China continues 5G push despite economic slowdown and Huawei setbacks

China will fast-track the issuance of commercial licenses for 5G as part of a national plan to boost consumer spending, said a notice published this week by the National Development and Reform Commission. The move appears to be multifaceted, for 5G plays a key role in China’s bid to lead the global technology race and one of its biggest 5G champions, Huawei, has been facing troubles on a global scale.

In its statement, the economic regulator calls on local governments to support the promotion and showcase of services utilizing the super-fast network technology. Ultra-high definition TVs, virtual/augmented reality handsets and other futuristic products will be eligible for government subsidies, though the regulator didn’t outline the detailed criteria.

The acceleration of 5G licenses comes as Beijing copes with a weakening national economy, a move that will “drum up demand with upgraded technology experiences across devices, automotive and manufacturing leveraging 5G technology,” said Neil Shah, research director at Counterpoint Research, to TechCrunch. 5G is on course to generate 6.3 trillion yuan ($947 billion) worth of economic output and 8 million jobs for China by 2030, according to estimates from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

Beijing has been gearing up to be the world leader in the next-generation network tech, pouring resources into 5G research and infrastructure. But it has been hit with a speed bump overseas as western countries grow increasingly wary of spy threat posed by Chinese 5G equipments. A souped-up domestic drive, therefore, could help neutralize some of the global setbacks faced by its 5G crown jewels like Huawei.

The U.S. and Australia have banned local firms from procuring equipment from Huawei, and Canada and the U.K. are currently reviewing whether to continue using 5G parts made by the Chinese telecom equipment giant. Meanwhile, Huawei is facing a list of criminal charges from the U.S. for stealing state secrets and its financial chief Meng is accused of bank fraud.

“Aaccelerating 5G licenses should indirectly help Huawei gain competitive edge for 5G considering it will be supplying solutions to the world’s largest mobile cellular market, China,” observes Counterpoint’s Shah. “This also gives Huawei an early platform to showcase its technology to the world and attract more global business.”

Huawei has continued with its 5G push despite being dogged by a string of global woes. Last week, the Shenzhen-based conglomerate unviled a 5G chipset for multiple commercial uses across smartphones, home and work. The chip, dubbed the Balong 5000, will be launching in February at a Barcelona tech trade show.

Canada’s Telus says partner Huawei is ‘reliable’: reports

The US-China tension over Huawei is leaving telecommunications companies around the world at a crossroad, but one spoke out last week. Telus, one of Canada’s largest phone companies showed support for its Chinese partner despite a global backlash against Huawei over cybersecurity threats.

“Clearly, Huawei remains a viable and reliable participant in the Canadian telecommunications space, bolstered by globally leading innovation, comprehensive security measures, and new software upgrades,” said an internal memo signed by a Telus executive that The Globe and Mail obtained.

The Vancouver-based firm is among a handful of Canadian companies that could potentially leverage the Shenzhen-based company to build out 5G systems, the technology that speeds up not just mobile connection but more crucially powers emerging fields like low-latency autonomous driving and 8K video streaming. TechCrunch has contacted Telus for comments and will update the article when more information becomes available.

The United States has long worried that China’s telecom equipment makers could be beholden to Beijing and thus pose espionage risks. As fears heighten, President Donald Trump is reportedly mulling a boycott of Huawei and ZTE this year, according to Reuters. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that US federal prosecutors may bring criminal charges against Huawei for stealing trade secrets.

Australia and New Zealand have both blocked local providers from using Huawei components. The United Kingdom has not officially banned Huawei but its authorities have come under pressure to take sides soon.

Canada, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network alongside Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the US, is still conducting a security review ahead of its 5G rollout but has been urged by neighboring US to steer clear of Huawei in building the next-gen tech.

China has hit back at spy claims against its tech crown jewel over the past months. Last week, its ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye warned that blocking the world’s largest telecom equipment maker may yield repercussions.

“I always have concerns that Canada may make the same decision as the US, Australia and New Zealand did. And I believe such decisions are not fair because their accusations are groundless,” Lu said at a press conference. “As for the consequences of banning Huawei from 5G network, I am not sure yet what kind of consequences will be, but I surely believe there will be consequences.”

Last week also saw Huawei chief executive officer Ren Zhengfei appear in a rare interview with international media. At the roundtable, he denied security charges against the firm he founded in 1987 and cautioned the exclusion of Chinese firms may delay plans in the US to deliver ultra-high-speed networks to rural populations — including to the rich.

“If Huawei is not involved in this, these districts may have to pay very high prices in order to enjoy that level of experience,” argued Ren. “Those countries may voluntarily approach Huawei and ask Huawei to sell them 5G products rather than banning Huawei from selling 5G systems.”

The Huawei controversy comes as the US and China are locked in a trade war that’s sending reverberations across countries that rely on the US for security protection and China for investment and increasingly skilled — not just cheap — labor.

Canada got caught between the feuding giants after it arrested Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who’s also Ren’s daughter, at the request of US authorities. The White House is now facing a deadline at the end of January to extradite Meng. Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Trump are urging Beijing to release two Canadian citizens who Beijing detained following Meng’s arrest.

Why Silicon Valley needs more visas

When I hear protesters shout, “Immigrants are welcome here!” at the San Francisco immigration office near my startup’s headquarters, I think about how simple a phrase that is for a topic that is so nuanced, especially for me as an immigrant entrepreneur.

Growing up in Brazil, I am less familiar with the nuances of the American debate on immigration legislation, but I know that immigrants here add a lot of jobs and stimulate the local economy. As an immigrant entrepreneur, I’ve tried to check all of those boxes, and really prove my value to this country.

My tech startup Brex has achieved a lot in a short period of time, a feat which is underscored by receiving a $1 billion dollar valuation in just one year. But we didn’t achieve that high level of growth in spite of being founded by immigrants, but because of it. The key to our growth and to working towards building a global brand is our international talent pool, without it, we could never have gotten to where we are today.

So beyond Brex, what do the most successful Silicon Valley startups have in common? They’re also run by immigrants. In fact, not only are 57% of the Bay Area’s STEM tech workers immigrants, they also make up 25% of business founders in the US. You can trace the immigrant entrepreneurial streak in Silicon Valley from the founders of SUN Microsystems and Google to the Valley’s most notorious Twitter User, Tesla’s Elon Musk.

Immigrants not only built the first microchips in Silicon Valley, but they built these companies into the tech titans that they are known as today. After all, more than 50% of billion dollar startups are founded by immigrants, and many of those startups were founded by immigrants on H-1B visas.

Photo courtesy of Flickr/jvoves

While it might sound counterintuitive, immigrants create more jobs and make our economy stronger. Research from the National Foundation of American Policy (NFAP) has shown that immigrant-founded billion-dollar companies doubled their number of employees over the past two years. According to the research, “WeWork went from 1,200 to 6,000 employees between 2016 and 2018, Houzz increased from 800 to 1,800 employees the last two years, while Cloudflare went from 225 to 715 employees.”

We’ve seen the same growth at Brex. In just one year we hired 70 employees and invested over $6 million dollars in creating local jobs. Our startup is not alone, as Inc. recently reported, “50 immigrant-founded unicorn startups have a combined value of $248 billion, according to the report [by NFAP], and have created an average of 1,200 jobs each.”

One of the fundamental drivers of our success is our international workforce. Many of our key-hires are from all over Latin America, spanning from Uruguay to Mexico. In fact, 42% of our workforce is made up of immigrants and another 6% are made up of children of immigrants. Plenty of research shows that diverse teams are more productive and work together better, but that’s only part of the reason why you should bet on an international workforce. When you’re working with the best and brightest from every country, it inspires you to bring forth your most creative ideas, collaborate, and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. It motivates you to be your best.

With all of the positive contributions immigrants bring to this country, you’d think we’d have less restrictive immigration policies. However, that’s not the case. One of the biggest challenges that I face is hiring experienced, qualified engineers and designers to continue innovating in a fast-paced, competitive market.

This is a universal challenge in the tech industry. For the past 10 years, software engineers have been the #1 most difficult job to fill in the United States. Business owners are willing to pay 10-20 percent above the market rate for top talent and engineers. Yet, we’re still projected to have a shortage of two million engineering jobs in the US by 2022. How can you lead the charge of innovation if you don’t have the talent to do it?

What makes matters worse is that there are so few opportunities and types of visas for qualified immigrants. This is limiting job growth, knowledge-sharing, and technological breakthroughs in this country. And we risk losing top talent to other nations if we don’t loosen our restrictive visa laws.

H1-B visa applications fell this year, and at the same time, these visas have become harder to obtain and it has become more expensive to acquire international talent. This isn’t the time to abandon the international talent pool, but to invest in highly specialized workers that can give your startup a competitive advantage.

Already, there’s been a dramatic spike in engineering talent moving to Canada, with a 40% uptick in 2017. Toronto, Berlin, and Singapore are fastly becoming burgeoning tech hubs, and many fear (rightfully) that they will soon outpace the US in growth, talent, and developing the latest technologies.

This year, U.S. based tech companies generated $351 billion of revenue in 2018. The U.S. can’t afford to miss out on this huge revenue source. And, according to Harvard Business School Professor William R. Kerr and the author of The Gift of Global Talent: How Migration Shapes Business, Economy & Society, “Today’s knowledge economy dictates that your ability to attract, develop, and integrate smart minds governs how prosperous you will be.”

Immigrants have made Silicon Valley the powerhouse that it is today, and severely limiting highly-skilled immigration benefits no-one. Immigrants have helped the U.S. build one of the best tech hubs in the world— now is the time for startups to invest in international talent so that our technology, economy, and local communities can continue to thrive.

Huawei reportedly punishes staff for New Year’s Eve tweet sent from an iPhone

As predicted, Twitter’s subtle new feature showing which clients tweets are sent from is already embarrassing brands.

Following on from a Korean boyband sponsored by LG and Apple’s own Music staff, Huawei is the latest to be embarrassed after it sent a New Year’s Eve message using an iPhone.

A since-deleted message included the embarrassing tell-tale detail: “Twitter for iPhone” indicating that the Huawei account had tweeted from an iPhone. The tweet was replaced by another sent from Twitter Media Studio client, which is developed for brands and advertisers and isn’t a fierce rival’s smartphone, but the damage was done.

The internet being the internet, the gaffe was noticed and preserved by many keen people who were to point out the contradiction. The mistake also gained lots of attention on Chinese social network Weibo.

Embarrassed by the episode, the Chinese smartphone firm has slapped those responsible with a fine.

That’s according to Reuters, which got its hands on an internal memo which reveals that two employees responsible have had their salaries reduced by 5,000 yuan, that’s around $730. In addition, one of the pair — reportedly Huawei’s digital marketing director — will have their income “frozen” for a year. While we don’t know their full salary packages and a $730 drop may be less than the cost of an iPhone, it is still bound to sting.

Worst of all, perhaps, it seems that they were not directly at fault for the mistake, which Huawei senior VP Chen Lifang said had “caused damage to the Huawei brand.”

The incident, Reuters reports, was due an error by an agency hired by Huawei:

The mistake occurred when outsourced social media handler Sapient experienced “VPN problems” with a desktop computer so used an iPhone with a roaming SIM card in order to send the message on time at midnight, Huawei said in the memo.

The irony here is that Apple’s near-blanket ban on VPN apps means it would probably have been easier to get access to Twitter using an Android phone. Instead, the agency apparently went to the trouble of acquiring a Hong Kong-based SIM card in order to hop over the Great Firewall and send this ultimately ill-fated missive.

It’s fun to joke about consumer companies relying on their archrivals, but the incident comes at a particularly challenging time for Huawei.

The company’s CFO is currently on bail in Canada where she awaits extradition to the U.S. on charges of fraud that could see her jailed for up to 30 years. But its core business is also under pressure.

Huawei may be best-known for its smartphone business, which ranked second in Q3 2018 with 14.6 market share according to IDC, but its telecom equipment unit has always been its biggest seller and now its future is uncertain. Intelligence leaders from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S — the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ — are reported to have agreed to a ban on all equipment from Huawei and fellow Chinese firm ZTE, and that’s something that allies such as Japan appear to be joining in on.

Huawei CFO accused of fraud is granted $7.5M bail

The Canadian government has granted bail to Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, 10 days after her arrest in Vancouver. The decision concludes a three-day court hearing in which the judge and the public prosecutor debated whether Wanzhou would breach her bail conditions.

Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, has been accused of fraud with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. She was arrested by Canadian officials at the request of the U.S. government on December 1 while changing planes on her way to Mexico. As part of her bail conditions, the court has ordered her to pay C$10 million — about $7.5 million — and await U.S. extradition from her Vancouver home. According to reports, Wanzhou must relinquish her passport, wear an ankle bracelet and remain at home between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Justice alleges Wanzhou misled American financial institutions and allowed an unofficial Huawei subsidiary, called SkyCom, to do business in Iran despite U.S. sanctions.

Huawei didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Australia rushes its ‘dangerous’ anti-encryption bill into parliament, despite massive opposition

Australia’s controversial anti-encryption bill is one step closer to becoming law, after the two leading but sparring party political giants struck a deal to pass the legislation.

The bill, in short, grants Australian police greater powers to issue “technical notices” — a nice way of forcing companies — even websites — operating in Australia to help the government hack, implant malware, undermine encryption or insert backdoors at the behest of the government.

If companies refuse, they could face financial penalties.

Lawmakers say that the law is only meant to target serious criminals — sex offenders, terrorists, homicide and drug offenses. Critics have pointed out that the law could allow mission creep into less serious offenses, such as copyright infringement, despite promises that compelled assistance requests are signed off by two senior government officials.

In all, the proposed provisions have been widely panned by experts, who argue that the bill is vague and contradictory, but powerful, and still contains “dangerous loopholes.” And, critics warn (as they have for years) that any technical backdoors that allow the government to access end-to-end encrypted messages could be exploited by hackers.

But that’s unlikely to get in the way of the bill’s near-inevitable passing.

Australia’s ruling coalition government and its opposition Labor party agreed to have the bill put before parliament this week before its summer break.

Several lawmakers look set to reject the bill, criticizing the government’s efforts to rush through the bill before the holiday.

“Far from being a ‘national security measure’ this bill will have the unintended consequence of diminishing the online safety, security and privacy of every single Australian,” said Jordon Steele-John, a Greens’ senator, in a tweet.

Tim Watts, a Labor member of Parliament for Gellibrand, tweeted a long thread slamming the government’s push to get the legislation passed before Christmas, despite more than 15,000 submissions to a public consultation, largely decrying the bill’s content.

The tech community — arguably the most affected by the bill’s passing — has also slammed the bill. Apple called it “dangerously ambiguous”, while Cisco and Mozilla joined a chorus of other tech firms calling for the government to dial back the provisions.

But the rhetoric isn’t likely to dampen the rush by the global surveillance pact — the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, known as the so-called “Five Eyes” group of nations — to push for greater access to encrypted data. Only earlier this year, the governmental coalition said in no uncertain terms that it would force backdoors if companies weren’t willing to help their governments spy.

Australia’s likely to pass the bill — but when exactly remains a mystery. The coalition government has to call an election in less than six months, putting the anti-encryption law on a timer.

UrbanClap, India’s largest home services startup, raises $50M

UrbanClap, a four-year-old startup that offers home services across India, has closed a $50 million Series D round for expansion.

The round was led by Steadview Capital, a hedge fund with more than $1 billion under management, and existing investor Vy Capital. It takes UrbanClap to $110 million raised to date, according to data from Crunchbase.

Via its platform, UrbanClap matches service people, such as cleaners, repair staff or beauticians, with customers across 10 cities in India. Co-founder and CEO Abhiraj Bhal told TechCrunch that the business supports 15,000 “micro-franchisees” with around 450,000 transactions taking place each month.

“Micro-franchisees” is an interesting term — I’ve not heard it used much, even in the buzzword-heavy world of tech startups — but Bhal explained his vision to enable service workers to earn more and enjoy greater control of their work and, consequently, overall life.

For example, he said, the typical salary for an offline service worker might be in the region of 10-15,000 INR (up to $215) while, for those operating independently, their flow of work would be tied to a middleman, store or word of mouth networks. UrbanClap offers a more direct model, with workers keeping 80 percent of the cost of their jobs. That, Bhal said, means workers can earn multiples more and manage their own working hours.

“The UrbanClap model really allows them to become service entrepreneurs,” he said. “Their earnings will shoot up two or three-fold, and it isn’t uncommon to see it rise as much as 8X — it’s a life-changing experience.”

Beyond helping workers with their job, UrbanClap also provides training, credit, basic banking and more. Bhal said that around 20-25 percent of applicants are accepted into the platform, that’s a decision based on in-person meetings, background and criminal checks, as well as a “skills” test. Workers are encouraged to work exclusively — though it isn’t a requirement — and they wear UrbanClap outfits and represent the brand with customers.

While there is encouragement, there is also a level of monitoring. If a worker’s average review for their last 30/50 jobs (dependent on vertical) drops below 4.0, the system stops sending them work. There is an opportunity to appeal, retrain and return to the platform, except in cases of poor attitude, misconduct and other serious misdemeanors, Bhal said. He declined to provide numbers for dropouts but said that the retention rate is “healthy.”

UrbanClap founders (left to right) Abhiraj Bhal, Raghav Chandra and Varun Khaitan started the business in 2014

UrbanClap expanded to Dubai, the capital of the UAE, six months ago, so it would be logical to think this new capital will go toward further expansions. No so, according to Bhal. The company is instead going after tier-two cities in India and working to deepen its position in its existing locations. In short, there’s no additional overseas plan at this point.

“In many ways, we think about the Dubai move as an extension of India [Dubai has a strong presence of Indian and South Asia nationals] rather than an international expansion — a little like a U.S. company going into Canada,” Bhal explained. “We believe we have enough headroom to grow in India and Dubai; these are fairly unpenetrated markets.”

Elaborating on that thinking, Bhal said that online is just a small component of all local service jobs in India.

“We need to get to double digital penetration of the offline market,” he said. “We think we could grow 10, 20 or 100 times from where we are right now.”

The company isn’t profitable yet and Bhal isn’t sharing revenue details, other than the fairly hazy detail that revenue is growing 3X per year. Rival Housejoy, which includes Amazon among its shareholders, went through some fairly well-publicized issues this year resulting in layoffs and, according to reports, efforts to sell the business.

Bhal didn’t comment directly on those reports, but he did say that if the company did do an acquisition, it would be focused on “adjacent spaces we aren’t in yet” as opposed to a direct competitor for growth.

He was somewhat more forthcoming on the future exit plan for UrbanClap, which did allow some secondary sales within this Series D round. Bhal said he fully intends to take the company public but he said that there’s no firm plan on when, or indeed where, that might happen.

“Eventually we will look to go public,” he said. “But we’re a few years away from that — we need to earn the right, which means being a scalable and profitable company.”

Quantum computing, not AI, will define our future

The word “quantum” gained currency in the late 20th century as a descriptor signifying something so significant, it defied the use of common adjectives. For example, a “quantum leap” is a dramatic advancement (also an early ’90’s television series starring Scott Bakula).

At best, that is an imprecise (though entertaining) definition. When “quantum” is applied to “computing,” however, we are indeed entering an era of dramatic advancement.

Quantum computing is technology based on the principles of quantum theory, which explains the nature of energy and matter on the atomic and subatomic level. It relies on the existence of mind-bending quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement.

Erwin Schrödinger’s famous 1930’s thought experiment involving a cat that was both dead and alive at the same time was intended to highlight the apparent absurdity of superposition, the principle that quantum systems can exist in multiple states simultaneously until observed or measured. Today quantum computers contain dozens of qubits (quantum bits), which take advantage of that very principle. Each qubit exists in a superposition of zero and one (i.e., has non-zero probabilities to be a zero or a one) until measured. The development of qubits has implications for dealing with massive amounts of data and achieving previously unattainable level of computing efficiency that are the tantalizing potential of quantum computing.

While Schrödinger was thinking about zombie cats, Albert Einstein was observing what he described as “spooky action at a distance,” particles that seemed to be communicating faster than the speed of light. What he was seeing were entangled electrons in action. Entanglement refers to the observation that the state of particles from the same quantum system cannot be described independently of each other. Even when they are separated by great distances, they are still part of the same system. If you measure one particle, the rest seem to know instantly. The current record distance for measuring entangled particles is 1,200 kilometers or about 745.6 miles. Entanglement means that the whole quantum system is greater than the sum of its parts.

If these phenomena make you vaguely uncomfortable so far, perhaps I can assuage that feeling simply by quoting Schrödinger, who purportedly said after his development of quantum theory, “I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”

Various parties are taking different approaches to quantum computing, so a single explanation of how it works would be subjective. But one principle may help readers get their arms around the difference between classical computing and quantum computing. Classical computers are binary. That is, they depend on the fact that every bit can exist only in one of two states, either 0 or 1. Schrödinger’s cat merely illustrated that subatomic particles could exhibit innumerable states at the same time. If you envision a sphere, a binary state would be if the “north pole,” say, was 0, and the south pole was 1. In a qubit, the entire sphere can hold innumerable other states and relating those states between qubits enables certain correlations that make quantum computing well-suited for a variety of specific tasks that classical computing cannot accomplish. Creating qubits and maintaining their existence long enough to accomplish quantum computing tasks is an ongoing challenge.

IBM researcher Jerry Chow in the quantum computing lab at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center.

Humanizing Quantum Computing

These are just the beginnings of the strange world of quantum mechanics. Personally, I’m enthralled by quantum computing. It fascinates me on many levels, from its technical arcana to its potential applications that could benefit humanity. But a qubit’s worth of witty obfuscation on how quantum computing works will have to suffice for now. Let’s move on to how it will help us create a better world.

Quantum computing’s purpose is to aid and extend the abilities of classical computing. Quantum computers will perform certain tasks much more efficiently than classical computers, providing us with a new tool for specific applications. Quantum computers will not replace their classical counterparts. In fact, quantum computers require classical computer to support their specialized abilities, such as systems optimization.

Quantum computers will be useful in advancing solutions to challenges in diverse fields such as energy, finance, healthcare, aerospace, among others. Their capabilities will help us cure diseases, improve global financial markets, detangle traffic, combat climate change, and more. For instance, quantum computing has the potential to speed up pharmaceutical discovery and development, and to improve the accuracy of the atmospheric models used to track and explain climate change and its adverse effects.

I call this “humanizing” quantum computing, because such a powerful new technology should be used to benefit humanity, or we’re missing the boat.

Intel’s 17-qubit superconducting test chip for quantum computing has unique features for improved connectivity and better electrical and thermo-mechanical performance. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

An Uptick in Investments, Patents, Startups, and more

That’s my inner evangelist speaking. In factual terms, the latest verifiable, global figures for investment and patent applications reflect an uptick in both areas, a trend that’s likely to continue. Going into 2015, non-classified national investments in quantum computing reflected an aggregate global spend of about $1.75 billion USD,according to The Economist. The European Union led with $643 million. The U.S. was the top individual nation with $421 million invested, followed by China ($257 million), Germany ($140 million), Britain ($123 million) and Canada ($117 million). Twenty countries have invested at least $10 million in quantum computing research.

At the same time, according to a patent search enabled by Thomson Innovation, the U.S. led in quantum computing-related patent applications with 295, followed by Canada (79), Japan (78), Great Britain (36), and China (29). The number of patent families related to quantum computing was projected to increase 430 percent by the end of 2017

The upshot is that nations, giant tech firms, universities, and start-ups are exploring quantum computing and its range of potential applications. Some parties (e.g., nation states) are pursuing quantum computing for security and competitive reasons. It’s been said that quantum computers will break current encryption schemes, kill blockchain, and serve other dark purposes.

I reject that proprietary, cutthroat approach. It’s clear to me that quantum computing can serve the greater good through an open-source, collaborative research and development approach that I believe will prevail once wider access to this technology is available. I’m confident crowd-sourcing quantum computing applications for the greater good will win.

If you want to get involved, check out the free tools that the household-name computing giants such as IBM and Google have made available, as well as the open-source offerings out there from giants and start-ups alike. Actual time on a quantum computer is available today, and access opportunities will only expand.

In keeping with my view that proprietary solutions will succumb to open-source, collaborative R&D and universal quantum computing value propositions, allow me to point out that several dozen start-ups in North America alone have jumped into the QC ecosystem along with governments and academia. Names such as Rigetti Computing, D-Wave Systems, 1Qbit Information Technologies, Inc., Quantum Circuits, Inc., QC Ware, Zapata Computing, Inc. may become well-known or they may become subsumed by bigger players, their burn rate – anything is possible in this nascent field.

Developing Quantum Computing Standards

 Another way to get involved is to join the effort to develop quantum computing-related standards. Technical standards ultimately speed the development of a technology, introduce economies of scale, and grow markets. Quantum computer hardware and software development will benefit from a common nomenclature, for instance, and agreed-upon metrics to measure results.

Currently, the IEEE Standards Association Quantum Computing Working Group is developing two standards. One is for quantum computing definitions and nomenclature so we can all speak the same language. The other addresses performance metrics and performance benchmarking to enable measurement of quantum computers’ performance against classical computers and, ultimately, each other.

The need for additional standards will become clear over time.

Peak Theory lines up media partners and funding as Cubcoats becomes a phenomenon

With a planned cartoon series coming up, partnerships in place with Major League Baseball, NBCUniversal, and other media companies of heroic proportions, the founders creating the kids clothing phenomenon, Cubcoats, are on a roll.

Peak Theory, launched by longtime friends Zac Park (who’s 29) and the 35 year-old Spencer Markel, is the company behind Cubcoats, a hoodie that transforms into a puppet (or a puppet that transforms into a hoodie?). With their first product, the two founders have achieved the kind of viral success in its first year that most companies only dream of.

Markel, a former mergers and acquisitions lawyer with DLA Piper, and Park, a product director at the design agency AKQA, first met in San Francisco through a mutual friend and almost immediately began planning their escape from the corporate world.

Peak Theory founders Zac Park and Spencer Markel

“We thought to ourselves, what can we create that would bring over a novel and sticky concept that could sell well to parents and create a lasting brand relationship with kids,” Park said, in a statement. “We wanted a product that a child would get attached too, grow up with, and want to gift to their future kids.”

The two self-described kids at heart hit upon the idea of Cubcoats through a mutual love of Transformers and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as children (and maybe as adults as well).

“We don’t have any kids, we were just big kids,” said Markel. 

They started the process of creating hundreds of prototypes in September 2016 and by November of 2017 had hit upon the final designs for eight different puppets that turned into zippered hoodies for children. Each animal-inspired puppet had different characteristics and personalities and each came with a story tied to it.

The two-in-one clothes went viral. In its first full year Cubcoats expects to pull in somewhere between $2 million and $5 million in revenue, according to the two founders. By July, 2018 the company had sewn up $5 million in financing from a who’s who of entrepreneurs and celebrity investors.

Institutional investors including strategic partner, Major League Baseball, and celebrity investor Will Smith’s Dreamers Fund, came on board. So did individual angel investors like FabFitFun co-founders Daniel and Michael Broukhim, the actress Hilary Duff, Schwarzenegger scion, Patrick Schwarzenegger, and Jen Rubio, the co-founder of Away.

The Harmon Brothers video production company, which is behind a number of direct-to-consumer marketing hits like the mattress company Purple and others is collaborating on a series of videos with the Peak Theory team and investing in the company as well.

The idea of the company is to create a brand that’s not just the two-in-one cubcoat,” said Markel.  “We’re trailblazing a new area of consumer products that we think will be pretty hot. There’s a burgeoning space in two-in-one products. We’re uniquely situated to design these two-in-one products and build our own IP in terms of content.”

Big media and entertainment companies are already clamoring to work with Peak Theory, the company said. Professional sports teams and leagues like Major League Baseball are only the first companies to publicly disclose their interest in the company.

“We’re two big kids at heart with very whimsical dreams,” said Markel. “We’ve tried very hard to be two people who are not necessarily from the industry to come in and create a novel industry and rethink some of the way we do consumer products… .it’s been really fun.”

The company plans to expand the Cubcoats line to Canada, Australia and across Asia in 2019 — meaning popular favorites like Kali the kitty and Tim the puppy will be popping up in cities from Sydney to Seoul in addition to Seattle.

Peak Theory has partnered with Nordstrom for the holiday season to sell its Cubcoats in roughly 100 of its locations and will have pop up shops of its own at The Grove mall in Los Angeles and the Americana mall in Glendale, Calif.

U.S. lawmakers warn Canada to keep Huawei out of its 5G plans

In a letter addressed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senators Mark Warner and Marco Rubio make a very public case that Canada should leave Chinese tech and telecom giant Huawei out of its plans to build a next-generation mobile network.

“While Canada has strong telecommunication security safeguards in place, we have serious concerns that such safeguards are inadequate given what the United States and other allies know about Huawei,” the letter states. The senators warn Canada to “reconsider Huawei’s inclusion in any aspect of Canada’s 5G development, introduction, and maintenance.”

The outcry comes after the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security dismissed security concerns regarding Huawei in comments last month. The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security is Canada’s designated federal agency tasked with cybersecurity.

Next generation 5G networks already pose a number of unique security challenges. Lawmakers caution that by allowing companies linked to the Chinese government to build 5G infrastructure, the U.S. and its close allies (Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.) would be inviting the fox to guard the henhouse.

As part of the Defense Authorization Act, passed in August, the U.S. government signed off on a law that forbids domestic agencies from using services or hardware made by Huawei and ZTE. A week later, Australia moved to block Huawei and ZTE from its own 5G buildout.

Due to the open nature of intelligence sharing between the U.S. and its closest allies, the Canadian government would be able to obtain knowledge of any specific threats that substantiate the U.S. posture toward the Chinese company. “We urge your government to seek additional information from the U.S. intelligence community,” the letter implores.