All about IOTA II: the Tangle and quantum-resistant cryptography

Monday 16 November 2015

Now pay attention, 007, because this gets technical really fast.

In the previous article, David from the IOTA project described how the Internet of Things would change the face of computing. In this follow-up, he explains more about how IOTA will work - starting with the Tangle, IOTA’s updated take on the blockchain.

The Tangle is a kind of Directed Acyclic Graph that enables IOTA to scale in an unprecedented fashion. [Editor: a Directed Acyclic Graph is a kind of network where each node is linked to others in one direction only, and you never end up where you started. A family tree is one example, thought there are plenty of other forms it can take.] Tangle only needs to analyze a small part of the total data under high-load, making it very lightweight. The benefits of this is of course that it is very easy to implement.

Read also: All about IOTA: microtransactions and the IoT

For the examples in the last article, the IOTA Tangle allows for disconnects to happen, so even in the event of the main internet being unavailable, as long as these devices can still communicate via wifi/bluetooth/dash7/zigbee/lifi/whatever, the transactions keep flowing uninterrupted without being dependent on a central node to validate them.

Tangle

The Tangle: a robust new take on the blockchain

It is important to keep in mind that no matter how fantastic technology becomes, mother Nature will always demand respect. Issues such as power outages and internet cut-offs will inevitably continue to happen all across the world every single day, and so the infrastructure needs to take this into account. This is where the Tangle shines, because distributed applications are not the panacea some people think.

Transaction volumes

The number of transactions per second is dependent on the activity of the network, thus the number increases as the network scales. Additionally we are aiming to release our in-house hardware (Jinn processor) which will also act as an ASIC-node which will bootstrap the network until the ecosystem scales sufficiently to where the # of tx/s are kept high by activity alone.

Quantum resistant cryptography

Scalable quantum computers are not that far off. No one can say exactly when they'll arrive, but there’s broad consensus it’ll happen relatively soon. Given the sheer amount of reliance we as a society have and will increasingly continue to have on technology, it is imperative that we don’t leave our entire infrastructure vulnerable to a rogue participant with a quantum computer. This article is a great entry to this issue in general for anyone that wants a deeper comprehension of it.

There are 2 concrete aspects to this 'quantum threat' that IOTA solves. First is the commonly-known issue of cryptographic signing. IOTA uses exclusively quantum resistant cryptographic algorithms which are immune to this kind of brute force attack which current blockchain projects are wide open to.

The second issue that IOTA solves is more obscure and less known, this is what the Tangle itself solves directly over the Blockchain. A scaled quantum computer that is set to mine via Grover's algorithm will substantially outperform miners with classical hardware. This can only be mitigated by legitimate miners also using Quantum Computers, which of course is completely infeasible for the foreseeable future and would lead to extreme centralization. The Tangle avoids this altogether: Tangle decreases impact of a QC consensus attack by 1 million times. This gets technical very fast and those that want to read about it in more detail should check out the Tangle whitepaper.


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