New scientific developments in communication using lasers


May 9, 2014

Communication has always been something that we rely on. Since almost the dawn of man, from when we began thinking for our own, communication has driven us to where we are today. Expecially important is communication within the military. The ability to hide these communications is something that mankind has been working on for hundreds of years to prevent others from learning their secrets.

Because of this issue, various things such as encryption and cyphers have been invented, using random numbers to hide a message. However what truly is a “random” number? This question has been the single reason why communications can still be broken into in this day and age if someone tries hard enough.

Recently, however, scientists have managed to develop the first completely “covert” communication system, using something that nobody would have thought of, lasers. This new covert communication technique relies on something called “pulse position modulation,” which is actually much more simple than it sounds. It involves dividing a value such as time into discreet bands. each of which correspond to a different letter or symbol. This code of course would have to be shared with the intended recipient ahead of time, marking the only flaw in this scheme for the time being.

Once the code is already pre-sent ahead, a series of pulses can be delivered like optical morse code. You may be asking how on earth would flashing lights be “covert” of all things? You can see a laser; it’s not completely invisible! The key to this method is the nature of a laser. The receiving end would not have a perfect optical receiver. That paired with the laser’s nature of massive amounts of photons, without the code that was sent ahead, if one were to try to spy on the communication, it would be very difficult to pick things out.

Deciding which an actual part of the message is, and what is a bunch of background noise is not an easy task. It is almost impossible without infinite amounts of time. The researchers were able to demonstrate quite well that this indeed works. However, they didn’t put much thought into who may want to use this system. For standard users, this would be overkill. The military may be slightly different, but if they are interested or not is still unknown up to date. With all these new developments, I suppose the market still asks for buyers despite how well something new works.

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