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Fujitsu banks on Digital Annealer to accelerate digital transformation for customers

Quantum inspired technology can solve complex combinatorial problems that cannot be tackled by conventional computers. Has big plans for the manufacturing, automotive, and financial services sectors.

As businesses embark on their digital transformation journeys they seek new technology, methodologies, and frameworks to solve complex and time-consuming problems. Fujitsu is helping such organisations around the world through several approaches, one of them being Digital Annealer. Fujitsu claims its quantum inspired technology called Digital Annealer can solve what are called ‘complex combinatorial problems’ where the sheer numbers of possible solutions are beyond the capacity of a conventional computer. An example is the Travelling Salesman problem. It uses a digital circuit design inspired by quantum phenomena and can solve problems which are tough for classical computers to deal with. Fujitsu has done a Proof of Concept for a financial institution named NatWest, using Digital Annealer. It is helping the bank solve some of its most complex, challenging and time-consuming financial investment problems by optimising its mix of high-quality liquid assets including bonds, cash, and government securities. In financial services, Digital Annealer technology can work out the optimal holding of a portfolio of investments to minimise your risk and maximise value of the holding.

Fujitsu claims its quantum inspired technology called Digital Annealer can solve what are called ‘complex combinatorial problems’ where the sheer numbers of possible solutions are beyond the capacity of a conventional computer.

The technology involves 1024-bit scale, inter-bit full connectivity to deliver large-scale performance and high flexibility, with 16-bit inter-bit connection precision for accuracy of 65,536 scale, which is higher than any other quantum annealing technology that uses superconductivity today. Quantum Computing requires a disturbance-free environment and extreme sub-zero temperatures. Interestingly, Digital Annealer can operate at normal temperature without the need for absolute zero (-273.15°C) temperatures for functioning at quantum state, and can fit into a datacentre rack without needing any specific expertise or a complex infrastructure to run or function.

So what are some of the potential applications for Digital Annealer?

“Anything in the high-performance computing area could be adapted to use Digital Annealer,” said Andy Stevenson, Head of Middle East, India and Turkey, Managing Director for India, Fujitsu. “It really depends on the scale, the computing challenges. The industry verticals that will benefit from this technology are banking and financial services, manufacturing, and automotive.”

Andy Stevenson, Head of Middle East, India and Turkey, Managing Director for India, Fujitsu
Andy Stevenson, Head of Middle East, India and Turkey, Managing Director for India, Fujitsu

Digital Annealer can also be applied in other verticals to solve everyday challenges. Take Radiotherapy, for instance. Radiotherapy requires a beam to be precisely directed at the diseased tissue. However, the beam also passes through healthy tissue. Digital Annealer will enable medics to calculate the direction and intensity of the beam to optimise its focus on the affected tissue and protect the healthy tissue.

In manufacturing, it can help in finding the most effective process, the precise order of actions or routes that minimises the cost or time of production.

According to Fujitsu, the applications for Digital Annealer are unlimited: from designing new molecular structures to creating new materials, or new drugs, to designing aerodynamic surfaces to scheduling WIFI traffic that will be required for a world of autonomous vehicles, to managing economies.

DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION THROUGH CO-CREATION

 Fujitsu is also helping organisations with digital transformation using co-creation methodology.

Stevenson said Fujitsu embarked on a “very expensive digital transformation program” which will go on till 2020. It has forged partnerships with Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and Oracle and is looking to deliver most of its actual solutions to enable those platforms. Most of Fujitsu’s customers are on those platforms and these kinds of partnerships are strategic to Fujitsu’s digital transformation program, which includes taking customers to the cloud. It has invested in its own middleware and orchestration layers and is providing MetaArc Services, to help customers make the journey to the cloud.

Fujitsu is also helping organisations with digital transformation using co-creation methodology. Digital co-creation means blending business expertise and digital technology and creating new value together with customers and ecosystem partners to shape a different, and sometimes unknown, future. Fujitsu uses a simple framework to accomplish this task. It has set up digital transformation centres in Japan, New York, London, and Munich. It invites customers into its digital transformation centres and leads them through a structured workshop, which exposes some of the business challenges they are experiencing.

BLOCKCHAIN FOR BANKING AND FINANCIAL SERVICES

Fujitsu is also helping financial institutions with blockchain applications

With a major focus on Banking and Financial services, Fujitsu is helping banks in India with digital transformation, primarily in two areas: compliance and retail banking.

“In India, there is now a huge investment in compliance, and there is a massive digital transformation program — all the banks are looking to go through,” said Stevenson. “Obviously some of the recent scandals in the Indian banking sector… we are seeing a large demand for compliance and orchestration services, to help them ensure they can comply in their audits in real-time. The second area is retail banking, particularly the acquisition of customers. And the retention of customers by bringing more exciting services through mobility.”

Globally, Fujitsu is also helping financial institutions with blockchain applications and it will soon bring these applications to Indian banks. It is working with Japan’s three largest banks, (Mizuho, Sumitomo Mitsui, and Mitsubishi UFJ), to develop and test a Blockchain platform to enable P2P money transfers between bank accounts. It built a Blockchain test-bed for Japanese Banks to design and prototype Blockchain-based financial services applications.

Fujitsu has already established blockchain centres of excellence in Brussels and Japan. Last year, it opened a centre of excellence for AI in Paris. It is looking to bring its blockchain solutions to those markets and it has plans for India too.

“One of the things we are doing at the moment is our Global Delivery Centres based in India. These are all being trained on blockchain and AI technologies so that we can support our global customers, but also to bring those technologies to the Indian market,” said Stevenson.

But Fujitsu believes that blockchain can also be applied in other verticals, apart from financial services. In real estate, for instance, Fujitsu is working with Mitsubishi Property in Tokyo on a smart city Blockchain solution. It is using blockchains to create a single source of truth of city data. For instance, to know exactly which seats at restaurants are free.

MANUFACTURING FOCUS

Fujitsu is already helping manufacturing organisations like Siemens Gamesa, accelerate quality assurance procedures.

The other major vertical for Fujitsu is manufacturing, particularly automotive manufacturing. It is already helping manufacturing organisations like Siemens Gamesa, accelerate quality assurance procedures. Its Artificial Intelligence solution uses deep learning capabilities to significantly reduce inspection times for newly-manufactured wind turbine blades.

The underlying technology is an AI-enabled Digital Analytics solution called FAIR (Fujitsu Advanced Image Recognition). Fujitsu is using this solution to help manufacturers automate their inspection processes.

But there is a lot more to its manufacturing focus. Fujitsu wants to help manufacturers to increase the automation on the shop floor, enabling what the industry calls the ‘intelligent factory’ or ‘smart factory’.

“We are investing in real-time dashboards to show the manufacturing process in real-time. We can build a large amount of automation into the management of the factory floor. We also have a large degree of simulation technology which we have deployed in Japan and which we are bringing into the manufacturing sector,” said Stevenson.

Fujitsu’s largest automotive customer in India is Toyota Kirloskar Motor Ltd (TKML). It also has customers like Maruti Suzuki, Honda Cars India, Bajaj Auto, and Nissan Motors. It is positioning its connected car solutions at these automotive manufacturers.

“In automotive, we are looking very much at the connected car and we have some proof of concepts going on there. Fujitsu has some specific technologies that it wants to bring to market. We have Connected Autonomous Shared Services and electric technologies,” said Stevenson.

EXPLAINABLE AI

Fujitsu has a much broader focus on artificial intelligence. It prefers to call it Explainable AI, which gives the technology a much broader application.

Apart from manufacturing, Fujitsu has a much broader focus on artificial intelligence. It prefers to call it Explainable AI, which gives the technology a much broader application. This strategy opens up new potential, especially in heavily regulated industries like healthcare and financial services, where actions and decisions are scrutinized.

For instance, in Japan it has been working in a joint project with Kyoto University to use AI to identify links between disease and genetic mutation. Being able to explain the patterns that are found is essential for providing scientists with insights into the factors that cause cancer.

Scientists need to document their findings in great detail, and explainable AI will help in their investigations and research.

ANALYSIS

We believe Fujitsu has the technology frameworks and methodologies to lead organisations in their transformation journeys, to the cloud.

But Fujitsu will need to forge more partnerships for SaaS based applications. For instance, its customers who use SAP HANA will need help in managing the application in a private cloud, for instance.

Customers are also concerned about cloud security and Fujitsu needs to beef up it’s security portfolio for Indian customers.

Fujitsu is poised to be a strong contender in the manufacturing sector, especially the automotive sector. But Digital Annealer technology has applications in other areas too, as we have shown in this article.

The volume of data is too high to ingest and process using conventional computing technologies, and businesses will need something more powerful, such as Quantum-inspired technology. Of course, we are still a long way off from mainstream quantum computing adoption as the technology requires special environments that are not yet feasible (operationally and financially), for today’s businesses. But Fujitsu has found a middle ground with quantum inspired technology like Digital Annealer.

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Brian Pereira

Brian Pereira is an Indian journalist based in Mumbai. He has 25 years of technology journalism experience, and he's well known in the Indian IT industry. He is the former Editor of CHIP and InformationWeek magazines in India and has written technology articles for India's leading newspapers groups such as The Times of India and Indian Express Newspapers. Brian also writes on Aviation, startups and covers topics directed at small and medium businesses. He also has event experience and once put together the conference program for CeBIT and INTEROP events in India. Email: brian9p@gmail.com Twitter: @brian9p Linkedin: https://in.linkedin.com/in/pereirabrian

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