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

 


Cuba supports Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030

Cuba supports Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030
Updated 33 min 34 sec ago

Cuba supports Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030

Cuba supports Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030
  • Saudi Arabia has emerged as a strong contender to host Expo 2030

DUBAI: Cuba is the latest among countries to express support to Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the Expo 2030 in Riyadh.

In a recent meeting between Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir, and Vladimir Gonzalez, the Cuban envoy to the Kingdom, Havana “officially communicated the support of the Republic of Cuba for the Saudi candidacy to host the Universal Expo 2030.”

Vladimir Gonzalez, the Cuban envoy to the Kingdom, left, in a meeting with Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir. (Cuba’s Representative Office Abroad)

An official statement from the Cuban government also noted the meeting “addressed issues related to bilateral relations, particularly with the function of the Cuban diplomatic mission in Riyadh and the collaboration in the field of health.”

In December, Saudi Arabia took part in a virtual general assembly meeting of the Bureau International des Expositions held in Paris to start the candidature process, which will take place in five stages and will end with a vote at the end of 2023.

 

 

Saudi Arabia has emerged as a strong contender to host Expo 2030, having already won multiple international endorsements for its formal bid launched late last year. The theme proposed by the Kingdom is ‘The era of change: Leading the planet to a foresighted tomorrow.’

Five countries — Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Italy, Ukraine and Russia — are competing to host the global event.

 

 

Nigeria, Mauritius, Kenya, Zambia, Djibouti, Morocco and Cameroon were among other countries who earlier pledged full support for Saudi Arabia’s bid to host the event. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation pitched its backing of Riyadh’s bid to host Expo 2030.

Dubai hosted the most recent expo – from Oct. 1, 2021 until March 31, 2022 – while the next one will be held in Osaka, Kansai, Japan between April to October 2025.


Saudi deputy defense minister: UN, international pressure needed for Houthis to engage in peace process 

Saudi deputy defense minister: UN, international pressure needed for Houthis to engage in peace process 
Updated 31 min 31 sec ago

Saudi deputy defense minister: UN, international pressure needed for Houthis to engage in peace process 

Saudi deputy defense minister: UN, international pressure needed for Houthis to engage in peace process 
  • The two-month ceasefire took effect on April 2 across Yemen

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Minister of Defense met the US Special Envoy for Yemen in Washington to discuss the conflict in Taiz and the need for UN-backed peace proposals to pose pressure on the Houthi militant group. 

Prince Khalid bin Salman said that he affirmed to Timothy Lenderking the “Saudi-led Coalition’s backing of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council”,  in a statement posted on his official Twitter account on Saturday.  

“Although the momentum of the truce remains high, I reaffirmed the need for the United Nations and the international community to pressure the Houthis into reopening the roads of Taiz, deposit revenues of the Hodeidah port, and engage with peace proposals,” the statement added.

Prince Khalid also said he reiterated Saudi Arabia’s “aspirations for reaching a comprehensive political resolution to the crisis that will lead Yemen into peace and prosperity.”

The two-month ceasefire, which took effect on April 2, aimed to stop hostilities across the country, allow for the reopening of Sanaa International Airport, enable fuel ships into the port at Hodeidah and open roads in Taiz and many other provinces.

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Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
Updated 21 May 2022

Special fun-filled activities lined up for young Jeddah Season visitors

The Blippi- branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts followed by a photo session. (Supplied)
  • Little Village zones feature favorite characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!

JEDDAH: A fun-filled agenda awaits children at the Jeddah Pier amusement park, one of the entertainment attractions at this year’s Jeddah Season festival of activities.

The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

The Blippi-branded activity corner allows kids to learn and explore new concepts, and the iconic Blippi appeared for a soft opening of the Little Village during which visitors took part in a meet and greet, followed by a photo session.

The L.O.L Surprise! activity corner gives girls the opportunity to wear their favorite dresses, enjoy hair and makeup sessions, and try out cooking, singing, and dancing, and special fashion shows let little fashionistas take a ramp walk.

Meanwhile, the Peppa Pig activity corner has a range of activities including painting classes and the chance to play in the cartoon character’s grocery store.

Fadi Yousuf, site manager of Hwadi Events, Jeddah Pier’s organizing company, said: “Packed with wonderful and imaginative activities, we aim to create memories that will turn the Jeddah Season into a world of unforgettable stories for children.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The specially created Little Village large play area offers games and events for youngsters through to June 28 in three activity zones featuring children’s characters Peppa Pig, Blippi, and L.O.L Surprise!

• Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events. And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

“With the help of Spacetoon, we were delighted to bring the much-loved character Blippi to Jeddah and receive an amazing response from the fans.

“Apart from enjoying the activities, kids will be able to purchase Blippi, L.O.L Surprise!, and Peppa Pig products onsite.”

Jeddah Pier, open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., offers 39 entertainment attractions, seven diverse international experiences, and a roller coaster, among a host of other events.

And musical parades including acrobats, and people dressed as trees, zombies, and track-suited monkeys are an integral part of the zone’s events.

Jeddah Season will also be hosting a toy festival running until May 23 at Jeddah Superdome, the world’s largest geodesic dome without pillars, and kids who missed meeting Blippi at Jeddah Pier will get another chance at the festival.

More than 40 international toy brands are attending the event that will include stands and exhibitions, live shows, and performances of the Smurfs, Sonic, Peppa Pig, and other character favorites.

The annual Jeddah Season festival aims to highlight the city’s rich heritage and culture through a total of 2,800 activities in nine zones over the event period.

Being held under the slogan, Our Lovely Days, the second Jeddah Season follows on from the success of Riyadh Season that recorded more than 15 million visits over five months.

The festival season offers 70 interactive experiences, more than 60 recreational activities, seven Arab and two international plays, marine events, a circus, four international exhibitions, and a host of other services for families.

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Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
Updated 20 May 2022

Saudi artists shed light on the resurgence of analog photography

Analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers. (Supplied)
  • While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public

RIYADH: At a time when one might view analog photography as an outdated craft, it is, in fact, becoming increasingly popular across the world, including in Saudi Arabia.

“Photos are the closest humanity has gotten to time travel,” said photographer Abdullah Al-Azzaz, whose has followed in the footsteps of his father, Saleh, who was also a photographer.

The newly established Bayt Al-Malaz — a creative space in the heart of Riyadh’s Malaz District — recently hosted an intriguing conversation about the significance and popularity of analog photography between Al-Azzaz and Princess Reem Al-Faisal, moderated by Sarah Assiri. The event was part of Bayt Al-Malaz’s “Moflmeen” discussion series.

HIGHLIGHT

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The two photographers addressed the issue of why — when digital cameras are so ubiquitous and easy to use — analog is making a comeback.

“My photography revolves around permanence, praise, eternality, and the spiritual side of us. The individual is a soul and not a body,” said Al-Faisal. “For us, film represents the soul. We are all born with natural instincts, and film, in its natural form, is untouched. It represents the soul that transforms after birth in dealing with life, accumulations, and memories — bad and good. It’s a way of expressing humanity.”

Al-Azzaz said that, for him, it was more about the technique than the philosophy of it all. “The experience of developing in a darkroom is so enriching. It separates you from the world, totally quiet and dark. It’s just you and the photo. It allows you to reflect on the photo more and gives you more freedom in reimagining it,” he said.

Photo manipulation, he explained, is not exclusive to digital photography. Before the existence of Photoshop, images could be manipulated in the darkroom using retouching techniques and tools, including cropping, brushing, dodging, burning and masking.

To really understand the true art of photography, some would argue, it is important to learn its history. Digital photography is not a replacement for film, but another medium entirely. “In any art, not just photography, we have to have a cultural, historical, and technical awareness… we are all an accumulation,” said Al-Faisal. “We are a product of our society and a product of our time. We cannot claim we aren’t affected [by these things]. Whoever claims otherwise is delusional.”

While analog photography is becoming more and more popular amongst Saudi and regional photographers, there is still a shortage of labs and studios accessible to the public. In Riyadh, the number of studios where film can be developed has fallen from four to just a single space — Haitham Studios. This is largely due to the financial cost of establishing such a studio and the turnaround time for film development.

The founder of the studio, Haitham Al-Sharif, explained the immersive nature of analog photography. “I chose film photography because I hated having no connection with my photos. With film photography, I take a max of 40 photos in a session. I can’t see them; I have to live in the moment, I have to listen and smell the streets, I have to talk to my subject if I’m taking their portraits, I have to listen to the music if I’m at a concert,” he told Arab News. “To me, that is art. That is the beauty of film.”

The lengthy process involved in analog photography can be intimidating and off-putting to amateur photographers. That’s why the development of the first digital camera in 1975 was so groundbreaking. Now, in an economy driven by content creation and visual media, content production is easier — and quicker — than ever before. But to some, the key difference lies in the creative experience itself. Some analog photographers suggest it is a way to truly connect with the moment, even if the results are not always what society deems ‘Insta-worthy.’

“When you can’t see the photo you aren’t forced to change it to make it the same as what the media thinks is good or what a magazine thinks is good. Film forces you to be patient and slow. It forces you to live in the (moment),” said Al-Sharif. “As a film photographer, you live in front of the lens as much as at the back of the lens. You become more connected to what you are photographing.”


Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
Updated 20 May 2022

Europe keen to advance level of partnership with Saudi Arabia: Envoy

EU Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet with delegates at the Europe Day reception in Riyadh. (Supplied)
  • EU unveils first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties

RIYADH: The European Union’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet confirmed on Friday that the bloc is keen to boost its partnership with the Kingdom.

The EU unveiled its first long-term strategy to shape future Gulf ties on Wednesday, when the High Representative and the European Commission adopted a joint communication — “Strategic Partnership with the Gulf.”

EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia Patrick Simonnet cutting cake on Europe Day at Cultural Palace, in DQ Riyadh. (Supplied)

“At a time of insecurity and significant challenges to the rules-based international order, aggravated by Russia’s war on Ukraine, the European Union and Gulf countries stand to gain from a stronger and more strategic partnership stretching over a number of key areas. We need to work more closely together on stability in the Gulf and the Middle East, on global security threats, energy security, climate change and the green transition, digitalization, trade and investment. We also need to strengthen contacts between students, researchers, businesses and citizens,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said as he unveiled the plan.

The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU- GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership.

Patrick Simonnet, EU ambassador to Saudi Arabia

In an exclusive interview with Arab News, Simonnet said: “The long-term strategy — the first of its kind between the two groups — will be pivotal to EU-GCC relations. We need each other. The EU and the GCC have a lot to gain in reinforcing the partnership. That’s what we felt in different visits over the last 12 months. There was a realization that we had a common interest in stepping up our partnership. It’s about the economy, how we can better support our respective strategies, Saudi Vision 2030, and EU Green Deal.

“We have been importing fossil fuel from Saudi Arabia for a long time. We are going to continue, but we would like to switch to a more sustainable consumption of renewable energy. We know that the Gulf has enormous potential to export renewable energies, including green hydrogen. Saudi Arabia has made huge investments and is keen to be a global supplier of hydrogen, and it would be very useful for us to import this green hydrogen to achieve our own climate change targets. It would also be good for the Kingdom, for its own climate change targets. So there’s a very good match that we can have between us,” he continued.

“We can work together on the regional crisis, there is a great deal of alignment between our views on the Middle East peace process, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Lebanon… The strategy proposes that we work even more closely together on regional stability issues. Security cooperation is also very important. We wanted to have a strategy which was more political, more security oriented. We are negotiating the JCPOA (the Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), and if we can have a positive outcome (there), we could build on that to hopefully contribute even more to stability and security in the Gulf,” said the EU envoy.

“We are the biggest provider of foreign direct investment here, and the GCC is the second-biggest trading partner for the EU, so we will look at how to re-engage on the free trade agreement (FTA),” Simonnet added.

The joint communication also aims to improve cooperation in higher education and culture. One of the goals is to attract more Saudi students to Europe and European students or teachers to the Kingdom, he explained.

Another goal, according to Simonnet, is “visa-free travel to Europe” for all countries. “We are very much aware that visa liberalization could help the exchanges between both sides,” he said.

He added: “I met Saudi travel bloggers a few days back. It was interesting to discuss all the hidden gems in Saudi Arabia in terms of tourism, the places where we could bring a lot more tourists, and the same thing in Europe — there are many more destinations in Europe that could be discovered by Saudi tourists, so visa liberalization is important.”

In future, according to the joint communication, there will be more regular meetings at ministerial levels between EU and GCC foreign ministers and ministers of energy.

“Europe is proposing to step up the game of relations,” said the envoy, adding that the EU will increase its diplomatic delegations in the region, expanding on its existing delegations in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait.