Yamaha and Fujitsu to Co-create IoT Businesses with a Design Approach

Attention is now turning to design approaches, which help us depict visions and turn such visions into prototypes to create new businesses using IoT. Fujitsu has been working to create new businesses using a design approach through co-creation with various companies. The "IoT x Sound Co-creation Project," a joint project between Yamaha and Fujitsu, is an initiative that aims to explore possibilities that could not have been envisioned by conventional in-house business design processes and to promote discovery of new added value.
[Fujitsu Forum 2017 Presentation Report]

Promoting Digital Transformation with a Design Approach

This presentation was held in two sessions: the first half was a presentation on "design approaches" by Masuhito Tanaka from Fujitsu Design Limited and Yukio Tada from Yamaha Corporation, while the second half introduced the "CREATIVE GROUND" co-creation project between Yamaha and Fujitsu and discussed project milestones.

Three Steps of Design Approaches

Masuhito Tanaka
Design Director, Strategic Design Group,
Fujitsu Design Limited

"We want to promote digital transformation, but where do we start?" "We tried, but it did not go smoothly." Nearly 70% of IoT-related inquiries from Fujitsu customers are related to problems with digital transformation, which shows that customers are still grasping for answers.

In response to these inquiries, Fujitsu proposes a co-creation-based design approach. This is not an approach that devises measures that can be implemented as an extension of existing businesses, but rather an approach in which customers can create visions without being bound by existing fixed concepts while collaborating with third parties like Fujitsu who have knowledge of the digital realm and ICT design know-how.

There are three steps to create a new business. The first step is to draw up a future vision that focuses on user experience (UX). The second is to speedily implement Proof of Concept (PoC) and polish the envisioned experience value while receiving feedback. The third step is to verify commercialization with the intent of making trends and even changing the rules.

UX refers to the experience value gained by users through all processes before, during, and after usage. In Japan, UX has been cherished since ancient times. For example, in the tea ceremony, people's manners, tea bowls, confectioneries, and the scenery from the tea room's circular window create an experience value. At Silicon Valley companies that have achieved digital transformation, services are designed by considering users' value experience first and foremost, and UX managers often make the final decisions about products.

In the digital age, it is important for new businesses to place UX-based value at the core, and to never waver from this while the business is being established. If you forget about users' point of view when making a product or service, you may not know whom it is for. Fujitsu has also had a bitter experience with this. How much we can stick to UX-oriented manufacturing until the very end is the key to success.

"Instrument WoT (Web of Things)" that Connects Musical Instruments with Other Things

Yukio Tada
Leader, FSM Project, Musical Instruments & Audio Products
Development Group,
Yamaha Corporation

The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) standard is an epoch-defining technology developed about 35 years ago that connects electronic musical instruments from a variety of manufacturers. In 2012, Google and the W3C undertook an initiative to examine the feasibility of a Web MIDI API standard, which dramatically improves access between musical instruments and the Internet. Yamaha also offers Soundmondo, a service that shares the sounds of a small synthesizer called "reface" via the Web MIDI API.

I think the "Instrument IoT (Internet of Things)," which connects musical instruments to the Internet, is interesting, but I think the "Instrument WoT (Web of Things)," which connects instruments to things other than musical instruments through a Web protocol, is even more interesting.

I believe that new use cases and value will emerge by connecting what has previously never been connected. The Association of Musical Electronics Industry (AMEI) has presented Creators' Hub, a program that converts between protocols. Yamaha used Creators' Hub in a drone race held at Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki in February 2017 to improvise songs by converting drone movements into sounds.

Thus far, use cases have been created by the following flow: several companies considered standards, based on which manufacturers developed platforms and products, and users then used the products thus developed. However, today users do not react even if we prepare standards. Rather, many new use cases first emerge, then a platform is created, and finally a standard is created. That standard also evolves rapidly via firmware updates.

How can manufacturers create such use cases? We should aim to achieve destructive innovation *. To do so, we must keep a close eye on our future vision. So, after defining our vision, we carried out backcasting, by which a future vision is formulated first and then what should be done at present to realize the vision is examined. We returned to Yamaha's corporate slogan, "Sharing Passion & Performance," and had project members discuss our ideal future state.

As a result, we decided to become the world's leading "Kando**-creating company" (**Kando is a Japanese word that signifies an inspired state of mind), after which we objectively predicted the future by temporarily letting go of Yamaha's present strengths and successful experiences. Based on this ideal future state, we visualized and shared what is expected of Yamaha. Then, by identifying gaps between the ideal and current Yamaha, we worked out specific details, such as the business to conduct and the technologies we lacked. We "visualized and shared what is needed" through co-creation with Fujitsu.

*: An innovation that upsets the existing market balance and dramatically changes an industry's structure.

CREATIVE GROUND: Co-creation Project between Yamaha and Fujitsu

A scene from the panel discussion

The second half of the presentation took the form of a dialog between Yukio Tada from Yamaha Corporation and Masuhito Tanaka from Fujitsu Design Limited. Tanaka reflected on the start of Yamaha and Fujitsu's co-creation project: "It all began from the inspiration to create a use case which can deliver impressions by connecting motion data obtained from Interactive Shoes Hub (Fujitsu's sensor shoes) and sounds through Creators' Hub."

That mechanism was jointly exhibited in March 2016 at SXSW (South by Southwest), a creative business festival held in Austin, Texas, and also in April 2016 at the "Sound & City" workshop held at Ark Hills in Tokyo's Roppongi.

At Sound & City, the companies further improved the prototype they exhibited at SXSW to enable the movements of people wearing sensor shoes to be transformed into sounds and lighting that could be played with musical instruments. "I felt touched by the smiling faces of participants," Tanaka reflected. Mr. Tada emphasized the importance of co-creation efforts: "Whenever we do this kind of thing, people ask what kind of business model is in our mind, but this time I felt it was more important to create a culture than to think about a business model."

"By creating prototypes every two or three months, we could see changes in the young project team. Young members who came back from SXSW proposed that Yamaha should do more things like this and discussed how they could achieve social good (social contribution). I feel they are now more motivated than ever to do something for society." (Mr. Tada)

Thus, Yamaha and Fujitsu embarked on a vision co-creation project named "CREATIVE GROUND." While keeping in mind "the fixed future," such as interface evolution and the creation of smart things, dozens of members-- including designers, engineers, and AI experts-- participated in a training camp to share ideas about the future under the theme of "Shaping the Future We Want."

To discover untapped business areas, the companies repeatedly carried out field work and made new creations by visiting farms and watching sports, after which they refined their ideas.

"We felt we had run out of ideas. We even began to think that our current technology was obsolete and useless, or that our sound quality was unsatisfactory and should be improved. However, by conducting training camps and field work, we realized that there were many good things dormant within the company," said Mr. Tada.

Mr. Tada continued: "Fujitsu sees a market that is invisible to us, and I felt that something good could be created by combining both companies' assets."

In this way, the business theme of "Sound Intelligence" was born. The concept of Sound Intelligence is to record sounds on a server together with the time and location and then to reproduce sounds according to the situation to provide completely new experiences in various fields. Fujitsu Design, together with Yamaha, prepared a concept book and logo to convey this theme in an easy-to-understand manner; designed the "Sound Curator" earphones, which are equipped with various sensors that enable users to hear sounds without blocking ambient noise; designed the "Sound Producer" speaker, which enhances sounds and performances by reading the player's movements; and created a promotional video. During the entire process, Fujitsu Design handled the creative direction.

[Sound Intelligence]

Now that the Proof of Concept (PoC) verification has been completed, Fujitsu aims to create a completely new business by combining Yamaha's next-generation sound technology terminals while performing AI and context analysis using Fujitsu's MetaArc digital platform.

Mr. Tada summarized his impressions of co-creation: "When we try to do something new, the new business and existing business tend to conflict with each other. I think this is mainly because we cannot clearly picture customers who do not yet exist. When I saw customers' smiling faces at the Sound & City workshop and the father and girl smiling in the promotional video, I really hoped to create such a world and was motivated to work on new things."

Fujitsu offers co-creation spaces, such as the Fujitsu Digital Transformation Center (DTC) in Hamamatsucho, HAB-YU and TechShop Japan in Roppongi, and FUJITSU Knowledge Integration Base PLY in Kamata. Tanaka concluded: "I hope to help create new businesses by combining digital service design capabilities, places for competition, capabilities to integrate across industries and business types, and integrated infrastructure for digital transformation." Also, "IoT FUTURE UX xF," a project to create the IoT of the future, has already started. Fujitsu Design will continue to introduce various projects going forward.

  • Yukio Tada Leader, FSM Project, Musical Instruments & Audio Products Development Group,
    Yamaha Corporation

  • Masuhito Tanaka Design Director, Strategic Design Group,
    Fujitsu Design Limited