Durban’s high tech stadium

The majestic arch above Durban stadium is not the only first for a South African stadium for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It has now officially become the world’s first quantum stadium.

Quantum ‘cryptography’, which in layman’s terms refers to anything which is written in secret code, is a new method of communication security that provides an ultra-high communication security solution, through the encoding of data within quantum particles. A person who therefore tries to tap into the information feed, is first required to break the established laws of quantum mechanics to intercept the information without being noticed.

“This is the first public global event to use such a quantum based encryption solution,” said Professor Francesco Petruccione of the University of KwaZulu Natal’s (UKZN) Centre for Quantum Technology, a research group - comprising mainly academics and post-graduate students – 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,” explained Professor Petruccione. “To achieve this we use quantum mechanical methods to distribute ultra secure encryption keys.”

The system will make it virtually impossible for hackers to tap into communication between the two points via telephone, email and video links.

Information conveyed through optical fibre links is very often not encrypted, and therefore vulnerable to tapping, using equipment readily available via the internet, Professor Petruccione pointed out.

The Premier of KwaZulu Natal Mr. Zweli Mkhize congratulated the UKZN Centre for Quantum Technology for what he called ‘a remarkable innovation.’ “I was shown the importance of how this technology would be used to secure information. We are quite excited that we are seeing this innovation being implemented in our own stadium,” he said.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UKZN, Professor Rob Slotow said that 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.