Saudi researchers eye quantum progress from tie-up with US software startup

students at king abdullah university of science and technology will be trained in quantum computing by the firm Zapata. (Supplied)
Students at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will be trained in quantum computing by the firm Zapata. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 June 2021

Saudi researchers eye quantum progress from tie-up with US software startup

students at king abdullah university of science and technology will be trained in quantum computing by the firm Zapata. (Supplied)
  • King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is at the forefront of quantum computing in the Middle East
  • Quantum computing could allow plane and vehicle manufacturers to test fuel-efficient designs much faster than at present

DUBAI: Scientists believe the solution to designing the fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicles of the future could be found in quantum computing. That is why Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has entered into a partnership with US-based quantum software startup Zapata Computing.

Quantum computers can simulate and optimize the aerodynamic design process for cars and aircraft much faster than any classical computing tools. Through this partnership among other moves, the Kingdom can hope to become a regional leader in quantum technologies.

“Accessing quantum computing capability is critical to being able to process information even quicker and more efficiently in the future,” Kevin Cullen, KAUST vice president for innovation and economic development, told Arab News.

“This partnership with Zapata is KAUST’s first use case with quantum computing and is essential to building our capacity in this space. This partnership could also open the door to finding solutions to other challenges in the Kingdom and the Middle East.”




The Zapata Computing team, based out of Boston, Massachusetts, US. (Supplied)

Using Zapata’s Orquestra system, KAUST is examining various lines of research to determine how quantum technologies could offer an advantage over classical computing tools in a variety of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) use cases for aircraft and automobile aerodynamic design.

CFD computations are time-consuming and expensive to run. The simulation process is inefficient and a lot of time is wasted trying to model air flow around wings and engines more efficiently.

However, boosting work around those designs could allow manufacturers to build more energy-efficient airplanes — lowering carbon emissions and benefiting the environment.

Air travel is responsible for 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. As such, quantum technology could have meaningful financial and environmental rewards for airlines and manufacturers.

The university — home to the KAUST Research and Technology Park and its research and development centers, corporates and startups — has a track record of collaborating with industry partners at a national and international level.

“We are delighted to be the catalyst for bringing quantum capabilities to CFD research in the Kingdom and to the Middle East,” Cullen said.




KAUST Research and Technology Park in Saudi Arabia. (Courtesy: KAUST)

“This partnership establishes Zapata as one of the first quantum computing companies active in the region and will enable KAUST researchers to explore the future of aerospace fluid dynamics.

“KAUST is a leader in the areas of data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI), and we welcome the addition of Zapata’s Orquestra technology to our capabilities in order to accelerate discovery and innovation in these fields.”

The Orquestra system helps run very complex computational tasks, also known as computational workflows.

“This means that when you run something on a quantum computer, you’re not just running the quantum computer, so to speak,” Christopher Savoie, co-founder and CEO of Zapata, told Arab News.

“You need to use a classical computer to preprocess your data and post-process your data. The quantum computer is doing a very specialized task in that workflow.”

INNUMBERS

* 150,000 - Liters of jet fuel consumed by a Boeing 747 over a 10-hour flight.

* 0.8% - Improvement in average fuel consumption by cars in US in 2018 over previous year.

The amount of classical computing needed when running a program on a quantum computer is greater than the amount of work that the quantum computer performs. The advantage of the quantum computer is that it performs specialized tasks at an extremely rapid pace.

“A lot of the work that you have to do before you even send something to the quantum computer is done on a classical computer,” said Savoie. “And everything that comes out of the quantum computer has to be processed and stored.”




Scientists claimed on October 23, 2019 to have achieved a near-mythical state of computing in which a new generation of machine vastly outperforms the world's fastest super-computer, known as “quantum supremacy.” (AFP/File Photo)

Zapata’s Orquestra platform improves data analytics performance, empowering companies and research organizations to build quantum-enabled workflows, execute them across the full range of quantum and classical devices, and then collect and analyze the resulting data.

With Orquestra, organizations can leverage quantum capabilities to generate augmented data sets, speed up data analysis and construct better data models for a range of applications.

More importantly, it provides organizations with the most flexible, applied toolset in quantum computing so that users can build quantum capabilities without getting locked in with a single vendor or architecture for several years.

“It also allows the user to be able to switch among the various different hardware providers,” Savoie said.

“If you’re just on one of those systems, you can’t really compare them and if you find out that your program — for example in this case, the aerodynamic calculations you find are better on (another platform), then you’re going to want to be able to choose.

“Orquestra allows you the flexibility to compare among them and then be able to choose them without getting locked into a particular vendor.”

For KAUST, the immediate use will be for the aerospace industry as one of the biggest consumers of fuel.




A Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which features quieter, more fuel efficient engines, more seating and a redesigned interior. (AFP/File Photo)

“There is a huge effort by companies like Saudi Aramco and all the other oil and gas companies in Saudi Arabia to be aware of the environmental constraints that boards and airline companies are constantly now finding themselves under pressure from shareholders to reduce, for good reason,” Savoie said.

“Climate change is certainly a thing that all of us as humans really have a vested interest in, and as researchers in that area of energy and fuel consumption, KAUST has a huge leadership role.”

Accurately calculating fluid dynamics — how air flows over wings and bodywork, for instance — could help the aerospace industry and carmakers create more aerodynamic electric vehicles.

Such calculations are extremely complex, taking weeks or even months of classical computing time. Quantum computers, by contrast, allow for speedups, various algorithms and differential equations.




Christopher Savoie, co-founder and CEO of Zapata. (Supplied)

“We use them technically to solve these very difficult mathematical problems,” Savoie said. “We’re talking about cutting weeks and months of time off of the supercomputing time budgets, and also, extra literal budgets, by doing this.

“That means faster iterations in these simulations of the surfaces for vehicles, to create more efficient vehicles for the future.”

Although the partnership has no specific timeframe, both parties hope it will grow in the future, starting with initial research problems that have been identified in the aerospace field.

“KAUST is involved in biotechnology and many other fields, like pharmaceutical development, that will benefit from quantum computing in the future,” Savoie said. “Other optimization and automation problems will all be affected by this technology.

“KAUST is a leading research university in the region, and one that we hope becomes what we call a ‘center of excellence for quantum computing,’ where many academic and industrial partners can come out to collaborate on pushing this technology forward.”

The focus is now on research and development, software development and training for graduate students.




KAUST has entered into a partnership with US-based quantum-computing startup Zapata Computing. (Supplied)

“This is going to be a step function in change, just like computers,” Savoie said.

“If you think about how computers have influenced our society in the last few decades, quantum computers are going to be competing (going forward). It’s going to be at least that much, if not more, of an impact on what we’re capable of doing in many areas of human activity.”

Zapata views KAUST as a leader in this area, looking to bring the advantages of quantum computing to the region.

In the initial phase, new graduate students will receive interactive training on an online forum, due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the hope of resuming face-to-face tuition in the near future.

“The immediate next step is for Zapata to train our KAUST users and from there to start running simulations,” said Cullen.

“After that, stay tuned. We could be on the verge of some major breakthroughs.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek

 


Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 29 min 30 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 14 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 505,003
  • A total of 8,226 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 14 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,187 new infections on Friday.
Of the new cases, 256 were recorded in Riyadh, 212 in Makkah, 174 in the Eastern Province, 118 in Jazan, 64 in Madinah, 59 in Asir, 58 in Hail, 52 in Najran, 36 in Al-Baha, 31 in the Northern Borders region, 28 in Tabuk, and seven in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 505,003 after 1,176 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 8,226 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 26.3 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says
  • In observance of Friday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Al-Awwad said the Kingdom is making significant and constant efforts
  • Al-Awwad wants to criminalize and combat human trafficking through a set of actions and measures that ensure human dignity

RIYADH: Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, president of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said Saudi Arabia is keen to protect and promote human rights.

Al-Awwad also wants to criminalize and combat human trafficking through a set of actions and measures that ensure human dignity and protect it from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

In observance of Friday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Al-Awwad said the Kingdom is making significant and constant efforts to combat human trafficking through the establishment of the Saudi National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

The committee enacts regulations and legislation that ensure protecting victims and safeguarding their rights on a local and global level.

Not only did the Kingdom issue regulations and legislation to combat human trafficking, but it was also keen to make the necessary efforts to enforce them, Al-Awwad said.


Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours

DAMMAM: Municipalities throughout Saudi Arabia have ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures introduced to help stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Eastern Province municipality recently carried out 1,524 inspection tours in one day at shopping malls, commercial centers, and stores.

Checks resulted in nine commercial outlets being shut down, while 77 violators were issued with penalties for ignoring health regulations, which included breaches of overcrowding rules and failure to use the Tawakkalna app.

Officials have urged members of the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call-center number or contacting authorities via the Balady app.


Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization
Updated 30 July 2021

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

RIYADH: The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance has reopened seven mosques in four regions that were temporarily closed for cleaning after coronavirus disease infections were confirmed among worshippers.

The ministry said on Thursday that two mosques were reopened in Riyadh, two in Qassim, two in Hail, and one in the Eastern Province.

Coronavirus infections have led to the closure of 1,909 mosques in the Kingdom in the past 173 days. The mosques were reopened after cleaning measures were completed.

The ministry urged worshippers and employees to follow precautionary measures, including wearing face masks, using their own prayer mats and maintaining social distancing.


21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 30 July 2021

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

JEDDAH: Twenty-one members of a Yemen-based team of Saudi and foreign mine clearance experts have lost their lives over three years operating in what has become known as the world’s largest minefield.

The tragic death toll was revealed in figures showing the scale of the project being carried out in the war-torn country in cooperation with local Yemeni teams under the umbrella of the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (Masam).

Launched by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) on June 25, 2018, the initiative has so far cost $133 million, Masam’s director, Osama Al-Gosaibi, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

He said the project’s field teams had dismantled 263,797 landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other deadly explosive devices. Since the start of the program up until July 23 this year, bomb squads dealt with 169,792 unexploded ordnances, 83,943 anti-tank mines, and 3,984 anti-personnel mines covering 25 million square meters of Yemeni territories.

The Yemen government said that the Iran-backed Houthis had planted more than 1 million landmines in the country since the start of the conflict in 2015, turning it into the most-mined nation since World War II.

KSrelief recently extended the Masam contract for another year, at a cost of $33.6 million. The project is carried out by Saudi and international experts through Yemeni teams that have been trained to remove all kinds of mines planted randomly by Houthi militias.

Al-Gosaibi pointed out that one of the main challenges faced by the teams was having to work without maps indicating the location of mines. In many cases they had to rely on local residents identifying suspected mined areas, which significantly slowed the clearance process, he added.

KSrelief’s general supervisor, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, said that the renewal of the Masam contract with the executive partner was, “out of the center’s sense of humanitarian responsibility toward the Yemeni brothers.”

He added: “It is extremely important to clear the Yemeni territories of the mines that Houthi militias manufactured and planted in a random, unpredicted, and camouflaged manner and that have caused permanent disabilities and injuries and human losses, including women, children, and seniors.”

According to statistics published by the Yemeni Observatory on Landmines in March, devices planted by Houthis in Taiz alone had killed and injured 3,263 civilians since 2015.

Data from the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, also known as the Rasd Coalition, showed 1,929 civilians, including 357 children and 146 women, have been killed in the past six years, and 2,242 civilians, including 519 children and 167 women, were disabled due to landmines.

During that same period, the coalition documented the destruction and damage of more than 2,872 public and private facilities in several Yemeni governorates, all due to anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.