The Missing Piece In Quantum Computing And IoT

Trust, ease of use and ease of understanding should be prioritised in new technologies

The Internet of Things has a wide range of use cases within the world of business, be that through the creation of products that utilise the tech, or through the adoption of the technology to streamline processes internally. If you’re not using an IoT product yet, you probably will be soon!

However, there are some worrying security flaws that increasingly threaten IoT devices. As such, it’s absolutely crucial that the technology develops to overcome these threats, so that businesses can truly put their faith in it.

That’s where quantum computing comes in. Whilst it may seem like a futuristic concept, its realisation in our lives is actually just on the horizon. And it is both businesses and UX specialists that will lead the way in its adoption for the sake of security.

Classical or quantum?

In order to best understand quantum computing, you first need to understand the basics of quantum theory, which forms the basis of this pretty incredible emerging technology.

The progress that traditional computers have made in the last 50 years is undeniable. Over time, they have become smaller and hugely more powerful, leading us to the point where we are easily able to undertake a plethora of tasks with a device that fits in our pocket. In fact, computers are now being developed that are the size of an atom.

However, this progress can’t go on at the same rate forever. Currently, it seems impossible for us to make computers any smaller than an atom, meaning that we are reaching our limits in terms of traditional computing power.

The foundations of classical computers are transistors: These either “let in” or “block” electrons (information). This is a binary system, where the information (or “bits”) are marked with either the number 0 or 1.

The theory of quantum computing

Unlike this binary system, quantum theory suggests that it is in fact possible for two things to be in two places, each at the same time. Mind blowing, we know! And, even more excitingly, this theory can be used within computing to create a more complex and powerful system.

As opposed to the “bits” mentioned earlier which are either marked as 0 or 1, quantum computers use what is called “qubits”. These can be any proportion of 0 and 1 at the same time. Put simply, this means that they can process a lot more information, more quickly, simply based on the number of variations that quantum computing allows for whilst processing. That’s not just 0 and 1, but any proportion of both at the same time…

Use cases of quantum computing include everything from facial recognition and complex databases searches, to machine learning and creating safer encryption.

It’s important to remember that quantum computing is still in the research and development stage, though quantum technology is beginning to make its way into several markets.

In this article, we’re going to cover how it can be used for security purposes, particularly in relation to vulnerable IoT products, and how the UX of these uses can be improved for the sake of widespread adoption.

Security threats of IoT

Essentially, the Internet of Things means products that connect digital objects with the physical. In a world where we are seeking to become more connected to our surroundings than ever before, IoT is becoming a hugely important part of various industries. A lot of businesses are stepping up and starting to embrace the growing prevalence of this tech, since it has applications within agriculture, manufacture, healthcare, hospitality, retail and more.

However, IoT is also a relatively vulnerable piece of technology due to the way in which it often connects several receptors. These threats can include botnets which can attack IoT networks, as well as “Man-in-the-middle” attacks, where a hacker breaches communication between two systems to intercept messages between them. And that’s only the beginning. DisruptionHub explored the security risks of IoT in this article, which is well worth a read for further information.

How can quantum computing help to make IoT more secure?

Using the key principles of quantum computing mentioned earlier, we can create quantum key distribution, the most secure way to encrypt and decrypt information – and thereby send messages securely – that has been developed to date.

This is true for several reasons. For one, quantum cryptology such as this utilises a property of quantum physics called entanglement. Maria Korolov explains this process as when ‘two particles become entangled so that they have the same state, and then one of these particles is sent to someone else. When the recipient looks at the particle, it’s guaranteed to be the same state as its twin…the state of the two entangled particles, while identical, is also random.’

As such, entanglement allows you to send an encryption key in the form of two ‘identical, random particles’, which can be used to send messages using symmetric encryption. This method doesn’t require a means of transmission and, as such, it becomes more difficult for information to leak. Encryption is therefore made considerably stronger.

On top of this, if a third party were to attempt to intercept information whilst a secure key was being created, the process would alter itself. The system would highlight that there was an attempted breach, and communications could be broken off before any information was sent.

As such, by incorporating quantum cryptology into IoT products, we can ensure that the technology is as secure and safe as it possibly can be at this moment in time.

Why quantum computing needs UX research

All emerging technologies, and indeed all products in general, need UX research. By putting the user’s experience of your product at the heart of what you do, you’re able to create something that truly meets their wants and needs. You are therefore much more likely to make sales and achieve better success as a business.

Most importantly, for quantum computing to be widely accepted, UX needs to be improved through building trust. The truth is, the general public and businesses alike have become acutely aware of security threats in recent years. As such, the user journey and interface all of quantum products, including those related to IoT, need to centre around creating trust with the user.

This will require in-depth user and market research to assess how it can best be done.

Quantum computing is also a complex topic for the everyday user to get their head around. In terms of creating the best possible interface, products or services that use the technology will need to find a way to condense complex ideas into a form that is digestible. This education could come through simply explaining the process when a customer first uses a product. Conducting UX research here would be critical to understanding what they need to know in order to proceed.

In our experience within emerging technologies, it’s also easy for those creating products and services to forget that they are dealing with tech that is extremely complex. As such, it is absolutely crucial that usability testing is done on all quantum and IoT products to ensure that they are accessible and easy to use, and solve real-life user problems. They need to appeal to a wide array of users, and not just the people that know how the technology works from the inside out.

The key takeaways

Quantum computing could truly revolutionise both industry and our everyday lives, especially when combined with IoT to create a secure network of digital and physical items. However, in order for this high-tech direction to be accepted, user and customer needs must first be accepted throughout the development process.

Trust, ease of use and ease of understanding should each be prioritised whilst businesses begin to adopt the technology. Without all of these three things, we will simply be left with hugely powerful tech, that does not have a place in society and is therefore, for the most part, rendered useless.

This is true in terms of any product or service that your company creates. By conducting UX research and keeping your user at the heart of what you do, you can de-risk the design decisions that you make, by basing them on evidence as opposed to assumptions.

In addition to this, if your company is looking into using IoT internally, or is currently developing an IoT product or service, it is absolutely crucial for you to keep security in mind – both for your business and your customers. By implementing quantum computing applications, you can improve your cyber security measures, and companies such as Crypta Labs and Crypto Quantique offer some brilliant solutions in this area.

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