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 16 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 16 more COVID-19 deaths
Updated 20 min 40 sec ago

Saudi Arabia announces 16 more COVID-19 deaths

Saudi Arabia announces 16 more COVID-19 deaths
  • The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom has increased to 450,255
  • A total of 7,606 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia announced 16 deaths from COVID-19 and 1,269 new infections on Tuesday.
Of the new cases, 402 were recorded in Makkah, 262 in Riyadh, 186 in the Eastern Province, 105 in Asir, 79 in Madinah, 77 in Jazan, 31 in Najran, 27 in Al-Baha, 25 in Tabuk, 19 in Hail, 14 in the Northern Borders region and two in Al-Jouf.
The total number of recoveries in the Kingdom increased to 450,255 after 1,014 more patients recovered from the virus.
A total of 7,606 people have succumbed to the virus in the Kingdom so far.
Over 16 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine have been administered in the Kingdom to date.


More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration

More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration
Updated 15 June 2021

More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration

More than 450,000 people apply to perform Hajj during first 24 hours of registration
  • Of those registering, 60 percent were men and 40 percent were women
  • No priority will be given to those who apply early and registration will be open till June 23

RIYADH: More than 450,000 people in Saudi Arabia applied to perform Hajj this year during the 24 hours since registration opened, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Tuesday.
Of those registering, 60 percent were men and 40 percent were women.
No priority will be given to those who apply early and registration will be open till June 23, the ministry added.
Vaccinated citizens and residents in the Kingdom between the ages of 18 and 65 who do not have chronic diseases and have not performed Hajj in the last five years are able to apply.
Saudi Arabia announced on Saturday that this year’s Hajj will be limited to 60,000 pilgrims from within the Kingdom due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry
Updated 15 June 2021

Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry

Saudi minister Jubeir meets US climate envoy John Kerry

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir met on Tuesday US Climate Secretary John Kerry.

Kerry was on his first visit to the Kingdom after assuming the position of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Since President Joe Biden was sworn in on Jan. 20, he has made several moves to emphasize the importance of mitigating global warming and reinstating America's role as a leader in that battle. This included appointing former Secretary of State Kerry to be the country's first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, making him the administration's global face on the issue.

Biden also recommitted the US to the 2015 Paris Agreement, an international treaty on climate change through which 196 countries agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 


AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say

AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say
Updated 15 June 2021

AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say

AlUla can become important aspect of local life, source of pride for Saudis, experts say
  • AlUla is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify its economy, increase tourism and raise its international profile

LONDON: Saudi Arabia’s AlUla has the opportunity to become a crucial aspect of local and regional life and an area for all Saudis to take pride in, a panel discussing how the ancient valley can foster change heard.

“AlUla, in my opinion, has the opportunity to become one of the most important aspects of local and regional life, and also an area for all Saudis to feel so proud of,” President Emeritus of the Guggenheim Foundation Jennifer Stockman told the panel discussion, “At the crossroads: The living museum as a barometer of social change.”

“The change will dramatically happen when the world realizes that this is a brand-new discovery and fills in that white spot on the map. An interest in tourism will absolutely follow,” Stockman said.

AlUla is part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan to diversify its economy, increase tourism and raise its international profile.   

The city, in the Kingdom’s Madinah region, is home to 200,000 years of still largely unexplored human history, and plays a central role in its tourism strategy.

The panel discussed ways to ensure that the living museum fosters the changes that the Kingdom desires.

Director of Florence’s Uffizi Gallery Eike Schmidt agreed that there was an opportunity to discover the ancient city and its wonders that many people did not yet know about.

“If we look at AlUla, I think we have a huge opportunity here because it is still for many people . . . a relatively white spot on the map that needs to be filled,” Schmidt said.

The director praised the Kingdom’s dedicated efforts to make the cultural site a center of scholarship and to place the people of AlUla at the core of the city.

“I already know about this wonderful project to make it a center of scholarship and of the communication of arts, and not just of the time period but far beyond that. So I think I can only congratulate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to have undertaken this wonderful project and to bring it along,” Schmidt said. 

Scientific Director at the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) Jean Francois Charnier was also keen for the world to learn about the “regional and international hub of influence” and place it back on the world’s map.

“This small city of AlUla was a door, a crossroad of cultural civilization around the world. We have to talk about that, we have to replace AlUla on the map of the world’s history,” Charnier said.

“The living museum is a wonderful gathering of exceptional assets. AlUla is already a living museum, an open-air living museum,” the scientific director said. “Currently more than 100 archaeologists are working on the site and it’s now the biggest archaeological cluster of the Middle East.”

Charnier detailed the scale of expertise involved in bringing alive the history of the cultural city. “There are not only archaeologists, there are anthropologists, biologists, archaeozoologists, archaeobotanists. We are here writing the narratives, writing the history of the place, and this narrative will also be the roots and the narrative of the assets and the museum.”

Director of EPFL Pavilions Professor Sarah Kenderdine highlighted the significance of the archaeological programs at AlUla and the Kingdoms Institute.

The Kingdoms Institute is dedicated to the study of the history and prehistory of the Arabian Peninsula and is committed to becoming a world-class scientific center for archaeological and conservation research.

“The archaeological programs at AlUla and the Kingdoms Institute are so important; already the archaeological surveys are vast and complex and they cover 22,000 square kilometers of archaeological materials, including the oldest dog in the world. Researchers have found this dog’s bones in the burial site and that’s one of the earliest monumental tombs identified in Arabia,” Kenderdine said. 

“Therefore, AlUla plays this really pivotal role in the development of humankind across the Middle East and a global team is working at the Kingdoms Institute to give us the bridge that allows us to walk into deep time. The essence of historical consciousness is not just remembering what we see of their past, but also what we see in the present, and this link with the present is so vital at AlUla and it’s embodied in this rich vision for the living museum,” she said.


Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor

Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor
Updated 15 June 2021

Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor

Young winners of Saudi tech challenge receive awards from Makkah governor
  • As part of the Makkah Region Projects Digital Exhibition, students were tasked with developing ideas for projects to support digital transformation in Kingdom and beyond

JEDDAH: Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, the governor of Makkah region, on Monday presented awards to six winners of the Makkah Days for Programming and Artificial Intelligence contest.

The two-day event, which began on Sunday, is one of the leading initiatives of the Makkah Cultural Forum’s current season. It brought together more than 90 male and female students in 30 teams from 11 universities and colleges in the region.

Saad Al-Qarni, CEO of the Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) Academy, said that in recognition of the winners’ abilities, and in an effort to encourage and promote young talent, the authority will offer them support, training and jobs.

He added that the SDAIA is proud to be a strategic partner of a competition that aims to motivate young people to enhance their knowledge and make the most of their studies by developing innovative ideas for projects that can serve their country.

Under the theme of how to set an example in the digital world, the students were tasked with developing ideas for applications and programs to support digital transformation in the Kingdom and beyond in the fields of Hajj and Umrah, tourism, entertainment and other services.

The contest was part of the week-long Makkah Region Projects Digital Exhibition which opened on June 9 at the Jeddah Super Dome. To help them develop their ideas, the teams of students took part in panel discussions and seminars with experts covering a variety of topics.

For example, the session E-commerce: From Idea to Implementation looked at ways to introduce and enhance e-commerce, and increase its use as part of the shift toward virtual shopping.

Another session offered an introduction to the use of the Python programming language, which has become a popular option because it is considered easier to learn and use than many other languages.