News In Context

Quantum Computing Is Coming: Is Your Business Cyber Ready?

News broke this week that a new type of quantum computer could be built on the physics of sound waves. Researchers at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago. are exploring the fundamental quantum properties of sound by splitting phonons in half and entangling them together. Their work may one day allow researchers to build a new type of quantum computer called a mechanical quantum computer. A quantum computer using phonons could be very compact and self-contained, built entirely on a chip similar to that of a laptop computer’s processor. Its small size could make it easier to implement and use, if researchers can further expand and improve phonon-based technologies.The Ptritzker School  group’s experiments with phonons use qubits – the same technology that powers electronic quantum computers – which means that as the technology for phonons catches up, there’s the potential to integrate phonon-based computers with electronic quantum computers. Doing so could yield new, potentially unique computational abilities.

The news follows a June 14 announcement by IBM of a new breakthrough, published on the cover of the scientific journal Nature, demonstrating for the first time that quantum computers can produce accurate results at a scale of 100+ qubits reaching beyond leading classical approaches.

One of the ultimate goals of quantum computing is to simulate components of materials that classical computers have never efficiently simulated. Being able to model these is a crucial step towards the ability to tackle challenges such as designing more efficient fertilizers, building better batteries, and creating new medicines.

But today’s quantum systems are inherently noisy and they produce a significant number of errors that hamper performance. This is due to the fragile nature of quantum bits or qubits and disturbances from their environment. In their experiment, the IBM team demonstrates that it is possible for a quantum computer to outperform leading classical simulations by learning and mitigating errors in the system. The team used the IBM Quantum ‘Eagle’ quantum processor composed of 127 superconducting qubits on a chip to generate large, entangled states that simulate the dynamics of spins in a model of material and accurately predict properties such as its magnetization.

“This is the first time we have seen quantum computers accurately model a physical system in nature beyond leading classical approaches,” Darío Gil, Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research, said in a statement. “To us, this milestone is a significant step in proving that today’s quantum computers are capable, scientific tools that can be used to model problems that are extremely difficult – and perhaps impossible – for classical systems, signaling that we are now entering a new era of utility for quantum computing.”

While nobody knows for sure when a sufficiently powerful quantum computer will arrive, these and other recent announcements indicate that the timeline is shrinking. Once the technology goes mainstream organizations will need to adapt to the risk posed by quantum computers, which have the potential to break many of the cryptographic systems that we rely on today for secure communications and data protection.

To help organizations prepare the World Economic Forum has just published a quantum tool kit that outlines a set of principles that organizations can use to help ensure they are ready to enter the quantum computing era. The toolkit provides organizations with a framework to assess their quantum readiness and identifies steps to prioritize and enhance their quantum security measures. It covers a range of areas, from strategizing about future-proof technology, embedding quantum risk in governance structures and existing risk management processes, to finding the right talent. The toolkit advises organizations to start now to give themselves sufficient time to experiment and get acquainted with the challenges and success factors that will allow a quantum-secure transition.



U.S. Regulators Approve First Drug To Regulate Alzheimer’s

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first Alzheimer’s drug to slow the progression of the neurodegenerative disease, paving the way for millions of American patients to access the treatment. The regulator said on Thursday it would grant full approval to lecanemab, now known by the brand name Leqembi, which was developed by Japanese drugmaker Eisai and US biotech Biogen.

Top Israeli, U.S. Healthcare Providers Developing Pan-COVID Vaccine

Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s largest hospital, is teaming up with leading American health organizations to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that will protect against multiple variants. The Israeli tech site No Camels reports that Sheba will use its database, which is based on studies involving more than 9,000 of its healthcare staff, to help the development of the pan-vaccine. In the future, its research will also be applied to other viruses with the goal of preventing future pandemics. The Sheba Pandemic Research Institute (SPRI), a partnership between the medical center and the US government’s National Institute of Health, will join forces with the latter’s vaccine research center to develop the jab.They will also be collaborating with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, a US government biomedical research facility, and leading pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which has previously developed a COVID vaccine, to create it. “This partnership has the potential to change the future of virus care and can transform the way we prevent and manage future pandemics,” said Prof. Gili Regev-Yochay, Director of SPRI and Infection Prevention & Control Unit at Sheba Medical Center.


Toyota Claims Battery Breakthrough In A Potential Boost For Electric Cars

Toyota says it has made a technological breakthrough that will allow it to halve the weight, size and cost of batteries, in what could herald a major advance for electric vehicles.The world’s second largest carmaker was already pursuing a plan to roll out cars with advanced solid-state batteries, which offer benefits compared with liquid-based batteries, by 2025. On July 4, the Japanese company said it had simplified production of the material used to make them, hailing the discovery as a significant leap forward that could dramatically cut charging times and increase driving range.


New York City Starts To Regulate AI Used In Hiring Tools

The Wall Street Journal reports that employers are preparing for a new law going into effect July 5 in New York City that will be the first in the nation to regulate the use of automation and artificial intelligence in hiring decisions. The law, known as NYC 144, requires employers that use certain kinds of software to assist with hiring and promotion decisions—including chatbot interviewing tools and resume scanners that look for keyword matches—to audit those tools annually for potential race and gender bias, and then publish the results on their websites. There is growing public concern about the role that algorithms play in essential facets of people’s lives, from employment and education to life insurance and mortgage lending. Because algorithms are difficult, if not impossible, for most people to untangle and understand, legislators have focused on mandating transparency rather than on regulating the software itself.

Harvard Professor Taps AI To Teach Online Computing Class

The world’s most popular online learning course, Harvard University’s CS50, is getting a ChatGPT-era makeover, reports Fortune Magazine.  CS50, an introductory course in computer science attended by hundreds of students on-campus and over 40,000 online, plans to use artificial intelligence to grade assignments, teach coding and personalize learning tips, according to its Professor David J. Malan. “Providing support tailored to students’ specific questions has been a challenge at scale, with so many more students online than teachers,” said Malan, in a phone interview with Fortune. His team is now fine-tuning an AI system to mark students’ work, and testing a virtual teacher’s assistant (TA) to evaluate and provide feedback on students’ programming. The virtual TA asks rhetorical questions and offers suggestions to help students learn, rather than simply catching errors and fixing coding bugs, he said. Longer term, he expects this to give human TAs more time for in-person or Zoom-based office hours. Malan said CS50’s use of AI could highlight its benefits for education, particularly in improving the quality and access of online learning — an industry that Grand View Research forecasts to grow to $348 billion by 2030, nearly tripling from 2022. “Potentially, AI is just hugely enabling in education,” he said.


Meta Launches Threads In A Direct Challenge To Twitter

Meta unveiled an app to rival Twitter on July 6, appearing to target users looking for an alternative to the social media platform owned – and frequently changed – by Elon Musk.Called Threads, the new offering is billed as a text-based version of Meta’s photo-sharing app Instagram that the company says provides “a new, separate space for real-time updates and public conversations”.The app is live in the UK in Apple and Google Android app stores in more than 100 countries including the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan and attracted 30 million users within the first 14 hours. Threads shares Twitter’s visual aesthetic as a text-based social messaging app in which users can post short messages that others can like, share, and comment upon, according to screenshots of Threads that are available on Apple’s App Store.People will be able to follow the same Threads accounts that they follow on Instagram and reply to other public posts in a way akin to how people use Twitter.


Political Tensions Between China And The U.S. Spill Over Into Tech

The political tensions between the U.S. and China spilled over into the tech sector this week.  Permission will be required for exports of some gallium and germanium compounds starting Aug.1, China’s commerce ministry said in a July 3 statement . Gallium is a soft silver metal used to produce compound semiconductor wafers for electronic circuits, semiconductors and light-emitting diodes, while germanium is used in the manufacturing of fiber optics to transfer data and information.The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. plans to restrict China’s access to Cloud computing services that use advanced AI chips.  Meanwhile, on July 7  China  released its first homegrown open-source desktop operating system, named OpenKylin, state media said, as the country steps up efforts to cut reliance on U.S. technology.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.