Analog-Digital Hybrid Computing
Mid-20th century industrial design icons Charles and Ray Eames noted that measuring the weight of honey on a gradual scale is analog whereas counting sugar cubes in discrete units is digital. They likened analog to broad jump where manifestations of performance are measured along a continuous range. And they likened digital to high jump where performance is evaluated against a preset threshold. At that time, analog and digital had already brought about two seperate approaches to electronic computing.
Today, analog is a well-understood, yet underutilized computing paradigm next to the ubiquitous digital and the infant quantum paradigms. Digital computing, well suited for algorithmic symbol processing in discrete steps, is less suited to model continuous relationships efficiently. Today's urgent challenges in new energy research, public health, economic modelling and elsewhere, however, require precisely the modelling of continuous relationships. Analog computing is ideally suited to address these challenges with unparalleled speed and efficiency.
Once seen as an alternative to digital, analog can complement digital in analog-digital hybrid computers. This offers a path to accelerate computing beyond the impending end of Moore's Law. To this day, however, the enormous potential of hybrid computing remains largely untapped.
At anabrid, we are designing an analog computer on-a-chip. Its integration into digital computers will yield powerful, general-purpose and special-purpose hybrids of the two computational paradigms. Incorporating thousands of analog computing elements operated at scale under digital control, anabrid's analog computer on-a-chip will complement digital technology – combining the benefits of both to compute more, faster, and cheaper.
The analog computer on-a-chip opens the door to another computing paradigm for the 21st century. The principles of its operations and of its implementation in silicon are understood. Its potential to support and enhance digital computation is vast. To illustrate this potential, we divide it into eight segments using three distinctions:
User experience: Users may be aware of using an analog computer on-a-chip (engaged) or they may be unaware of it (hidden).
Scale: Up to a few dozen analog computing elements may be deployed in a given application (small scale) or vastly more analog computing elements could be deployed (large scale).
Purpose: An analog computer on-a-chip may be applied with a fixed configuration (special purpose) or its users may be able to re-configure its programming (general purpose).
Dirk KillatProf. Dr.-Ing. Dirk Killat is a professor for microelectronics and an expert in the field of energy efficient analog circuits, System-on-Chip for industry, automotive, power management and consumer electronics applications. He has commercialized successful products with millions of units sold at Dialog semiconductor, which has since been acquired by Apple Inc. Currently, his work is focused mainly on energy efficient analog/digital conversion and DC/DC voltage converters. He holds 21 patents.
Sven KöppelDr. Sven Köppel is a quantum physicist and an expert in numerical solutions of partial differential equations (PDEs). As a part of his PhD project, he has developed energy efficient codes for simulating black holes and gravitational waves. He was a deputy chief investigator of an international three-year research project on efficiently solving hyperbolic PDEs on exascale computers. He is a frequent academic speaker whose experience extends across several fields including life science and medical engineering.
Lars HeimannDipl.-Ing. Lars Heimann will be Head of Business and responsible for all business intelligence solutions as well as implementing technology solutions. He brings years of experience in the Banking and Financial Services Industry to the table and has a background in Quantitative Finance Computing, Aerospace Technology and Power Plant Engineering and Design. He specializes in all aspects of Business Intelligence and heads the Business Development Department. He is known to design his own lego planes.
Bernd UlmannProf. Dr. Bernd Ulmann is a world-leading expert in analog and hybrid computing. He is the author of several recent books in this field, including Analog and Hybrid Computer Programming (DeGruyter, 2020). He is a professor for business informatics at FOM University of Applied Sciences, a private college in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. Dr. Ulmann is the conceptional lead of anabrid.