Randomness is vital for data security and Quantum random number generators (QRNGs) are now being offered as a premium solution to random number generation. In our opinion represent a real innovation in the RNG market, although, as we will explain not for the reasons that are usually given.  The physical principle behind QRNGs is rather simple – a weak laser aims at a semi-transparent mirror, with each photon having roughly a 50-50 chance to be seen in either of two detectors. (Thus, RNG performance is governed at the upper limit by laser frequency and single-photon detector efficiency), and improvements in both areas are being actively pursued by multiple design groups.

Meanwhile, QRNGs are currently marketed as providing “real” randomness on the grounds that their randomness is due to inherently non-deterministic quantum phenomena.  Nonetheless, this fact may not be as important as it seems at first sight.  Non-quantum random generators also pass randomness tests such as those issued by NIST.  So, what may seem to be the main selling proposition for QRNGs – that they are the only truly credible RNGs – may in practical systems, not matter much at all.

That said, Inside Quantum Technology believes that QRNGs do offer significant advantages and that this will drive the QRNG marketplace over the next five years or more.  These advantages include ease of monitoring, bias, and bit generation rates. While most existing classical hardware devices can output rates ~100s Kbps, quantum solutions offer multi-Mbps  rates, even in compact USB solutions. The main QRNG providers include ID Quantique in partnership with SK Telecom, Quintessence Labs, Quantum Numbers Corp, and ComScire, and these firms have prices around $400-$3,000 and above depending on output and form-factor. We also believe this technology has a large promise for growth in terms of both output rates and miniaturization.

Markets for QRNG “boxes”: Full-sized QRNG solutions are already gaining traction and are one of the few areas of quantum technology where significant revenues can be expected.  Inside Quantum Technology therefore expects the QRNG space to be attractive to those in VC space looking for early revenues but with longer term hopes for the firms they back offering successful QKD products.  Today, full-sized QRNG boxes boast high performance, currently providing outputs around 1Gbps. Quintessence Labs can be considered one leader in this niche, targeting industries that work with large amounts of information and require so-called “entropy enhancement.” These end user sectors include corporate data centers, cloud providers, the gaming industry and certain simulation applications.

The big potential for little QRNG devices: Although the big QRNG boxes represent a new and innovative product, the high-risk, (potentially) very high reward part of the QRNG business is low-cost miniaturized QRNG chips.  These could be used in mobile phones, payment devices and IoT devices, securing the operations between multiple devices. Both IDQ and QNC have already announced chip-sized QRNGs.  Although, such devices are not yet full commercialized, they potential shipments for such devices could be in the hundreds of millions or even billions, given the number of mobile phones that are shipped every year and the number of IoT devices that are anticipated.

Prices for such chips haven’t been announced, and we don’t think the QRNG chip market will take off until it is “proven” that such chips can be shipped at prices that can accommodate the low price points of mobile or IoT devices.  A chip can’t have a price comparable to the device it’s being planted into.  Another issue is who will build and market these miniaturized chips?  Will it be a new breed of VC-financed quantum technology startups or established chip firms with a long history in the mobile communications business.

 

If you want to learn more about QRNGs and their applications, visit the Inside Quantum Technology-Europe conference in October.  For more details and to register go to https://europe2019.iqtevent.com

0