Arqit in ‘smart city’ deal with Saudi Arabia’s Neom project

Arqit in ‘smart city’ deal with Saudi Arabia’s Neom project

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Quantum security company Arqit has won a deal to provide security for the Saudi Arabian project to build a new smart city, Neom.

Arqit says that, once developed, its software will be able to defend other so-called cognitive cities against cyber-attacks. The system has global export potential, said the company.

David Williams, founder and chairman of Arqit, said the company will use a distributed ledger technology called Quantum Blockchain, which is “designed to deliver financial payments and smart contracts in a way that is sustainable, energy-efficient and can manage instantaneous transactions at close to zero cost”.

He said: “Neom is without doubt leading the world in the development of cognitive communities, and therefore the perfect launch partner for this technology.”

Neom (pictured) is a project to build a planned city in north-western Saudi Arabia, on 460km of the Red Sea shore. Expected to cost US$500 billion, the city will cost 26,500 sq km.

The investment company behind Neom is Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which yesterday said it is selling a 5.01% stake in Saudi Telecom (STC) through a secondary share offering.

The quantum trial “will see the two organisations [Neom and Arqit] develop new software capable of defending cognitive cities against cyber-attacks from the most advanced computers to emerge in coming years”, said Arqit this morning.

It said that Neom will be “a city built from the ground up, with AI [artificial intelligence] woven into its fabric, that monitors the city’s use and seeks to constantly improve citizens’ lives”.

Arqit added: “Pending a successful trial in Neom during the first half of 2022, the system could be exported to other cognitive cities around the world, offering billions of users a highly secure means to authenticate, identify and secure all forms of devices while fully guaranteeing their privacy.”

Williams said: “For the world to progress, people and businesses across all parts of the economy must be able to make costless, instant transfers, and seamless transactions, as well as have instantaneous access to all their information, and control who uses it and when. However, technology cannot be trusted until the cyber security threats of today and tomorrow are fully addressed.”

Mansoor Hanif, executive director of emerging technologies for Neom’s technology and digital company, said: “While blockchain-based technologies are making rapid progress around the world, many solutions have a negative impact on the climate and are not ready for a quantum future. It is essential that Neom’s infrastructure is both quantum safe and energy efficient.”

Arqit said that, as a result of its technology, processing cycles are reduced by an estimated 99% compared with alternative non-quantum safe encryption. “The blockchain-based system is also extremely energy-efficient,” Arqit said.


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