Peter Shor was simply trying to find an answer to a difficult mathematical problem when he came up with what turned out to be a groundbreaking, humankind-altering algorithm. Shor’s algorithm, as it’s now called, proved that a quantum computer could make calculations exponentially faster than a normal computer.
Ever since his findings were published in 1994, academics and scientists have been on a quest to build a working quantum device, which would have the power to answer many of the world’s most pressing problems — from climate change to cancer cures. “Quantum computing will change the world,” says Raymond Laflamme, Canada Research Chair at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing. “Suddenly, we will be able to solve things we haven’t been able to before.”
It’s an exciting prospect. Yet the practical use and adoption of quantum computers remains an elusive goal.
While quantum computers are still in development, some companies are leveraging quantum principles and developing innovative architectures — based on digital bits, not quantum bits — that businesses can use today for solving data-intensive problems. This new technology can deliver real-time calculations that can significantly improve business operations and efficiency.
Fujitsu Intelligence Technology, an information and communication technology (ICT) company has emerged as one of the leaders in this field. The Digital Annealer, which Fujitsu first introduced in 2016, uses a quantum-inspired digital circuit design that can rapidly solve complex problems traditional computers can’t handle. Plus, this digital chip does so without the added cost and complications associated with today’s quantum computing methods.
At the heart of this technology is its transformative calculation speed and accuracy in handling problems with exponential data combinations. In healthcare, researchers are able to test all the myriad combinations of molecules and proteins to find the most effective medicines and optimize radiation therapy for brain tumours. In finance, investment managers can determine the most optimal portfolio by crunching more granular data more quickly. It also can be used to optimize robotics in vehicle manufacturing to identify problems, which leads to more streamlined vehicle delivery.
Companies solve difficult problems today using conventional technology, but the process takes time, and often the solution may be good but not optimal, says Dean Prelazzi, a vice president at Fujitsu Intelligence, who heads up business development at the company’s Vancouver offices. “The Digital Annealer delivers a leap-frog advantage in both time and outcome by dramatically outperforming the solution speed of conventional technology and finding answers that are significantly closer to the optimal answer or finding the actual optimal answer. This new technology drives a very pragmatic ROI across use cases in many facets of operations.”
Over the past few years, the Digital Annealer has been able to help companies tackle incredibly complex problems. For instance, it’s currently being used by PeptiDream Inc., a Japanese drug company, to dramatically accelerate the search for drug candidate compounds. The Digital Annealer enables the company to narrow down trillions of peptide compounds to find the most effective combination.
Financial institutions, such as Main Incubator, an R&D division of Commerzbank, are using the Digital Annealer to optimize the selection of several thousand vehicle leasing assets for securitization portfolios. Large industrial operators in manufacturing and energy are using the Digital Annealer to improve resource utilization.
The potential and possibilities are endless. Existing processes will become much faster, allowing people to become that much more productive and creative.
“This is the exciting new frontier of computing power, which is transforming business and society. Businesses are now able to leverage and harness the power of this technology to change, scale and transform,” says Prelazzi. “Increasingly, they have data-intensive problems they need to solve and this is the technology that can help them move the needle, today.”