Fujitsu CTO for EMEA, Joseph Reger, thinks digital annealing will help companies imitate quantum computing speed across operations
Practically speaking, quantum computing is still in its infancy, but some companies – including Volkswagen and Google – have already started to deploy the technology. VW is using it in battery research and traffic management, while Google and IBM are cooperating with Daimler on two separate projects. Fujitsu is rolling out technology that offers the advantage of quantum computing without the need to run actual quantum computers. automotiveIT discussed the architecture with the Japanese IT group’s CTO for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa, Joseph Reger.
automotiveIT: Fujitsu will next month introduce the second generation of its “Digital Annealer” technology. We’re talking here, in your own words, about a cloud-based “quantum-inspired” computing architecture. Can you explain a bit more, please?
Joseph Reger: The unbeatable – but currently not practically usable – advantage of quantum computing is its immense speed advantage in solving problems of a particular nature, such as combinatorial optimization problems. The digital annealing technology is using standard silicon-based chips, but it imitates quantum computing effects. Contrary to conventional computers, it can, thus, solve complex combinatorial problems appreciably faster. The Digital Annealer has a very special hardware architecture that is not comparable to a conventional processor architecture. Simply speaking, companies can today already use the advantages of quantum computing without quantum computers, which at the moment can only be operated under laboratory conditions with considerable cost and effort.
What kind of use cases are you working on with the auto industry today and what do you see possible in future?
Digital Annealing is the logical technology whenever calculations need to be made involving many variables and possibilities. That is the case, for example, when you’re optimizing the control of robots to increase the efficiency of welding or sealing a chassis. We already managed to achieve signficant speed increases in the first projects in this area. Other application secnarios in the manufacturing industry are the optimization of logistics processes or the disposition or re-disposition of orders – and all this essentially in real time. A second-generation Digital Annealer system, in comparative tests, was 10,000 times faster than a classic server. Calculations that used to take hours, thus, became possible in seconds, which made them production-relevant.
Quantum computing, because of its power, is often seen as a security threat. Which cyber security measures need to be taken so that quantum computing can really take off?
Many conventional encryption methods can, indeed, be cracked quickly with the help of functioning and scalable quantum computers. That’s particularly the case with asymmetrical algorithms such as the much used RSA technology. Algorithms that can crack these are already known. Data that are encrypted this way are today only protected by the fact that practically usable quantum computers don’t exist yet. There are two types of counter-measures under development: One is the post-quantum cryptography, which is based on new or expanded cryptographic algorithms on conventional computers; and a new encryption process that uses quantum technology. Both approaches have been researched for quite a while. The first can, in many cases, already be deployed today. We are recommending to start planning to migrate to the new approach as soon as possible.