students, for what he called a “remarkable innovation”.
University of KwaZulu-Natal deputy vice-chancellor Rob Slotow said the university was pleased that it could make a contribution to the running of the World Cup. “Especially in this, the most spectacular stadium in South Africa,” he added.