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 well this fake quantum computer can help vehicle production systems adapt faster to changing conditions.

Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer is what the systems maker calls a “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 make quantum computing so difficult to implement today, according to Fujitsu. Because it’s not a quantum computer.

Put simply, it’s an ASIC in a server with HPC technology designed to handle the kinds of optimization problems that real quantum computers might face in volume someday. It sounds like nine kinds of crazy, but it just seems to be a hardware accelerator capable of speeding up the search for solutions to constrained problems.

One of the first applications of the technology Fujitsu explored was for real-time pathfinding. While intuitively, the fastest route between points A and B is the shortest, if there are multiple vehicles trying to cross the same route through a factory and other constraints, it can lead to congestion. Software running on traditional computation 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 the 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 efficiency 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 optimize vehicle production.

Toyota Systems will initially use Fujitsu’s digital annealing technology at its Tsutsumi facility, with plans to extend it to other factories in Japan and overseas in the future.

In the meantime, those interested in employing technology to optimize complex systems within their business may not have to wait much longer. This month Fujitsu will open its Compute as a Service (CaaS) platform to the Japanese market, built on the same architecture that powers the Fugaku supercomputer.

Fujitsu’s digital annealing technology is just one of several AI / ML, HPC and quantum simulation services the company plans to offer via the cloud service.

Those outside of Japan will have to wait until next year to play with the technology. And when it’s available, it won’t be cheap. We are told there will be three plans ranging from ¥ 50,000 per month (around $ 400), ¥ 500,000 per month (around $ 4,000) and ¥ 1 million per month (around $ 8,000). ®