As pressure on organisations rises, the research confirms more and more businesses are frustrated by the slow pace of progress in quantum computing and are excited by today’s availability of the Fujitsu Digital Annealer – a bridging technology able to solve intractable problems at speed, and therefore capable of bringing transformative benefits to businesses right away.
Despite quantum computing being in its infancy today, there is already pent-up demand for its disruptive power, with 81% of business leaders surveyed in the research believing that its arrival will accelerate the optimisation of business, logistical and industrial processes, help deliver digital transformation and ensure they remain competitive in fast-changing markets.
Businesses are also frustrated with the slow pace at which the technology is developing, with the study revealing that 50% of respondents do not expect quantum computing to go mainstream in the next decade. At the same time, 89% believe that the insufficient computing power of today’s technology is holding back their business from taking full advantage of combinatorial optimisation2 – the process of identifying the optimal solution among a huge array of options – in order to revolutionise business processes.
In fact, such is the pent-up demand for business process optimisation that two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) are looking for optimisation solutions today, rather than waiting for experimental and possibly unstable quantum computing to arrive far in the future. This is driven by a belief that competitors might gain an unassailable advantage from quantum computing: two-thirds of respondents agree that a competitor’s early adoption of quantum computing would lead to disruption in their business sector.
Growing recognition that Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer closes the gap to quantum
Driven by the demand for radical breakthroughs brought by real-time optimisation of complex business processes, the research indicates a growing recognition among businesses that the Fujitsu Digital Annealer – inspired by quantum computing – bridges the gap to quantum, by enabling organisations to run real-time combinatorial optimisation algorithms3 without waiting for quantum computers. According to the study, seven in ten organisations – across diverse industry sectors such as manufacturing, financial services and retail – now recognise Digital Annealer’s potential to accelerate their journey to a quantum-computing future.
Yves de Beauregard, Head of Digital Business Solutions at Fujitsu EMEIA, says: “Everyone talks about the fear of disruption. Business leaders are keenly aware of this threat and opportunity, but are disappointed that quantum computing is still too far in the future and too fragile for practical business use situations. This underlines why we’re seeing such high levels of interest in the Fujitsu Digital Annealer’s ability to combinatorial business optimisation calculations. The Digital Annealer is already commercially available, has demonstrated tangible results in sectors such as financial services, manufacturing and automotive, and is already being deployed today by forward-thinking businesses aiming to become a disruptive force.”
Fujitsu Digital Annealer already proving to be a powerful disruptive force
The Fujitsu Quantum-inspired Digital Annealer solution enables businesses to unlock new potential and become a disruptive force in the digital age by instantly finding the optimal combination of massively complex, previously unmanageable data variables. For example, a premium European automotive manufacturer is using the Digital Annealer to streamline robot welding operations on a production line. This allows more cars to be manufactured in a given time through reducing the need for additional resources in the paint shop4, the most expensive part of a car manufacturing process.
In financial services, one of the UK’s leading financial institutions is exploring how the Fujitsu Digital Annealer can optimise its investment portfolios in real-time. Additional use cases include maximising return on investment for utilities companies and, in the pharmaceutical sector, the discovery of new substances and development of new drugs.
Further examples of combinatorial optimisation use cases include improving the efficiency of truck loading for transport and logistics organisations. Fujitsu also leverages the Digital Annealer solution in its own factories, where it has optimised inventory and reduced workers’ travelling distances by 45 percent per month, with a consequent reduction in non-productive time. Governments, too, are fascinated by the potential to achieve climate change targets faster, for example by optimising transport systems to take real-time traffic conditions into account, therefore helping reduce pollution.
Pricing and availability
The Digital Annealer solution is available today for trials. Along with co-creation services, Fujitsu provides expertise and support in identifying where customers can put the Digital Annealer to work immediately, addressing challenges where a solution was previously never thought possible or practical. Fujitsu also supports customers in integrating the Digital Annealer into production environments. Available immediately as-a-service on a subscription basis, Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer offerings include technical and consulting services, support and optional additional consultancy for solution development. The Digital Annealer can be deployed as a cloud-hosted or on-premises service. Pricing depends on region and configuration.
Notes to editors
1 About the study: The study is based on a survey of 350 business leaders at large and medium-sized business based in six major industry sectors (financial services; life sciences; manufacturing; retail; transport; and utilities) in Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, UK and USA. The study was undertaken by PAC during March and April 2019. The full findings can be downloaded from the study.
2 Using classical computers to find the optimum sequence in a process to drive out inefficiency and improve productivity is possible when the number of variables is limited. However, when the process involves too many variables, they cannot reach an accurate answer by evaluating all possibilities fast enough and accurately enough to gain any practical benefit. The total cost, energy and time required would be unfeasible, as traditional computers, even supercomputers, are reaching their limits. This is primarily because the fundamental property of a traditional computing processor is based on sequential processing. There has, consequently, been increasing research and investment in the field of quantum computing, which is not sequential and has the potential to evaluate all possible solutions simultaneously. Various kinds of quantum computers are being used for experimental testing and the potential is awe-inspiring. However, the engineering challenges involved are considerable and practical business systems remain some distance in the future - 10 or even 20 years away, if ever.
3 ‘Simulated annealing’ algorithms are currently used to solve a wide range of combinatorial optimisation problems. Both quantum annealing and digital annealing benefit from architecturally accelerated calculation of these optimisations. However, quantum annealing suffers from limitations in solving large scale problems due to the limited number of connections between quantum bits (qubits). Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer architecture, on the other hand, uses a digital circuit design inspired by quantum phenomena but with a fully-connected architecture enabling the free exchange of signals between any two bits. It can, therefore, solve large-scale combinatorial optimisation problems very quickly and more accurately than quantum annealing with its limited qubit connections.
4 In the ‘paint shop’, which is one of the costliest processes in car manufacturing – contributing to an average of 40% of the total cost of manufacturing - PVC seam-sealing by robots has been a particular focus of optimisation efforts. The task for an automotive manufacturer is to calculate the best possible path for production seaming robots setting out from and returning to their base positions. The Digital Annealer is currently fully handling 64 seams today, with even higher capabilities already in sight. Currently, prototype quantum computing solutions addressing this challenge are able to compute optimisation routes for about seven seams. This increase from seven to 64 seams is not just nine-times the number of seams. The number of possible trip combinations to choose from increases by a factor of 10100, which is far beyond the assumed number of atoms in the whole universe. This has resulted in production of more vehicles with the same resources and hence a reduction in paint-shop costs.
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Date: 15 May, 2019
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