Operator hopes to embed tiny, low-cost quantum random number generator into range of connected devices.

SK Telecom has made further progress in its bid to improve IoT security, by unveiling a prototype for an ultra-small, quantum random number generator (QRNG) chip.

As its name suggests, the chip, which measures just 5 mm², generates numbers "without any kind of pattern," SK Telecom said, and could potentially be embedded into a wide variety of IoT products, including autonomous vehicles, drones, and smart devices.

Until now, QRNG chips have been too big and costly for widespread adoption. SK Telecom hopes a production version of its prototype will drive down the cost and accelerate their use.

"Understanding the importance of data and data security, SK Telecom has focused on developing quantum cryptography technologies to guarantee secure transmission of data in areas including artificial intelligence (AI), IoT and autonomous driving," said Park Jin-hyo, SVP and head of SK Telecom’s network R&D centre, in a statement on Sunday.

Quantum cryptography offers far greater potential for securing data and devices than methods used today, such as public and private keys, and digital certificates. Public and private keys are at risk of being compromised, while it is possible for hackers to imitate digital certificates.

In June, SK Telecom showed off a new fibre optic repeater that uses quantum key distribution (QKD), which enables two parties to create and share a random, secret key known only to them. Not only that, but eavesdroppers are easily detectable because any attempt to tap into a quantum system introduces anomalies into said system.

"We will continue to work with partners, both home and abroad, to accelerate the popularisation of quantum cryptography and strengthen our presence in the global market," Park said.