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AWS launches quantum random number generator

The cloud giant is using an Australian university’s technology to help customers access random numbers for experiments through an API

AWS has made the Australian National University’s (ANU) ANU Quantum Numbers (AQN) generator available on its platform.

ANU claims that the AQN is the world’s most popular and powerful online random number generator. It has been running out of ANU’s campus for the last ten years where it registered over two billion requests for random numbers from 70 countries. ANU decided to launch the service on AWS to scale AQN and deliver the service faster and more reliably to over 310,000 AWS customers.

The service uses quantum technology to generate truly random numbers at high speed and in real time by measuring the quantum fluctuations of the vacuum. ANU said that the fluctuations are truly random by definition and provide an unbiased source of entropy, or randomness, which can be measured by using a quantum optics setup known as homodyne detection. The numbers are measured and then uploaded to AWS servers to be served via its API.

AQN is now available on the AWS Marketplace, where users can make 100 random number requests per second, for the price of US$0.005 per request.

What are random number generators used for?

ANU researcher Syed Assad said a range of critical applications relies on random numbers.

“Random numbers are needed in IT, data science and modelling,” he said. “Without random numbers, you can’t have reliable models for forecasting and research simulation.

“But they are also used by artists to help with removing human biases from their creative work. In computer gaming and smart contracts, true random numbers are also an indispensable resource. We’ve even had a request from a father to generate random numbers that he then used as inspiration for his daughter’s name,” added Assad.

In the past, AQN has created numbers to assign participants in randomised clinical trials, simulate processes and events in computer games, generate secure passwords, simulate virus outbreak behaviours, and predict the weather.

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“Quantum physics practically provides an infinite source of truly random numbers,” said professor Ping Koy Lam, AQN team leader. “These quantum random numbers are guaranteed by the laws of physics to be unpredictable and unbiased.”

“This technology relies on the detection of vacuum. A vacuum is not a region of space that is completely empty and devoid of energy. In fact, it still contains noise at the quantum level.”

Lam added that through the AWS Marketplace, ANU is offering an incredibly powerful source of randomness easily accessible to customers across the globe.

Why use a quantum random number generator?

ANU said that other random number generators can be biassed or may repeat at some point. This can lead to biases in other things like simulations or data science. If an application relies on a truly unbiased source of randomness it can also introduce a weakness or security hole that could potentially be exploited. Quantum mechanics, however, guarantees the numbers that AQN provides are unbiased and the experiment is set up to run automatically without human intervention. It also claims that AQN is the fastest on-demand quantum service available.

The group said that for organisations to run their own random numbers, they would have to build their own reliable quantum random number generator which would mean buying and integrating lasers, optical components, high-speed detectors, and fast electronics. It predicts that for most users, it will be much cheaper to get them through the AWS API.

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