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World Digital Summit organized by Nikkei and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

Sustainable Societies Pioneered by Digital Industrial Revolution

September 26, 2017

Solving Social Issues through the 7 Themes of Social Value Creation

The digitalization of our society has progressed rapidly. It is said that the number of IoT devices will increase from 10.4 billion in 2011 to 30.4 billion by the year 2020, and if we also include sensors, we are approaching an era where hundreds of billions of devices will be connected to all manner of things. This is an irreversible trend, and will continue to grow exponentially into the future, bringing about changes in our society.

These changes are often described as a trend called "digital transformation," but NEC prefers the term "digital industrial revolution" because it's not just a trend but rather produces a large impact on creating change in the industrial structure. In 2014 NEC launched "Orchestrating a brighter world" as a corporate statement and has been working on "Digital Industrial Revolution" through "Seven Themes for Social Value Creation". We aim to solve social issues by supporting customers' businesses and realizing change.

This trend is evident even a global scale. In 2015 the United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (to be achieved by 2030) to solve worldwide social issues.

Digital technologies are indispensable to solving such issues and achieving sustainability, and I believe that there are so many areas in which ICT can contribute to these efforts.

Cases of Social Value Creation Using Digital Technologies

So what changes can we bring about by applying digital technologies? I would like to show 3 cases.

The first is the Predictive Crime Defense System deployed by the Kyoto Prefectural Police. Kyoto Prefecture, a major tourist destination that welcomes over 8.7 million visitors each year – a staggering number even by global standards, has joined with the Kyoto Prefectural Police to promote "Creating Safe Towns and Cities project". In collaboration with NEC, Kyoto Prefectural Police embarked on development of a predictive crime system employing advanced technologies, and started Japan's first patrols using this system in October 2016.

This system combines criminal theory with data on past crimes committed in all areas of Kyoto Prefecture, and analyzes this data to predict when and where certain types of crimes tend to happen. The system proposes patrol routes based on high-risk predictions allowing police to dispatch patrols more efficiently. The system will be improved further by the addition of weather, temperature and geographical data.

The next case is about predictive plant maintenance based on data analysis. JGC Corporation, an engineering company involved with oil and gas plants, has for some years faced issues related to extended plant life, aging plant operators and difficulties in securing skilled staff, which have impact on the safety and the efficiency of plant operations. These concerns led to the building of a system, which combines NEC's AI-driven Invariant Analysis Technology and JGC's plant-related know how, to detect signs of abnormality in plant operations.

Invariant Analysis Technology monitors plant-wide operations by modeling correlations between data from various sensors installed in oil and gas plants. This allows for early detection of unnoticed trouble signs using sensor data alone. As a result, the system better optimizes plant operations, including inventory levels for replacement parts, as well as reducing plant downtime.

In the next case we have collaborated with the food company Kagome Kagome and NEC are promoting an agricultural support solution that applies digital technology to outdoor cultivation of tomatoes for processing to obtain the same yields as skilled farmers without the need for specialist knowhow. Through the use of satellites, the solution has so far been successful in visualizing big data without labor-intensive input. From this data and NEC's AI technology, the solution has then been able to create a virtual farm, or "digital twin", making it possible to visualize and predict unnoticed changes by creating about 20,000 growth simulations.

Kagome is using these simulations to derive yield volumes, crop stress levels and optimized cultivation methods for each plot, and by passing on advice based on these results to farmers, the company has recorded stable yields since the inception of the project. Despite weather conditions and the many other factors associated with outdoor cultivation, digital technology is making it possible to control tomato yields to meet plant-processing demands by optimizing yield and harvest times, and as such is even reducing wastage. The goal is to optimize the entire value chain, from production through to processing.

We have just looked at three different examples, but what they have in common is the use of digital technology to "visualize" the tacit knowledge possessed by our customers. Mixing this with our customers' specialist knowhow we can effect fundamental changes in how businesses and operations should run and the optimal ways to move forward.

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