Amazon acquires flash-based cloud storage startup E8 Storage

Amazon has acquired Isreali storage tech startup E8 Storage, as first reported to Reuters, CNBC and Globes and confirmed by TechCrunch. The acquisition will bring the team and technology from E8 in to Amazon’s existing Amazon Web Services center in Tel Aviv, per reports.

E8 Storage’s particular focus was on building storage hardware that employs flash-based memory to deliver faster performance than competing offerings, according to its own claims. How exactly AWS intends to use the company’s talent or assets isn’t yet known, but it clearly lines up with their primary business.

AWS acquisitions this year include TSO Logic, a Vancouver-based startup that optimizes data center workload operating efficiency, and Israel-based CloudEndure, which provides data recovery services in the event of a disaster.

Careteam aims to unite patients and healthcare providers with a platform approach

How best to untangle the Gordian knot that is navigating your own healthcare? It’s a tricky question, and one that seems to have become only more complicated as technology improves, in many regards — systems don’t necessarily speak to one another, and it’s still hard for an ordinary patient without specialist knowledge to make sense of everything. Careteam is a Canadian startup hoping to address that, looking to replicate the kind of advances made possible by technology in industries like e-commerce and enterprise software.

Careteam co-founder and CEO Dr. Alexandra Greenhill has experienced the frustration of being a tech-savvy person in a world of healthcare that can seem technologically inept — both as a practicing GP and as someone who depends on the healthcare system as a patient and a relative of patients with more sophisticated medical needs.

“I spent more than 15 years innovating within the healthcare system,” Greenhill told me in an interview. “I computerized hospitals, helped doctors adopt electronic medical records and other types of innovation practices. And then for the last eight years, I’ve been in tech, trying to figure out how to build the kind of technology we need in health, and especially digital health.”

All that experience led Greenhill to the realization that while there were many companies building specific solutions for real, but relatively narrow problems, that didn’t reflect how most people experienced care. Greenhill and her team of three other co-founders (Jeremy P. Smith, Robert I. Atwell and Kevin Lysyk) had all had unfortunate, but eye-opening experiences with family members in need of treatment for major diseases.

“You step in and you discover that cancer care, palliative care, post-surgical care — there’s so many things that would have gone wrong if we didn’t have the expertise ourselves,” Greenhill said. “But in the meantime, you end up being sort of pulled into multiple directions and saying ‘this makes no sense.’ You know, I can purchase stuff online in my private life; I can use all kinds of tools in the business world, and yet it’s back to paper and voice in health, which matters most.”

Careteam CEO and founder Dr. Alexandra Greenhill

What Careteam provides is collaboration for care — true collaboration, designed to span patients, their doctors and other healthcare pros, their families and anyone who matters to them in the course of pursuing their care. It provides the ability to communicate instantly, build care plans that integrate all aspects of their tailored health plans, receive custom-configurable notifications and measure progress toward specific goals set by patient and healthcare providers.

Part of the reason this process has become opaque or difficult is precisely due to innovation: Greenhill takes issue with the prevailing narrative that the healthcare industry is somehow allergic to innovation.

“There’s this sort of perception that healthcare doesn’t innovate, but it’s also almost insulting to the healthcare system, because we have innovated — we save people from cancer, where we couldn’t,” she noted. “We cure HIV, in some cases, and we prevent it from being transmitted to unborn babies of mothers with full-blown AIDS and things that in my working lifetime were impossibilities; it was science fiction to help someone with HIV. And, and we’ve managed to do all of that, and it’s a success story. We’ve created complexity, we’ve created people who live with 12 conditions for many, many years and take complicated drug regiments.”

In addition to advances in treatment, Greenhill notes that she and her team couldn’t have build Careteam five years ago, because cloud storage wasn’t secure and everything had to be done on a site-specific instance, and that would’ve been cost-prohibitive to build. In other words, technology has been applied to, and vastly improved, healthcare overall, regardless of the general perception of the industry as an innovation laggard.

That’s why Greenhill’s startup doesn’t shy away from complexity — they embrace it. Careteam is designed not to try to normalize and standardize the varied and highly specialized landscape of healthcare solutions and providers through anything like a one-size-fits-all API. Instead, the company’s tech development is cleverly designed to be flexible when it comes to integrations.

“We collectively spent $1.9 billion in Canada, to try and digitize the healthcare system, create standards and create some exchange between data,” Greenhill said. “The NHS tried the same, big U.S. hospital systems have created their own little sort of islands, including Kaiser and Mayo and others. And the conclusion of all of that is standardization in healthcare just doesn’t seem to catch on.”

Careteam’s approach has been instead to integrate specific clinics, and let practitioners and patients derive benefits and help spur the adoption of the platform to their companion organizations and clinics. It’s a sort of rhizomatic approach that starts with a node central to a patient’s care and spreads through the healthcare professionals and members of the patient’s support network that the product helps. And integration is made possible without technical demands on the part of partners thanks to the work of CTO Lysyk, according to Greenhill.

The Vancouver-based startup is working with the Centre for Aging + Brain Health in Toronto, Ontario in a validation program announced last year, and also raised an initial round of funding in January led by BCF Ventures with participation from Right Side Capital, Globalive Capital, Atrium Ventures, and angels Barney Pell and Ajay Agarwal .

The Slack origin story

Let’s rewind a decade.

It’s 2009. Vancouver, Canada.

Stewart Butterfield, known already for his part in building Flickr, a photo-sharing service acquired by Yahoo in 2005, decided to try his hand — again — at building a game. Flickr had been a failed attempt at a game called Game Neverending followed by a big pivot. This time, Butterfield would make it work.

To make his dreams a reality, he joined forces with Flickr’s original chief software architect Cal Henderson, as well as former Flickr employees Eric Costello and Serguei Mourachov, who like himself, had served some time at Yahoo after the acquisition. Together, they would build Tiny Speck, the company behind an artful, non-combat massively multiplayer online game.

Years later, Butterfield would pull off a pivot more massive than his last. Slack, born from the ashes of his fantastical game, would lead a shift toward online productivity tools that fundamentally change the way people work.

Glitch is born

In mid-2009, former TechCrunch reporter-turned-venture-capitalist M.G. Siegler wrote one of the first stories on Butterfield’s mysterious startup plans.

“So what is Tiny Speck all about?” Siegler wrote. “That is still not entirely clear. The word on the street has been that it’s some kind of new social gaming endeavor, but all they’ll say on the site is ‘we are working on something huge and fun and we need help.’”

Siegler would go on to invest in Slack as a general partner at GV, the venture capital arm of Alphabet .

“Clearly this is a creative project,” Siegler added. “It almost sounds like they’re making an animated movie. As awesome as that would be, with people like Henderson on board, you can bet there’s impressive engineering going on to turn this all into a game of some sort (if that is in fact what this is all about).”

After months of speculation, Tiny Speck unveiled its project: Glitch, an online game set inside the brains of 11 giants. It would be free with in-game purchases available and eventually, a paid subscription for power users.

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.

D-Wave offers the first public access to a quantum computer

Outside the crop of construction cranes that now dot Vancouver’s bright, downtown greenways, in a suburban business park that reminds you more of dentists and tax preparers, is a small office building belonging to D-Wave. This office — squat, angular and sun-dappled one recent cool Autumn morning — is unique in that it contains an infinite collection of parallel universes.

Founded in 1999 by Geordie Rose, D-Wave worked in relative obscurity on esoteric problems associated with quantum computing. When Rose was a PhD student at the University of British Columbia, he turned in an assignment that outlined a quantum computing company. His entrepreneurship teacher at the time, Haig Farris, found the young physicists ideas compelling enough to give him $1,000 to buy a computer and a printer to type up a business plan.

The company consulted with academics until 2005, when Rose and his team decided to focus on building usable quantum computers. The result, the Orion, launched in 2007, and was used to classify drug molecules and play Sodoku. The business now sells computers for up to $10 million to clients like Google, Microsoft and Northrop Grumman.

“We’ve been focused on making quantum computing practical since day one. In 2010 we started offering remote cloud access to customers and today, we have 100 early applications running on our computers (70 percent of which were built in the cloud),” said CEO Vern Brownell. “Through this work, our customers have told us it takes more than just access to real quantum hardware to benefit from quantum computing. In order to build a true quantum ecosystem, millions of developers need the access and tools to get started with quantum.”

Now their computers are simulating weather patterns and tsunamis, optimizing hotel ad displays, solving complex network problems and, thanks to a new, open-source platform, could help you ride the quantum wave of computer programming.

Inside the box

When I went to visit D-Wave they gave us unprecedented access to the inside of one of their quantum machines. The computers, which are about the size of a garden shed, have a control unit on the front that manages the temperature as well as queuing system to translate and communicate the problems sent in by users.

Inside the machine is a tube that, when fully operational, contains a small chip super-cooled to 0.015 Kelvin, or -459.643 degrees Fahrenheit or -273.135 degrees Celsius. The entire system looks like something out of the Death Star — a cylinder of pure data that the heroes must access by walking through a little door in the side of a jet-black cube.

It’s quite thrilling to see this odd little chip inside its super-cooled home. As the computer revolution maintained its predilection toward room-temperature chips, these odd and unique machines are a connection to an alternate timeline where physics is wrestled into submission in order to do some truly remarkable things.

And now anyone — from kids to PhDs to everyone in-between — can try it.

Into the ocean

Learning to program a quantum computer takes time. Because the processor doesn’t work like a classic universal computer, you have to train the chip to perform simple functions that your own cellphone can do in seconds. However, in some cases, researchers have found the chips can outperform classic computers by 3,600 times. This trade-off — the movement from the known to the unknown — is why D-Wave exposed their product to the world.

“We built Leap to give millions of developers access to quantum computing. We built the first quantum application environment so any software developer interested in quantum computing can start writing and running applications — you don’t need deep quantum knowledge to get started. If you know Python, you can build applications on Leap,” said Brownell.

To get started on the road to quantum computing, D-Wave built the Leap platform. The Leap is an open-source toolkit for developers. When you sign up you receive one minute’s worth of quantum processing unit time which, given that most problems run in milliseconds, is more than enough to begin experimenting. A queue manager lines up your code and runs it in the order received and the answers are spit out almost instantly.

You can code on the QPU with Python or via Jupiter notebooks, and it allows you to connect to the QPU with an API token. After writing your code, you can send commands directly to the QPU and then output the results. The programs are currently pretty esoteric and require a basic knowledge of quantum programming but, it should be remembered, classic computer programming was once daunting to the average user.

I downloaded and ran most of the demonstrations without a hitch. These demonstrations — factoring programs, network generators and the like — essentially turned the concepts of classical programming into quantum questions. Instead of iterating through a list of factors, for example, the quantum computer creates a “parallel universe” of answers and then collapses each one until it finds the right answer. If this sounds odd it’s because it is. The researchers at D-Wave argue all the time about how to imagine a quantum computer’s various processes. One camp sees the physical implementation of a quantum computer to be simply a faster methodology for rendering answers. The other camp, itself aligned with Professor David Deutsch’s ideas presented in The Beginning of Infinity, sees the sheer number of possible permutations a quantum computer can traverse as evidence of parallel universes.

What does the code look like? It’s hard to read without understanding the basics, a fact that D-Wave engineers factored for in offering online documentation. For example, below is most of the factoring code for one of their demo programs, a bit of code that can be reduced to about five lines on a classical computer. However, when this function uses a quantum processor, the entire process takes milliseconds versus minutes or hours.

Classical

# Python Program to find the factors of a number

define a function

def print_factors(x):

This function takes a number and prints the factors

print(“The factors of”,x,”are:”)
for i in range(1, x + 1):
if x % i == 0:
print(i)

change this value for a different result.

num = 320

uncomment the following line to take input from the user

#num = int(input(“Enter a number: “))

print_factors(num)

Quantum

@qpu_ha
def factor(P, use_saved_embedding=True):

####################################################################################################

get circuit

####################################################################################################

construction_start_time = time.time()

validate_input(P, range(2 ** 6))

get constraint satisfaction problem

csp = dbc.factories.multiplication_circuit(3)

get binary quadratic model

bqm = dbc.stitch(csp, min_classical_gap=.1)

we know that multiplication_circuit() has created these variables

p_vars = [‘p0’, ‘p1’, ‘p2’, ‘p3’, ‘p4’, ‘p5’]

convert P from decimal to binary

fixed_variables = dict(zip(reversed(p_vars), “{:06b}”.format(P)))
fixed_variables = {var: int(x) for(var, x) in fixed_variables.items()}

fix product qubits

for var, value in fixed_variables.items():
bqm.fix_variable(var, value)

log.debug(‘bqm construction time: %s’, time.time() – construction_start_time)

####################################################################################################

run problem

####################################################################################################

sample_time = time.time()

get QPU sampler

sampler = DWaveSampler(solver_features=dict(online=True, name=’DW_2000Q.*’))
_, target_edgelist, target_adjacency = sampler.structure

if use_saved_embedding:

load a pre-calculated embedding

from factoring.embedding import embeddings
embedding = embeddings[sampler.solver.id]
else:

get the embedding

embedding = minorminer.find_embedding(bqm.quadratic, target_edgelist)
if bqm and not embedding:
raise ValueError(“no embedding found”)

apply the embedding to the given problem to map it to the sampler

bqm_embedded = dimod.embed_bqm(bqm, embedding, target_adjacency, 3.0)

draw samples from the QPU

kwargs = {}
if ‘num_reads’ in sampler.parameters:
kwargs[‘num_reads’] = 50
if ‘answer_mode’ in sampler.parameters:
kwargs[‘answer_mode’] = ‘histogram’
response = sampler.sample(bqm_embedded, **kwargs)

convert back to the original problem space

response = dimod.unembed_response(response, embedding, source_bqm=bqm)

sampler.client.close()

log.debug(’embedding and sampling time: %s’, time.time() – sample_time)

 

“The industry is at an inflection point and we’ve moved beyond the theoretical, and into the practical era of quantum applications. It’s time to open this up to more smart, curious developers so they can build the first quantum killer app. Leap’s combination of immediate access to live quantum computers, along with tools, resources, and a community, will fuel that,” said Brownell. “For Leap’s future, we see millions of developers using this to share ideas, learn from each other and contribute open-source code. It’s that kind of collaborative developer community that we think will lead us to the first quantum killer app.”

The folks at D-Wave created a number of tutorials as well as a forum where users can learn and ask questions. The entire project is truly the first of its kind and promises unprecedented access to what amounts to the foreseeable future of computing. I’ve seen lots of technology over the years, and nothing quite replicated the strange frisson associated with plugging into a quantum computer. Like the teletype and green-screen terminals used by the early hackers like Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak, D-Wave has opened up a strange new world. How we explore it us up to us.

Let’s meet in Vancouver

I’d like to meet some high-tech folks in Vancouver this week and I need your help. I’d like to hold a micro meet up at about 7pm on October 4 and I need a recommended place. If we can manage it we might be able to have a pitch off as well so let me know if you Vancouverians (Vancouverites?) know of any place with a bar and maybe a little stage and a microphone.

Please let me know if you can think of any good spots and I’ll finalize the meetup tomorrow. Email me at [email protected] or Tweet me @johnbiggs with ideas/help.

See you soon, eh!