Fujitsu paints vision of IT-driven, but human-centric, revolution
Image: Juuso Kuparinen
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Fujitsu paints vision of IT-driven, but human-centric, revolution

Kenny MacIver – April 2014
Global ICT giant kicks off 23-city World Tour with a vision for an intelligent society where work is done ‘by machines, but for humans.’

The wave of digital technologies taking hold during this decade — big data, cloud, mobile, the Internet of Things and advanced robotics — will trigger a second industrial revolution. However, change on that scale needs to have a distinctly human-centric character if its benefits are to be widely enjoyed.

That was the transformational agenda executives from Fujitsu, its customers and partners explored with delegates at the opening sessions of the global ICT company’s 23-destination World Tour in Helsinki and Stockholm in early April.

“We are witnessing a new industrial revolution,” argued Conway Kosi, head of Nordic for the company, a revolution in which intelligent devices outnumber human users on the Internet and start to shape our economies and lives.

“The places we live, shop, go to school, as well as the services we rely on – transportation, energy, water – will be significantly enhanced through being digitally connected,” he told an audience of around 800 in Helsinki. “Our cars will schedule their own services and our refrigerators will order food. We will know at any point the amount of energy our homes are consuming and be able to monitor a baby’s vital signs while it’s asleep in another room.”

In business, this industrial revolution will abolish a lot of fixed boundaries. “Organizations will collaborate and compete in completely new ways to create growth for shareholders and value for customers,” said Kosi.
Device-dominated world

In particular, the much-anticipated growth of the Internet of Things (the IP-enabling of all kinds of currently passive objects) will have a profound impact. Today, it is estimated that about 10 billion devices are connected to the Internet; that number is expected to grow fivefold to over 50 billion by 2020, as washing machines, lightbulbs, air conditioners and countless other ‘things’ come online.

The data they generate will result in an information explosion that will provide the opportunity for hugely valuable insight into, and control over, our world, Kosi said. In essence, it gives us “the power to create new knowledge.”

Such developments, of course, do carry risks, uncertainties and responsibilities, he warned. “It is critical that we avoid the chaos that radical change can bring.”

“We need to ensure the intelligent society that emerges from the new industrial revolution is human-centric.”

Fujitsu CTO Dr Joseph Reger told conference delegates that technology buyers, suppliers, governments and individuals have choices to make about the shape of this ICT-enabled transformation of business and society.

In Fujitsu’s case such choices center on a vision for a Human Centric Intelligent Society – a society structured so that ICT enriches people’s lives and innovation delivers both new business and social value.

Given the very visible pace of technology change, it may not be difficult for anyone to appreciate the ‘intelligent’ piece of that vision, Reger suggested. “But why is this vision human centric? In a world of lights-out infrastructure, automation, devices and sensors, and predictions about the future made by supercomputers, it may actually seem more machine-centric. You might think there isn’t much space for humans in that world.”

The answer, he told the audience, lies in the different ways in which ‘responsible’ and ‘normal’ technology companies view the world. “Fujitsu is developing technologies that are more sustainable, safer and more efficient, that respect privacy and security, that enable and empower people, that foster positive social outcomes.”

These are the responsible choices we’re making, he said. “We need to ensure the intelligent society that emerges is human-centric. In other words the work is done by machines but for humans.”

In the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision, the social benefits are inseparable from business benefits, Kosi argued. “In this new world businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to create new competitive advantage and drive positive social outcomes.” He points to some of today’s most successful organizations as having weaved human-centric ICT into how they create value for their customers, citing PayPal in finance, Kickstarter in crowdfunding, Airbnb in accommodation, Zipcar in car rental and Spotify in music streaming (see profiles of other companies which are harnessing ICT to create business and social value.)
Robots enter the mainstream

One possible manifestation of that human-centric technology was also high on the agenda at the World Tour event in Helsinki. A specially convened panel of experts explored how advanced robotics are now entering the mainstream, demonstrating new abilities to take over tasks from humans in key areas of services, such as healthcare and cleaning, just as they have in parts of manufacturing and warehousing.

Cristina Andersson, CEO of specialist consultancy Robotics Finland, highlighted how the combination of artificial intelligence and big data will allow robots to start making decisions that have previously been beyond human capabilities. “Our houses, for example, are at the point of moving from automation to robotization. Robots will be everywhere in the future and work closely with humans using their multiple sensors to make sense of huge amounts of information,” she said.

E supplied by Fujitsu credit Juuso Kuparinen FujitsuWT14-7
   Japanese Taiko drummers at Fujitsu World Tour

One important application, the panel agreed, will be in caring for the elderly, with robots ensuring people take their medication, offering them beverages, and generally helping to maintain the quality of their lives through interaction even when they are fragile and weak.

Intel Finland’s Enterprise Business Manager, Ari Tella, highlighted how such third-generation robots will “step out of the factory”. He predicted applications in areas such as street cleaning and home help, but the big challenge is taking what has largely been a fixed-location technology and making it mobile.

Robotics was just one of the many focus areas on the Scandinavian leg of the Fujitsu World Tour, which over the next six months will visit 23 destinations in six continents around the world, showcasing the company’s latest innovation and exploring the Fujitsu Technology and Service Vision.

Fujitsu World Tour 2014
• Australia (Sydney), July 18
• Austria (Vienna), May 8 
• Belgium (Brussels), June 3 
• FinlandApril 2 

• France (Paris), September 25
• India (Mumbai September 2, New Delhi September 4)
• Indonesia, August 12
• Ireland (Dublin), July 10
• Italy (Milan), June 17
• Malaysia, August 11
• Netherlands (Utrecht), May 27
• Philippines, August 8
• Poland (Warsaw), May 20 
• Russia (Moscow), September 17
• Singapore, August 6
• Spain (Madrid), June 10
• SwedenApril 8 
• Thailand, August 7
• TurkeySeptember 17
• UAESeptember 17
• UK (Birmingham), July 2 
• USA (San Francisco), December
First published April 2014
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