Meet our CODE_n CONTEST Finalists 2016: Quantum Base from the UK

08/23/2016  |  CODE_n Alumni, CODE_n16 Startup CONTEST, Interview

qb_logoMeet another one of our CODE_n CONTEST HealthTech Finalists: Quantum Base designs, develops, and delivers quantum security solutions, which are based on quantum mechanics rather than mathematical complexity. This is the only proven way to save digital information securely. The British startup was spun out from Lancaster University and provides solutions that are 100% secure and guaranteed by the laws of physics. Dr Robert Young, Co-Founder of Quantum Base, took the time to tell us all you need to know about his startup!

What is Quantum Base all about? How did you come up with the idea?

Robert: At the core of our organizational philosophy is a fundamental belief that product, data security and integrity is a sensible and basic human right, indeed a requirement, in all modern-day societies.

The digitized, connected societies we inhabit are driven by a dependency on ever-increasing security requirements, but how can you depend on anything if you can’t trust it? At Quantum Base our core concern is guaranteeing 100% product security, authenticity or data integrity. So whether we’re talking about a pill to a painting, to a prize-winning horse; or a form of packaging or even a bit of data on a network or in free space, we use the laws of quantum physics to create simple, small, practical and cheap quantum security solutions that are 100% provably secure. It is this level of unbreakable security which we can deliver, that bridges the current, and ever-increasing gap in security between the good guys and the bad guys.

How did we make this happen? Well, the idea was to smash together a world leading scientist, two sharp technologists, and a really average entrepreneur. Then add in some super smart people, and stick them all in the mixer together. We said, if we create an environment of trust, mutual respect, and driven by a real need to dramatically and urgently disrupt the way things are done in the security space, we’ll find a better, smarter way of thinking about the security and integrity of literally everything we work, use, buy consume, communicate, and play with.

Finally, we encourage them all to make beautiful music together, you know, the stuff that gets you just there, in the heart; the stuff that moves you, shakes you; makes you want to cry, gets you pumped, and bang, literally! …the result is Quantum Base.

So, in maybe less romantic terms, it’s two normal guys (friends), The Royal Society (arguably the greatest scientist in the world), world-leading scientists at a world leading institution, and business leaders and visionary’s. All trying to change the way the world views or “does” security in many different ways. It’s about absolutely believing that you can, and have to, create small, cheap, and practical products or solutions; quantum security solutions so elegantly simple, that anyone can use them, so anyone can have the security we feel is their right. So here at Quantum Base that’s what we’re doing, we’re building it, and we hope that the people will come, see our vision, and help us build our 100% provable and unbreakable security products, guaranteed by the laws of physics. For us building provable trust and security serves as the building block for everything else.


The Quantum Base Team

“Digital Disruption“ – that’s the motto of this year’s CODE_n CONTEST. What makes your solution innovative, what makes it disruptive?

Robert: What’s so fundamentally different is our Optical Q-ID or Q PUF (Quantum physically unclonable function) uses new two-dimensional materials (e.g. graphene like sheets) that can be read with a smart phone and cheap filter. The devices are secure to the atomic scale; as secure as it’s possible to build, and the best bit – they can be mass-produced to ensure they are amazingly cheap. So, in terms of authentication for instance, you can tag any product or any packaging whatsoever, because the devices are literally miniscule (microscopic, e.g. a few thousand atoms in size).
As each one has its own unique ID, and can literally be placed on any surface, of any thing, it means you can address each one directly in real time, using Internet or new media technologies with a remote database.

From a sustainable supply chain perspective, we think this is pretty revolutionary if, for example, one of your products is stolen, or you need to do a product recall, but want to know exactly which ones are affected in the supply chain, or even if you just want to check if a product is genuine or counterfeit.
So they allow anybody, anywhere in the supply chain, armed only with a smart phone and cheap filter, to check the authenticity of products with 100% security and assurance. We can guarantee this for the first time ever as you cannot copy, clone or simulate these quantum security based devices.
Additionally, our quantum devices enable extremely economical track and traceability of a product, or the ability to turn them off, or on anywhere in the supply chain.
Indeed, the uses are endless; we are just at the start of product market fit.

As we have said, our Optical Q-IDs are cheap, small and 100% secure, as you cannot copy, clone or simulate them. They use the arrangement of atoms and the imperfections in the atoms of very small sheets of “graphene like” two-dimensional materials to derive their unique ID. They can be put onto any surface, they all have their own unique ID, they can be turned on or off anywhere in supply chain and can be read with a smartphone and cheap filter.

What does this represent in terms of disruption? It allows everyone on the planet to check the authenticity of anything, and for the first time it delivers 100% security without the need for expensive proprietary equipment, scientists or laboratories.

What’s more, our Optical Q-IDs can augment or replace existing technologies such as holograms, RFID, or any other current security technology, plus deliver additional features that have been unavailable to date. They can be manufactured at scale easily and cheaply within existing manufacturing processes. So everybody everywhere can now cheek or test the authenticity or integrity of anything, anytime and for the first time.

We can empower everyone, everywhere to take up arms in the global fight against counterfeiting. For the first time, we can begin to turn the tables on the bad guys, and start to win this $1500bn+ global war.

You’re one of the 13 finalists in the HealthTech contest cluster. Which challenges do you think young companies have to face in this sector? How do you handle these challenges?

Robert: Generally the sector is slow to innovate, or slow to change. Some hide behind legislation, as an excuse for inertia. The real problem, we feel, is a lack vision or any real ambition to change things which are seen as not core to their product offering. There is an opportunity here for firms to cohere this level of security at a much higher strategic level across global organisations – generally, that’s either not possible or just doesn’t happen.

So what happens is you get super-powerful individuals with a single goal, driving the organisation one way, rather than a holistic strategic approach, this single goal thinking results in decisions that are just not really that smart. So, what we have been witnessing is business units struggling with budgets and manpower reduction in the field of brand protection; generally only seeing cost, hassle, overhead and unnecessary change as we can “manage” with what we have. The counterfeiters are winning, eroding more and more of the global healthcare sector, condemning patients most at need to the vagrancies of drugs which at best don’t work, and at worst, kill. We believe we can change this, be part of a global solution in which we inspire and allow everyone to become part of the anti-counterfeit supply chain defence.

There has been a failure in the past to seeing this bigger picture and the much bigger opportunity we can provide – that not only can you truly guarantee the authenticity of a product for the first time with smart phone, but our quantum solutions can enable so much more.

For example, the nature and make up of our devices allows you to turn them on or off anywhere up to the point of consumption, great for product recalls or thefts. For years, successfully ensuring the cross-compatibility of pills has been difficult across global markets. With our devices, you can easily check cross compatibility with other treatments and pills by simply scanning them all together simultaneously.

Indeed, if we just try and think “out there” for a moment, our devices can help and be utilised to shape and define a new healthcare future; a future in which global, national and regional patient groups and communities of interest can be created using new media technologies for the very first time – all via the opportunity to opt in.

What we believe is this vision of a healthier world requires joined up strategic thinking and in some cases that’s either not there or not empowered at the point of competency. Some have stated that those at the top are still stuck in the weeds, too busy solving yesterday’s issues, and by the way they got those wrong too the first time round. We believe they need to look forward and truly innovate, something that’s natural in great science and indeed in the drug development environment as a whole. It’s just that this philosophy; our philosophy, seems less embedded throughout all aspects and levels of many healthcare provider organisations.

So we hope to tell it like it is, because this matters to us, it drives our passion, our need to continually disrupt through science. But we understand this is risky for a young small business, and we hope the right person reads our challenging words, and then acts, because that’s what real leaders and visionaries do, right; to try and see what others do not, to do what others cannot. We want to help them see, to help them do.

On your website you say: “The best way to shape the future is to design it.” What are your concrete goals for the future? In which way do you want to design it?

Robert: So privacy, security and authenticity, it could be argued, are basic human or societal needs and indeed, rights. As I said before, how can you rely on anything if you can’t really trust it or prove its security or authenticity?

In today’s connected world, this notion of central trust can act as a catalyst to gel or erode the fabric of society. Our goal is to design a portfolio of products that deliver against that erosion, either end-to-end provably secure solutions, or products that can be deployed as discrete solutions in their own right, like Q-ID. So we can, are, and will, take care of all the design, and product development and then share our IP with our partners who can build the products, at scale, cheaply.

I guess you could say we are the technical folk and we do it practically, cheaply, simply and on a nanoscale that then leaves the politicians and the people that they serve to have that philosophical or political debate, and we think it’s right and proper that they do that. We, see our role as that of enabler, empowering those mentioned above via the deployment of our quantum suite of expertise and designed security products.

We’re not interested in the politics, we are technologists solving technical issues, we design world firsts that are simple, small, cheap, practical 100% secure, the rest we leave to others. We see the world’s firsts product technology we design as enabling, disrupting, and solving global security challenges and issues, and crucially, we do this in a simple, cheap and practical way. What we hope for, is that this IP, this quantum security design, can then be deployed in the wider world for the benefit of all.

Thanks so much for a super interesting interview, Robert!