Monday, January 16, 2017

Quantum Computing Is Real; A Canadian Company Now Offers Open-Source Tools & the Chinese are Building Spacecraft

          By Brian Orlotti

The Canadian company behind Google's quantum computer has released a new set of open source tools so coders can create software without needing an advanced physics degree.

D-Wave officials pose in front of one of their machines alongside American businessman and venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson (on the far right) in 2014. Photo c/o Steve Jurvetson.

As outlined in the January 11th, 2017 Wired post, "Quantum Computing Is Real, and D-Wave Just Open-Sourced It," the new tools were released to the public by Burnaby, BC based D-Wave Systems in order "to get more smart people thinking about applications."

As outlined in the article, the new tool, called Qbsolv, "is designed to help developers program D-Wave machines without needing a background in quantum physics. A few of D-Wave’s partners are already using the tool, but today the company released Qbsolv as open source, meaning anyone will be able to freely share and modify the software."

The goal, according to D-Wave International president Bo Ewald, is to "kickstart a quantum computing software tools ecosystem and foster a community of developers working on quantum computing problems. In recent years, open source software has been the best way to build communities of both independent developers and big corporate contributors."

D-Wave is only one of several dozen organizations included in the Wikipedia List Companies involved in Quantum Computing or Communication, who are attempting to develop quantum computing technology.

Although Canada remains a leader in this field, calls for greater investment in quantum and other leading internet technologies from other countries are becoming louder. And at least one country has taken the lead in developing space based assets to study quantum computer technologies.

China’s quantum satellite takes off from Jiuquan in Gansu provinceon on August 16th, 2016. As outlined in the August 22nd, 2016 Indian Express post, "In fact: Understanding Micius, Beijing’s big push for quantum security," the satellite is not the only satellite designed to study quantum effects. According to the article, that honour belongs to "SPEQS, a joint project of the National University of Singapore and the University of Strathclyde, which reported success in creating correlated photon pairs in orbit in May (2016)." Photo c/o China Daily via Reuters

In August 2016, China launched an experimental quantum communications satellite into orbit.

The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS) satellite, also called Micius (after an ancient Chinese philosopher), will establish a quantum key distribution network and perform a series of quantum entanglement experiments in space over the next two years. 

Micius is part of the Quantum Science Satellite (QSS) program sponsored and managed by the China Academy of Sciences (CAS). The satellite’s payload was a joint development of the CAS’s Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics (SITP) and the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC).

Micius will also perform three sets of experiments. In the first phase, secure transmission of quantum data will be tested by beaming chains of photons containing a message from Micius to three ground stations at Beijing, Hainan and Xinjiang, to be processed by the National Space Science Centre (NSSC) of the CAS. These ground stations will then beam the photon chains (now containing an encrypted message) back to Micius, which will relay them to other ground stations for decryption.

The second and third phases will be more ambitious, focusing on the use of particle entanglement to enable long distance communications (using photons) without the need to transmit radio signals.

"So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you do not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." From The Art of War, by Sun Tzu.

QSS is a classic ‘dual-use’ program, with both civilian and military applications. While advancing research that could form the basis for the much-speculated "quantum internet," QSS will also advance quantum cryptography, communications and cyberwarfare capabilities for the Chinese military. 

China plans a constellation of quantum satellites by 2030, which will augment a ground-based quantum computer network, which will likely be extended from the currently operational 2,000 kilometer link between Beijing and Shanghai.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) also foresees quantum communications being used in combination with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and optical reconnaissance satellites. 

The SAR and optical satellites would gather information on sea and ground-based targets in real-time and in all-weather conditions. Quantum communication satellites would then be used as data relays to securely transmit targeting data to and from command centers while evading interception. These capabilities would serve as a force multiplier, enabling air and naval superiority in contested areas.

Tony Lacavera looking pensive. Photo c/o Canadian Business.
The January 13th, 2016 Computer Dealer News post, "Globalive CEO Tony Lacavera on how Canada can become a leader in AI," quoted Tony Lacavera, the former CEO of Wind Mobile (now Freedom Mobile), and founder of tech angel investment firm Globalive Communications Corp., who felt that Canada has the potential to become a world leader in fields such as artificial intelligence, fintech, machine-learning, autonomous vehicles, and quantum computing, though its institutions must step up their efforts to fulfill it. 

Lacavera, who has helped finance at least two satellite companies (Toronto, ON based Kepler Communications and Vancouver, BC based UrtheCast) also said that Canada’s efforts must go beyond presentations and broad allocations of resources; Canada must narrow its actions and focus on areas where it can win.

Our traditional dependence on its close ties with the US for economic growth will soon be under threat by the incoming protectionist, ultra-nationalist Donald Trump Administration. China is independently pursuing new technologies to fuel future growth. 

Canada must do the same if it is to survive in the coming world. 
Brian Orlotti.

Brian Orlotti is a network administrator at KPMG and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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