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UK FiReControl Project Finally Axed

Ultimate cost of embarrassing flop won't be known for some time - if ever

2 min read
UK FiReControl Project Finally Axed

The obvious decision finally has been made: the £400+ million UK government's FiReControl project has finally been canned, various news outlets in the UK like the BBC are reporting.

The FiReControl project, which was to integrate 46 stand-alone fire department control rooms into 9 regional centers, was originally initiated in March 2004 and slated to be completed by November of 2007. The government promised at the time that it would use "tried and tested" technology to ensure that a rapid (and cost contained) implementation would ensue. That didn't happen, as costs have exploded from the original project estimate of £100 million to £423 million with a rollout beginning in 2011 and completing by the end of 2012.

Even though the Fire Services Minister admitted earlier this year that the project was bungled from the very start, the government decided to try to get it finished by next year anyway. It became increasingly obvious over the past few months that this was never going to happen, so the government and the prime contractor, EADS Defense & Security Division (now called Cassidian), reached a mutually satisfactory agreement to end the contract.

As explained by the Fire Minister Bob Neill,

"Following extensive discussion with Cassidian, we have jointly concluded, with regret, that the requirements of the project cannot be delivered to an acceptable timeframe... Therefore the best outcome for the taxpayer and the fire and rescue community is for the contract to be terminated with immediate effect."

The Fire Minister refused to disclose, however, the compensation that the government has agreed to pay EADS for terminating the contract, citing "commercial confidentiality."

The government has already paid out some £230 million for the project and received virtually nothing for it. Labour MP John McDonnell, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union's parliamentary group, claims that as much as £1.3 billion may be closer to the true amount wasted in costs and lost staff morale reports the Yorkshire Post.

Ouch.

Paying more than a £1 in compensation is probably seen as excessive for many UK taxpayers.

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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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