Thursday, September 10, 2009

Industrial Strength Entropy

I've been wanting to start a company that results in the commodification of entropy. High quality entropy is somewhat rare. Who wouldn't want a whole bunch of it?

Writing some game software that relies on chance?
Gotcha covered.
Transporting sensitive data?
Gotcha covered.
Want to hide your music collection in noise?
We got that.
Want to make some math art?

There is a device that creates high quality entropy in amounts that are significant for an endeavor of this magnitude. The Simtec Electronics Entropy Key creates high quality entropy at a rate of roughly 3.66 kilobytes per second.

What keeps the Entropy Key going at this blistering speed? Quantum Tunneling. The creators were some clever guys.
The Entropy Key uses P-N semiconductor junctions reverse biassed with a high enough voltage to bring them near to, but not beyond, breakdown in order to generate noise. In other words, it has a pair of devices that are wired up in such a way that as a high potential is applied across them, where electrons do not normally flow in this direction and would be blocked, the high voltage compresses the semiconduction gap sufficiently that the occasional stray electron will quantum tunnel through the P-N junction. (This is sometimes referred to as avalanche noise.) When this happens is unpredictable, and this is what the Entropy Key measures.
So, there you have it. Entropy generated with a genuinely quantum method, and no one even said quantum computer.

At a rate of 3.66KB a second, you need roughly 7 hours to generate a gig of entropy. Since the daemon included is thoughtfully written so you can chain as many together as you like, we hope to get at least five, and maybe as many as 20. That would cut it down to about 2 weeks per terabyte, which is acceptable, at least until the business expands.

Check back for kickstarter information!

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