PQI Intelligent Stick

By on February 7, 2005

I had to buy some USB keys recently to store login credentials. Without the files on the key, you wouldn’t be able to log in to the system, period. I dreaded the issues that were sure to arise when people left their USB keys at home, in their car, etc.

Then I found PQI’s Intelligent Stick online. They’re what might happen if a secure digital card and a USB stick had a baby.

The thing is only about the thickness of one penny and the length of two pennies side-by-side. There’s no metal shield around the USB contacts on the business end, further reducing the size. You just wedge it into a USB slot.

It comes with a holder that fits in your wallet, and it’s no thicker than three or four credit cards. No forgotten USB sticks.

It looks like PQI is trying to market these as an alternative to the current flash memory formats used by cameras and MP3 players. So I can just pull the memory out of the camera, jam the business end into the USB port on my computer, and off I go? Sounds like a great idea to me.

The only downside I’ve found is that they appear to be pretty power-hungry (which may kill the whole camera/MP3 player idea). If I put it in the unpowered USB hub built into my keyboard (as I’ve always done without issue using my Kingston stick), Windows complains and it’s a no-go. Works fine in the port on the PC, though, and I’m sure it would be OK with a powered hub.



  1. Aladdin (www.ealaddin.com) have been making USB encryption key widgets for some time now. They’re called eTokens and have very limited storage capabilities but make up for it with internal encryption mechanisms.

    Though not as small as the ISticks, the eTokens are smaller than most dsk-on-key devices and fit nicely into your keychain. Theoretically, that should solve the “where did I put my d* key thingamabob” syndrome.

  2. The problem with encryption widgets vs regular USB keys is the drivers. I can jam a USB key into nearly any computing system, and it usually just works, assuming the OS was installed this millenium.

    Crypto devices offer advantages, but the problem is that most of them only support Windows, and require drivers to be installed before they work at all. Most regular USB drives come with crypto software to make an encrypted partition on the drive, but it’s all non-standard and almost universally awful.

    One-time password devices (where you carry a keyfob with a constntly rotating number) are an even better solution, but it usually requires a lot of proprietary software and expensive licenses to make it work.

    A PKI infrastructure with a simple stick as an encrypted keystore seems like a reasonable compromise. Works everywhere, and it’s still secure since you can’t use the keys without a passphrase.

  3. The I-stick is great! I don’t see why they aren’t more popular. I’ve been giving them out as gifts for the last year.

    Now I’m getting greedy. I wonder if there is a way to format them as NTFS, to keep the ‘summary data’ (right click a file in XP>properties>summary).

    I also wonder if there are any MP3 players that accept the I-stick. I bought a Sandisk Cruzer Micro Companion MP3 player, and the I-stick fits perfectly in it, but the combination doesn’t work. Is there any way to fool the player into accepting the I-stick?

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