Digital Annealer

What is Digital Annealer?

Digital Annealer, known as DA, is a computer architecture developed to rapidly solve large-scale combinatorial optimization problems using CMOS digital technology. Jointly developed by the University of Toronto and Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. in Japan, DA is unique in that it uses a digital circuit design inspired by quantum phenomena and can solve problems that are very difficult and time-consuming or even impossible for classical computers to address.

Combinatorial optimization refers to the process of finding the most favourable set of solutions for a problem with discrete variables and has applications in fields such as healthcare and machine learning. A significant challenge with combinatorial optimization is the sheer number of variables involved and the inability of today’s classical computers to process this incredible amount of data. Compared to deterministic and heuristic methods, DA can obtain better solutions in less time, while rivaling quantum computer performance at a fraction of the cost.

How does Digital Annealer work?

Digital Annealer is inspired by quantum mechanics, but unlike quantum computers, does not require cryogenic temperatures. DA makes use of a method called annealing, which is named after the annealing process using in metallurgy. During this procedure, metal is heated to a high temperature before the structure stabilizes as it is slowly cooled to a lower energy, more stable state.

Using the analogy of placing blocks in a box, in the classical approach, the blocks are placed in sequence. If a solution is not found, the process is restarted and repeated until a solution is found. With the annealing approach, the blocks are placed randomly and the entire system is “shaken.” As the shaking is gradually reduced, the system becomes more stable as the shapes quickly fit together.

Classical Method
Annealing Method

DA is designed to solve fully connected quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO) problems and is implemented on CMOS hardware, with the current ability to solve problems of up to 1024 variables. Its algorithm is based on simulated annealing, but also takes advantage of massive parallelization enabled by the custom application-specific CMOS hardware.

What applications can Digital Annealer be used for?

Advanced Healthcare
Autonomous Vehicles
Digital Marketing
Drug Discovery
Materials & Compounds

Network Config Management
Portfolio Management
Utilities Management

…And many more!

Digital Annealer News and Links