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Toyota R&D wheels Fujitsu's pseudo-quantum tech out onto vehicle assembly floor

At least they didn't call it another DPU

Toyota’s research and development wing is giving Fujitsu’s "Digital Annealer" a spin to see just how well this pretend 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. While it’s supposedly inspired by elements of quantum computing, such as superposition, tunneling, and entanglement, it’s not an actual quantum computer. As such, it’s 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.

More simply put, it is an ASIC in an HPC-geared server that is designed to handle the kinds of optimization problems that actual quantum computers might tackle in volume one day.

Fujitsu claims its chip is "capable of performing parallel, real-time optimization calculations at speed." It seems to be a hardware accelerator for finding solutions to constrained problems.

One of the first applications of the tech explored by Fujitsu was for real-time pathfinding. While intuitively, the fastest path between point A and B is the shortest one, if there are multiple vehicles trying to traverse the same route through a factory, and other constraints, it can lead to congestion. Software running on traditional compute can figure out the best order and timing for vehicles and components on assembly lines, but Fujitsu claims its Digital Annealing tech can identify optimal combinations faster and more efficiently.

Toyota sees an opportunity to use the tech to optimally adapt its automobile production lines to changing market conditions, while also reducing the workload on employees.

The partnership builds on a 2020 proof of concept which used the Digital Annealer to discover efficiencies in the company’s automobile supply chain and logistics systems. However, Fujitsu notes this is the first time the tech has been employed to streamline vehicle production.

Toyota Systems will initially employ Fujitsu’s digital annealing tech at its Tsutsumi plant, with plans to extend it to other plants in Japan and overseas in the future.

Meanwhile those interested in employing the tech to optimize complex systems within their business may not have to wait much longer. This month Fujitsu is opening its computing-as-a-service (CaaS) platform, which is built on the same architecture powering the Fugaku supercomputer, up to the Japanese market.

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

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

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