● The top news stories on the main page of your dashboard are now regularly accompanied by photos of the original article.
● The rolling news ticker has a live feature, showing the latest news within your portfolio.
● Notes about new releases will from now on be visible as a pop-up within your dashboard.
● The v1.2 version of our mobile app has been released and is available in the iOS App Store and Google Play Store.
More updates are being developed and tested, and we expect to release more nifty new features in your dashboard and app soon!
The holidays are over and everybody’s slowly getting back into the swing of things. As we’re preparing for the months ahead, we would like to introduce you to our newest member in the commercial team, Sebastiaan Keller. If he had to describe the last couple of weeks here it would be ‘tropical water slide’.
By tropical Sebastiaan’s getting at Owlin’s culture where "even though I’m different from the rest of the people at Owlin, I feel really comfortable here. Not only am I allowed to be myself, I have to be. That’s the starting point here.”
But his waterslide is not without its twists and turns:
“I have learnt a ridiculous amount of new things from my colleagues in the short amount of time I’ve been here. You can say that in two weeks, I can add a whole new encyclopedia to my bookshelf. And because the people here are so smart, I have to be on top of things all the time, otherwise I’ll miss some information. It goes from left to right, back and forth.”
However, it took some time to get to this point and the road wasn’t always easy.
"If you would’ve asked me a year ago if there was anything I would have changed in my career path I could’ve given you a list. But today I can honestly say that that’s not the case, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.”
Coming from a big corporation, the differences to Owlin are like day and night, but that’s exactly what Sebastiaan was looking for.
“I am now where I want to be and I’m very happy and proud with the fact that I am here because I worked very hard for it.”
Interesting Scoop - Trouble in Quantum Paradise?
Recurring themes in our interesting scoop stories are algorithms and new forms of computing. At the absolute cutting edge of this landscape is Quantum Computing. It is so cutting edge that every aspect has to be rethought from scratch. New computers, new restrictions, new algorithms, new programming languages,… basically new everything. That means that a crazy amount of work has to be done, and is being done, to make it work. But why would we do this? What is so special about Quantum Computing?
The main promise of Quantum Computing is that it will lift the speed of computers to an entirely different level than was previously believed impossible. It is not the raw speed that makes things interesting however, but the new possibilities that it opens up. Some of the best applications can be found in the science for developing new materials. There is hope for instance that room temperature superconductors (a topic for a future scoop) can be designed through quantum simulations. Superconductors are materials that can conduct electricity without any resistance, which means that you could transport electricity without any energy losses! Normally these superconductors need to be cooled to extremely low temperatures, but if you could find one that is superconducting at room temperature... that would be worth tens of billions of dollars.
An example that is a bit closer to home are computer designed drugs. The pharmaceutical industry is gigantic, but coming up with new drugs is not at all a well understood process. Quantum Computing offers the hope that if you understand what causes a disease, you can run a quantum simulation to come up with a chemical that counteracts the cause of that disease. This would have far reaching effects for fighting diseases, both on a societal and financial level.
Applications in the financial industry are also on the horizon though. JPMorgan and Barclays for instance have partnered late last year with IBM to explore applications ranging from trading, portfolio optimization to asset pricing. More important, but less interesting from the point of view of making money, is the art of not losing money. One of the easiest problems that Quantum Computers should be able to tackle is cracking security algorithms. So financials should start planning for a future where security measures need to be “Quantum Safe” to prevent being hacked at will. Awareness of this has not quite reached GDPR levels yet but is certainly growing.
The above sketched hopes and dreams have caused somewhat of a frenzy of research activity and investments from big companies such as Google, IBM, Microsoft and Alibaba but also from startups such as D-Wave systems and Rigetti.
Despite the current activity and optimism, there are reasons to be cautious. First and foremost it is not entirely clear that Quantum Computing will ever be usefully faster than classical computing. Some even doubt it will be useful at all. One of the most influential and thoroughly argued recent stories in this direction comes from the mathematician Gil Kalai.
The basic argument is the following. Quantum computers are so sensitive to small impurities and other disturbances that they spend so much effort correcting errors in their computations that useful calculations become impossible. While a radical point of view and certainly not universally accepted, there are more experts that share this point of view.
Another kink in the armour comes from a discovery of 18 year old Ewin Tang that landed 2 weeks ago. He discredited the most practically useful example of a quantum algorithm that is exponentially faster than a classical algorithm. This was not because the quantum algorithm was wrong but he found a classical algorithm that could perform the task as fast as the quantum one.
Interestingly, the new algorithm is of the type that Netflix uses for suggesting movies that you might like. Similar in spirit, Owlin recently introduced a suggestion service that recommends words for building text classifiers. Concretely, this means that we can improve news filtering on themes you might be interested in such as M&A, product launches and specific types of risk.
To summarize, Quantum Computing holds a lot of promise and there is a lot of activity in the field at the moment but we might have to wait quite some years before useful real-word applications arrive. The world’s best minds are at it however, and we are following them closely.
Companies We Admire
Staying in the realm of quantum computing, one of the companies at its forefront, is Rigetti Computing. Founded in 2013 by Chad Rigetti, the startup claims it is “the only full-stack quantum computing company in the world”. This means they do in-house design and fabrication of quantum chips and tightly integrate those with the software that is built on top.
Their latest endeavour is a 128-qubit computer that should be operational in 2019. If they succeed, it is likely going to be the most powerful quantum computer in the world. Beating the tech giants would be very impressive indeed, but they are they are not sitting still either...
Rigetti’s 128-qubit chip is already done, so it’s a matter of putting the pieces together. IBM and Google, two other contenders in the race, have recently released 50 and 72 qubit chips respectively and are also planning to scale those numbers up for next year. So the race is on and it is nice to see a startup among the leaders.
August 10 @ Owlin HQ: Owlin hosted the HollandFintech Meetup on August 10th. A recap of the event can be found here.
September 6 @ ING Research and Innovation Event: Owlin will be one of the keynote speakers during the ING Research and Innovation event, aiming to inspire research employees to use alternative data.
September 25 & 27 @ PE Cafe: Owlin will provide an interactive workshop at PE Cafe, covering new applications of Advanced Analytics for financial professionals.