Fujitsu sets out its credentials as a force for digital transformation
“We are living in a golden age of innovation. In industry after industry boundaries are becoming blurred as organizations realize the possibilities that a hyper-connected world brings for transforming business and creating new value at enormous speed.”
That is how Fujitsu’s head of Americas and EMEIA, Duncan Tait, sums up the sense of opportunity and excitement that digital technology is inspiring across business today. Delivering the opening keynote at the Japanese ICT company’s annual conference in Munich last week, Tait outlined how the confluence of four technology areas — cloud, IoT, AI and security — are driving its customers’ digital transformation strategies and becoming the foundation for Fujitsu’s new value proposition.
In response, Tait said, the company was changing its business structure at a global level and is investing heavily across all four critical technology areas. At Fujitsu Forum, the company announced it is extending the global footprint for its Fujitsu Cloud Services K5 platform. Already fully operational in Japan and the UK, new K5 data centers are due to go live in January in Finland, and in Germany and Spain in March. That global rollout will gain further pace in 2017 and beyond with K5 data centers planned for Singapore, Australia and the United States.
Related to that, the company also announced that a K5 service dedicated to the design, delivery and management of IoT-based solutions — the Fujitsu Cloud IoT Platform — is now available in the EMEIA region.
Sharing the keynote stage with Tait, Fujitsu president, Tatsuya Tanaka highlighted how cloud was the underlying platform supporting digital transformation, pointing to the open nature of the Fujitsu cloud architecture as a key differentiator. K5 is the only mainstream cloud computing platform that deploys the OpenStack cloud interoperability standard across all cloud deployment modes, guaranteeing infrastructure and application compatibility.
“Fujitsu places great emphasis on open architecture and support for a merged cloud environment,” said Tanaka. “Fujitsu’s MetaArc [cloud delivery, orchestration, integration and management services] with its open architecture and global reach supports the business flexibility and mobility [customers need].
Continuing the global investment theme and aware that the new digital environment comes with some formidable security challenges, Fujitsu launched a new Cybersecurity business group for its EMEIA region. “With the growth of technology comes increased responsibility,” said Tanaka. “In addition to developing security technologies, we take a comprehensive approach that includes secure systems design and operational expertise. To this end we have established a new integrated organization dedicated to enhancing security for ourselves and all our customers.”
Fujitsu already provides managed security services from Security Operation Centers (SOCs) in the UK, Germany, Finland and Spain. And Tait said that the company will be upgrading its SOCs in the UK and Germany to become Advanced Cyber Threat Centers, while also bringing to the EMEIA market a wider range of security solutions currently only available in Japan.
To gauge how business leaders are approaching digital transformation Fujitsu recently surveyed 1,200 C-suite executives from around the world. The resulting report Fit for Digital: Co-creation in the Age of Disruption, released during the conference, confirmed expectations that digital is now perceived as critical to success in battling disruption. Almost all respondents (98%) said their organization has already been impacted and will continue to be impacted by digital disruption, while 73% of respondents said technology lies at the heart of their organization’s ability to thrive in a digital world.
When asked to identify the companies leading digital disruption in their sectors, only 12% of executives pointed to their own organizations, compared to the 45% who cited start-ups and organizations from outside of traditional sector boundaries.
Further cementing the key role new technologies play in today’s business environment, Tait said: “Spending on digital or fast IT will surpass spending on robust [or traditional] IT infrastructure within the next three years as fast IT is growing at 19% a year while robust IT is declining at 5% a year.”
The research report highlighted the degree to which legacy technology is a drag on growth, with 40% of business leaders saying that aging technology infrastructure is the biggest factor hindering their ability to respond to digital disruption.
Given the pace of digital transformation, it is not surprising that organizations do not think they can execute digital strategies on their own. Two-thirds of respondents to the survey felt that working with a technology partner was essential to a successful business transformation.
Showcasing the benefits of such co-creation, two customers joined the keynote line-up to offer examples of how their organizations are changing in the face of digitalization. Markus Voss, CIO supply chain at Deutsche Post DHL, described one example of where the logistics company has worked with Fujitsu to equip its drivers with wearable devices to detect signs of fatigue — a critical factor for road safety.
That is one of dozens of initiatives underway at DHL to support its digital ambitions. “We have the technology, the brains, the speed and a burning need for innovation,” said Voss. “We must make sure we leverage that and work with the right partners to make meaningful change.” (Markus Voss’s insight will be featured in I-CIO’s Big Thinker video interview series in early 2017.)
A similar ambition to provide transformational innovation for customers is evident at Spanish financial services group Bankia. Its chief strategy and innovation officer, Ignacio Cea, gave the Fujitsu Forum audience one example of where Bankia is working with Fujitsu on a robotics project that will see a customer-service robot named Laura piloted in branches. (See our in-depth interview with Ignacio Cea.)
Three stages of AI
Such development of artificial intelligence may be in its infancy, but according to Fujitsu’s CTO for EMEIA, Dr Joseph Reger, it holds vast — and daunting — potential. Keynoting at Fujitsu Forum, he argued that AI is a “paradigm shift that will affect change in business and society in ways that are unrecognisable today.” As he told delegates, “AI is already all around us. It’s in search engines that make suggestions to you, it’s on your cell phones with assistance and speech recognition, and it’s in financial services industry credit ratings and investment decisions.” And as CEO Tanaka highlighted, Fujitsu is actively applying AI technologies widely in healthcare, for example, to support the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness in Spanish hospitals.
Although its use is under way, AI is only in the first of three phases of its evolution. Reger outlined that in this initial stage — artificial narrow intelligence — systems can be as smart or even smarter than humans in one particular field e.g. when playing complex games such as chess and Go. Stage two — artificial general intelligence (AGI) — is when systems can equal or surpass human intelligence across most tasks. Finally, there is artificial super intelligence (ASI) when machines are smarter than humans in every field. As Reger pointed out, “that will also include the design of future generations of AI — so humanity might not be needed for that.”
He echoed concerns expressed by the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk and theoretical physicist Dr Stephen Hawking: “When we get to ASI, the concern is that its preferences might not coincide with human preferences.” He warned that there is a danger — though hardly an imminent one — that robots could end up deciding to dispense with human beings altogether. “AGI and ASI will inevitably come, so we need to prepare for that,” he said.
Reger called for wide social debate and agreement on how to proceed with AI, and, above all, for a responsible code of conduct to be developed. Citing Fujitsu’s vision for a Human-Centric Intelligent Society, he said: “For us Human-Centric AI is a natural extension of our longstanding approach.” Fujitsu argues that AI technologies need to be complementary to people's lives and that when it comes to AI, taking a human-centric approach is more important than ever. “The key will be to naturally integrate the technology into human activity. We are working to realize a future in which people and AI autonomously collaborate and achieve previously unthinkable breakthroughs.”