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Quantum cryptography goes on show at the DTI

Quantum cryptography took its first steps into the mainstream with last week's business-focused demonstrations at the Department of Trade & Industry's headquarters in London.

Quantum cryptography has been predicted to revolutionise information security. However, it has yet to make an impact with potential business users.

Quantum Information Partners, an organisation helping to build the UK's lead in this technology, worked with the DTI for several months to organise last week's briefing and demonstration, called "Out of the laboratory into the marketplace". It trialled quantum cryptography products from MagiQ, Qinetiq and Toshiba Cambridge.

Using quantum cryptography, senders and receivers of sensitive data will no longer need to share a common code, with all the inherent risks of third parties compromising the system either by obtaining this code, or intercepting the transmissions, breaking the code and reading the messages.

Quantum cryptography not only provides codeless encryption, but also enables the parties transmitting information to detect if anyone is eavesdropping on their communications.

Like all radical technologies, this breakthrough will require new thinking in developing message processing systems, the implications of which were discussed at the trials.

"The next step now is to start installing pilot schemes, so I think this could turn out to be the defining start of the quantum information processing age," said Charles Hughes, partner at Quantum Information Partners.

"Changing security systems involves long lead times. Every executive with responsibility for secure communications needs to be fully acquainted with these developments."

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