Wednesday, February 22, 2006

BBN Reports Breakthrough in Quantum Cryptography Network

BBN Technologies announced a breakthrough in the development of a quantum cryptography network.



Quantum cryptography is an approach to securing communications based on certain phenomena of quantum physics -- using single photons of light to distribute keys to encrypt and decrypt messages. Quantum cryptography is focused on the physics of information. The process of sending and storing information is always carried out by physical means, for example photons in optical fibers or electrons in electrical current. Eavesdropping can be viewed as measurements on a physical object -- in this case the carrier of the information. Using quantum phenomena allows for the design and implementation of a communication system which can always detect eavesdropping.



Working in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), BBN demonstrated a single-photon detector designed for standard telecom fibers that is 20 times faster than today's benchmark device and could produce even greater speed increases.



BBN said that greater speeds not only mean faster communications but, in a quantum cryptographic network, also enable greater distances. This breakthrough brings quantum communications beyond metropolitan distances closer to reality.



Previously, the practical uses of quantum cryptography networks were limited by their relatively short range of transmission. The BBN breakthrough enables distances of over 100 km.



BBN and NIST built the new devices under DARPA sponsorship, in collaboration with the University of Rochester in New York and Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. Laboratory trials have already confirmed continuous operation at a 100 million pulses per second. The technology is believed scalable to 10 billion pulses per second and beyond. The compact, rack-mounted detector system uses NIST-developed packaging and cooling technology which efficiently couples the superconducting detector to a standard telecom fiber and allows operation at a temperature of ~3K without using liquid cryogens.



BBN has operated the world's first quantum cryptography network, the DARPA Quantum Network, continuously since 2004, sending quantum keys between BBN, Harvard University and Boston University under the streets of Cambridge and Boston Mass. The network now has 10 nodes, exchanging quantum keys through both telecom fiber and the atmosphere.

http://www.bbn.com

  • Quantum cryptography, invented by Charles Bennett and Giles Brassard in the 1980s, prepares and transmits single photons of light, through either fiber optic cable or the atmosphere, to distribute cryptographic keys that are used to encrypt and decrypt messages.


  • In February 2004, two prominent venture capital firms acquired the legendary BBN development labs from Verizon. General Catalyst Partners, a private equity firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Accel Partners, a venture capital firm based in Palo Alto, California, said the deal would allow BBN to continue its legacy of innovation and technology leadership. Financial terms were not disclosed.


  • BBN was founded in 1948 by MIT professors Richard Bolt and Leo Beranek, along with Robert Newman, with a vision of starting a small, acoustical consulting firm. The company is best know for its pioneering work with the ARPANET (the forerunner of today's Internet) in 1969. It is also credited with the first implementation of packet switching (1969), the first router (1976), and the first network e-mail (1971), which established the @ sign as an icon for the digital age. BBN is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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