How Technology Can Help to Improve Security and Quality of Life and Bring Happiness to All [Fujitsu Forum 2015 Conference Report]

Conference: Technology Creating Possibilities for the Future—Pursuing coevolution between people, technology and society

Fujitsu Forum 2015 Tokyo, Fujitsu’s largest annual event, was held on May 14-15 at the Tokyo International Forum in Yurakucho. At this conference, Professor Noboru Konno from Tama Graduate School, Tango Matsumoto from Fujitsu and Shigeru Sasaki from Fujitsu Laboratories spoke on how technology can help create a brighter future and how innovation toward achieving such a future ought to be. The three speakers then took part in a panel discussion.

The purpose of technology should always be to improve security and quality of life and bring happiness to people around the world.The first speaker was Tango Matsumoto,who defined Fujitsu's Human Centric Innovation as providing technology with its true purpose of promoting innovation and achieving ideas.

Giving Meaning to Data

We are witnessing the start of a new phase in human-centric innovation. With the advent of wearable computing, data is now generated by a wide variety of sources.

Dressed in business casual attire, Mr. Matsumoto calmly took off one of his bright red sneakers and removed the inner sole to reveal a pressure sensor and a bending sensor along with a tiny GPS unit, a gyro, a Bluetooth module and a power source. All are embedded neatly inside the inner sole, and transmit his movements wirelessly to the smartphone in his pocket at a rate of around ten times per second.

Tango Matsumoto, Corporate Executive Officer, CTO & CIO, Fujitsu Limited

While watches currently enjoy the limelight in the wearables space, shoes are considered to harbor great potential, not least because they provide enough space to house a variety of sensors. He explained that the feet, sometimes called the second heart, provide a wealth of valuable data for various applications. In addition to generating health data, sensors in the shoes can detect an impact if the wearer trips and calls for help, or provide data for scientific analysis of weight distribution, typically in sporting applications.

The data from his shoes gives us a glimpse of the endless possibilities in this field. For instance, one of his employees was able to track a recent journey by train from Kawasaki Station to Yokohama Station, including which line he took to get there and the fact that he was sitting rather than standing. The GPS data combined with the pressure and bending sensor data can be used to determine if the wearer is sitting, standing or walking, as well as the precise route of movement.

In the Internet of Things (IoT) scenario, everything is connected to the Internet, including wearables, and everything is generating and sending data continuously. The challenge is to utilize all of this data to promote human-centric innovation. The key consideration, according to Mr. Matsumoto, is the meaning that is ascribed to the data.

The Age of Individual Creativity Being Demanded

Noboru Konno, Professor at Tama Graduate School (Management and Information Science)/President of KIRO (Knowledge Innovation Research Office)

The next speaker was Professor Noboru Konno from Tama Graduate School, who argued that technology alone does not lead to innovation. He asserted that it is easy to think that cutting-edge technology promotes innovation, but unless it is embraced by the public it will never be successful. So the key is to explain it properly to people in order to gain widespread acceptance.

How then can we promote innovation? Professor Konno mentioned two critical aspects of innovation.

The first is the notion of coevolution. The human race has used the tool of language to advance intellectually, and this in turn has progressed the development of culture and technology. Thus, several strands have evolved together. We are now at a similar stage with humans and computers: we need to find ways to interact with one another and evolve together.

The second key innovation concept is the sharing economy. Through better sharing of resources such as money, products, services and space, we can create new forms of value that produce genuine breakthroughs. Professor Konno argued that the self (“I”) has been the driving force behind our remarkable successes in generating profits from markets through hard work, but this needs to be replaced by a more collaborative approach (“we”) predicated on generating profits together in different ways. No one individual or organization can tackle the challenges of change on their own. We are now at a stage where we can harness the power of collaborative networking and ICT on a global scale to embrace and harness change for our benefit.

Professor Konno described the sharing economy as being built on technology-empowered people, where individuals rather than government or private industry are the drivers of economic activity. The innovation process will be the reverse of existing supply-side logic, where new value is created for the benefit of the company and then passed on to customers and a wider society. It will shift to demand-side logic, where innovation emerges from society and individuals and is then adopted by enterprise. In this scenario, individual creativity will be vital: people will need to be more creative than ever before.

Machine Collaboration to Empower Human Intentions and Desires

Shigeru Sasaki, Corporate Senior Vice President, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.

Shigeru Sasaki from Fujitsu Laboratories listed the spectacular scientific achievements of the 20th century and argued that ongoing evolution of technology will produce ever more powerful and sophisticated machines. Such machines will be strongly influenced by the intentions or desires of those who control them. The use of technology for positive purposes will drive empowerment, social engagement and sustainability in society. He stressed the notion of will and volition based on human morality.

Mr. Sasaki described a number of human empowerment projects underway at Fujitsu Laboratories that have potential for commercialization.

The first project is a line of sight detector that can determine the direction of the eyes, one of the key external organs used by the brain. A tiny sensor the size of a little finger monitors reflections from the pupil and the cornea and generates data that is used to determine the direction of gaze, which acts as an indicator of one's intention or desire. This could be applied to a retail situation, for instance, where a shop assistant can determine what product a customer is looking at and, very naturally, suggest colors that they might like.

The second project involves technology for identifying and extracting non-visible data. An example of this is palm vein authentication, which uses vein patterns in the palm as a unique individual identifier. According to Mr. Sasaki, this is the most accurate and reliable authentication technology in the world today, used to identify around 63 million people on a regular basis. It is easy to use and has the potential to significantly improve security procedures in a variety of industries.

He finished by mentioning the recent development of a smell sensor for detecting gases and odors in gas molecules with a high degree of accuracy. The project is still in the early stages, so not much detail was available. However, one potential use might be a telephone that could monitor a person’s breath and provide health data and alert the user to potential signs of illness.

Innovation to Promote Coevolution of Individuals and Society

After the presentations there was a panel discussion with the three speakers, which explored a number of considerations pertaining to technology and the future. Professor Konno noted that most Japanese companies are fixated on making and selling products and are unable to conceptualize a role for themselves beyond existing markets. According to him, the primary focus of technology research and development in the modern era should be on stimulating and encouraging innovation.

Mr. Sasaki spoke of the importance of every enterprise having a constant underlying vision, irrespective of how large or small it may be. A robust vision provides employees with a sense of purpose that motivates them to perform not because they are told to, but because they want to. A positive outlook promotes shared creativity and creates an environment conducive to innovation.

Mr. Matsumoto concluded the proceedings by arguing that promoting greater acceptance of technology in society represents the fundamental basis of human-centric innovation. To this end, Fujitsu is working with a range of customers on human-centric innovation value sharing schemes designed to harness the true potential of computing power and promote coevolution between technology and individuals and communities.

We are seeing rapid technological advances in this field. In particular, the advent of wearable computing devices and the IoT will provide access to vast quantities of data. But this in and of itself does not equate to innovation. These sessions provided an insight into the missing pieces that are needed for genuine innovation.

  • Noboru Konno
    Professor at Tama Graduate School (Management and Information Science)
    President of KIRO (Knowledge Innovation Research Office)

  • Tango Matsumoto Corporate Executive Officer, CTO & CIO
    Fujitsu Limited

  • Shigeru Sasaki Corporate Senior Vice President
    Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd.