Innovation is fundamental to success in today’s fast changing digital world. At NTT DATA we are built on a culture of innovation. It guides our thinking, motivates us, and helps us to create new processes, technologies and operational models to transform business and society.
We are proud to be part of NTT Group, united by shared values and vision for the future. NTT is a world leader in innovation, working right at the cutting-edge of technological change that will genuinely revolutionise the future ways we live and work. Across all its technology development, NTT is rightly anchored by the concept of Society 5.0: a human-centric society built not just for economic advancement, but one that uses the integration of cyber and physical space to help resolve social problems.
Every year, NTT hosts its R&D Forum – a stunning showcase of research and development at the company over the past year. The global pandemic meant NTT R&D Forum 2020 was forced to be online-only. However, true to the adaptable and agile thinking at the core of everyone in NTT, attendees were still treated to an fascinating four-day event with 83 exhibitions, and 9 live-streams of keynote addresses.
Titled ‘NTT R&D Forum 2020: Into the IOWN – Change the Future’, the event covered eight different areas: IOWN, Network, AI, Security, Data Utilisation and Management, Media and Devices/Robotics, Environment and Energy, and Basic Research.
Last year’s theme was guided by Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN), a future communications infrastructure that will harness the power of photonics, rather than electronics-based computing. The expected benefits of IOWN are significant, from higher speed and capacity across the computing infrastructure, to ultra-low energy consumption – cutting down on the environmental impact of the tech sector as a whole. Crucially, IOWN will be instrumental in bringing the physical and digital world closer together, delivering immersive experiences that seamlessly integrate into everyday life and open up new ways to disrupt and make society a better place for everyone.
This years’ event showcased some of the most exciting visions and disruptive technologies around the world, bringing together the latest thinking and innovation from Tokyo to Silicon Valley. Below, I will explore five of the most exciting pieces of innovation on display at the flagship event.
Beyond Digital Twin
Digital Twin Computing is a digital replication of something that exists in the real world – almost like a mirror in the cyber world - that allows us to simulate different things in a virtual space. This will help predict future states for the environment and the people in it.
NTT DATA is now looking to expand the concept from individual components to a connected ecosystem such as a city. Every day, public officials struggle to visualise and respond at pace to the complex array of issues that affect the world’s cities. Digital cities could be a key solution to this problem, allowing officials to carry out simulations to find ways to solve a whole range of problems, for example modelling traffic flows to reduce congestion and improve city planning.
Safe and Social Infrastructure for Smart World
There are both possibilities and dangers associated with IOWN/photonics networks. As communication technology evolves, there will also be an evolution of technologies that want to attack them.
NTT is researching an approach where in this smart world, objects and their connections are replicated in cyberspace. Within this cyberspace, the people and objects are analysed temporally and spatially to spot any anomalies or the spread of malware. Importantly, this enables a more proactive rather than reactive approach to cyber security.
Contributing to a Healthy and Hopeful "Medical and Healthcare Future"
The concept of digital twins has important implications for healthcare. A human or bio-digital twin enables us to replicate the internal and external parts of a person in a virtual space. This adds a crucial new capability to medical research, opening up new possibilities for scientists to probe the functionality of – for instance – critical organs in a virtual space and identify new pathways for treatment. NTT Research is leading the way here, with pioneering work to help medical professionals to predict heart tremors in their patients.
Another presentation looked at the use of microwave absorption to calculate glucose data through the day, helping patients keep their blood sugar level within certain bounds and to exercise at the right time. The presenters also demonstrated using cybernetics to influence the nerves that control movement to help with physiotherapy/rehabilitation.
This technology could also be used in other applications such as helping people to learn to play the piano by replicating the actions of a professional, or even for an athlete to regain form after an injury.
Contributing to the creation of a sustainable society
We are entering a critical period in the fight against climate change, as businesses and government rush to play their part in establishing a zero-carbon future. IOWN is an integral part of making this more sustainable world a reality. The shift from electronics to photonics provides a huge step up in speed and capacity of computing networks, all for a fraction of previous levels of energy consumption.
It was incredibly exciting at the R&D Forum to hear this idea being put into practice in NTT’s work with the ITER International Fusion Energy Organisation to help build the world’s first experimental hydrogen fusion reactor. With the agreement concluded in May 2020, NTT will be helping the ITER Project use technology including IOWN to successfully manage information distribution and control systems for the reactor – all with the aim of achieving zero environmental impact.
NTT also updated on its ongoing collaboration with the Japan Space Agency to investigate the possibility of, in the future, putting data centres into geostationary orbit. They would – in theory – be auto cooled by the vacuum of space, drastically reducing their energy consumption, and with all data efficiently transferred back and forth via IOWN.
Farming solutions utilising ‘MICHIBIKI’
NTT is at the cutting edge of agri-tech innovation. One particular presentation caught my eye. It explored how farmers in Japan are better able to handle a declining farming population using a smart agricultural system, realising the automation of farming with robotics and AI to enable a greater output for each human involved.
NTT aims to disseminate this solution throughout Japan, with a view to using it for other paddy rice varieties and agricultural products. Here we see Society 5.0 in action, with technology making a positive difference in helping modernise Japanese farming and drive the sector towards future success.
Every year, NTT Group invests $3.6 billion in R&D to bring digital to life for our clients leveraging intelligent automation, customer experience, data & intelligence, IT optimisation, cybersecurity and IoT.
In pursuing a society in which people achieve sustainable development and mutually recognise diverse concepts of value, we need to realise a smart world in which the relationship between people and technology is interconnected.
NTT R&D Forum is testament to NTT’s continued commitment to push boundaries and explore the possibilities of technologies. I want to extend my thanks to those that made the event possible and hope that we will all be able to be together for NTT R&D Forum 2021.
Download the “Creating a vision for a sustainable future” whitepaper to discover more examples of our work on innovation and sustainability over the past year, presented at 2020’s virtual NTT DATA’s R&D event in Tokyo.