D-Wave founder named first Canadian Technology Leader

Three members of the Canadian tech community were honoured for their achievements and contributions to the country’s tech scene during an awards ceremony last night.

Branded as the Canadian Technology Leaders Awards, the event was held in Toronto.

Geordie Rose, founder and CTO of Burnaby, B.C., quantum computing maker D-Wave Systems Inc., received the title of Canadian Technology Leader based on popular vote from 60 judges with backgrounds in tech, finance, media, and business. Rose was not present to receive the award.

Founded in 1999, D-Wave’s systems are being used by NASA, Lockheed-Martin and others. Its first commercial system, the D-Wave One, was released in 2010, followed by the D-Wave Two in 2013. The company says it enables quantum algorithms to solve “very hard problems.” Run by a superconducting processor, it needs some exotic equipment including a closed cycle dilution refrigerator to chill the processor down to near absolute zero.

The company’s Web site says the processor, made of 512 tiny superconducting circuits called quibits, has to be chilled to get quantum effects.

To win the honour of Canadian Technology Leader, Rose beat out Elaine Lui, founder of celebrity news site LaineyGossip.com; Bob McDonald, the host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks; Jesse Hirsh, co-founder of peer-to-peer learning centre Academy of the Impossible; Claudiu Popa, president and CEO of data security company Informatica Corp.; and Ariel Garten, CEO of InteraXon Inc., a wearable tech company.

The second award went to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was recognized with the Science and Community award.

And for the honourary lifetime achievement award, that title went to Scott Vanstone, who died earlier this month. Known as an expert cryptographer, Vanstone was the co-founder of TrustPoint Innovation Technologies Ltd., a Waterloo, Ont., solutions provider for machine-to-machine communications. He was also former vice-president of cryptographic research at BlackBerry, as well as a professor at the University of Waterloo, teaching math and computer science.

“He would have been proud and humbled,” his widow and TrustPoint CEO Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, said in an interview Thursday. They met in 1988 at a cryptography conference when she was a mathematician at the U.S. National Security Agency and he was a University of Waterloo professor who also had his own company. She later moved to Canada and they eventually married.

“He was an academic who encouraged a lot of young people to go on and get PhDs. He could recognize talent — he said he never took on a PhD student that wasn’t smarter than he was.”

He was also able to take a theoretical idea like elliptic curve cryptography — which he heard about in 1985 — and pursued its potential for decades before commercializing it.

While in his spare time he enjoyed reading about aircraft, he would do mathematics in his head for relaxation, she said.

Lead sponsors of the event were Google Canada; Extreme Startups, an accelerator for young tech companies;  and reBoot Canada, which recycles computers. The dinner ceremony also featured addresses by Marcus Daniels, managing director of Extreme Startups; Sabrina Geremia, managing director of integrated solutions at Google Canada; Colin Webster, reBoot Canada chair;  Steve Dixon of Facebook Canada and others.

(With additional material by Howard Solomon)

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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