Research and development (R&D) is critical for every organisation that wants to grow and deliver more meaningful solutions for both its customers and wider society in general. But innovation isn't just a buzzword or a chance for blue-sky thinking — at NTT DATA, we invest heavily in R&D because we want to change the world.
As a company with Japanese heritage, we strongly believe in change-led growth and are inspired by Society 5.0, the concept of a human-centred society that balances economic advancement with the resolution of social problems by a system that highly integrates cyberspace and physical space. Technology at all levels should be driven by human needs, a commitment to concrete progress, and a better, more intelligent, digitised society.
The NTT Group recently hosted our annual R&D Forum – this year’s event was named ‘Road to IOWN 2022’ and showcased the very best and brightest innovations from across the NTT Group with a particular focus on technologies that, over the next decade, could create the basis for the next generation of sustainable data and communications infrastructure. With this in mind, let's recap the most exciting examples of innovation at NTT DATA and the wider NTT Group from throughout this year.
1) IOWN, the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network, takes shape #SustainableInternet
One of the main themes at the NTT R&D Forum 2022 was the updated Innovative Optical and Wireless Network concept initially proposed in 2019. The steps we’ve made with the technology this year are very encouraging: everybody involved is making great strides to turn it from an R&D innovation into a potential commercial reality. The first IOWN services are due to launch in the 2023.
The team at NTT provided futuristic demonstrations of IOWN’s capabilities at the Forum. This included using IOWN APN technology and equipment to enable remote surgery via robotics, and the development of “Another Me” technology that allows individual avatars in the metaverse to act autonomously and share experiences with the user, creating the future of communication.
Our work to develop a solar farm in space is also set to transform the way we use renewable energy and transmission technology. If we can combine technologies to efficiently convert sunlight into lasers or microwaves in geosynchronous satellite orbits, we can transform high-intensity beams into electric power and create solar farms that could transmit 24-hour energy to Earth, from space.
When we bring IOWN to life, the potential benefits will impact all areas of the telecoms and tech industries and enable the creation of ubiquitous smart digital services to enrich all industries. It should allow us to overcome the limitations of existing information processing infrastructure, create an entirely new suite of services and applications, and harmonise all our ICT resources with optimum efficiency. This is all made possible by All-Photonics Networks, the Cognitive Foundation, a new form of computing architecture and digital twin computing, integrated across organisational and even national borders – the three pillars of IOWN.
With several years of research behind IOWN, the NTT Group is aiming to finalise its specifications in 2024. There’s no time to waste, and it’s so exciting to see us building the next generation of communications and computing with sustainability in mind: innovation that won’t break the planet.
2) Digital twins get hearts pounding
As a key stream of the IOWN agenda, the NTT Group has continued to invest in the world of digital twins over the past year: technology that can create fully virtual, accurate models of physical objects – like devices, sports stadiums, or even cities. Our Smart Cities initiative is one such programme: using digital twins to help cities model climate scenarios, manage traffic flow, and much more.
Our AW3D data collection has been instrumental in city planning efforts, creating 3D digital twins for numerous UK cities. This has been used, for example, to model in 3D the performance of 5G networks and their impact on the environment: such as how the construction of new towers will affect vegetation, bridges, and buildings.
However, what has been most exciting is the progress that has been made within the healthcare space. Our latest research from California has looked at building digital twins for the human body, and in November this year, NTT Research announced a collaboration with Harvard University to engineer a model of the human heart as a digital twin. This builds on several years of work developing a bio-digital twin of the cardiovascular system.
Researchers hope to progress cardiac care by transforming the heart into something we can study, analyse, and test through simulations. If we can understand the rules dictating how the heart’s muscular pump functions, we can use technology to not just improve our external surroundings, but the health of our bodies too.
3) Private 5G networks bring cities closer together
Throughout the history of 5G technology, NTT has been one of the major driving forces in its development. As such, we are primed to play a leading role in its rollout over the next few years.
In September, NTT announced a new partnership with the City of Las Vegas to build the most extensive private 5G network in the United States. The impact of this partnership is deep and wide-ranging: allowing the city to have more control over its own network infrastructure and security, as well as offering improved performance and reliability compared to public networks.
These performance boosts will have a measurable impact on technology across all industries. Private 5G networks can be useful for applications that require high bandwidth and low latency like virtual or augmented reality, remote healthcare and telemedicine, autonomous vehicles, and industrial automation and control.
4) Quantum computing takes a super position
The excellent work of NTT DATA, NTT Research, and 1QBit won us the BMW Quantum Computing challenge in December 2021, with our entrants developing innovative quantum algorithms and testing their solutions on real quantum computers. This only spurred us on in our mission to locate and employ the brightest and most qualified experts in emerging technologies this year.
We are driving forward the huge commercial potential of applications such as Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC). PQC is set to change the world of cybersecurity as we know it, as companies like IBM make huge steps into Quantum Computing with the unveiling of a 433 Qubit quantum processor.
It’s fantastic to see such forward-looking steps in empowering our researchers to use quantum mechanics to transform data security and communication and I’m looking forward to our continued research into quantum computing and the results that it delivers.
5) Changing the game in sports technology
At NTT DATA, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to change the world.
This year, we have made some significant advancements in the field of sports technology by improving the fan experience and accelerating digital transformation for the organisers of major sporting events worldwide.
We’re proud of the work we’ve completed on projects for IndyCar, The Open, and The Tour de France. Let's look at some of the most exciting innovations from each event.
At The Open, our ShotView technology has allowed fans to follow their favourite golfer’s progress around the course from the ease of their own mobile device. Meanwhile, NTT’s work with the Tour de France involved the creation of a digital avatar to greet fans at various stages and the construction of an upgraded augmented reality app, letting users follow the whole race as it happened on their tabletop.
For IndyCar, not only did we create a digital twin of the Indy 500 itself, but we also created a digital twin of the stadium. As one of the largest multi-day sporting participatory events in the world, the organisers needed to gather data in real-time, before using predictive analytics and digital twins to prevent ruinous traffic jams. So, we created a digital twin to look at historical and real-time data about traffic jams and help the race organisers to divert cars to prevent congestion and ensure the smooth running of the event.
Sustainable impact and innovation
NTT DATA is at the forefront of global innovation, with a strong focus on purpose-led research and a commitment to long-term thinking. We strive to discover impactful solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, while monitoring the environment and the footprint we are creating as well. For example, in Italy, NTT DATA’s CO2Sink technology is being used by Calabria Verde to accurately estimate the exchange of CO2 between vegetation and the atmosphere – measuring the net balance of carbon and providing a scientific basis for carbon credits.
The progress that we’re making in fields like photonic computing, sports technology, and 5G networks isn’t just providing us with exciting technological outcomes today. It’s also set to help transform the way we interact with technology and with wider society in the future, too.
I’m looking forward to seeing more in 2023. Keep a watch out for the Tech Foresight report, due to be launched in early 2023.
If you’d like to see how we can help your company implement any of these technologies, get in touch today.