Exploring digital frontiers through co-creation
Keynote speakers at the recent Fujitsu Asia Conference in Singapore argue that business success in the digital era will stem from tight technology partnerships and a willingness to experiment.
Advanced digital technologies — from AI and IoT to big data analytics and augmented reality — are generating waves of disruption across almost every sector. Keeping up with the pace of change requires company-wide digital transformation and a willingness to explore new business models — often with the help of key technology partners.
That imperative for digital co-creation was the primary focus of the keynote presentations by thought-leaders and business executives at the recent Fujitsu Asia Conference in Singapore, part of the company’s 25-country Fujitsu World Tour 2017 that has been showcasing its technologies and expertise across six continents.
Co-creating digital success
Two of the initiatives highlighted at the event by the global technology company underscore that need for businesses to gain exposure to potentially disruptive technologies and new business models. The Fujitsu Digital eXperience Centre is a technology acceleration program that enables customers to discover and collaborate on new digital value chains and the platforms and architectures that can empower and scale those up. Wong Heng Chew, Fujitsu country president for Singapore, described how the company has already conducted more than 60 discovery sessions with customers interested in digital co-creation. The aim, he highlighted, is to enable both public and private sector partners “to stand out among the competition, locally and regionally.”
One major success story for Fujitsu in Singapore is its work with healthcare start-up ConnectedLife, which has developed a system to provide remote monitoring and care to older people in their homes. Daryl Arnold, chairman of ConnectedLife, said that one third of the people living independently in Singapore today are over the age of 65 — a demographic pattern common in many developed countries.
ConnectedLife incorporates Fujitsu’s innovative sound-sensing and analysis technology to create a powerful and user-friendly wellness and safety solution. “Going beyond just motion sensing, we are able to identify events such as coughing, disordered breathing and excessive snoring. This helps us to understand if something is not quite right at home,” said Arnold about the cloud-based service.
The built-in capabilities of the Fujitsu UBIQUITOUSWARE Remote Monitoring System can activate an emergency call to a carer or call center. “It allows older adults to live alone independently as the algorithms enable us to predict if something is going wrong,” Arnold added.
Factory of the future
The Singapore government has emphasized that the city-state will have to continuously take advantage of such innovations if it is to create a globally competitive economy and robust societal infrastructure. Professor Tan Sze Wee, executive director at the Science & Engineering Research Council of A*STAR, Singapore’s agency for science, technology and research, highlighted that in the face of technological change and globalization old business models increasingly look vulnerable. And that means companies and public sector organizations should be enthusiastically embracing market-redefining technologies.
Noting that manufacturing is a pillar of Singapore’s economy, contributing 20% of its gross domestic product, he said the sector should be gearing up to take advantage of AI, IoT, additive manufacturing and other technologies in order to dramatically boost productivity.
Underscoring that call for action, Fujitsu and Singapore’s Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) used the event to announce a three-year partnership designed to accelerate digital transformation among manufacturers. As part of the alignment, Fujitsu plans to provide expertise and technology for ARTC’s Factory of the Future, a model manufacturing space where different test beds allow companies to experiment with new technologies and techniques that promise competitive edge.
ARTC, which is a collaboration between A*STAR and more than 50 industry partners, has already identified several areas of collaboration that includes access to Fujitsu’s Engineering Cloud Platform, industrial IoT, wearable tech, smart factory cybersecurity, augmented reality and AI capabilities, said David Low, CEO of ARTC.
Cleared for take-off
Bringing some of those challenges and opportunities to life, the Asia Conference audience heard a customer perspective on the application of industrial IoT and big data from Sachin Gupta, chief of Rolls-Royce’s IoT capability group. With thousands of products in the market, Rolls-Royce has countless customer touch points, he said. The challenge is to leverage the vast volume of data that flows from those (now and in the future) in order to make better decisions and optimize the business.
This is where the industrialisation of IoT comes into play. The real value of IoT kicks in when a company can track products throughout their complete lifecycles — from when they leave the factory to their operational use by customers. “If the product sends feedback to our design team on the issues faced during its lifecycle then they in turn can provide feedback to our production team,” said Gupta.
In Singapore, Rolls-Royce has embarked on a two-pronged strategy. The first is a collaboration with A*STAR to set up smart manufacturing and IoT centers. “This is where we want to push the technology to the next level and drive innovation in partnership with different industry players, end-users and start-ups that are coming to this space to see how we can develop and embed the technology into our business,” said Gupta.
In the second part of the strategy, Rolls-Royce has established an internal lab where it looks at how to rapidly leverage existing IoT technology and harvest new data platforms in a ‘sandpit’ prototyping environment designed to deliver value quickly.
Human Centric Innovation
As that emphasizes, organizations need to act now. “If you do nothing, you will see yourself disrupted,” Yoshikuni Takashige, vice president of marketing strategy at Fujitsu, told the Asia Conference. He referenced Fujitsu’s technology and service vision to show how Fujitsu itself is on a “journey of transformation to a more open, innovative company” that could deliver greater value to business and society.
Takashige points out that the industrial age is now coming to an end. “During that era suppliers provided standardized goods and services at scale. Today, value is co-created by partners and customers leveraging digital technology.” As a result, vertical integration is no longer a competitive advantage, as digitalization has lowered transaction costs significantly.
As a result, embracing digital co-creation is the way to succeed and remain relevant, Takashige said. And that entails blending business expertise with a partner’s digital technology to forge new disruptive innovation. But behind all that is people.
“It is people’s creativity that realizes innovation. We are seeing the development of a new digital business workforce which combines human creativity with knowledge digital capabilities such as AI,” said Takashige, citing as an example the work undertaken by Fujitsu with Madrid’s San Carlos Clinical Hospital where the focus is on mental health.
Globally each year, he said, around 800,000 people commit suicide, with 90% of those deaths linked to mental health issues. San Carlos’s challenge has been to explore how suicide-prone patients could be identified and given suitable care.
Working with the Madrid-based hospital, Fujitsu jointly developed a system using its Human Centric AI Zinrai technology that analyzed and learned from 36,000 hospital records, as well as more than one million open data records and medical journals. The system has been trained to identify those patients at greatest risk of committing suicide and is more than 85% as accurate as clinicians going through the same data. The difference is that it can do the assessment and come up with a recommendation in a matter of seconds, freeing up clinicians to focus on patient care.
As Takashige told the audience, such a case demonstrates the central idea of Fujitsu’s vision: Innovation that is intrinsically human-centric. (See video interview with San Carlos Clinical Hospital.)
• Portrait photography: Esther Lee