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Sensors and Sensibility

It's alarming! It's no big deal! How your personal information is being collected and protected, used and misused

13 min read

When Canadian Tourist Byuhgsoo Soo Son picked up a rental car from a Payless office in San Francisco last November and set off with his wife and son on a 12-day tour of the California coast, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon, he had no idea how pricey that trip would be. Upon dropping off the car, he was floored when the expected US$260 charge turned out to be a whopping $3400, the result of a $1-a-mile fee that kicked in when Son crossed the California-Nevada border. Accompanying the bill was a detailed map of the family's route, made possible by the Global Positioning System tracking device installed in the car. Son had never bothered to read all of the fine print in his rental contract-who does, really?-which mentioned the out-of-state penalty and the possible presence of a tracking device.

Get used to it. One-fourth of rental cars in the United States now have GPS tracking installed, and over the last several years, at least two other companies have used the devices to fine errant drivers. If the car were stolen, or it broke down in a desert or a snowstorm, the trackers could be a lifesaver, the rental companies say. Some renters, if asked, might even appreciate a map of their trip as a souvenir. But having your every move tracked like a fugitive's? Most drivers, surely, would object.

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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