Few people know that Daimler is at the very forefront of quantum computing. One of those responsible for this is Dr. Andreas Riegg with his project group in IT Innovation Management, which is preparing us for the coming IT revolution. The trained electrical engineer describes how important quantum computing will be for Daimler, and what it means to be a Technology Scout.
Hello! Could you please introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Andreas Riegg, I'm 59 years old, and I studied electrical engineering majoring in software at Stuttgart University. I also obtained a PhD in this subject.
I joined Daimler almost 30 years ago in 1991. Back then I started at DEBIS (in the systems house) - at that time the subsidiary for service functions. I then moved 'to the other side of the desk' in 2000, switching from service provider to customer Daimler.
Today I am responsible for Technology Scouting in the IT Innovation Management unit. This means I look out for what's new. And if it seems relevant to me, I take an even closer look!
And is there something you are currently taking a closer look at?
You bet! It's quantum computing. This technology wasn't even on the radar two years ago. And even today it's still a long way from being used. But quantum computing will revolutionize IT as we know it. And here our project team will ensure that Daimler is prepared.
To what extent is quantum computing an innovation of this kind?
The importance of quantum computing is comparable with that of semi-conductor technology in the early 1970s. It was the start of digitalization, after all. Although quantum computing is still in its infancy and only something for specialists, its future potential is huge.
So what can quantum computing do?
This is the first technology that makes calculations and simulations of a certain magnitude possible. One example of this is the battery cell technology for electric cars: The chemical level must be researched and tested extensively to make the batteries even better. There are so many chemical possibilities, however, that there is neither the time nor the money available to try out all these variants. But quantum computing enables simulation of these possibilities. In this way, it is possible to calculate in advance which chemistry is worth using to do further tests. Today's computers are unable to perform simulations of this magnitude. This would require more electrical power than the whole world currently consumes in one day.
When will quantum computing be ready for actual use?
That's difficult to predict, of course - maybe in 5 to 10 years. We are now preparing everything so that Daimler can hit the ground running when the time comes.
What exactly are you and your project team doing by way of preparation?
Ultimately, we have to mathematically formulate the application cases. There are certain specifications for this, in other words algorithms, without which it is not even possible to perform simulations on a quantum computer. Quantum computers just calculate things in a totally different way to current computers.
What job profiles are required for this?
We need people who can render the application cases into mathematical questions and in turn depict these in quantum algorithms. This is no trivial matter, of course. Not least because these experts must be able to understand the technical problem on the one hand and write quantum algorithms on the other.
Interestingly, we have already found exactly these kind of people within the Daimler ranks: We identified colleagues who studied physics in the 1980s and 1990s, and are well-versed in quantum mechanics. But since this was more of a niche area without application potential back then, these colleagues went into IT. The subject these people had to put on the intellectual back burner 20 years ago is now enjoying a new lease of life.
What do you like about your work?
The interdisciplinary togetherness - this diversity of topics and content is incredibly inspiring. I can imagine that it is immensely attractive to young people in particular. You learn so many new things every day and come into contact with so many people from all over the world. And this is a good thing because one person alone will not be able to change the world!
What do you like about Daimler?
One thing that really pleases me is the fact that Daimler is such a leading player in quantum computing - that the company has gotten involved with a new technology at such an early stage. There are many external partners saying "hats off!". This fills me with pride, and I'm glad that I can play an active part in helping to shape this development.