The ability to generate random numbers is essential to encrypting data. However, any classical method of producing randomness will fundamentally be deterministicand theoretically predictable. This creates an opportunity for non-deterministic, high entropy quantum random number generators (QRNGs). In this article, IDTechEx explores the opportunities and challenges for QRNG in the growing connected devices and quantum communications markets.

High Volume Deployment Needs Chip-Scale Solutions

Quantum technology is often associated with large-scale bulky laboratory equipment, supported by cryostats at millikelvin temperatures or sprawling set-ups across vibration isolated tables. However, more and more quantum computing, sensing, and communication technology are being miniaturizedwith quantum random number generators amongst the first to go chip-scale.

Quantum randomness can be accessed from the uncertainty associated with a photon arriving at a detector. The relative simplicity of this photonic solution compared to other quantum technologies has given it a head-start in commercialization and market adoption. Leading players, such as IDQuantique, have successfully integrated LEDs and CMOS image sensors into not only PCB-e and USB formats but also mm-dimension chips.

In the Internet of Things, low SWAP is imperative (size, weight, and power). In the years ahead, opportunities remain for those QRNG players who can compete on this front. In particular, differentiation can be offered by balancing the demand for high generation rates with resource efficiency, as is the specialty of disruptors such as Quside, Cryptalabs, and Quantum Dice. Overcoming this challenge can be as much about efficient software as it is about light sources and photodetectors. Also, the pitch from players offering alternatives to the optical approach such as beta-decay or tunnelingis that the next generations of QRNG could get even smaller.

Growing Pressure on Cryptographic Module Performance in Consumer Electronics

Random number generators are key components of cryptographic modules in consumer electronics. These modules play a crucial role in managing the cybersecurity of our laptops, smart-phones, and tablets. Pressure from both regulators and end-users has driven continued performance improvements of cryptographic modules, and industry giants continue to compete in offering the best security features. For example, Samsung have already released a limited range of QRNG enabled smartphones in Korea.

However, there are some serious competitors to QRNG in the consumer electronics arena. Chip-scale cryptographic modules have historically used software or classical hardware based random number generators. In fact, despite not being quantum, the industry has found impressive methods to increase the randomness accessible from noise sources such as electrical jitter or thermal fluctuations. Moreover, one of the major risks to existing cybersecurity is quantum computingbut not necessarily due to low entropy, and even in this instance, mathematical software-based defenses are broadly considered quicker and easier to implement.

However, despite multiple competing innovations, the deterministic nature of classical hardware RNG cannot be avoided. There is certainly an opportunity for QRNG technology in future generations of cryptographic modules, yet the details of with exactly what, how, and from who remains (ironically) undetermined.

The Impact of Meta-Trends in Connected Vehicles and Digital Health

Connected devices span much more than just our smart-phones and computers. Meta-trends in "vehicle to everything" and digital health will see even more electric vehicles, medical devices, and wearables sharing and using high-value data. In both the automotive and medical markets, the consequences of a malicious attack over the air are incredibly high. In the examples of robo-taxis and insulin patches alone, there are serious concerns around fatal collisions and drug overdoses.

The impact of the trajectory of these meta-trends on the quantum communication market is likely to be crucial. On the one hand, in most instances, the same regulatory frameworks for more established cryptographic hardware will be depended on in these industries. For example, in the U.S., the FDA's guidance on medical device cyber security leverages NIST guidelines, which ultimately create an approved vendor list for entropy sources. On the other hand, the fast pace of threat evolution also creates huge pressure on "crytpo-agility," something more challenging to achieve with hardware-based approaches than software or "over the air" solutions. The software defined vehicle market may prefer a software defined cybersecurity solution too.

Conclusions and Market Outlook

Overall, the demand for better cybersecurity solutions within the consumer electronics, automotive, and medical markets is inevitable. Still, the potential disruption for quantum hardware in the short term could be limited by competition from existing classical hardware and emerging software-based solutions. However, despite the challenges, high entropy in a chip-scale package has a fundamentally high value proposition. With the right regulatory backing and price, concerns about limitations to crypto agility are unlikely to limit market success.