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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Chip Elliott

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

We have recently built the world's first quantum cryptography network and are now operating it continuously beneath the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today the DARPA Quantum Network links BBN's campus to Harvard University; soon it will stretch across town to include Boston University as a third link.

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. This method of securing information is radically different from methods based on mathematical complexity, relying instead on fundamental physical laws. Because very small (quantum) particles are changed by any observation or measurement, eavesdropping on a quantum cryptography system is always detectable.

The DARPA Quantum Network has built on these techniques to create a highly robust, six-node network that is both extremely secure and 100% compatible with today's Internet technology. Novel protocols pave the way for robust quantum networks on a larger scale by providing "any to any" networking of quantum cryptography through a mesh of passive optical switches and cryptographic key relays.

Brief Biography

As Principal Engineer for BBN Technologies, Mr. Elliott has led the design and successful implementation of a number of secure, mission-critical networks based on novel technology. Mr. Elliott has particular expertise in wireless Internet technology, mobile “ad hoc” networks, quality of service issues, and novel routing techniques. He led the design and implementation of the world’s first fielded mobile ad hoc network and the world’s first mission-critical packet voice and data network. Nearly a dozen countries around the world now rely on these networks.

Mr. Elliott has also acted as senior advisor on various national and commercial networks including three LEO satellite constellations and Boeing’s Connexion system. At present he is leading the design and build-out of a very highly secure network protected by quantum cryptography.

Mr. Elliott holds over 125 patents, issued and pending, covering a variety of inventions in network technology. He currently serves on the Naval Studies Board (National Academy of Sciences) and ARDA’s Technology Experts Panel for Quantum Cryptography, and has participated in a variety of other national advisory panels. Over the years he has held visiting faculty positions at Dartmouth College, Tunghai University in Taiwan, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur.