Catch the Wind, Challenge the World: Windsurfing SE Makes Advances in Sailing Technology by Creating Windsurfing Lab, an IoT Training System

[The Power to Create the Future Vol. 5 (Part II)]

Being Both a Creator and User Led to Fast, Deep System Development

(Continued from Part I)

Shinya Yokoi, a Fujitsu digital innovator and competitive windsurfer, developed Windsurfing Lab, an IoT-enabled system for improving windsailing techniques.

His passion and proactive efforts led to an open innovation project involving the Japan Windsurfing Association, Lapis Semiconductor, and Fujitsu. To realize practical application of the system, the Japan Windsurfing Association secured testing sites, Lapis Semiconductor created small sensor units, and Fujitsu developed an application to analyze and visualize the collected data. Yokoi thus could develop what was originally a 'summer vacation project' to this stage very quickly because he was both a System Engineer (SE) and a competitive windsurfer.

“Conventionally, in a basic business structure, creators and users are two different entities. What's challenging about my project is that the creator is also the user. I, as a windsurfer, create what I want, try it myself, and make improvements. This enables me to develop the system quickly and reduces the costs incurred by a customer needs study and performance testing. Since I am doing what I enjoy, I can pursue quality without compromise and, as a result, create a system with thoughtful features that satisfy all types of needs. This sensor is the second most important thing to me after my own life. When strong winds blast me, I tell myself I must protect the sensor (laughs).”

Yokoi attaching the sensor to the mast (sail shaft): “I want to make it smaller and easier to attach.”

I Want to Support Windsurfers in the 2020 Olympic Games and Make Windsurfing a 'Sport to Watch'

Yokoi turned his passion of windsurfing into a business and advanced the Windsurfing Lab project while gradually finding new partners from both inside and outside Fujitsu. Where will this project go in the future?

“First, I want to provide total support to Japanese windsurfers in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Although there is still a large gap between world-leading windsurfers and Japanese windsurfers, this IoT-enabled system should enable other Japanese windsurfers to efficiently improve themselves. My system not only visualizes how individual windsurfers ride but also uses the accumulated data to carry out an 'optimization simulation' to suggest more efficient riding styles based on analysis results.

“Meanwhile, I want to increase both the number of windsurfers and fans so that windsurfing becomes widely recognized as 'the F1 of the sea' and grows into a major sport. To this end, windsurfing must be developed into a 'sport to watch.' This system shows what windsurfers are doing offshore in real time. By combining data from this system with drone video, we can deliver race videos that are exciting as well as easy to understand for first-time viewers.”

I Want to Make Windsurfing More Exciting with VR-based Land Training and Interactive Features to Achieve Regional Revitalization

Yokoi is considering using VR to make windsurfing a more popular sport. He aspires to develop a system that enables training on land when windsurfers cannot go out to sea as well as interactive features that beginners can casually enjoy.

“At the Windsurfing World Cup venue in Yokosuka, Shonan Institute of Technology students and I showcased a windsurfing VR demonstration. Those who tried it were all amazed, sharing comments such as, 'I didn't know the board moves so fast!' and 'It feels awesome!' Using something like this to give people the opportunity to feel what it is like to windsurf, I want to pique their interest to actually go out to sea and try it. Meanwhile, I want to work with local governments and stores to create an environment that encourages people to start enjoying marine sports. I hope this series of efforts leads to regional revitalization.

“Once I successfully make solid achievements with windsurfing, I want to apply this system to other sports. While yachting is the closest to windsurfing, there are many less popular sports that rely on sensory-based skill improvement, and I want to try various kinds of things. Visualizing professional skills will change instruction methods. In terms of passing down techniques, I believe this system can also be used in businesses.”

Modest Goals Lead to the Creation of Modest Systems; If I Do It, My Goal Is to Be No. 1 in the World

Yokoi looked very excited as he spoke about the project's future. We asked him what drove this innovation.

“It is the fact that people around the world, including myself, really want to use this system and also that people support me. Comments like, 'I want you to make that system' and 'I want to help you succeed' keep me moving forward. This is only my third year windsurfing, but I already announced that I would become a pro within three years and a world champion within ten years. This is why I am creating an IoT-enabled training system. Some may laugh at me for my recklessness, but if I set a modest goal, I can only create a modest system. I believe I could come this far because I never hesitated to tell people my future vision and, as a result, received much encouragement.”

A Solid Vision Breaks Down Walls in Innovation

Yokoi's passion makes his words even more animated.

“Innovation can be stopped by many walls. A vision is the key to breaking through walls. Having a solid vision of which part of the world you are changing leads you to a breakthrough. I want to become a world-class SE and windsurfer. One day, I want to build the world's fastest windsurfing racing team. I work on these projects because I am serious about my dreams.”

As if to give a big push to his determination, sunshine started to spread from the rift in the thick clouds and strong winds began to blow.

“Good wind makes me want to go windsailing right away.”

He laughed, setting out to sea again; in the blink of an eye, he sailed afar with the wind. Beyond his gaze lies the widening “sea of the world.”

Shinya Yokoi
Digital Transformation Center
Digital Transformation Business Unit
Fujitsu Limited
1983: Born in Aichi. He spent many of his school days practicing judo and baseball.
2007: Joined the Fujitsu Group. He developed backbone systems, mainly for customers in the logistics industry.
2014: Windsurfed for the first time. He won the Lake Motosu Championship 2015 Beginners' Division.
His windsurfing career started.
2017: Created the joint experiment project, Windsurfing Lab, at the Digital Front Center to improve the techniques of competitive windsurfers. As a developer and a competitive windsurfer, he developed the training system.