System Bits: Aug. 1

Quantum computing steps forward; data security; autonomous wheelchair


Quantum Computing Takes A Step Forward
UCLA physicists have developed a technique for measuring and controlling the energy differences of electron valley states in silicon quantum dots, which they view as a key component of quantum computing.

Joshua Schoenfield, a UCLA graduate student and one of the paper’s authors, explained that “an individual qubit can exist in a complex wave-like mixture of the state 0 and the state 1 at the same time. To solve problems, qubits must interfere with each other like ripples in a pond. So controlling every aspect of their wave-like nature is essential.”

Blake Freeman, another graduate student and study co-author, elaborated further. “Imagine standing on top of a mountain and looking down to your left and right, noticing that the valleys on either side appear to be the same but knowing that one valley was just 1 centimeter deeper than the other.” In quantum physics, that differential is critical to controlling electron spin and charge states.

Fig. 1: UCLA professor HongWen Jiang (center) and graduate students Blake Freeman and Joshua Schoenfield affixing a quantum dot device to the gold plate of a cooling chamber. Source: UCLA

The research was partially funded by the U.S. Army Research Office.

Industrial Data Space
The value of collecting, analyzing, and using data in a scalable way is becoming more critical as the IoT continues to grow. That means protecting and securing this proprietary data is  imperative for the industry to move forward.

Researchers from Fraunhofer, along with funding support from the industrial partners and the German government, have been working on this issue by establishing the “Industrial Data Space,” a virtual construct for secure data sharing based on standardized communication interfaces. The industrial Data Space Initiative was kicked off in 2014 and researchers recently finished the first phase, which defined a “reference architecture model for a secure data space, based on the latest IT technologies, and the first cross-sector use cases have been implemented.”

“Germany must secure itself a position at the cutting edge of system-related innovations,” said Reimund Neugebauer, president of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. “Right here and now we have a compelling opportunity for Germany to take the lead in the digital transformation of industry by creating a de facto standard that has every chance of being adopted throughout Europe and even worldwide. Data sovereignty is the key to success for many businesses. Our initiative provides the ideal data security framework.”

The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has approved a €5 million grant for phase two, which aims to roll out the architecture internationally.

Autonomous Wheelchairs
MIT and Singapore researchers have developed a self-driving wheelchair, leveraging advancements in autonomous driving for MIT’s self-driving scooter, which was introduced last year.

The autonomous wheelchair is powered by an onboard computer and moves autonomously without the need for an assistant to push it. MIT said that allows medical teams could spend more time on patient care and less time on the logistics of moving patients around within a hospital. Testing of the device began in 2016.


“All you have to do is hop on the chair, point to where you want to go, push ‘go,’ and the chair would know how drive you autonomously without the need for the person to push you around,” said Daniela Rus, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. “Our system would compute the path and then it will execute the path.”

Rus added that the device uses sensors to see the world and  “can detect people and other objects and drive around them.” The system uses 3 LiDARs to detect obstacles.

The autonomous wheelchair was developed as part of the SMART collaboration (Singapore-MIT Alliance For Research and Technology).

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