Crafting a vision for shared value
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Crafting a vision for shared value

Kenny MacIver – October 2013

With its recently unveiled Technology and Service Vision, Fujitsu has set out an ambitious roadmap for harnessing the new powers of ICT to address some of the major challenges for both businesses and society as a whole.

There’s a growing intelligence on the streets of Tokyo. Around 4,000 taxis in the Japanese capital have effectively been turned into real-time mobile traffic sensors. Fitted with GPS probes, they relay real-time information about their changing location to an ever-present cloud, the Fujitsu SPATIOWL location-based data service. And their information-gathering capability stretches well beyond location. They have the ability to collect other highly granular data such as when their anti-lock brakes are engaged, their windshield wipers are active, and (using embedded cameras) if cars ahead of them suddenly slow down.

The SPATIOWL service is also open to feeds from other commercial vehicles, roadside sensors and participating individuals’ mobile devices, as well as collating information from social media, weather and other sources.

The upshot of that simultaneous application of big data analytics, mobile networks, cloud, machine-to-machine services, the Internet of Things and highly advanced data integration technologies is a live map of the movement of people around Tokyo and the status of a city’s vehicle arteries.

Over the past two years as the SPATIOWL service has grown in sophistication, its capabilities have become ever-more valuable. Developed by global ICT vendor Fujitsu, it can detect when a rainstorm slows traffic, cars are skidding and streets may be flooding. For the city’s agencies, it provides the opportunity to identify congestion hotspots and optimize traffic flow. For courier and shipping companies that can access the service on-demand, the opportunity is to forecast delivery times and optimize routes in real time.

SPATIOWL also aims to empower citizens by feeding data to their smart mobile devices on traffic conditions, the status of parking facilities and the discounts and deals available to them at nearby shops and restaurants.

Moreover, in such a seismically active region, visibility into how the city’s physical communications infrastructure is impacted by earthquake activity can be monitored live by rescue agencies, allowing them to identify blocked routes and guide vehicles to possible detours. Indeed, when the Tōhoku earthquake hit the region northeast of Tokyo in March 2011, with tragic loss of life, the system was in its early phase, but still detailed how the Tokyo traffic across the city slowed before coming to a complete standstill. By analyzing the data collected, disaster response agencies can create scenarios for optimal traffic flow in future events.

And this service is by no means limited to Japan. Fujitsu recently announced plans to actively license SPATIOWL solutions outside its home country.
Big picture thinking

SPATIOWL is just one of many innovative projects that Fujitsu is highlighting to demonstrate what it regards as a fundamental shift underway in the relationship between ICT, business and society. The company believes that we are all entering a new era of computing and communications — one that puts people firmly at the center of the model — and that requires ICT to take on a much wider and ‘human-centric’ role.

Enabled by the rapid development of powerful new capabilities, ICT is moving beyond its classic remit of improved business productivity and efficiency. While becoming a driver of innovation and an accelerator for business growth, it has also developed the potential to tackle some of the major challenges facing societies around the world, from healthcare and food supply to caring for increasingly elderly populations and the management of mega-cities.

“Our vision is based on a single, big picture: the alignment of societal value and business strategy. That is vitally important for sustainable business growth.”

Reflecting and responding to that, the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision, unveiled in April, seeks to align the company’s global R&D, its service delivery, sales and marketing, manufacturing and other functions behind those challenges. And that new paradigm will guide innovation, technology and service planning, and ultimately products for the company for the next three to five years.

“We are asking how ICT can contribute to the solving of difficult business and societal challenges,” says Yoshikuni Takashige, vice president and general manager for portfolio strategy with Fujitsu. And the phenomenal pace at which ICT has advanced in recent years certainly lends optimism to the idea that it can have real power to dramatically change business models and help address societal challenges, he says.

He cites the 100-fold rise in the performance of supercomputers and their use in modeling weather patterns, product prototyping and simulation, drug discovery and genetics research; the advent of big data analytics to give real-time insight for business decision-making, the power of cloud computing to provide infinitely scalable processing power, and the nascent capabilities of the Internet of Things to continue the convergence of the physical and digital worlds.
Inspiration and ambition

Above all, the inspiration behind Fujitsu’s vision is derived from the scale of the challenges evident in economies and societies around the world, says Takashige. On the business side, the innovative application of technology to enable new business models is becoming the critical factor for success. Alongside that, societies are being forced to address a series of challenges — from dealing with aging populations and the growth of urbanization, to the burgeoning demands on scarce resources such as food, water and energy.

 

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These are not issues that can be ignored, emphasizes Fujitsu’s Takashige. By 2030, for example, the world’s population, at an estimated 8.3 billion, will be more than twice the Earth’s capacity to absorb its impact, he says. By that stage, 60% of people globally will live in cities, and almost a third of the population of developed countries will be over 60 years old. The complexities of dealing with such issues alone will require innovative application of ICT in healthcare and agriculture, energy, urban transportation, education and disaster impact mitigation.

“The important point is that the technology has advanced at such an unprecedented pace as to make addressing such things a reality,” he says. Such social and business innovation will exemplify an ICT-driven future that Fujitsu characterizes as a ‘human centric intelligent society.’

“A human centric intelligent society is a destination,” says Takashige. “What we have set out with the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision is the process and steps to reach that.”

To complete the journey, Fujitsu has set out three action areas that need to be cohesively aligned and executed in relation to ‘people, information and ICT’ — create innovation through people, power business and society with information, and optimize ICT systems from end to end. And, to help customers take these actions, it identifies eight key technology areas where it plans to invest heavily:

• Cloud services to provide ‘on-demand everything’

• Mobility to deliver the convenience of smart devices

• The integration of current ICT systems with cloud, mobile, big data and other new technologies

• Big data to provide new value from both traditional and new information sources

• Information security and governance

• The modernization and optimization of ICT to reduce operational costs and free investment for innovation

• Integrated computing systems, repackaging hardware and software for agility and optimal performance

• Network-wide optimization to computers, networks and smart devices via intelligent software.

Although ambitious, this is a goal Fujitsu is already actively focused on delivering, says Takashige. “This is not just a picture painted on the corporate office wall,” he says. And it is reaching around the planet.

“This is the first time that Fujitsu has articulated a single global vision to an international audience,” he highlights. “As technology is becoming a vital core in determining the performance of business, governments and communities elsewhere in the world, now is the time to explicitly explain our thoughts on how technology will shape the future.”

Behind that new global outlook is a strategy to align its portfolio and future innovation to a global audience. But it also marks an important stage of the company's international expansion that has lasted almost 25 years, the result of strategic acquisitions of (among others): Siemens Computers in Germany; Amdahl in the US; Kaz Group, Supply Chain Consulting and Atos Origin’s operations in Australia; DMR in Canada; and, back in the early 1990s, ICL in the UK and Nokia Data in Finland.

“So [the single vision] is a real milestone for Fujitsu in our endeavor to stand out in the global marketplace,” says Takashige.
Uniqueness of vision

Of course, Fujitsu is hardly alone in having a grand vision for the future of ICT – its (mostly) American competitors (it is the world’s fourth largest ICT services company by revenue) have their own take on what the future of ICT will look like and the intelligent environments it will enable. But the human-centric focus of Fujitsu’s vision has uniqueness that dovetails with much current global and Japanese management thinking.

“The Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision is based on a single big picture: aligning societal value — common good for society — and business strategy,” outlines Takashige. “Aligning those is vitally important for the long-term sustainable growth of business.”

And that direction is backed by some of the world’s big thinkers. Ikujiro Nonaka, professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Hitotsubashi University and a leading thinker on knowledge management, has written extensively on how business executives need to strive towards a ‘common good.’ And in a similar vein, Harvard professor Michael Porter, the renowned authority on competitive strategy, has argued strongly that it is in the best interest of business to create ‘shared value’ with the wider interests of society.

“This kind of big picture, that aligns societal value and business strategy, is very much based on Fujitsu’s character,” says Takashige. “Our shared spirit and culture, as embodied in the Fujitsu Way, our corporate philosophy and code of conduct, may be summarized as an aspiration for people to dream big dreams and contribute to society,” says Takashige. “Looking back at the historical context, there was a long mercantile tradition in a certain region of Japan where the ethos was to serve multiple stakeholders  sellers, buyers and community — and such traditions still have a strong influence in Japan. These days many Japanese companies explicitly state that their corporate philosophy involves contributing to society,” he outlines.

The difference between Western and Eastern attitudes to sharing value may be changing, observes Takashige. While during the previous decade many Western companies would have been solely focused on maximizing value for their shareholders, a re-examination of the questionable merits of ‘extreme capitalism’ has seen more executives paying greater attention to other stakeholders — customers, employees, partners and even the societies in which they operate.

• See more details about the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision
First published October 2013
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