Understanding Users' Feelings Is the Key to Creating Innovations

["Chisounomori" Focus Series] Healthcare

This series introduces trendy and popular themes from among those covered in Fujitsu Research Institute's information magazine Chisounomori by interviewing consultants who are working on actual business projects. The sixth theme is "healthcare."


Hidetoshi Satomi (General Manager, Innovation and R&D Division, ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC))
Akiyo Morishita (Designer, Service & Product Design Department, Fujitsu Design Limited)
Kunimaro Suyama (Corporate Vice President, Director, Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division, Fujitsu Research Institute)
Kotaro Hisamoto (Senior Consultant, Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division, Fujitsu Research Institute)
Hiroyuki Ohara (Principal Consultant, Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division, Fujitsu Research Institute)

Using ICT to Extend Healthy Life Expectancy

― In healthcare markets such as medical care, nursing care, welfare, and health promotion, while there are concerns about the financial uncertainty of Japan's social security system, it is expected to grow into a 100 trillion-yen business in 2025. First, could you tell us about the challenges of creating innovations and "empowerment welfare" *?

Hidetoshi Satomi
General Manager (Chief Engineer/IT Architect), Innovation and R&D Division
ITOCHU Techno-Solutions Corporation (CTC)
(As of March 22)

Satomi: ITOCHU Techno-Solutions (CTC) is basically a company that sells IT infrastructure. CTC created its Innovation and R&D Division in 2014. At the time, infrastructure was becoming commoditized, so we thought Japan should focus on development of service businesses going forward. The Innovation and R&D Division developed a new business model in which ICT technologies, such as wearables and IoT devices, are used for welfare, health care, and nursing care applications, and we launched "empowerment welfare" in the autumn of 2015. During a discussion with Fujitsu about Smart Agriculture **, Fujitsu introduced us to a UBIQUITOUSWARE chipset *** and other devices. Since then, we have started exploring new businesses.

― In the healthcare field, new services have been developed based on UX ****.

Morishita: Our team is mainly in charge of service design in the industrial field. Last year, we met personnel from CTC and had the opportunity to think deeply about healthcare. It is often said that "health requires self-management." However, many health problems cannot be solved by self-management alone, so we would like to design services that cover families, hospitals, and the whole of society.

― Could you tell us about social problems and what is required of ICT companies?

Hiroyuki Ohara
Principal Consultant, Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division
Fujitsu Research Institute
(As of March 22)

Ohara: The Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division of the Fujitsu Research Institute (FRI) has been working to create new value with customers in the manufacturing and service industries. We recently started work in the healthcare field. In particular, we are taking on the challenge of finding ways to extend healthy life expectancy by using ICT to fill in the approximately 10-year gap between average life expectancy and healthy life expectancy *****. We are also thinking about how to make the most of ICT to improve workers' productivity and raise motivation at nursing care sites. Now, we are working with CTC to develop and verify new services using Fujitsu's UBIQUITOUSWARE.

Empowerment Welfare, Realizable Only with Society's Collaboration

― Since healthcare is a deep field that broadly pervades the world, it is attracting attention as a new business. In healthcare, why do you focus on empowerment welfare, Mr. Satomi?

Satomi: There are two possibilities when nursing care and healthcare are combined with key technical concepts, such as IoT. One is that, although most nursing care data and healthcare data are not linked at present, if all the functions of UBIQUITOUSWARE can be incorporated into a single chip, a horizontal service system that is not vertically divided can be realized in society. The other is the open data strategy announced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. If you share the data you have and add value, health management can become a comprehensive service, covering yourself and your family members, including your parents. Empowerment welfare will not work without collaboration among various people in society.

Understanding Users' Feelings Is the Concept to Create New Services

― When working to create new services and products, many customers do not know where to start. Could you introduce an approach practiced by the Fujitsu Group?

Akiyo Morishita
Designer, Service & Product Design Department
Fujitsu Design Limited
(As of March 22)

Morishita: We believe "what actually happens on site" is most important. Therefore, it is important to actually visit the site, meet the people, and understand their feelings. When we see visually impaired people on the street, we think it looks hard for them, but it is hard to understand what they really feel. It is important to understand their feelings and to come to know things like "oh, this was unwanted help" or "this person wanted me to do something though he could not ask me to do so." By flexibly using ICT to alleviate problems that are difficult to solve by human interaction alone, we hope to design products that users want to use.

Hisamoto: In this project, I joined a tour arranged by CTC to visit a school of visually impaired students, and I actually saw and heard from teachers about the situations of visually impaired students in order to find out their needs and problems. I made new discoveries by actually seeing them with my own eyes and listening to them speak.

Satomi: This project did not start the way it is now. We committed to incorporating ICT into the fields of welfare and nursing care in FY2014, thinking that we could create various services using GPS. However, at that time, there were no chips available for ubiquitous. The following year, UBIQUITOUSWARE was finally launched, and then we examined various matters. When considering service models, we asked Fujitsu Design and the Fujitsu Research Institute to conduct verification. UX design disassembled and organized all the wild opinions and ideas heretofore unrecognized in the world. As technology and the world constantly progress, it is important to reflect and consider that things thought to have been impossible in the past may now be possible.

― Under this approach, it is important to imagine what kind of people will be the on-site users and to try to understand their lives.

Kotaro Hisamoto
Senior Consultant, Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division
Fujitsu Research Institute
(As of March 22)

Hisamoto: FRI did the research on social problems and needs, market trends, and other matters to materialize services. We then created a number of model patterns of use cases and benefits before examining which business partners best fit the users. When we identified needs or problems, we considered UX as well as how to develop the business, including the number of potential target users as well as profitability and feasibility.

Satomi: Even when creating services, we must provide sufficient explanations so that they do not become "pies in the sky." For example, we are conducting demonstration experiments using UBIQUITOUSWARE at an affiliated company's farm that hires disabled people. There, in addition to supporting people with ICT, we must design the details of practical support for them. It is helpful for employers who are hiring disabled people to use services that predict the timing of rest breaks for disabled workers by analyzing their behavior patterns data with AI (artificial intelligence).

Ohara: A simulation of profitability should be carried out, but I agree that it is important to develop and demonstrate things while considering how users will use them.

Satomi: It is also our job to create spaces where people with mobility disabilities can actively work, not just healthy people. This is especially important in Japan, which has a declining birthrate and aging population. If we do not prepare workplaces for disabled people where they can work while being watched over by ICT, it will be difficult to realize a society in which all 100 million people play an active role.

Technology Should Be Reviewed and Applied Every Time

― In the healthcare field, various experiments and start-up trials to utilize AI and robots are underway.

Satomi: We attempted to create a mechanism where multiple robots connected to a network operate by communicating with each other as well as a mechanism to analyze when to perform cultivation with deep learning ****** based on images of leaves taken at the time of crop field patrols with Smart Agriculture. However, this trial has not yet borne fruit.

Ohara: It would be nice if the business divisions pick up the business seeds resulting from the experiments being tackled in the Innovation and R&D Division.

Satomi: I think it is fine if we do what we can without being constrained by conventional fixed ideas. Since technology chases time, we review now and again and think: "Today we can use this technology like this, so why not try to make something using it?" As the Internet has developed to the extent that it has, the level of technology has become almost the same worldwide. Therefore, those who can step forward without getting discouraged even if they fail can emerge winners. We once put things sideways and do something different, and when a new technology comes out, we review what we did in the past and try it once again.

― Underneath is a culture of starting from zero, right? Because the players in the manufacturing industry work only within the closed circle of that industry, such new ideas rarely appear.

Satomi: When I first heard that they wanted to connect cell phones to the Internet, I thought "Who would use that?" However, DoCoMo's i-mode came out, and au's EZWeb came out, and these caused an explosive boom in adults using gadgets in drinking establishments at night. We never know where business opportunities exist.

Pursuing Things that Please People

― By exploring themes and verifying concepts, you may find that it promotes the commercialization of other products. Do you have any advice for companies that will work to create new businesses in the future?

Satomi: When you do something, you tend to look for "things," such as products and materials, but what is more important is "what you want to do" and "what you can do" (services). A product (thing) can be created for the first time once the form of the "service" has taken shape. If a product (thing) comes out before creating the corresponding service, it is putting the cart before the horse. To this end, you can use UX to analyze "services" with an appropriate program.

Morishita: Even if the picture that comes into view is not large at first, it will expand when you consider what you want to do in the process and what you can do to achieve it. Therefore, it is important to always consider what you want to do.

Kunimaro Suyama
Corporate Vice President, Director
Manufacturing and Energy Industry Consulting Division
Fujitsu Research Institute
(As of March 22)

Hisamoto: I exchanged opinions freely and openly on service development with CTC. Thanks to CTC's various relationships, we witnessed realistic approaches to developing services through repeated trial and error to find out how, and with whom, we should create an ecosystem.

― First, we investigate who will be pleased by what, and if there is no product that meets these needs, we consider developing such a product.

Innovation Cannot Be Achieved Alone

― It will be increasingly difficult to forecast the future given the globalization of business, changes in the population structure, and technological progress. From what perspective should we seek to create businesses and social innovation?

Satomi: As for business creation, we are sometimes confounded by information from newspapers and the Internet, which causes us to give up on an idea by thinking that someone else will do a demonstration experiment, and thus deviate from what we want to do. However, nothing will get completed unless we ourselves do what we want to do. If someone has done it already, it is okay to work on it together. Innovation will not occur without collaboration and co-creation with others. We cannot make innovation happen alone.

Morishita: As "design thinking" ******* spreads widely throughout the world, when considering what we can do as designers, it is our job to put out a viewpoint which others would not otherwise notice based on a picture or word. In addition, designers are good at keeping their eyes and ears open to the world, which is one of their essential characteristics. Making the most of this characteristic, I hope to create new things while receiving daily feedback with an attitude like this: "Please talk to me. Let's work together. What do you think about this?"

Ohara: Fujitsu also provides electronic medical records and networks connecting hospitals and clinics in the healthcare field as a solution. At present, this solution is provided mainly for medical personnel; however, the time will come when the fields of home nursing care and related services will attract great attention, which will make a service that connects all such fields necessary.

― Changing one's mindset and thinking together with a variety of people can create new value. Thank you very much for your insightful comments today.

Back row (left to right): Suyama, Hisamoto, and Ohara
Front row (left to right): Satomi and Morishita

* The "Hands-up Service" delivering Empowerment Welfare for visually impaired people, on which Fujitsu collaborated with CTC, received an IAUD Award 2016 from the International Association for Universal Design (IAUD).

*: Empowerment welfare:
A concept of welfare that aims to realize a "free and equal" society in which healthy people, disabled people, the elderly, and children can make maximal use of their capabilities and develop zest for living, further generating even greater power through mutual collaboration.
**: Smart Agriculture:
A new approach to agriculture that aims to improve production management, quality, and production efficiency using ICT and other advanced technologies.
An Internet-of-Things (IoT) package that senses the statuses of people and things as well as their surrounding environments, and analyzes such data to quickly provide valuable, actionable data tailored to a customer's business.
****: UX (User eXperience):
The overall experience of users during the use or consumption of products and services. This concept focuses on providing pleasant, comfortable experiences to users based on what they genuinely want to do, rather than just the ease of use of individual features.
*****: Healthy life expectancy:
The period of life during which people can live normal daily lives independently while managing their own mental and physical health without the aid of medical or nursing care.
******: Deep learning:
A method of machine learning that uses multi-layered neural networks; it enables systems to recognize and classify events by learning features from data.
*******: Design thinking:
An innovation methodology for creating new products and services; it consists of the following steps: empathy, visualization, testing, improvement, and realization.

Chisounomori (Focus Series)Healthcare
Necessary Actions for Creating Innovations in Business and Society with ICT

The details of this article are available in PDF format.

Click here to view the information magazine Chisounomori, which introduces the knowledge of consultants and economists.