The Fujitsu World Tour kicked off its Australian leg in Melbourne’s Crown Promenade, featuring international guest speakers such as Stephanie Kirkland, director general at Citizenship and Immigration Canada, discussing biometrics security, Fujitsu’s CTO of EMEIA, Dr Joseph Reger, discussing human-centric technology innovation, and Dr Alex Bazin, Fujtisu’s VP and head of market and technology services laying out the company’s Internet of Things vision.
Mike Foster, Fujitsu’s CEO of ANZ, put it simply:
“The world is changing; it is becoming a hyperconnected world.”
By this he was referring to the rise of the Internet of Things. One year prior Fujitsu had placed the focus on IT reshaping business, via the merger of Cloud and Big Data analytics and the forthcoming world of Internet of Things.
This year, the Internet of Things has arrived in a big way for the company, as it unveiled its own end to end , along with the launch of its dedicated A/NZ security practice, which links up with its UK, Ireland, US and Japanese rollout – specifically designed to focus on these kinds of threats.
Foster put the growth of the market in perspective, in 2006 there were just 2 billion devices connected to the Internet – there are now 15 billion. In 2020, he predicts this will increase more than threefold to 50 billion devices – running the gamut from fridges, TVs and thermostats to their connectors, such as wearables and tablets.
The company wants to specifically focus on the healthcare market, boasting that only now are we getting somewhere near the supercomputing power required to produce full renderings of virtual brains and hearts.
To put it in perspective, three years ago Fujitsu had Japan’s fastest supercomputer at 8 petaflops. It has already been superceded and is now the fourth largest, the first place computer claiming 32 petaflops. Why does anyone care about this horse race? Because, Foster says, that kind of power allows us to render five seconds of a complete rendering of a functioning heart. Unfortunately that still takes a day to render, so there’s still a ways to go. But these kinds of advances, combined with the Internet of Things, will take the research of vital organs into a new realm of medicine.
In terms of current real world outcomes via IoT, Dr Reger took to the stage and discussed various projects the company has been working on, for clients as varied as the US Military, Airbus and Toyota.
Simple applications for Airbus, such as RFID tagging of parts, can track which parts of the plane are where in real time (logistically, such as parts transfers across the globe), which parts are deteriorating or in need of inspection. Similar technology is being used by the US military to not only track parts replacements (which need to be shipped from the USA to Afghanistan, for example) but also fakes, and where mechanics tools are in the hangar.
Toyota’s new hydrogen cars in Japan combined sensors and GPS to direct drivers to their nearest refuelling station, and warn drivers when the ‘gas’ is getting low – important since there are only a 100 or so stations in the whole country.
RFID tags are already being used to track patients in hospitals, but wearables open up a new future where patients with dementia can be tracked by staff, their heart rate monitored if they have a panic attack and accelerometers can detect if they’ve fallen over, for example – all making the life of a nurse a whole lot easier.
The point is, basically, that it is less about the technology, which already exists and is being used, but opening it up to the market to so new uses and services can be applied in unique ways, and on a unique scale.
Dr Bazin estimates that the internet of things is set to inject around $670bn into the global economy, but there remain four key challenges – security, privacy, network architecture and compatibility.
The biggest change has been the drop in prices – over the last 10 years the price of sensors have dropped by half, and it is expected to half again across the next five years – to the point where we are getting to disposable sensors.
Other than the obvious security and privacy issues from having all these new items connected to the internet, Bazin also believes that the current way of constructing networks is flawed. Originally, networks have been designed around large volume loads to a fixed number of end points. The Internet of Things requires more frequent low data bursts to multiple points. For example, a connected street lamp may only send 100MB of data a year, but there will soon be billions of them.
A recent Alcatel-Lucent and Bell report showed that up to 67 per cent of all network traffic is wasteful: that is, keeping the IP address up and open on devices, encryption data surrounding transmission etc. – essentially the ‘lights on’ component of IT.
Mesh networks will be needed to cope with future smart cities which will see an average of 1 IoT node per square mile.
Apps need to be written to be sensitive to the condition of the network – scaling and modifying themselves to suit. Pumping 100MB/s of HD video may not be viable when the network is clogged, but lower resolution video or stills may be able to get through at peak times – apps need to be able to do this automatically, for example.
Opening this up to channel partners allows for more creativity. Already in Japan, Fujitsu has seen smart street lights, being adapted to light up in different ways as a Tsunami warning, directing civilians to safe spots.
In another unexpected use, Fujtisu worked with a police department in West Texas to use IoT for inventorising police cars. Every day, policemen spend 20 minutes before their shift starts checking that every official item is present – from guns to tyre pressure. With IoT tagging, that time wastage is now down to three minutes, producing cost savings enough for the police force to hire an additional officer, increasing public safety.
“Once upon a time we would approach customers and say, here’s a business solution for you, and this is what it does for your business,” Dr Bazin said.
“But our customers understand their businesses far better than we ever will. They now say “I can see where that technology can innovate in our business” – so we want to work with those customers, to innovate, to create those ecosystems., then we will all transform not just business, but society.”