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New entry to commercial quantum computing with completely different technologies.




Over the years, scientists have developed a variety of systems in which you can run quantum algorithms. Most of them had one or two useful properties, easy to manipulate or be able to maintain for a longer time, but the others lacked enough to prevent them from being practical computer solutions. However, in recent years, several companies have discovered how to make a significant number of solid-state qubits, known as transmons. Because transmons manufacturing technology is similar to existing chip manufacturing, many of the key players in the emerging market, including Google, IBM and Rigetti, have opted for transmons.

But transmons are not ideal either. They require extremely cold temperatures, show significant variability from device to device and are good but not good for maintaining their condition. Several people in the field with whom I have spoken suggested that there is room for other technology to surpass Transmons, and Ars’s own Chris Lee is putting his money on it.

Now, a company that is new to the quantum computer market is also betting on it. Honeywell, a company better known as a defense company and material supplier, announces that it has built a quantum computer with an alternative technology called “ion trap” and will make it available later this year through the Azure cloud service from Microsoft. The company also states that, by some standards, it is the most powerful quantum computer to date, but this statement must be carefully weighed.

Caught in a trap
Transmon qubits circulate a current through a superconducting cable loop, which is connected to a resonator, with which the current state can be controlled and read. However, both the superconducting cable and the resonator must be manufactured, allowing subtle differences between the individual qubits. In addition, all hardware must be kept extremely cold, within a small fraction of a percentage of absolute zero, to keep these relatively large objects close to their quantum fundamental state.

Trapped ions provide a way to overcome some of these challenges. The real qubit consists of a very small number of atoms, in the case of Honeywell, only two. Tony Uttley, president of Quantum Solutions at Honeywell, told Ars that this avoids manufacturing problems because each device has identical properties defined by the atom used (in this case, iterbium). “Every qubit starts perfectly,” Uttley told Ars, “every mistake you make is a mistake you make because of the surrounding infrastructure.”

Based on Honeywell’s experience in the construction and integration of this infrastructure, the company’s engineers feel in an excellent position to minimize this noise. The other thing is that small groups of atoms like this can be cooled with lasers. While the environment must be kept very cold, it does not have to reach the extreme temperatures required by a Transmon.

In Honeywell’s case, the yerbium ions were not particularly easy to cool with laser, so they threw some barium ions into the mixture and cooled them with laser. The set of four ions was easy to cool and control, and the environment just needed to stay at 12K. This requires liquid helium, but not the complex dilution cooling systems required by Google and IBM hardware.

Because they are charged, ions can move inside the device simply by changing the local electric fields using the approximately 200 electrodes located along the device. The state of the ion’s electrons can be laser manipulated at certain wavelengths, so electrons can overlap in potential energy states. The entanglement and several door operations can be achieved simply by moving two ions nearby and using laser operations that manipulate both at the same time. The reading is achieved by stimulating the ions with another laser, so the ions emit a photon that indicates their state.

Honeywell device
Honeywell’s hardware can be seen as a linear sequence of different devices. The ions enter at one end and mix through alternate areas where they can be stored or hit by lasers that perform qubit handling operations on them. A door operation (the quantum equivalent of performing an AND or NOT operation) can be performed simply by placing two ions in the same place and performing an operation on both at the same time. In addition, groups of four ions (two ytterbium, two barium) can be divided in half or two groups of two ions can be put together.

The device Honeywell describes today organizes four qubits along a single line of these memory / manipulation levels. However, the device diagram also shows two additional storage lines and handling steps that flank the line used in these initial experiments. This is in line with what Uttley Ars said: Honeywell is convinced that the device can be scaled quickly, with the expectation that additional qubits can be added every year without fundamentally changing the architecture. While four qubits are quite low compared to Transmon devices (more on that in a moment), the company believes it can close the gap very quickly.

An interesting aspect of this configuration, which Uttley says is currently not available in any other commercial system, is that it can measure a qubit individually without necessarily interfering with anything else in the system. (Technically, this is done through a science fiction polling operation called CNOT gate of quantum teleportation). This allows the computer to execute the equivalent of an “if” statement and change the algorithm based on the measurement results of that single qubit. After the measurement, the qubit can also be reset and reused for further calculation.

The individual components of it work very well. A possible problem is the so-called “measurement errors and condition preparation”, which have adopted the acronym SPAM. In this case, Honeywell researchers discovered that SPAM is dominated by measurement errors, which occur in less than 1 percent of cases. Single qubit doors have errors that are of an order of magnitude less, and two single qubit doors are on a similar level. All this is significantly lower than the typical Transmon-Gates behavior.

As mentioned earlier, the error rates reported by Honeywell are very low, which means that any calculation made with your four qubits is likely to be error free. And since ions can move around the device at will, each of them can be freely connected to others. Therefore, the quantum volume is actually equal to the number of qubits squared here. This contrasts with the hardware used by Google and IBM, which has more than ten times the number of qubits, but also has significant error rates and qubits that are only associated with a handful of its closest neighbors.

As a result, the Honeywell machine would not need much more qubits to have a quantum volume greater than that of its competitors. And as mentioned earlier, the hardware described today definitely has the built-in capacity for additional qubits. Therefore, a quantum volume of 64 is claimed, which would mean eight qubits, and there are reasons to believe that the company can deliver.

But since IBM already has a computer with almost 64 real qubits and Google will follow them, are eight qubits really important? As always, the answer is “it depends”. Some algorithms are very sensitive to connectivity between qubits. While it is possible to run them on larger computers with less connectivity, this requires more qubits that act as bridges to establish proper connectivity, and each of these computers can cause an error. With the Honeywell machine, increased connectivity could compensate for part of the need for additional operations, and operations are not the main source of errors anyway.

There is also the problem of scale. Uttley told Ars that he expects the company to increase its quantum volume by an order of magnitude per year over the next five years, which means adding three or four qubits per year. That means that even after five years, there would only be about 30 qubits, about half of where their competitors are today. Meanwhile, Google and IBM are working to reduce error rates, adding a few dozen qubits to their computers every few years.

When all companies see that their plans are working, things become very interesting in a few years. Honeywell will have a significant advantage in quantum volume, while the transmon-based hardware of its rivals will be an order of magnitude plus qubits. Meanwhile, Team Transmon points to quantum computing with error correction that requires thousands of qubits. This means that researchers expect to add hundreds of qubits at some time with each new generation of chips.

Since it is not clear when these other companies expect this qubit growth to increase, one cannot guess how Honeywell’s entry could change the competitive landscape here.

What we have in the meantime
Honeywell, a company that has departments that cover everything from sporting goods to defense contracts, is definitely an unusual entry into a market dominated by a combination of new businesses and traditional computer power plants. However, the company has told a consistent story, which was repeated by Uttley: as part of its manufacturing and material work, Honeywell had developed many of the pieces necessary for the calculation of the ion trap, such as B. photonics purposes , cryogenics and vacuum systems. And a group of scientists within the company argued that the potential of the field was large enough to be worth pursuing. And since Honeywell is initially such a large company, an important group has been established to develop the project.

Like everyone else in the business, Honeywell discovered that most companies are not interested in establishing the necessary infrastructure to operate their own liquid helium cooling system. Therefore, Honeywell will offer access to its quantum computers through a cloud interface. He also partnered with Microsoft to make the system accessible through that company’s Azure cloud service.

To write the actual software used in today’s work, Honeywell researchers used IBM Quiskit, an open source tool that can be used to describe quantum algorithms independently of the hardware, and then generates the actual commands needed to require the hardware. really used (it’s a bit like a cross platform compiler). Therefore, the company expects to be able to use some of the existing specialized knowledge that has already been developed there. This could also mean that companies can develop a set of quantum algorithms and then execute them on any system that has the functionality (high connectivity or large amount of qubits) to achieve the performance they need.

Friends and competitors
Probably because it introduces a completely new architecture, the company has combined today’s hardware advertisement with two investments in companies that are already involved in the development of quantum algorithms. It was also announced that financial giant JPMorgan Chase will partner with Honeywell to investigate the use of its system to develop financial algorithms. This should not be taken as an indication that the system is ready to use. We have spoken with JPMorgan Chase employees in the past and have indicated that efforts are being made to ensure that the company is fully prepared when quantum computers are ready for primetime.

All this shows that Honeywell is definitely taking this effort seriously and hopes to be an important competitor in the field of quantum computing. And if the forecasts of future performance increases turn out to be correct, this could be a big deal.

An observer might be tempted to see this as a kind of competition between traditional computer architectures where x86 and ARM are currently highly competitive. However, these different architectures are manufactured using the same processes and work with individual components that are identical.

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Pixel 4a photo leaks indicate a simple budget phone




These first rumors about Pixel 4a could only have some weight. Photo leaks on Twitter and Reddit seem to show Google’s next economic phone in nature, and seem to confirm the previous claims. The worn out prototype 4a in the images apparently has no facial recognition and the dual cameras of the normal Pixel 4 in favor of a more conventional fingerprint reader and a single rear camera. There is a pinhole camera for selfies in the front, and Google keeps the headphone jack for those who can’t justify Bluetooth headphones.

Snapshots do not show much more about what is in the phone, although an available memory log suggests that you should still be satisfied with 64 GB of non-expandable memory. A 5.7 or 5.8-inch screen is expected to be equipped with a medium-sized Snapdragon processor (probably 600 or 700 series) to keep costs low and extend battery life.

It is not certain when Pixel 4a could arrive, especially given the outbreak of the corona virus, which affects the production of many companies. Now that I / O is canceled, Google is certainly not linked to a specific start window. However, it is hard to imagine that Google will wait a long time. The Pixel 3a served not only as an entry point for the Google smartphone line, but also as a way to keep the series fresh and in the spotlight while the main pixel was still in the middle of the cycle.

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Jonathan Kraft makes an unpleasant compliment to Bill Belichick: “Machine Learning”




BOSTON, Mass. – Soccer is not exactly known for being a leader in the world of sports analytics, but Patriot President Jonathan Kraft says that Bill Belichick’s own melancholic looks and short answers are behind the version of “machine learning” of the coach.

“I think if you want to use a soccer coach like Bill Belichick, who has been a soccer coach for 40 years, you may not call him data, but he has a steel trap in his head,” Kraft told Sloan Sports conference Friday analytics. “Every instance of everything you’ve seen: it won’t call it data and it won’t call it machine learning, but its brain is a machine and it’s machine learning. So you can call it old-school training – Bill probably wouldn’t call it machine learning, but that is exactly. “

Last season, Belichick, 67, told reporters that the analysis was not his “thing”, and that he puts “less than zero” emphasis on decision making.

“You can use these advanced websites wherever you want,” Belichick said in 2016. “I don’t know. I have no idea that I’ve never seen one. I don’t even want to look at one. I don’t care what they say … All metric pages and all that, I mean, I have no idea. You should ask a coach smarter than me. “

The annual Sloan conference, organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, discusses advances and problems in the sports analysis industry. Kraft spoke with Commissioner Don Garber in a panel discussion about the success story of Major League Soccer.

Regardless of whether Belichick actively uses advanced analysis or not, Kraft emphasized that it would be silly to completely ignore the progress of the industry.

“I think the data should be part of the decision-making aids in everything you do,” Kraft said. “If you’re not ready to understand what’s out there, put your team at a competitive disadvantage.”

Jonathan Kraft is co-owner of the New England Revolution of MLS with his father Robert Kraft, who also attended the annual sports technology summit here. The younger force talked about the differences in the way the two sports use and use the data.

“On the football side of the house, the data is not used as often [as in football] to capture the content game by game.” I know that people talk about it all the time, they still don’t, ”said Jonathan Kraft. “You could look at certain trends and other things and probabilities related to certain decision-making tools, but I would say that in football it is one of several ingredients that come into a game plan, while in football I am now for coaches who they believe in him. ” , I think it could even be the main one, one of the two or three main controllers. “

Kraft says that, unlike the patriots, the revolution was always up to date with the analyzes.

“On the football side of the house, we hired our first data analyst more than a decade ago. I think maybe we were the first team in the league to have one, ”he said. “We monitor the movement of each player on the field, how passes are made, how teams perform in different thirds, and so on.”

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The new Intel chip failure threatens encryption, but Macs are safe




The vulnerabilities inherent in Intel chips have been a common problem in recent years, with fatal errors such as Meltdown, Specter and ZombieLoad that affect virtually all Intel-equipped devices.

In 2019, Positive Technologies security researchers discovered another problem with Intel chips. In particular, it is a vulnerability that affects the Intel converged security management engine, an important security feature in Intel technology and firmware that runs on Intel hardware.

In addition to loading and varying the BIOS and power management firmware, CSME also offers the “cryptographic base” for functions such as DRM (Digital Rights Management), TPM (Firmware-based Trusted Platform Module) technologies or the ID itself Intel enhanced privacy.

Intel released a patch in 2019 to fix the problem. However, Positive Technologies researchers have discovered that it is much worse than originally thought. New research published Thursday shows that the vulnerability could be exploited to recover a cryptographic root key, which could allow an attacker to access all the data on a device.

This could be a big problem for DRM protected media. If used aggressively, the error can be used to decrypt incoming or outgoing data traffic from the affected device. On a larger scale, it could be used on Intel-based servers.

Although Intel’s previous vulnerabilities affected Apple devices, this error does not affect newer Macs equipped with an Apple T1 or T2 chip. Because these chips are based on proprietary technology and are released before Intel chips, a user’s encryption keys are secure.

Of course, older Macs without a T-Series chip, or the current iMac family without the iMac Pro, may be vulnerable to exploitation, which may compromise FileVault encryption. The error is undetectable and Intel advises users to maintain the “physical possession” of their devices, since there is no way to use the attack vector remotely, for example, by clicking on an incorrect ad.

However, Intel notes that the tenth generation chips are safe from this. The vulnerability and others that they like are also one of the many possible reasons why Apple may soon switch its Macs to ARM-based processors.

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