ABSI - far beyond system integration

On 27 November 2018     By Robin De Bondt , Andrey Kirillin      Digital-Marketing

What is Web Summit and what does it have to do with Salesforce?

My colleague Andrey Kirillin and I were lucky enough to go to Web Summit. Web Summit is one of the best tech conferences in the world, taking place in Lisbon with around 70,000 people attending this year. The stages cover topics ranging from deep tech and data science, to design and environmental sustainability. 

What does that have to do with Salesforce? Well, strictly speaking, not a lot. You won’t hear anything about Lightning components or Salesforce DX. However, lots of technologies and topics that are discussed, are also applicable to Salesforce, ABSI, or tech geeks as a whole.

More women in technology? Already the case at Web Summit!

One thing that immediately drew our attention, was the number of women participating to this tech conference. According to Web Summit’s official numbers, 44% of all attendees were women. That’s kind of huge for a technology focussed event, and something we can only celebrate.

Plenty of sessions and talks also highlighted the still existing gender inequality and biases present in every industry, not just the technology one. Just like ABSI, the Web Summit seems to be doing a great job at attracting more women to our industry.

Innovating at speed

Adrian Cockcroft, the VP of Amazon Web Services, spoke on how Formula 1 is a data-driven sport. During each race, 120 sensors on each car generate 3 GB of data, and 1,500 data points are generated each second.

He also highlighted how incredibly challenging it is for the entire Formula 1 organization to move its complete data center across the world in just one week, with no room for errors. To do so, they are constantly questioning themselves, and try to find improvements wherever they can. This raises the question: are we doing enough self-reflection within our companies, or can we do better?

Quantum computing

Another big (if not huge) topic of Web Summit 2018 was quantum computing. It was the first time that I ever heard about it, but it immediately caught my eye as one of the most promising technologies of the future.

Just imagine if scientists would be able to create new antidotes and pills in a matter of hours instead of years? Or, is AI so smart that it will pass every single Turing test? And I'm not talking about the self-driving cars from Tesla, or the route calculation done by the application Waze, no, I am talking about the real AI here.

2018-11-27 Man in AI

Have you ever wondered what would happen if computers wouldn't only work as binary (0's and 1's), but if they would have more values? Well, this is now true: quantum computing!

Instead of normal bits that can only take value of 0 or 1, quantum computers use qubits (quantum bits), that can be 0 and 1 simultaneously. That is called a superposition.

As of now (2018), quantum computers are something that is still developing and the most powerful one has now only 20 qubits. The challenge here is not in increasing the number of qubits (each of which will theoretically double the performance), but in decreasing the error rate. That error rate is called "quantum decoherence". So far they put these computers into a freezer and faraday cage in order to limit outside interactions to a minimum. That can be: cell phone signals, heat, radio and magnetic waves. Everything basically. So in order to isolate the quantum processor, IBM created a multi-layer defense cage.

IBM Quantum Processor

The outside layers act as a faraday cage and block any electromagnetic waves, and the inner layers are just freezers, which bring the temperature at the core to ~0.015K.

Using this method, it was possible to achieve an error rate of <1%, but that is still a lot. As you see in the following picture, the number of qubits at the current quantum decoherence would not change the quantum volume. However, the error rate is being a blocking factor.

Quantum Computer Power

Back in 1994, Shor's algorithm was invented that could potentially hack the RSA2048 encryption. But to run Shor’s on 2048 bit RSA would require at least 10,000 qubits with a really low error rate. It will probably take a while before such a machine can be built.

Quantum computers are not better than traditional computers to solve every sort of problem, but they can give us huge advantages in AI and machine learning, biology, chemistry… linking back to Salesforce technology, a good example of calculations that can be done way more efficiently on a quantum computer, is Field Service Lightning’s optimization service.

Although all of this still sounds a bit like science fiction to most, we are pretty excited to see what the future brings in this domain and how Salesforce might incorporate it into their suite of products.