Fujitsu Forum, the major annual event that showcases Fujitsu's vision, strategies, and solutions all in one place, was held in May. Core technologies and ideas for the future to keep up with the rapid development of digital transformation (DX) in all industries and sectors were showcased from various angles, including industries and work style innovation.
This occasion was attended by Norihiko Sasaki, the founding editor-in-chief and current CEO of NewsPicks Studios. He covered the event with Fujitsu's chief evangelist, Iwao Nakayama. Here are some of Sasaki's key takeaways regarding the future that Fujitsu aspires to achieve and the technology that drives it.
Nakayama: Thank you for making time today, Sasaki-san. Let's start with our 5G exhibits.
Sasaki: Thank you. Much of the work I do is centered around 5G, so this is of great interest to me.
Nakayama: How is 5G central to your work?
Sasaki: About a year ago, I started a video production company called NewsPicks Studios. In the past few years, much of my focus has been on video. Standardization of high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency 5G infrastructure will enable the spread of content that is richer than ever before.
Video is one type of rich content. Though video content spread rapidly with the emergence of 4G and LTE, I think the future holds even more potential. I'm convinced that we are approaching the golden age of video content—and this will not be limited to entertainment content, either. It's very likely to be used in various fields, such as education and medicine.
Nakayama: I agree. When you mention 5G, people may imagine something related to the mobile carrier business, but customers are not just looking for a high-speed network.
The network is merely a means to an end. Customers are looking for solutions to problems and ways to satisfy their needs. Fujitsu has a track record of providing many companies with IT solutions that use network technology. We are now in the preparation stage before the launch of 5G, so we can provide solutions to unleash new waves of innovation.
Sasaki: Fujitsu already has a robust business geared toward carrier base stations as well as a solutions business that targets companies and local governments. This must be an excellent business opportunity.
Nakayama: There's been some talk about reforming network infrastructure. Have you heard of the term "local 5G"? Businesses and local governments will soon be able to construct their own dedicated network environments according to the community's and industry's individual needs.
Some of the main areas of application for local 5G include factories, hospitals, and stadiums. For example, let's consider the challenge faced by rural areas that have a large population of elderly people but not enough doctors and hospitals to care for them. In such a case, local governments and companies can build their own 5G networks to make remote medicine possible.
Sasaki: That sounds like an area in which Fujitsu can leverage its strengths as a system integrator with comprehensive solutions.
We're hearing a lot of talk about 5G, but I think that most people, myself included, are still unclear about what kinds of new services this technology will bring about.
Nakayama: Today, the spread of AI has brought to light the AI black box problem.
Sasaki: What is that, exactly?
Nakayama: In deep learning, when AI produces an answer, the basis for that answer, and what logical processes were involved in reaching that answer, are difficult to discern in most instances. This is why it is called a "black box."
When using AI in companies, answers that lack a clear basis have little reliability, so it is a risk to make use of them. That's why AI vendors are now proactively engaging in the development of transparent AI.
Sasaki: What is Fujitsu's approach?
Nakayama: We developed some of the world's first technologies based on a concept of "explainable AI." The term "explainable AI" refers to technologies that analyze causal relationships within big data, and that are capable of explaining answers in ways that are comprehensible to humans while presenting rational reasoning and evidence for the derived answers.
As part of these efforts, Fujitsu developed the machine learning technologies known as "Wide Learning" and "Deep Tensor," which explain the reasoning behind determined results, as well as the knowledge processing technology called "Knowledge Graph," which presents the basis and evidence for such results, thereby achieving what we call "explainability."
Sasaki: Whether we're talking about companies, public institutions, or medical institutions, when you try to use AI support for making an important decision without a strong basis, the decision lacks credibility. This is especially crucial in the medical field, where decisions may have life-or-death consequences. This is why explainability is key.
Nakayama: When discussing AI, we must note the technological issues posed by computing power and how large amounts of data are processed. Quantum computing is attracting much attention as the next generation of computing, but at present, real-world application of quantum computing is not yet viable.
In response to this, Fujitsu has developed Digital Annealer, a general-purpose computer that digitally reproduces quantum behavior and is specialized for solving combinatorial optimization problems.
Sasaki: You're referring to the method of deriving the optimal combination from among a large selection of options under various conditions. The larger the data set, the more effective the answer may be, but this requires vast computer resources.
Nakayama: That's right. If we can process large data combinations at higher speeds more quickly, we may pave the way for new discoveries in fields such as drug discovery and materials development. However, there are many areas today where we are failing to achieve such advancements due to a lack of computing resources.
Quantum computers are being hailed as systems that can address these challenges, but the technology is still in a nascent stage. This is what drove us to develop Digital Annealer, which is a technology that unlocks processing capacity that is similar to that of a quantum computer.
Nakayama: At this year's event, our exhibits are not only categorized by technology type, but also by sets of solutions that support each industry's digital transformation. One exhibit that I want everyone to see is the one we prepared for the manufacturing industry.
One up-and-coming keyword in the manufacturing industry is "digital twin." The concept is as the name suggests: digitally reproduced copies. Information in the physical world is sent through cyberspace in near real-time using technologies such as the IoT. This information is then used to reproduce the physical environment within cyberspace.
Sasaki: I've never heard of the term "digital twin," but the concept of recreating the physical environment directly in cyberspace is very interesting. Fujitsu is also a manufacturing company, so I imagine that you can apply a lot of your experience in that field. Also, in the manufacturing industry, the scope of application of technologies like the IoT and AI is far-reaching.
Nakayama: The physical world is duplicated in the digital world, where simulations can be run. You can see what happens in a few minutes or an hour, and then apply that back to the physical world. This is the new trend that the manufacturing industry is moving toward.
Nakayama: I would also like to direct your attention to the retail exhibit.
In this exhibit, we showcase an unstaffed store where customers can make cashless payments. A smartphone attached to a shopping cart reads product barcodes, and payment is made via a registered payment method. By using Fujitsu's biometric palm-vein authentication to ensure security, we offer a shopping experience that achieves both security and convenience.
Sasaki: That sounds very convenient. I get a little impatient when it comes to shopping, so this excites me. It can free us from all the time we waste lining up in supermarkets.
We're seeing a lot of activity in this area with Amazon Go and other services launched by overseas companies, but I'd like to see Fujitsu and other Japanese companies develop solutions that spread globally.
Nakayama: Sasaki-san, after seeing all of our exhibits, which interested you the most?
Sasaki: I felt that there is great potential in the new "information bank" system, which transcends industries and systems in order to retain personal data, use it to manage and provide data in place of individuals, and return the benefits back to said individuals.
The way we handle the data possessed by individuals and companies involves a great amount of strategy, and this is a field with much growth potential. Although I have to say, I think you can give it a cooler name.
The underlying concept of trust at this year's event made an impression on me. I believe that in the future, trust will be a key component in enhancing competitiveness—this includes information security and honest handling of data.
Nakayama: You're correct. Going back to the topic of digital twin, I think that as we move forward, all kinds of objects and activities will be reproduced digitally. I think that this will make things much more convenient, but it comes with risks.
For this reason, I think that solutions which ensure safety and security will attract even more attention in the future. This ties in directly to Fujitsu's theme this year, "Driving a Trusted Future."
Nakayama: We don't have to cover everything, but I'd like to know your honest thoughts after attending this year's Fujitsu Forum.
Sasaki: Actually, in my previous job as a reporter at Toyo Keizai for the Weekly Toyo Keizai magazine, at one point I was assigned to cover Fujitsu.
At that time, the main areas I covered were hardware and system integration. I felt that in addition to the new solutions in those fields, there is a larger trend toward transcending the system integrator framework. I think that Fujitsu's strategy in showcasing its new identity to the world, including the brand strategy, will be very important.
The media often picks up solutions geared toward individuals, but B2B is really where the strengths of Japanese companies lie. I hope to see Fujitsu develop new solutions and to help shape society by innovating in the infrastructure of companies and public institutions.
Nakayama: Thank you for your encouraging words. My job title is evangelist, so my job is to communicate Fujitsu's technologies and solutions to as many people as possible in ways that are easy to understand. I'm committed to making sure that people understand that our technologies and solutions are making contributions to society.
(Reporting, editing, and layout: Takeshi Kimura; Filming: Kazushige Mori; Design: Saki Kuroda)