TL; DR: Quantum Resistant Ledger (QRL) is an externally audited blockchain platform designed to withstand attacks from quantum computers. The open-source enterprise-grade technology leverages a hash-based signature scheme and extensible address format to secure digital assets for the long term. With the recent introduction of the QRL Mobile Wallet and future developments in the pipeline, the company is working tirelessly to ensure blockchain is a viable technology in a post-quantum future.
Blockchain technology is still in its infancy, but dark clouds are on the horizon in the form of quantum computing. The question isn’t if a supercomputer powerful enough to undermine blockchain’s famed immutability could exist, but when.
In January, IBM unveiled Q System One, a 20-qubit universal quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use. The machine is built to operate stably and reliably beyond the confines of the research lab. While Q System One doesn’t currently have the processing power to overcome today’s distributed ledgers, it’s an unmistakable stepping stone for technologies to come.
Still, according to Adam Koltun, Lead Business Strategist at Quantum Resistant Ledger (QRL), some of the brightest minds in blockchain are turning a blind eye to imminent threats.
“People in the blockchain community sometimes get defensive around anything that threatens a seemingly immutable, untouchable, cryptographically perfect technology,” Adam said. “When you say, ‘There’s this other forward-looking technology that you’re probably not super aware of, and it has paradigm-shifting potential,’ a lot of blockchain optimists suddenly become technological pessimists.”
The folks at QRL, on the other hand, aren’t taking any chances. The organization has proactively designed the world’s first externally audited enterprise-grade blockchain platform that is secure against attacks from quantum computers.
The open-source technology brings longevity to cryptography by securing assets with hash-based digital signatures and an extensible address format. With the recent introduction of the QRL Mobile Wallet and future developments in the works, QRL is making it possible for blockchain to remain viable in a post-quantum future.
Anticipating the Future with a Quantum-Resistant Ledger
As is the case with many cryptocurrency and blockchain startups, Adam said QRL began with a white paper authored by Founder Peter Waterland in November 2016.
Peter had been active in the Bitcoin and open-source programming community for several years and was especially interested in the intersection of blockchain, cryptocurrency, and quantum computing. “In 2016, a couple of pieces of mathematics were given the final stamp of approval and could be applied to blocking technology, so he put his idea about making quantum-resistant Bitcoin down on paper,” Adam said.
The whitepaper gained some traction on Bitcoin forums, but many still viewed quantum computing as a distant threat. In that sense, Adam said QRL has had to find ways to combat apathy.
“As a child of the ’90s, sometimes I joke that it’s like how those advocating global warming were being told, ‘That will be my kid’s problem,’” he said. “They will acknowledge the overall point that quantum computers are possible, but they’ll immediately discontinue it and say, ‘My grandchildren can fight that fight.’”
But technology moves quickly, and even more so when you’re talking quantum computing. For now, the most significant barriers to technological advancement are complex challenges involving error resistance, coherence, operating temperatures, and processing power, as measured in quantum bits (qubits).
“If you measure development only in terms of qubits, it’s not like traditional computing where you see nice upward curves — it very much looks like a staircase,” Adam said. “Things will be flat for months, sometimes almost a year, and then the number of qubits in the largest system that is stable will increase by 50%.”
Because the system is exponential, rather than multiplicative, each qubit doubles the computing power of the entire system — which underscores how quickly the technology may develop.
Secure, Developer-Friendly, and User-Oriented
QRL is prepared to protect tomorrow’s quantum computers against digital threats using the eXtended Merkle Signature Scheme (XMSS), a hash-based system that provides robust security guarantees. In addition, the system features an extensible QRL address structure designed to support a wide range of formats.
While security is QRL’s number one priority, the platform was also designed to provide a uniform experience through a consistent user interface. Assistance is offered 24/7 through both the open-source community, email support, and informative guides that walk users through all aspects of the blockchain solution.
Extensive documentation and access to a full-featured API gives developers the opportunity to build on the platform as desired. Adam said the organization encourages the independent developer community to experiment with the open-source code base, which will help showcase the diversity of use cases on the blockchain. “QRL, in particular, can be useful for enterprises that may have utility for an immutable, independent ledger for any number of reasons,” he said.
The QRL team recently added notarization support in one such experiment after a team member who was in the process of buying a house mentioned that he had been using notaries frequently. Adam said the feature won’t be accepted within local legal systems immediately, but will likely become mainstream once blockchain is adopted in courts and jurisdictions around the world.
Just Launched: The QRL Mobile Wallet for Android and iOS
In May, QRL developers released the QRL Mobile Wallet, designed to provide easy and secure access to cryptocurrency. The wallet is available for both Android and iOS through Google Play and the Apple Store. Users of the mobile wallet can now enjoy offline wallet creation, support for multiple wallets, the ability to send and receive transactions, and QR code integration.
“Our leadership and development team don’t add features just to add them — they do it because they play well with existing features,” Adam said. “For example, that’s why we introduced the ability to use your phone to scan or produce a QR code representation of your wallet as opposed to that very long string of numbers most people recognize from Bitcoin or Ethereum.”
QRL also recently introduced ID integration through Keybase, a tool that uses cryptographic technology to link profiles. The new integration will allow users to add a QRL address to their Keybase profile. Identity is a crucial element in financial transactions, and this feature will make facilitating verification more compact, aerodynamic, and transferable than a long string of letters and numbers.
In addition to ledger-wide post-quantum security, notarization support, a full-featured API, and integration with Keybase, QRL also includes reusable addresses and on-chain message support. Features under development also include nonpermanent messaging through solutions like Dilithium and Kyber.
Features Under Development, Including Smart Contracts
QRL is also keeping a watchful eye on the smart contract space. The technology isn’t new, but the organization is taking a peanut-butter-and-jelly approach to its addition within the company’s blockchain platform, according to Adam.
“They’re better together than they are separate,” he said. “We have notarization and QR code functionality — we have all these elements — so the question becomes how we unite them in a standardized smart contract and push that out to people as a sub-app or dApp on our network.”
Ultimately, the goal is to create a comprehensive platform that is going to stand the test of time, ensuring data will be safe moving forward.