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Bigger quantum computers, faster: This new idea could be the quickest route to real world apps – ZDNet

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Rigetti launched the multi-chip device with the objective of reaching 80 qubits later this year, up from the current 31 qubits supported by the company's Aspen processor.

Finding out how to pack as many high-quality qubits as possible on a single quantum processor is a challenge that still keeps most researchers scratching their heads but now quantum startup Rigetti Computing has come up with a radically new approach to the problem.

Instead of focusing on increasing the size of a single quantum processor,Rigetti has linked up various smaller chips together to create, instead, a modular processor that still has a higher overall qubit count.

Describing the technology as the world's "first multi-chip quantum processor", the company launched the device with the objective of reaching 80 qubits later this year, up from the current 31 qubits supported by its Aspen processor.

SEE: Building the bionic brain (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

By that time, the new quantum system will be available for Rigetti customers to use over the firm's Quantum Cloud Services platform.

"We've developed a fundamentally new approach to scaling quantum computers," said Chad Rigetti, the founder of Rigetti Computing. "Our proprietary innovations in chip design and manufacturing have unlocked what we believe is the fastest path to building the systems needed to run practical applications and error correction."

Like IBM and Google, Rigetti's quantum systems are based on superconducting qubits, which are mounted in arrays on a processor where they are coupled and controlled thanks to microwave pulses. Qubits are also connected to a resonator and associated wiring, which enables the system to encode, manipulate and read out quantum information.

Qubits come with special quantum properties that are expected to lend quantum computers unprecedented computational power. But for that to happen, processors will need to pack a significant number of qubits far more than they currently do.

For quantum computers to start generating very early value, experts anticipate that at least 1,000 qubits will be necessary; and a million qubits is often cited as the threshold for most useful applications. In contrast, the most powerful quantum processors currently support less than 100 qubits.

Scaling up the number of qubits sitting on a single processor, however, is difficult. This is mostly due to the fragility of qubits, which need to be kept in ultra-protected environments that are colder than outer space to ensure that they remain in their quantum state. More qubits on a chip, therefore, inevitably mean more potential for failure and lower manufacturing yields.

Instead, Rigetti proposes to connect several identical processors, such as those that the company is already capable of reliably manufacturing, into a large-scale quantum processor.

"This modular approach exponentially reduces manufacturing complexity and allows for accelerated, predictable scaling," said the company.

According to Rigetti, this will also enable future systems to scale in multiplicative ways, as individual chips increase their number of qubits, and new technologies enable more of these chips to be connected into larger processors.

With scale being a top priority for virtually every organization in the quantum ecosystem, Rigetti's new launch could well give the startup a competitive advantage, even in an industry crowded with tech giants the likes of Google, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon.

IBM recently unveiled a roadmap for its quantum hardware thataims to build a 1,121-qubit device for release in 2023.

SEE: Quantum computing just took on another big challenge, one that could be as tough as steel

And smaller players are now emerging, often with the goal of exploring alternatives to superconducting qubits that might enable quantum computers to grow faster. UK start-up Quantum Motion, for instance,recently published the result of an experiment with qubits on silicon chips.

"There is a race to get from the tens of qubits that devices have today, to the thousands of qubits that future systems will require to solve real-world problems," said Amir Safavi-Naeini, assistant professor of applied physics at Stanford University. "Rigetti's modular approach demonstrates a very promising way of approaching these scales."

As demonstrated by Rigetti's latest announcement, new approaches, methods and technologies are constantly developing in the quantum ecosystem. It is unlikely that one clear way forward will stand out anytime soon.

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Quantum computing just took on another big challenge, one that could be as tough as steel – ZDNet

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Nippon Steel has concluded that, despite the current hardware limitations of quantum computers, the technology holds a lot of promise when it comes to optimizing complex problems.

From railways and ships all the way to knives and forks: the number of products that are made of steel is too high to list and to ensure a steady supply of the sought-after material, Japanese steel manufacturer Nippon Steel is now looking at how quantum computing might help.

The company, which produced a hefty 50 million tons of steel in 2019 (that is, 40% of the total production in Japan) has partnered with Cambridge Quantum Computing (CQC) and Honeywell to find out whether quantum computers have the potential to boost efficiencies in the supply chain.

And after over a year of testing and trying new algorithms, the company has concluded that,despite the current hardware limitations of quantum computers, the technology holds a lot of promise when it comes to optimizing complex problems.

"The results Nippon Steel and Cambridge Quantum Computing were able to achieve indicate that quantum computing will be a powerful tool for companies seeking a competitive advantage," said Tony Uttley, the president of Honeywell Quantum Solutions.

SEE: Building the bionic brain (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The steel manufacturing process is a highly elaborate affair, involving many different steps and requiring various raw materials before the final product can be built.

Plants start by pre-treating and refining iron ore, coal and other minerals to process them into slabs of steel, which are then converted into products like rails, bars, pipes, tubes and wheels.

In the case of Nippon Steel, where millions of tons of material are at stake, finding the best equation to make sure that the right products are in the right place and at the right time is key to delivering orders as efficiently as possible.

Toss in strict deadlines, and it is easy to see why industry leaders are looking for the most advanced tools possible to model and optimize the whole system, and at the same time reduce operating costs.

For this reason, the use of pen and paper has long been replaced by sophisticated software services, and Nippon Steel has been a long-time investor in advanced computing but even today's most powerful supercomputers can struggle to come up with optimal solutions to such complex problems.

Classical computers can only offer simplifications and approximations. The Japanese company, therefore, decided to try its hand at quantum technologies, andannounced a partnership with quantum software firm CQC last year.

"Scheduling at our steel plants is one of the biggest logistical challenges we face, and we are always looking for ways to streamline and improve operations in this area," said Koji Hirano, chief researcher at Nippon Steel.

Quantum computers rely on qubits tiny particles that can take on a special, dual quantum state that enables them to carry out multiple calculations at once. This means, in principle, that the most complex problems that cannot be solved by classical computers in any realistic timeframe could one day be run on quantum computers in a matter of minutes.

The technology is still in its infancy: quantum computers can currently only support very few qubits and are not capable of carrying out computations that are useful at a business's scale. Scientists, rather, are interested in demonstrating the theoretical value of the technology, to be prepared to tap into the potential of quantum computers once their development matures.

In practice, for Nippon Steel, this meant using CQC's services and expertise to discover which quantum algorithms could most effectively model and optimize the company's supply chain.

To do so, the two companies' research teams focused on formulating a small-scale problem, which, although it does not bring significant value to Nippon Steel, can be resolved using today's nascent quantum hardware.

The researchers developed a quantum algorithm for this "representative" problem and ran it on Honeywell's System Model H1 the latest iteration of the company's trapped-ion quantum computing hardware, which has 10 available qubits and a record-breaking quantum volume of 512. After only a few steps, say the scientists, the System Model H1 was able to find an optimal solution.

"The results are encouraging for scaling up this problem to larger instances," said Mehdi Bozzo Rey, the head of business development at CQC. "This experiment showcases the capabilities of the System Model H1 paired with modern quantum algorithms and how promising this emerging technology really is."

What's more: an optimization algorithm such as the one developed by CQC and Nippon Steel can be applied to many other scenarios in manufacturing, transport and distribution.

Earlier this year, for example, IBM and energy giant ExxonMobil revealed that they had been working together tobuild quantum algorithms that could one day optimize the routing of tens of thousands of merchant shipscrossing the oceans to deliver everyday goods a $14 trillion industry that could hugely benefit from operational efficiencies.

The results from Nippon Steel are the first to emerge followingthe announcement of a partnership between Honeywell and CQC earlier this month. CQC's quantum software capabilities are planned to merge with Honeywell's quantum hardware services in a deal that is expected to make waves in the industry.

By joining forces, the two companies are effectively set to become leaders in the quantum ecosystem. The early results from the trials with Nippon Steel, therefore, are likely to be only the start of many new projects to come, as the two firms apply their complementary expertise to global issues affecting various different industries.

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Missing Piece Discovered in the Puzzle of Optical Quantum Computing – SciTechDaily

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Jung-Tsung Shen, associate professor in the Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, has developed a deterministic, high-fidelity, two-bit quantum logic gate that takes advantage of a new form of light. This new logic gate is orders of magnitude more efficient than the current technology. Credit: Jung-Tsung Shen

An efficient two-bit quantum logic gate has been out of reach, until now.

Research from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis has found a missing piece in the puzzle of optical quantum computing.

Jung-Tsung Shen, associate professor in the Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, has developed a deterministic, high-fidelity two-bit quantum logic gate that takes advantage of a new form of light. This new logic gate is orders of magnitude more efficient than the current technology.

In the ideal case, the fidelity can be as high as 97%, Shen said.

His research was published in May 2021 in the journalPhysical Review A.

The potential of quantum computers is bound to the unusual properties of superposition the ability of a quantum system to contain many distinct properties, or states, at the same time and entanglement two particles acting as if they are correlated in a non-classical manner, despite being physically removed from each other.

Where voltage determines the value of a bit (a 1 or a 0) in a classical computer, researchers often use individual electrons as qubits, the quantum equivalent. Electrons have several traits that suit them well to the task: they are easily manipulated by an electric or magnetic field and they interact with each other. Interaction is a benefit when you need two bits to be entangled letting the wilderness of quantum mechanics manifest.

But their propensity to interact is also a problem. Everything from stray magnetic fields to power lines can influence electrons, making them hard to truly control.

For the past two decades, however, some scientists have been trying to use photons as qubits instead of electrons. If computers are going to have a true impact, we need to look into creating the platform using light, Shen said.

Photons have no charge, which can lead to the opposite problems: they do not interact with the environment like electrons, but they also do not interact with each other. It has also been challenging to engineer and to create ad hoc (effective) inter-photon interactions. Or so traditional thinking went.

Less than a decade ago, scientists working on this problem discovered that, even if they werent entangled as they entered a logic gate, the act of measuring the two photons when they exited led them to behave as if they had been.The unique features of measurement are another wild manifestation of quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics is not difficult, but its full of surprises, Shen said.

The measurement discovery was groundbreaking, but not quite game-changing. Thats because for every 1,000,000 photons, only one pair became entangled. Researchers have since been more successful, but, Shen said, Its still not good enough for a computer, which has to carry out millions to billions of operations per second.

Shen was able to build a two-bit quantum logic gate with such efficiency because of the discovery of a new class of quantum photonic states photonic dimers, photons entangled in both space and frequency. His prediction of their existence was experimentally validated in 2013, and he has since been finding applications for this new form of light.

When a single photon enters a logic gate, nothing notable happens it goes in and comes out. But when there are two photons, Thats when we predicted the two can make a new state, photonic dimers. It turns out this new state is crucial.

High-fidelity, two-bit logic gate, designed by Jung-Tsung Shen. Credit: Jung-Tsung Shen

Mathematically, there are many ways to design a logic gate for two-bit operations. These different designs are called equivalent. The specific logic gate that Shen and his research group designed is the controlled-phase gate (or controlled-Z gate). The principal function of the controlled-phase gate is that the two photons that come out are in the negative state of the two photons that went in.

In classical circuits, there is no minus sign, Shen said. But in quantum computing, it turns out the minus sign exists and is crucial.

Quantum mechanics is not difficult, but its full of surprises.

Jung-Tsung Shen

When two independent photons (representing two optical qubits) enter the logic gate, The design of the logic gate is such that the two photons can form a photonic dimer, Shen said. It turns out the new quantum photonic state is crucial as it enables the output state to have the correct sign that is essential to the optical logic operations.

Shen has been working with the University of Michigan to test his design, which is a solid-state logic gate one that can operate under moderate conditions. So far, he says, results seem positive.

Shen says this result, while baffling to most, is clear as day to those in the know.

Its like a puzzle, he said. It may be complicated to do, but once its done, just by glancing at it, you will know its correct.

Reference: Two-photon controlled-phase gates enabled by photonic dimers by Zihao Chen, Yao Zhou, Jung-Tsung Shen, Pei-Cheng Ku and Duncan Steel, 21 May 2021, Physical Review A. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.103.052610

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation, ECCS grants nos. 1608049 and 1838996. It was also supported by the 2018 NSF Quantum Leap (RAISE) Award.

The McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis promotes independent inquiry and education with an emphasis on scientific excellence, innovation and collaboration without boundaries. McKelvey Engineering has top-ranked research and graduate programs across departments, particularly in biomedical engineering, environmental engineering and computing, and has one of the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. With 140 full-time faculty, 1,387 undergraduate students, 1,448 graduate students and 21,000 living alumni, we are working to solve some of societys greatest challenges; to prepare students to become leaders and innovate throughout their careers; and to be a catalyst of economic development for the St. Louis region and beyond.

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Missing Piece Discovered in the Puzzle of Optical Quantum Computing - SciTechDaily

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Rare Superconductor Discovered May Be Critical for the Future of Quantum Computing – SciTechDaily

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Research led by Kent and theSTFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratoryhas resulted in the discovery of a new rare topological superconductor, LaPt3P. This discovery may be of huge importance to the future operations of quantum computers.

Superconductors are vital materials able to conduct electricity without any resistance when cooled below a certain temperature, making them highly desirable in a society needing to reduce its energy consumption.

They manifest quantum properties on the scale of everyday objects, making them highly attractive candidates for building computers that use quantum physics to store data and perform computing operations, and can vastly outperform even the best supercomputers in certain tasks. As a result, there is an increasing demand from leading tech companies like Google, IBM and Microsoft to make quantum computers on an industrial scale using superconductors.

However, the elementary units of quantum computers (qubits) are extremely sensitive and lose their quantum properties due to electromagnetic fields, heat, and collisions with air molecules. Protection from these can be achieved by making more resilient qubits using a special class of superconductors called topological superconductorswhich in addition to being superconductors also host protected metallic states on their boundaries or surfaces.

Topological superconductors, such as LaPt3P, newly discovered through muon spin relaxation experiments and extensive theoretical analysis, are exceptionally rare and are of tremendous value to the future industry of quantum computing.

To ensure its properties are sample and instrument independent, two different sets of samples were prepared in theUniversity of Warwickand inETH Zurich. Muon experiments were then performed in two different types of muon facilities: in the ISIS Pulsed Neutron and Muon Source in the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and inPSI, Switzerland.

Dr. Sudeep Kumar Ghosh, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at KentsSchool of Physical Sciencesand Principle Investigator said: This discovery of the topological superconductor LaPt3P has tremendous potential in the field of quantum computing. Discovery of such a rare and desired component demonstrates the importance ofmuonresearch for the everyday world around us.

Reference: Chiral singlet superconductivity in the weakly correlated metal LaPt3P by P. K. Biswas, S. K. Ghosh, J. Z. Zhao, D. A. Mayoh, N. D. Zhigadlo, Xiaofeng Xu, C. Baines, A. D. Hillier, G. Balakrishnan and M. R. Lees, 4 May 2021, Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-021-22807-8

The paper is published inNature Communications(University of Kent: Dr. Sudeep K. Ghosh; STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory: Dr. Pabitra K. Biswas, Dr. Adrian D. Hillier; University of Warwick Dr. Geetha Balakrishnan, Dr. Martin R. Lees, Dr. Daniel A. Mayoh; Paul Scherrer Institute: Dr. Charles Baines; Zhejiang University of Technology: Dr. Xiaofeng Xu; ETH Zurich: Dr. Nikolai D. Zhigadlo; Southwest University of Science and Technology: Dr. Jianzhou Zhao).

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Quantum Computing Breakthrough: Unveiling Properties of New Superconductor – Analytics Insight

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The collaboration of the School of Physics and Astronomy, of the University of Minnesota and Cornell University, has revealed some unique properties of a new semiconductor such as a superconducting metal. It has created a breakthrough in quantum computing and can be utilized in the nearby future. The metal is known as Niobium diselenide (NbSe2) that can conduct electricity or transport electrons or photons without any resistance. Quantum computing can reap the benefits of this new superconducting metal effectively and efficiently for new innovations.

Niobium diselenide is in 2D form with two-fold symmetry that makes it a more resilient superconductor. There are two types of superconductivity found in this metal conventional wave-type consisting of bulk NbSe2 and unconventional d- or p- wave type for a few layers of NbSe2. These both have the same kind of energies due to the constant interaction and competition between each other. The research teams from both universities have combined the results of two different experimental techniques to generate this ground-breaking discovery. The scientists wanted to investigate the properties of NbSe2 further to able to use unconventional superconducting states to develop advanced quantum computers.

Superconducting metals, help to explore the boundaries between quantum computing and traditional computing with applications in quantum information. The quantum bits transform the functionalities of quantum computers with much higher speed than the traditional ones. Quantum bits exist in a superposition state along with two values 0 and 1 simultaneously with alpha and beta. Quantum computers require around 10,000 qubits to work smartly and help in the entanglement of natures mysteries. Superconductors can create a solid state of the qubit with quantum dots and single-donor systems. These superconductor metals are known for transforming electrons into a single superfluid that can move through a metal lattice without any resistance.

The discovery of 2D crystalline superconductors has opened a plethora of methods to investigate unconventional quantum mechanics. The top-notch quality of monolayer superconductor, NbSe2, is grown by chemical vapor deposition. The growth of these superconductors depends on the ultrahigh vacuum or dangling bond-free substrates that help to reduce environment and substrate-induced defects.

Hence, the world is waiting for further discoveries of some unique properties of any superconducting metal to help in the advancement of quantum computing that can bring certain breakthroughs in industries.

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Quantum Computing Breakthrough: Unveiling Properties of New Superconductor - Analytics Insight

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This Startup Is Using Quantum Computing And AI To Cut Drug Discovery Time From 3 Years To 4 Months – Forbes

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Polaris Quantum Biotech is reinventing drug discovery, reducing the time it takes to find candidate molecules for drug development from the typical three years to just four months. As with other successful efforts to redesign established processes, Polaris is betting on scalability and automation. The startup, co-founded by Shahar Keinan and Bill Shipman, came out of stealth a year ago, revealing the first-ever drug discovery platform using a quantum computer, cost-efficiently scanning billions of molecules from a large chemical space.

Dr. Shahar Keinan, CEO, Polaris Quantum Biotech

Having worked in the drug development industry for years, Polaris founders decided to try and address the two major challenges they identified: The technology used and the business model. We wanted to solve both of these problems together, says Polaris CEO, Shahar Keinan.

The technology-related part of their solution was to use quantum computing, rather than classical computers, to speed-up the process. In terms of the business model, in contrast to the research labs (or Contract Research Organizations) that provide molecular discovery as a service to large pharmaceutical companies, Polaris is licensing their discoveries. With this business model, says Keinan, you need a diverse portfolio in order to diversify your risk. Diversity here is defined as the target disease, the specific protein targeted, and even the delivery mechanism.

Based on industry benchmarks, out of 100 assets (i.e., drug blueprints, lead compounds), between 1 to 5 will be used in a drug that will be sold commercially. Between 75 to 80 may reach clinical testing but typically this number could be reduced to no more than 25 over subsequent testing phases. Polaris is paid at each stage in the drugs journey to the market, and increasingly more as each hurdle is passed successfully.

The lead compounds Polaris develops target specific biological processes that are known to be the cause of a specific disease and are designed to get involved in the process in a way that arrests its further development or eliminates it altogether. We take this big biological machine and put a wrench into it, says Keinan. The trick is to find a molecule that will do exactly what it is expected to do but will not do other, not useful or potentially harmful, things to other biological processes in the human body.

Polaris is developing an ecosystem around its drug discovery platform, enlisting various hardware and software resources to assist it. Last year, it partnered with Fujitsus quantum-inspired Digital Annealer technology, initially targeting dengue fever, a mosquito-borne condition that is present in over 100 countries worldwide, killing as many as 22,000 people each year. Another quantum computing provider Polaris is working with is D-Wave Systems, accessing its quantum annealing technology through the AWS cloud service.

Yet another Polaris partnership was announced recently, collaborating with Auransa to discover treatments for neglected diseases disproportionately affecting women.An example is endometriosis, an incurable condition affecting millions of women caused when tissue that lines the womb grows elsewhere in the abdomen. Auransa is using AI to develop precision medicine solutions in areas of unmet medical needs, and in this partnership, Auransa finds the biological target and Polaris finds the arrow (the lead compound) that will hit the targets bullseye.

Over the last decade, there has been a growing application of AI (or machine/deep learning) to drug discovery and pharmaceutical company executives expect it to be the emerging technology that will have the greatest impact on their industry in 2021. Last year, a survey of life science organizations found that 31% were set to begin quantum computing evaluation in 2020 and a further 39% were planning to evaluate it in 2021 or have quantum computing on their radar. Polaris Quantum Biotech could well be at the center of a perfect storm that will accelerate the pace of drug discovery.

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This Startup Is Using Quantum Computing And AI To Cut Drug Discovery Time From 3 Years To 4 Months - Forbes

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Keynotes Announced for IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering – HPCwire

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., June 24, 2021 The IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering (QCE21), a multidisciplinary event bridging the gap between the science of quantum computing and the development of an industry surrounding it, reveals its full keynote lineup. Taking place 18-22 October 2021 virtually, QCE21 will deliver a series of world-class keynote presentations, as well as workforce-building tutorials, community-building workshops, technical paper presentations, stimulating panels, and innovative posters. Register here.

Also known as IEEE Quantum Week, QCE21 is unique by integrating dimensions from academic and business conferences and will reveal cutting edge research and developments featuring quantum research, practice, applications, education, and training.

QCE21s Keynote Speakers include the following quantum groundbreakers and leaders:

Alan Baratz D-Wave Systems, President & CEO James S. Clarke Intel Labs, Director of Quantum Hardware David J. Dean Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Director Quantum Science Center Jay Gambetta IBM Quantum, IBM Fellow & VP Quantum Computing Sonika Johri IonQ, Senior Quantum Applications Research Scientist Anthony Megrant Google Quantum AI, Lead Research Scientist Prineha Narang Harvard University & Aliro Quantum, Professor & CTO Brian Neyenhuis Honeywell Quantum Solutions, Commercial Operations Leader Urbasi Sinha Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, Professor Krista Svore Microsoft, General Manager Quantum Systems

Through participation from the international quantum community, QCE21 has developed an extensive conference program with world-class keynote speakers, technical paper presentations, innovative posters, exciting exhibits, technical briefings, workforce-building tutorials, community-building workshops, stimulating panels, and Birds-of-Feather sessions.

Papers accepted by QCE21 will be submitted to the IEEE Xplore Digital Library, and the best papers will be invited to the journals IEEE Transactions on Quantum Engineering (TQE) and ACM Transactions on Quantum Computing (TQC).

QCE21 is co-sponsored by IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Communications Society, IEEE Council of Superconductivity, IEEE Future Directions Committee, IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Technology and Engineering Management Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, IEEE Signal Processing Society (SP), and IEEE Electron Device Society (EDS).

The inaugural 2020 IEEE Quantum Week built a solid foundation and was highly successful over 800 people from 45 countries and 225 companies attended the premier event that delivered 270+ hours of programming on quantum computing and engineering.

The second annual 2021 Quantum Week will virtually connect a wide range of leading quantum professionals, researchers, educators, entrepreneurs, champions, and enthusiasts to exchange and share their experiences, challenges, research results, innovations, applications, and enthusiasm, on all aspects of quantum computing, engineering and technologies. The IEEE Quantum Week schedule will take place during Mountain Daylight Time (MDT).

Visit IEEE QCE21 for all event news including sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities.

QCE21 Registration Package provides Virtual Access to IEEE Quantum Week Oct 18-22, 2021 as well as On-Demand Access to all recorded events until the end of December 2021 featuring over 270 hours of programming in the realm of quantum computing and engineering.

About the IEEE Computer Society

TheIEEE Computer Societyis the worlds home for computer science, engineering, and technology. A global leader in providing access to computer science research, analysis, and information, the IEEE Computer Society offers a comprehensive array of unmatched products, services, and opportunities for individuals at all stages of their professional career. Known as the premier organization that empowers the people who drive technology, the IEEE Computer Society offers international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a unique digital library, and training programs.

Source: IEEE

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Keynotes Announced for IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering - HPCwire

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The only answer to the quantum cybersecurity threat is quantum – Sifted

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Imagine a technology that could undo all encryption on the internet. It would be impossible to trust any information communicated, impossible to verify any identity. The security of our society and our economies would crumble.

Thats the potential threat posed by future quantum computers. For all the good that quantum computing promises eradicating disease, helping us understand climate change, identifying new molecules and materials in the wrong hands it could pose an existential risk to classical computers and existing technologies. Fault-tolerant quantum computers with enough processing power would be enough to unravel all the cryptography used in the modern internet.

This threat is especially relevant when it comes to blockchain. More and more companies are adopting blockchain technology given the transparency, security and reduced costs. 84% of companies had some involvement in blockchain in 2018. Quantum threatens the very fabric of the distributed ledger, with the ability to break everything the secure, decentralised, transparent networks stand for.

Quantum computing wont destroy blockchains themselves. It instead threatens to break the security features that underpin them; the features which make it the unique and trusted network it is today.

As public data structures that rely heavily on cryptography, blockchains are natural targets for hackers looking to exploit cryptographic vulnerabilities. Whether its a public chain used to send, verify and receive cryptocurrency, or a private version built for business, each one relies on blocks of data placed one after the other. For data to be included in this chain, it needs to be added and then verified by other members of the group.

Take the example of a private enterprise blockchain. When one company wants to move assets to another company they put the transaction on a block and add this block to the chain. Other members of the community look at the block, confirm that the correct value has gone from company A to company B and they verify the transaction. Once its added, this transaction (or any flow of data) is locked into the chain for life. Its kept not only for posterity, but so that everyone involved knows exactly where that data has come from. The latter is particularly useful for supply chains or tracking the sources of ingredients in food or materials in devices.

On the plus side, this process means the entire history is preserved, locked and protected. On the other hand, it means that the entire history and its security is dependent on the last block placed. If a criminal were to bypass this security and transmit a fraudulent block, every point forward would be based on a modified version of history. Or worse, blockchains could fork, with different parties holding different versions of the past. It would be unclear which parties owned valuable assets, potentially allowing criminals to steal what isnt theirs.

This is bad enough when the data held on blockchain is financial, let alone as the technology is adopted by health providers, governments and even used to underpin the digital data of entire countries all routes that could be, and are being, explored.

In its current form, the security used to protect each of these blocks is robust and resistant to traditional cracking methods. Yet its facing a significant threat; one that has already been proven the threat of quantum-based algorithms. These algorithms can and will break such keys, and they will eventually do so with relative ease. This means its only a matter of time before robust quantum computers currently under development will be able to break larger and larger keys. Some estimates place this moment as little as five to 10 years away.

The only way to keep blockchains safe is to protect them with quantum-proof cryptographic keys in the first place; keys that are impenetrable from even the fastest, most advanced quantum computers we can envision today. To fight quantum with quantum.

The only way to keep blockchains safe is to protect them with quantum-proof cryptographic keys in the first placeTo fight quantum with quantum.

In a paper, published this month with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and Tecnolgico de Monterrey, we have developed a proof-of-concept that can be built as a layer on top of existing blockchain technologies. This layer relies upon CQCs IronBridge Platform to generate provably-perfect, quantum-proof keys that address two particular areas of weakness uncovered in blockchain technology. These are the internet communications between blockchain nodes, and blockchain transaction signatures used by businesses to verify their identity when submitting transactions or validating blocks.

By quantum-proof, we refer to keys that are generated using quantum computers, harnessing the innate randomness of quantum mechanics. Not only are these keys completely unpredictable to a quantum attacker, but they are also based on algorithms that are believed to be unbreakable by quantum computers. This technology, available through the IronBridge platform from CQC, works today, even on the limited quantum computers that currently exist, and without ever interfering with a blockchains functionality. It represents the first time ever such a solution has been built and proven in this way.

Yet because securing a blockchain involves applying the same remedies as for other technologies, the work weve done here is not unique to blockchains. It has vast potential.

However, the system is not perfect. Its far more efficient for quantum cryptography to be built into the very bones of blockchain technology, rather than layered on top. It is hoped this research encourages blockchain vendors towards earlier adoption of quantum-proof algorithms and key generation.

Others are approaching the quantum cybersecurity threat in different ways. Companies such as British Telecom and Toshiba are exploring how to share keys using quantum physics; a process known as quantum key distribution (QKD). These QKD systems are still in their infancy, with many technical challenges ahead, but they show promise as another area where quantum will strengthen cybersecurity.

The threat posed to blockchains by quantum computing isnt new, nor is it something thats going to hit in the next few months. But every baby step we take towards faster, cheaper quantum computers today is bringing it more starkly into view. It may be five years from now, it could be 15, but the sooner we protect blockchains and get the basics right today, the more protected it and us will be in the future.

Duncan Jones is Head of Quantum Cybersecurity at Cambridge Quantum.


The only answer to the quantum cybersecurity threat is quantum - Sifted

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NIST’s Quantum Security Protocols Near the Finish Line The U.S. standards and technology authority is searching – IoT World Today

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The U.S. standards and technology authority is searching for a new encryption method to prevent the Internet of Things succumbing to quantum-enabled hackers

As quantum computing moves from academic circles to practical uses, it is expected to become the conduit for cybersecurity breaches.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology aims to nip these malicious attacks preemptively. Its new cybersecurity protocols would help shield networks from quantum computing hacks.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has consulted with cryptography thought leaders on hardware and software options to migrate existing technologies to post-quantum encryption.

The consultation forms part of a wider national contest, which is due to report back with its preliminary shortlist later this year.

IT pros can download and evaluate the options through the open source repository at NISTs Computer Security Resource Center.

[The message] is to educate the market but also to try to get people to start playing around with [quantum computers] and understanding it because, if you wait until its a Y2K problem, then its too late, said Chris Sciacca, IBMs communications manager for research in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America. So the message here is to start adopting some of these schemes.

Businesses need to know how to contend with quantum decryption, which could potentially jeopardize many Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints.

Quantum threatens society because IoT, in effect, binds our digital and physical worlds together. Worryingly, some experts believe hackers could already be recording scrambled IoT transmissions, to be ready when quantum decryption arrives.

Current protocols such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) will be difficult to upgrade, as they are often baked into the devices circuitry or firmware,

Estimates for when a quantum computer capable of running Shors algorithm vary. An optimist in the field would say it may take 10 to 15 years. But then it could be another Y2K scenario, whose predicted problems never came to pass.

But its still worth getting the enterprises IoT network ready, to be on the safe side.

Broadly speaking, all asymmetric encryption thats in common use today will be susceptible to a future quantum computer with adequate quantum volume, said Christopher Sherman, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, Anything that uses prime factorization or discrete log to create separate encryption and decryption keys, those will all be vulnerable to a quantum computer potentially within the next 15 years.

Why Do We Need Quantum Security?

Quantum computers would answer queries existing technologies cannot resolve, by applying quantum mechanics to compute various combinations of data simultaneously.

As the quantum computing field remains largely in the prototyping phase, current models largely perform only narrow scientific or computational objectives.

All asymmetric cryptography systems, however, could one day be overridden by a quantum mechanical algorithm known as Shors algorithm.

Thats because the decryption ciphers rely on mathematical complexities such as factorization, which Shors could hypothetically unravel in no time.

In quantum physics, what you can do is construct a parameter that cancels some of the probabilities out, explained Luca De Feo, a researcher at IBM who is involved with the NIST quantum-security effort, Shors algorithm is such an apparatus. It makes many quantum particles interact in such a way that the probabilities of the things you are not interested in will cancel out.

Will Quantum Decryption Spell Disaster For IoT?

Businesses must have safeguards against quantum decryption, which threatens IoT endpoints secured by asymmetric encryption.

A symmetric encryption technique, Advanced Encrypton Standard, is believed to be immune to Shors algorithm attacks, but is considered computationally expensive for resource-constrained IoT devices.

For businesses looking to quantum-secure IoT in specific verticals, theres a risk assessment model published by University of Waterloos quantum technology specialist Dr. Michele Mosca. The model is designed to predict the risk and outline times for preparing a response,depending on the kind of organization involved.

As well as integrating a new quantum security standard, theres also a need for mechanisms to make legacy systems quantum-secure. Not only can encryption be broken, but theres also potential for quantum forgeries of digital identities, in sectors such as banking.

I see a lot of banks now asking about quantum security, and definitely governments, Sherman said, They are not just focused on replacing RSA which includes https and TLS but also elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), for example blockchain-based systems. ECC-powered digital signatures will need to be replaced as well.

One option, which NIST is considering, is to blend post-quantum security at network level with standard ciphers on legacy nodes. The latter could then be phased out over time.

A hybrid approach published by NIST guidance around using the old protocols that satisfy regulatory requirements at a security level thats been certified for a given purpose, Sherman said, But then having an encapsulation technique that puts a crypto technique on top of that. It wraps up into that overall encryption scheme, so that in the future you can drop one thats vulnerable and just keep the post-quantum encryption.

Governments Must Defend Against Quantum Hacks

For national governments, its becoming an all-out quantum arms race. And the U.S. may well be losing. Russia and China have both already unveiled initial post-quantum security options, Sherman said.

They finished their competitions over the past couple of years. I wouldnt be surprised if the NIST standard also becomes something that Europe uses, he added.

The threats against IoT devices have only grown more pronounced with current trends.

More virtual health and connected devices deployed in COVID-19, for example, will mean more medical practices are now quantum-vulnerable.

According to analyst firm Omdia, there are three major fault lines in defending the IoT ecosystem: endpoint security, network security and public cloud security. With 46 billion things currently in operation globally, IoT already provides an enlarged attack surface for cybercriminals.

The challenge is protecting any IoT device thats using secure communications or symmetric protocols, said Sherman, Considering that by, 2025 theres over a trillion IoT devices expected to be deployed. Thats obviously quite large in terms of potential exposure. Wherever RSA or TLS is being used with IoT, theres a threat.

Weighing Up Post-Quantum And Quantum Cryptography Methods

Post-quantum cryptography differs from methods such as quantum key distribution (QKD), which use quantum mechanics to secure technology against the coming threat.

QKD is already installed on some government and research communications lines, and hypothetically its impenetrable.

But the average business needs technology that can be implemented quickly and affordably. And, as we dont even know how a quantum decryption device would work in practice, its unrealistic to transfer QKD onto every IoT network.

One of the main post-quantum cryptography standards in the frame is lattice-based cryptography, an approach that is thought to be more resilient against Shors algorithm.

While these are still based on mathematics and could be endangered by future quantum decryption algorithms, they might buy scientists enough time to come up with other economically viable techniques.

Another advantage would be in IoT applications that need the point-to-point security channel, such as connected vehicles, De Feo said.

Probably the lattice-based schemes are the best right now to run on IoT devices. Some efforts will be needed in the chip design process to make these even easier to run, he added, But we should probably start thinking about this right now. Because it will probably take around five-to-seven years after the algorithms have been found for the chips to reach peoples homes or industrial systems.

And then potentially [if the optimistic estimates are right,] quantum computers will have arrived.

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NIST's Quantum Security Protocols Near the Finish Line The U.S. standards and technology authority is searching - IoT World Today

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:52 am

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#YouthMatters: IBM’s Amira Abbas on quantum computing and AI –

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Amira Abbas, research scientist at IBM

Here, Abbas shares more about herself, her achievements, and what made her choose to focus on quantum computing.

Abbas: I feel extremely fortunate because I think I have a super cool role that combines everything I love doing. Im currently a PhD student and my research is directly aligned to the research I do at IBM. In other words, researching for my PhD is my job.

Currently, I spend most of my time trying to figure out how quantum computers can help make artificial intelligence (AI) better. Quantum computers are often viewed as supercomputers that can outperform the computers we use today. But, its actually quite hard to figure out where quantum computers can help us, especially in AI.

I work with the IBM team in Zurich, Switzerland to try and understand this particular problem. I also work with the team in South Africa to teach more people in Africa about quantum computing. I love this balance of research and community work in my role because it requires very different skills and stimulates me in different ways.

Abbas: I grew up in a city called Durban on the east coast of South Africa. I always loved mathematics and used to get really excited as a kid when I saw crazy equations in movies. I would think to myself I wish I could understand those things and do stuff like that. This curiosity and relish to understand mathematics lead me to study actuarial science, which is notoriously heavy on mathematics and statistics.

I then went to work in asset management in Johannesburg for a few years. This was a great learning experience, but I couldnt shake the feeling that something was missing from my life.

Soon after this discovery, I left the financial industry and went back to study a masters in physics specialising in quantum computing. I am now doing my PhD in quantum machine learning and couldnt be happier.

Abbas: I think what excites me most about quantum computing is all the unknowns and things we still have to discover. As a researcher, its a dream to work in a field with so many open questions like how can quantum help AI? How can quantum help Africa and Africa-specific problems? Are quantum techniques even helpful and beneficial to us?

Additionally, there are lots of low-hanging fruit because the field of quantum computing is relatively young and so lots of discoveries are inevitable.

The field itself is also so broad and has attracted a very interesting and diverse community. This makes quantum even more enjoyable - being in a space with cool people and getting to explore fascinating things.

Abbas: I would love to continue to produce high calibre research output in quantum computing.

I want to inspire others to see that it doesnt matter where youre from, what university you are at or what your background is if you believe you can do something meaningful - even in a field as crazy sounding as quantum computing - then you can. It just takes hard work and persistence. So, I just want to keep at it and progress my research career by producing interesting work in the field of quantum computing and AI.

Abbas: In terms of achievements, I think its pretty cool that Im the first African to have received Googles PhD Fellowship award for the category of quantum computing.

I have also placed first at global quantum computing hackathon events, such as the Qiskit Europe Hackathon in 2019 Zurich and the Xanadu Quantum Hackathon in Toronto 2019.

Recently, I was the lead author on a quantum machine learning paper that made the cover of a Nature Research journal.

Otherwise, I have also received multiple scholarship awards and invited speaker requests to numerous quantum and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics events.

Abbas: My life in a nutshell: Coffee, research, reading, eating and somehow managing to sleep.

My family often say that I work a bit more than the average person, but when youre working on something youre passionate about, it never feels like work and it never feels like enough.

But on weekends, I try to get out into nature as much as possible. Living in South Africa, I am privileged to be able to experience such wonderful outdoor activities and I love hiking.

Abbas: I always say that science and technology is a lot more like art than people realise. Its crucial to grasp for critical thinking, but you have to find what works for you, and its important as a young person to keep in mind that science and technology are extremely broad just because you dont understand one thing, doesnt mean you wont understand everything.

Its also important for our youth to think about what the future holds, for any country, industry or profession and just how advancements in science and technology will affect that.

Luckily we live in a time where we can have access to high-quality research and ideas through our phones. This is how I came across quantum computing which, for example, has the potential to speed up computations used across finance, logistics, healthcare, and more.

We need to foster our skills locally so that our research can contribute to cutting-edge work and allow us to be ahead of the curve, instead of mere consumers of advanced tech/science.

Abbas: Its really easy to develop a mental 'block' against science and technology. Sometimes people become afraid of maths for example if they dont understand it in high school. This was similar to my experience with physics, in fact, physics was my lowest mark in school because I never really understood it. Now Im doing a PhD in physics which I would have thought impossible. The key is to view science and technology as art and find your niche in this very broad space.

As for advice, I strongly believe that all it takes to achieve your goals is consistent hard work and a balanced lifestyle. If youre still figuring out what your passion is, or feeling as if something in your life is missing, keep upskilling yourself and try to read more about things you normally wouldnt. Maybe one day you will come across the thing that makes you tick, and then hard work can be pleasurable if youre working on something aligned to your passion.

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#YouthMatters: IBM's Amira Abbas on quantum computing and AI -

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July 2nd, 2021 at 1:52 am

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