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Fewer Bits, Better Code

As new security regulations pile more tedium onto the airline boarding process, a Burlington, MA, startup called Ntru hopes its encryption technology can help keep queues flowing. The company’s software lets makers of embedded microchips incorporate data encryption directly into their silicon. The company’s algorithms use eight-bit numbers, versus the several-hundred-bit numbers employed by today’s standard encryption systems. These smaller numbers mean the technology can encrypt data faster; yet the company claims it can provide the same level of protection. The software could eventually underpin secure luggage tags and wireless code readers that authenticate passengers and link them to their baggage. It may also help inexpensive chips lock unauthorized users out of cell phones, pagers or payment cards. Ntru’s technology should be on the market by year’s end.

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