In this final episode of our IOTA series, we’ll see some of the strengths and weaknesses of IOTA, as well as some of its future perspectives. As you will see, the potential of IOTA goes far beyond what we have seen in the previous articles: happy reading
Each system has weaknesses, and even distributed systems are not exempt from them. In particular, all distributed systems are subject to the “51%” attack. In IOTA this type of attack is virtually feasible: since a real mining process is not carried out, the 51% attack does not refer to the possession of at least 51% of the total computing power of the network nodes, but just to the amount of transactions that are entering the Tangle at a given moment. In fact, if a group of malicious nodes generates many self-approving transactions, they can get approval for an invalid one (for example, in double spending situations).
Since the network still has a low level of transactions per second entering the Tangle, it’s potentially vulnerable to attack carried out with relatively low computing power. To overcome this risk, a server validator, called “Coordinator”, has been set up temporarily (see more in the following paragraph). The server generates transactions called “milestones” which are linked to valid transactions. The wallets then use these milestones to understand if a transaction is confirmed, therefore, those are considered authoritative.
“I think it’s clear that the IOTA project is a bit more extensive and challenging than it appears at first glance. -“Stefano Della Valle”
Decentralising the coordinator
Obviously, a distributed platform must not have authoritative and centralized systems, so the coordinator is to be disabled. While waiting for a sufficient level of transactions per second that will allow disabling the coordinator completely, this will be decentralized. In practice, each node is going to assume the role of coordinator and generate milestones that will give partial confirmation to the transactions. When the number of confirmations is high enough, they will be considered approved by the wallets.
By decentralizing the coordinator, the implementation of the IOTA network will be completed, and the Qubic project, which required some developments and has been reactivated in the meantime, will be able to enter an operational phase. Qubic will trigger, as it happened for the Bitcoin and Ethereum mining, a significant economic revolution for IOTA: Qubics will be compilable and executable natively on most existing systems, and this will allow, on one hand, to make use of a huge amount of computing resources not exploited today, and, on the other hand, to be able to purchase distributed computing power in “on-demand” mode in a simple, reliable, and cost-effective way.
Masked Authenticated Messaging and IOT
It’s clear that the IOTA project is a bit more extensive and challenging than it appears at first glance. For example, since the nodes are totally independent, it’s possible that nodes might exchange formally valid transactions that are completely incomprehensible to nearby ones, and that they may coexist in the same network because their data is based on completely different, or even unknown, protocols.
This is the case of the MAM protocol (Masked Authentication Messaging), which allows the use of Tangle to distribute data streams, providing those who decode them with a guarantee of the identity of those who generated them. This is a powerful tool to store and distribute information produced by sensors or to send commands to actuators (i.e. devices that control the functions of a system) , with the certainty that they’re not fraudulently created.
The MAM, combined with the absence of fees for creating transactions, is why IOTA is considered the ideal backbone for IoT projects.
In short, it’s clear that when we talk about IOTA, there are a lot of possible applications: so much to talk about! In these four articles, we tried to give an overview of the IOTA project as wide as possible. You can find the previous article about IOTA transactions here. What do you think about it? Are there any aspects you’d like to explore in more detail? Let us know in the comments!