This Week In Tech And Telco: Is Quantum Supremacy Here?

Welcome back to this week in tech and telco. Sorry for the absence last week – you know how these things go.

We're also taking a short break from the newsletter while we roll out some website updates ahead of our podcast launch. You can read about The PathCast here. Then, hop over and subscribe on Spotify before we drop five episodes on Wednesday!

Google’s quantum computer reaches supremacy

According to a research paper by Google and affiliated researchers to a NASA website, the tech giant has "reached the regime of quantum supremacy" – the first time anyone has done so.

This means a quantum computer is able to perform a task beyond the capabilities of the most powerful conventional computer.

The paper, however, was subsequently removed from said website. Google, who has partnered with NASA for the project, has yet to provide an explanation or a confirmation.

Google’s quantum processor was able to perform a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced supercomputer, known as Summit, around 10,000 years.

What does this mean?

If true, the revelation would be a pivotal point for quantum computing, which so far has been largely theoretical.

Quantum supremacy, however, is no doubt a milestone that must be passed, but also far less impressive than it sounds. The news has also led to experts questioning the terminology.

"Demonstrating quantum supremacy – that is, demonstrating a quantum computation that cannot be performed on any conventional computer, even the world's most powerful supercomputer – will be a key milestone in demonstrating that quantum computers have the potential to be very powerful, and hopefully very useful," quantum information theorist Stephen Bartlett told ScienceAlert.

But is supremacy all it's made out to be?

Facebook is acquiring brain-computing start-up CTRL-labs

The social media giant has announced the acquisition of CTRL-labs, a start-up focused on tech that allows humans to control computers with their brains.

The startup will join Facebook Reality Labs, a division of the social media company that is working to develop augmented-reality smart glasses.

While there is little about the four-year-old start-up or its research online, we can draw on Elon Musk’s Neuralink as a comparison. However, CTRL-labs has so far focused on wearable tech to achieve its goal, whereas Neuralink’s interface is actually fitted inside the user’s brain

For those not watching Facebook closely, this may feel like an odd move, but the social media company has actually been working on brain-computing technology since 2016. Most recently, providing an update on its efforts in July where it states research conducted with University of California San Francisco “showed promising progress”.

Plasma is beautiful. Brain and tech
Would you like to control tech with your brain? Photographer: Josh Riemer | Source: Unsplash

Could your business benefit from a robot dog?

Boston Dynamics’ Spot robot dog is going on sale for the first time – but only to business who’ll put it to use.

Just 20 of the four-legged robots are currently up for grabs, with more coming later, but will only be sold to companies that can put it to practical use, and develop custom modules that can be attached to its back to help perform specific tasks.

While the price for Spot is still unknown, it also may not be the safest. The robot was not designed to work with or around humans.

Meet Spot, the robot dog. Credit: The Verge

Huawei and China Mobile eye up Brazilian telco

According to reports, Huawei and China Mobile are exploring a partnership to bid for the troubled Brazilian telecommunications provider Oi.

The claim has not been confirmed, however, and there is speculation Telecom Italia and Telefonica Brazil are also interested.

Any purchase by Huawei could however be problematic given the trade war with the US and additional security concerns coming from other countries.

Oi has said it would like to sell off non-core assets and focus on its last-mile fiber assets in Brazil.

Any acquisitions by Huawei could be problematic. Photographer: Kamil Kot | Source: Unsplash

What else we’re reading:

  • Amazon unveiled a number of new gadgets yesterday, signalling its move from the home and onto your body. This includes wireless earphones (Echo Buds), a smart ring (Echo Loop), and smart glasses (Echo Frames), which all provide hands-free access so you can ask Alexa to play a song, give you directions, or whatever else you may need, on the go. (MIT)
  • Microsoft is challenging a “secrecy order” from a federal judge that prohibits the company from telling a large corporate customer that the US government issued a warrant for their data. (Bloomberg)
  • Features and language discovered recently inside iOS 13 and 13.1 seem to explicitly confirm the very thing Apple executives have refused to acknowledge—an AR headset. (WIRED)
  • Airtel and Telkom Kenya have faced a delay to their planned merger after an anti-corruption watchdog pushed back the deadline for completing its investigation of the deal. (Mobile World Live)
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