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In quantum information processing and quantum computing protocols the carrier of information is a quantum system and information is encoded in the state of a quantum system. After processing the information it has to be read out what is equivalent to determining the final state of the system. When the possible final states are not orthogonal this is a highly nontrivial task that constitutes the general area of what is known as quantum state discrimination. It consists in finding measurement schemes that, according to some figure of merit, will determine the state of the system. Optimized measurement schemes often lead to generalized measurements (Positive Operator Valued Measures [POVMs]). In this tutorial review we illustrate the power of the POVM concept on examples relevant to applications in quantum cryptography. In order to keep the flow of the presentation we give a brief introduction to the quantum theory of measurements, including generalized measurements (POVMs), in the Appendices.

Keywords: quantum measurements; measurement optimization; state discrimination

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