Aug. 25, 2023

Light might be the answer to our data security issues, quantum researcher says

Congratulations to 1st recipients of Innovation Catalyst Grant. Applications for next cohort open until Sept. 15
Working with photonic systems
Jordan Smith, left, and his academic co-founder Dr. Daniel Oblak work with the photonic systems used to develop and test QTI’s technology. Faculty of Science

In a data-driven world, how do we keep our digitized lives and resources safe, especially as technologies in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing get more robust? UCalgary alum Jordan Smith, BComm'12, BSc'20, MSc'23, and his team in the Faculty of Science are developing an AI-resistant and quantum-secure cybersecurity solution to keep customer data safe from being decrypted with their company, Quantized Technologies Inc. (QTI).

In today’s world, our data is sent and stored using ones and zeros, and made safe by creating an encryption key before the data is transmitted over the internet. Encrypted data can be read by authorized personnel, but hackers may attempt to interfere and determine the key to gain access to data.

Luckily for us, decrypting requires solving complex math and would take a tremendously long time — if not forever. However, unluckily for us, with the rise of quantum computers, solving that math and subsequently decrypting our data could take just a few minutes, leaving data vulnerable, and by extension, our livelihoods.

Data and the internet are used in our everyday lives from filing our taxes, banking, registering our cars, sending family photos, transmitting confidential documents and so on. If unwanted readers can easily and readily access this information, it could have staggering effects including identity theft, financial loss and so much more. But there is light at the end of the tunnel — quantum light to be exact.

QTI’s technology encrypts data using quantum photons (particles of light) that rely on physics rather than math to mitigate data threats. This hardware/software combination distributes encryption keys to legitimate users so that even other parts of the system itself cannot read the key (zeros and ones), making it impossible for intruders that attempt to hack the central system to access the key and decrypt data.

Furthermore, QTI’s hardware is more cost effective than existing quantum key distribution approaches to encryption because several users can be connected to a single photon detection device, rather than each user needing their own. Currently, cost has inhibited the widespread use of quantum key distribution, but needing fewer photon detection devices will make it more accessible to the wider public and keep our data safe.

Innovation Catalyst Grant paves way for more research-based startups 

Smith and QTI are one of four UCalgary startups to receive the Innovation Catalyst Grant (ICG), funded by the Government of Alberta and managed through Innovate Calgary. ICG is an entrepreneurial fellowship that supports recent master’s and PhD graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. The program provides a two-year runway, $250,000 in grant funding, access to lab equipment, and professional development opportunities for entrepreneurs to develop and commercialize innovative science-based products/services that contain a hardware component.

“The ICG is helping us meet our current financial needs, but we are benefiting in many ways other than financially. The network we are plugged into through the ICG program has resulted in potential customers and use cases, interested investors, access to partnerships and collaborations and access to new markets that may not have otherwise been possible,” says Smith.

“The ICG administrators genuinely want us to be successful, and they have shown amazing support and have plugged us into their professional networks, which has been immensely helpful in achieving our goals.”

Since becoming an ICG recipient, QTI has been able to leverage their resources to improve and upgrade their minimum viable product (MVP), onboard their first employees, launch a website, create and execute an IP strategy, file their first patent, graduate from the CDL-Quantum startup program, assemble a world-class advisory board, pitch to investors, and so much more.

QTI is expected to continue growing in the next few months. They are currently preparing to open a seed round of investment, and they are looking for non-dilutive funding opportunities, strategic funding and technology partners, early adaptors of their technology, and folks to join their team! If securing your sensitive data is a priority, reach out to Jordan and his team to discuss.

From left:  Afif Hethnawi, founder of NanoWaterTech; Shariful Kibria Nabil, founder of C-Zero Inc.; and Mohsen Janmaleki, founder of Sensyn.

From left: Afif Hethnawi, founder of NanoWaterTech; Shariful Kibria Nabil, founder of C-Zero Inc.; and Mohsen Janmaleki, founder of Sensyn.

Congratulations to other UCalgary awardees

Afif Hethnawi, founder of NanoWaterTech

NanoWaterTech is an innovative energy transition company specializing in industrial water treatment solutions. Their technologies have demonstrated process efficiency improvements of over three times, substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and significant operational cost savings.

Shariful Kibria Nabil, founder of C-Zero Inc.

C-Zero uses electrochemical technology to separate and transform trace CO2 emissions from industries into valuable products like ethylene. This in turn bypasses energy-intensive capture and transportation steps of purification, while mitigating environmental impact.

Mohsen Janmaleki, founder of Sensyn

Sensyn is an innovative retrofit leak detection system that ensures real-time environmental protection and operational safety.

Apply to Innovation Catalyst Grant

Innovate Calgary is currently recruiting for applications for the next cohort of ICG Fellows. If you could use $250,000 and a plethora of additional resources to level up your research-based startup, you should apply. The application is open to recent grads of a STEM-based master’s or PhD within the STEM discipline. Learn more and apply. The application deadline is Sept. 15, 2023

About Innovate Calgary

Innovate Calgary was founded in 1986 to support the University of Calgary’s innovation community. Our team of experts offers intellectual property and business incubator services to researchers, entrepreneurs, and businesses within the advanced technology sector. Innovate Calgary supports commercialization by providing business and technical advice, workshops, assessments for commercial potential, access to sector resources and networking events, licensing and intellectual property protection, impact measurement discovery, company creation/incubation programs, and office and lab space. We also manage the UCeed investment fund. Learn more 

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