Toyota tests Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer technology • The Register
Toyota’s research and development wing is giving Fujitsu’s “Digital Annealer” a spin to see how this purported quantum computer can help vehicle production systems adapt to changing conditions more quickly.
Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer is what the systems maker calls “quantum adjacent” technology. Although it is inspired by elements of quantum computing, such as superposition, tunneling and entanglement, it is not a true quantum computer. As such, it is not subject to the extreme cold or interference that makes quantum computing today so difficult to implement, according to Fujitsu. Because it’s not a quantum computer.
Put simply, it’s an ASIC in an HPC server designed to handle the kinds of optimization problems that real quantum computers might one day solve in volume. It sounds like nine kinds of madmen, but it seems like a hardware accelerator capable of accelerating the search for solutions to limited problems.
One of the first applications of the technology explored by Fujitsu was real-time wayfinding. Although intuitively the fastest path between points A and B is the shortest, if there are multiple vehicles trying to travel the same route through a factory, and other constraints, it can lead to traffic jams . Software running on traditional computing can determine the best order and timing for vehicles and components on assembly lines, but Fujitsu says its digital annealing technology can identify optimal combinations faster and more efficiently.
Toyota sees an opportunity to use technology to optimally adapt its automotive production lines to changing market conditions, while reducing the workload on employees.
The partnership builds on a 2020 proof of concept that used the Digital Annealer to uncover efficiencies in the company’s automotive supply chain and logistics systems. However, Fujitsu notes that this is the first time the technology has been used to streamline vehicle production.
Toyota Systems will initially use Fujitsu’s digital annealing technology at its Tsutsumi plant, with plans to expand to other plants in Japan and overseas in the future.
Meanwhile, those who want to use technology to optimize complex systems within their business may not have to wait much longer. This month, Fujitsu is opening its Compute-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform, which is built on the same architecture powering the Fugaku supercomputer, to the Japanese market.
Fujitsu’s digital annealing technology is just one of many AI/ML, HPC and quantum simulation services the company plans to offer through the cloud service.
Those not in Japan will have to wait until next year to play around with the technology. And when it does become available, it won’t be cheap. We are told that there will be three plans ranging from ¥50,000 per month (about $400), ¥500,000 per month (about $4,000), and ¥1 million per month (about $8,000). ®