Last week, Iran’s military unveiled what it called “the first product of the quantum processing algorithm” of the Imam Khomeini Naval University of Nowshahr. During a ceremony at the university, the Islamic Republic’s military revealed a bit of electronics sealed under glass. It appeared to be a common development board, available widely online for around $600.
According to multiple state-linked news agencies in Iran, the computer will help Iran detect disturbances on the surface of water using algorithms. Iranian Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari showed off the board during the ceremony and spoke of Iran’s recent breakthroughs in the world of quantum technology.
The touted quantum device appears to be a development board manufactured by a company called Diligent. The brand “ZedBoard” appears clearly in pictures. According to the company’s website, the ZedBoard has everything the beginning developer needs to get started working in Android, Linux, and Windows. It does not appear to come with any of the advanced qubits that make up a quantum computer, and suggested uses include “video processing, reconfigurable computing, motor control, software acceleration,” among others.
“I’m sure this board can work perfectly for people with more advanced [Field Programmable Gate Arrays] experience, however, I am a beginner and I can say that this is also a good beginner-friendly board,” said one review on Diligent’s website. Those interested in the board can buy one on Amazon for $589.
Quantum devices used for locating ships and navigating at sea are real. The U.K. Navy recently tested one such device, which uses ultracold atoms to act as a kind of accelerometer, at sea. It looks nothing like the device unveiled by Iran.
It’s impossible to know if Iran has figured out how to use off-the-shelf dev boards to make quantum algorithms, but it’s not likely. True quantum devices are experimental pieces of equipment that don’t typically resemble circuit boards of the kind you’d find in a home desktop, although researchers have reported being able to simulate some quantum processes on classical computers. Even if Iran is merely claiming that the device was manufactured with the help of quantum algorithms, they may not have been needed—the device is still a ZedBoard that anyone can buy, without any visible modifications.
This isn’t the first time Iran has shown off tech with a less than credible pedigree. In 2020, the Iranian Army revealed a device it claimed could detect COVID and AIDS. It appeared to be similar to another device that was previously sold as a bomb detector.
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