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Tools for Tomorrow

September 27, 2019

”How Facial Recognition Technology is Identifying Rare Genetic Disorders”

Around the world more than 350 million people suffer from rare genetic diseases, a number higher than the total population of the United States. Unfortunately many people who suffer from these conditions fail to receive a diagnosis as a doctor is unlikely to encounter many victims of a particular condition and hence may be unfamiliar or even unaware of a specific disease. Some of these conditions, such as Cornelia de Lange syndrome and Angelman syndrome exhibit distinct facial traits such as arched eyebrows and light skin tone and hence the same facial recognition technology used in airports and smart cities is now being used in hospitals to help identify patients who might have a rare condition.

US company FDNA has already demonstrated the power of facial recognition in rare genetic condition discovery in several experiments. By using algorithms which have been trained on facial images of patients with certain diseases, facial recognition software was tested against the performance of human experts with encouraging results. FDNA’s facial recognition software was able to distinguish a genetic condition 90 percent of the time compared with 70 percent for human experts. When asked to specifically recognize the rare condition Noonan syndrome compared to four other conditions, the program was 64 percent accurate, significantly higher than chance alone.

In the coming years facial recognition technology will become a standard part of a medical checkup, and will be integrated into several aspects of the healthcare industry. NEC is a global leader in facial recognition technology and offers many solutions for the healthcare industry including using its NeoFace Watch facial recognition solution to efficiently manage patient check-in, employee management and security services.


”How AI is Driving the Drug Discovery Business”

The drug discovery business is one of the most challenging business environments on the planet. Developing a new drug from inception to approval costs on average US$2 billion and can take decades to finally receive regulatory approval. As a result of these harsh market conditions, drug prices are high, piracy is rampant, competition is limited and many cures for many rare diseases are often not developed due to the lack of a business case.

For example, in the United States and Europe the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center (GARD) estimates that 50 million people suffer from a rare disease and has identified 7,000 such conditions. Due to the problems mentioned above, however, only 5 percent of these conditions have any type of approved therapy. Examples of rare conditions include Duchenne muscular dystrophy, ovarian cancer and cystic fibrosis.

Artificial Intelligence may very well hold the key to revolutionizing the drug discovery business by optimizing the efficiency and hence costs of the process. Currently 9 out of 10 newly-developed medicines fail to reach the clinical trial phase. A major reason for this is that there are just too many variables for a human being to monitor once a correlation between a chemical compound and an effect on a disease is found. This is where AI can play a major role as massive datasets can be analyzed quickly and demographic and genetic factors can be more readily isolated for further study. Once machine learning algorithms have been trained with large datasets the entire industry will experience a massive digital transformation.

NEC technology is working to improve the speed and efficiency of the drug discovery process, and the company is specifically working to help find new vaccines for several types of cancer. NEC is deploying its `NEC the Wise` AI platform to help analyze the results of clinical trials of head, neck and ovarian cancer around the world with the hope of developing a faster and cheaper cure.


”How Facial Recognition Technology is Optimizing Agriculture”

Agriculture is arguably the world's most important industry, and is under increasing pressure to feed and clothe the global population as it nears 8 billion people. But agricultural livestock is responsible for some of the largest environmental and health challenges facing the planet. For example, livestock is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions across the world at 24% of the global total, and livestock production alone generates more than 15% of the global total. In fact, the methane gas produced by livestock has a 20 times greater impact on greenhouse gases than do typical carbon dioxide emissions. Furthermore, animals consume 70% of the 10,000 tons of antibiotics used in the United States every year which contributes largely to bacterial resistance to medicine. The agriculture industry needs to pivot to a precision-agriculture business model and technologies such as facial recognition are starting to facilitate this transformation.

Facial and behavior recognition technologies are not just for people, as they are starting to be used to manage animals as well. Facial recognition has matured to the point that it is able to accurately able to identify an individual animal by its facial characteristics or the pattern on its hide. Current biometric services for agriculture are able to determine the overall health of an individual animal, such as determining if it is sick and how much it is eating and drinking. Animal tracking and monitoring have been utilized by the cattle industry but facial recognition technology offers some unique benefits to farmers. Camera-based biometric monitoring removes the need for expensive wearables, wireless connectivity, battery issues and data plans resulting in continuous and cost-efficient farm management. This technology reduces the amount of feed, pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics used in cattle rearing and makes the business both more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

NEC provides cutting-edge innovations and leads the world in facial recognition technology.


”How 5G will Revolutionize Enterprise Communications”

Despite global growth in Internet use across the world, many business users still have very limited options for connectivity and prices remain expensive for business use. For example, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission more than 100 million American households and businesses only have access to one ISP, which keeps prices high and speeds low. Furthermore, especially in developing countries Internet monopolies have kept prices high and many emerging markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America charge more than US$100 per Megabyte of Internet service.

5G mobile broadband service will change the way in which businesses communicate by offering a real wireless office experience, often at a lower price and by offering faster speeds. Tests of live commercial 5G service in markets such as the United States are already showing speeds of over 600 Mbps and connection speeds of over 1 Gbps are expected in the near future. As more communication service providers launch commercial 5G service, markets will become more competitive as businesses will have more options for enterprise connectivity.

5G solutions will also transform the way in which businesses communicate internally, delivering high speed voice and video communications in a wireless environment. For example, NEC has tested its 5G equipment in Japan among hospitals, mobile doctors and ambulances. As a result, all parties are able to view video in 4K definition, allowing first responders to prepare adequately before physically seeing a patient. This new method of communications replaces using voice over radio, and is only possible with the new features of 5G technology.

NEC has recently started a partnership with Samsung Electronics to collaborate on jointly developing their 5G portfolio by combining their mobile network and IT solutions. The partnership will see both companies cooperate in sales and marketing of 5G solutions to telecommunications operators starting in 2019 and in the future the companies with utilize technologies such as AI to create new 5G services.


”How High Performance Computing is Transforming Industries”

NEC has long been an industry player in the supercomputing space and manufactures a line of solutions designed to take Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics to the next level. NEC’s SX-Aurora Tsubasa solution is capable of between 2.15 and 2.45 trillion floating operations per second and has been deployed in a variety of industry use cases. NEC recently signed a deal with the German weather forecasting service DWD to use its HPC products to produce more accurate weather information, resulting in better information for consumers and businesses alike.

High Performance Computing (HPC) has traditionally only been used for intensive scientific research due to the high costs involved, but due to economies of scale HPC is increasingly being used by enterprises. According to estimated 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, and businesses are struggling to collect, secure, store and perhaps most importantly analyze this data. Today’s fastest supercomputers in the USA and China have already breached 122 quadrillion FLOPS and 93 quadrillion FLOPS calculation speeds respectively at the demonstration level and are hence increasingly seen as an important business tool to generate new insights from data.

For this reason, HPC is starting to be used in industries such as finance, healthcare and energy to analyze the massive amounts of data being generated by enterprises. Common use cases for such industries include advanced cybersecurity in banks, new drug discovery in healthcare and improving resource exploration in oil and gas fields.

For example, the German weather forecasting service the DWD recently deployed NEC`s HPC solution in order to provide high-accuracy weather predictions. By using HPC, DWD will analyze large amounts of weather data to generate predictions 12 hours in advance. These predictions will be used for a variety of use cases including aviation, marine shipping, energy and natural disaster warning services. Therefore HPC will be used by a variety of enterprises in Germany in order to facilitate safer and more efficient business operations.

HPC is also starting to emerge as an important tool for medical researchers, as shown by recent research initiatives from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory. The institute has recently partnered with several universities to use HPC to research to improve cancer immunotherapy treatments. The group is working to create a digital twin of cancer patients, each one unique to a patient's genome. By applying the processing power of HPC to a digital twin, millions if not billions of possible virtual drug combinations can be tested on a patient with the hope of improving cancer therapy which is only effective 10% to 20% of the time.
NEC has long been a player in the supercomputing space and manufactures a line of solutions designed to take Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics to the next level. NEC`s SX-Aurora Tsubasa solution is capable of between 2.15 and 2.45 trillion floating operations per second and has been deployed in a variety of industry use cases.


”How Technology is Helping Enterprises Overcome Staffing Challenges”

Many developed countries are facing a decline in population which in turn has created labor shortages, especially in labor-intensive sectors. This has in turn put pressure on companies to raise wages and therefore incur lower margins or in some cases to reduce operational hours, reducing revenue. Several countries in the world already have a negative population growth rate such as Japan, Spain, Italy and many Eastern European countries and many more developed markets are expected to join the group in the coming years. The issue is particularly pronounced in Japan as according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare there are over 8 job openings in the security industry for every applicant, 5 in the construction industry and 3 in the logistics industry creating major challenges for domestic businesses.

As such, many companies are turning to technology to address the labor crisis, as technologies such as service robots, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics are all being increasingly used to automate processes formerly done by human employees. Service robots, for example are already being used as security guards in airports and train stations while drones have started to commercially deliver goods. NEC has created Internet of Things solutions in several industries to overcome this challenge. For example, in retail NEC has created sensor networks which are able to monitor the volume of goods inside of a store in real time. This will optimize inventory tracking and re-stocking which can be done with less human labor. AI can even be used in conjunction to automate re-ordering of goods and demand forecasting which is currently done by people.
In a partnership with 7-Eleven, NEC has been carrying out trial operations of a self-checkout store in Tokyo’s Mita ward since 2018.


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