In The Field

APS: Quantum cryptography is just plain cool

The meeting is wrapping up, and I’m getting ready to pack up here in Pittsburgh, but not before getting myself to a talk by Andrew Hammond a vice president at MagiQ Technologies. MagiQ is in the business of quantum key distribution, a process that uses quantum entanglement to ensure the secrecy of encrypted data.

This was all very academic when I wrote about it just a few years ago, but what was evident in Hammond’s talk is just how practical it’s becoming. According to Hammond, MagiQ’s system is now capable of refreshing a secure key at a rate of once a second. Considering that involves entangling two photons, sending one of them along a piece of optical fibre, and reading them both out when it arrives, that’s pretty darn impressive. And Hammond says there technology is constantly improving: they’re even working towards developing a PCI card that could fit inside a desktop computer.

The economic downturn has been bad for business, he admitted (banks thought to be among MagiQ’s relatively short list of highly confidential clients). But, he says, that parts of the federal government are now deploying their systems on a large scale. Assuming the economic downturn doesn’t turn into a meltdown, it sounds like quantum cryptography is here to stay.

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