The Quantum Cryptography Market: Is It Schrodinger’s Profit Machine?

For a long time, the ‘quantum market’ (a slightly lofty phrase for theoretical physics made commercial) focused on the engineering and hardware development needed to create viable quantum computers. It’s still mostly there, with national governments and all the major private sector players working as fast as they can to produce more qubits.

But now that the age of quantum computers is nigh, it’s the practical applications of these ‘theory machines’ that are beginning to be quantified, and, as ever, commercialised. With applications in every type of engineering and manufacturing, the quantum market isn’t one we can ignore. But by far the biggest applicable market already – before one has even left the lab – is cryptography. Quantum computers will be so impactful for cyber security, companies are now hard at work developing solutions to their impact on combinatorics (a fancy word for combining numbers to achieve a certain goal – let’s say, “password-breaking”).

As the authors of this article in Harvard Business Review explain: “Combinatorics have been central to encryption for over a thousand years… Today’s encryption is still built on combinatorics, emphasizing the assumption that combinatoric calculations are essentially unmanageable. With quantum computing (QC), however, cracking encryption becomes much easier, which poses a threat to data security.

“A new industry is growing that helps companies prepare for upcoming vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity.”

Just how fast is that industry growing?

That’s sort of asking how much Schrodinger’s cat weighs/might weigh/did weigh. What we can say with certainty is this: all commonly used cryptography today will be instantaneously breakable once the quantum age is here. And what we also know, both statistically and anecdotally, is that where there’s a market gap, smart people are going to try to solve it – or at least, earn money from it.

In June, Honeywell Quantum Solutions and Cambridge Quantum Computing combined to create what is now the world’s largest quantum business, offering both a quantum computer and quantum software. In their press release, the companies tap the quantum computing market at US $1 trillion over the next three decades.

But homing in specifically on the crypto side of QC, the numbers are nothing to sneer at: “The growing incidents of cyber-attacks in the era of digitalization, increasing cybersecurity funding, rising demand of next-generation security solutions for cloud and IoT technologies, and evolving next-generation wireless network technologies are expected to drive the growth of the global quantum cryptography market,” is the summary offered at Markets and Markets. Their 158-page report estimates a CAGR of 19.1% to reach a value of US $214M by 2025 (with network and application security representing the largest share).

The ones to watch – and the ones to disregard

While jumping on the bandwagon may seem like a smart move for cyber security companies, there are, in reality, only a handful with the right expertise and technology it takes to truly successfully fend off the quantum threat.

There are a few to watch, such as Qubitekk’s acquisition of QinetiQ’s patent portfolio (57 patent applications); and Swiss-headquartered Quantique, whose product Cerberis3’s QKD system could be deployed in any network configurations, including point-to-point.

But there’s only one that, for my money, seems like the real deal: Arqit Quantum, Ltd, headquartered in the UK, but with a team of researchers and board members spanning satellite, aerospace, defence, cyber security – oh, and the father of SSL himself, Dr. Taher Elgamal.

In contrast to QinetiQ’s 57 patent applications, Arqit has – get this – 1,435 patent claims. Its solution to the quantum threat is already available (the next iteration launches in Feb 2022), offers a cloud-based, IoT-worthy fix and also solves most current cyber security solutions.

QuantumCloud and the company’s other operations were developed under ‘stealth mode’ for four years. Having only been publicly traded since Sept, the company already has a surprising – and reassuring – number of clients. I’m talking British Telecomms, Virgin Orbit, the US, UK, Japanese and Italian governments and of course, major quantum player Honeywell.

And, despite its gravitas and how much press the company has been generating in recent months, QuantumCloud isn’t that expensive and doesn’t take eons to implement – both considerations that most financial gurus say continue to halt the rise in the value of the quantum cryptography market.

Interested? You can read more about Arqit here.