I will usually check out the RSA Security conference trade show floor just to get a flavor of what's hot, new, tired, overdone in that domain. This year it occupied most of the Moscone North show floor; quite a change from my first RSA show in the early '90s, where the trade area sparsely filled one of the smaller upstairs meeting rooms in the Redwood Shores Sofitel. Impressions:
Every year the show is less about cryptography per se. I'm sure this has something to do with RSA's attempts to diversify as its patents expire, but I do think it reflects the state of the field. Crypto has become a standardized component of security solutions, and the biggest perceived threats are not in the privacy area.
You can assess the perceived threats du jour by counting booths. A blur of intrusion detection systems. Every conceivable combination of app-layer, network edge DOS/malcode/spam detection and management hardware thingie. Piles of single-signon or authentication gadgets, all pledging allegiance to some federated identity standard or alliance. Trivial conclusion: These areas are all over-invested, steer clear unless you have a chance to back a company with significant growth in the top line and its customer list.
Coolest thing at the show: An actual quantum cryptography product from Magiq Technology (name thanks to A. C. Clarke, no doubt). I'm impressed that quantum crypto has made it in such a short time from esoteric theory to a chunk of hardware for which you can write a PO. And if the number theory behind public key crypto makes your head hurt, just try quantum entanglement. The virtue of this gadget is completely unbreakable key exchange at a distance. The catch is that you need a fiber optic connection direct to each point that needs key material - that'll slow down deployment just a tad. Fortunately for Magiq, they seem to have some friendly angels who are willing to wait out the transition from science project to real business.