Technology vision

What technology will drive social value creation
ten years from now?

In the world of ICT, the latest technological innovations go from conception to reality in the blink of an eye, spreading rapidly through society and becoming an indispensable part of life. NEC is developing systems and technologies that will resolve the issues the world will be facing ten years from now.

Creating more value from data by using AI and IoT
to further our understanding of “contexts”

To create a brighter future, we must understand the global megatrends that will shape the world’s economies and the society of tomorrow. We also have to consider the impact that technological evolutions will have on the way we live. Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are driving a Digital Transformation that will revolutionize our social structures and give rise to new business models. At NEC, we are looking ahead to the future and attempting to understand how information and communications technologies (ICT) will evolve over the next 10 years so that we can continue to create value for our customers and society as a whole.
As IoT becomes embedded in society, many different things and contexts will be connected to networks. Analysis of the data gathered in those networks will deepen our understanding of contexts in the real world (physical world) and in the cyber world. By helping us understand these contexts, ICT becomes an ideal tool for the analysis and resolution of challenging social issues. For example, integrated analysis of images from cameras installed on the streets combined with data from the cyber world can help prevent crimes by detecting suspicious activity. NEC’s social value creation process consists of three main components: Visualization of real world contexts in the cyber world, Analysis to support decision-making as well as a means for solving the social issues arising from those contexts, and Prescription through which we can supply services and solutions to the real world. Going forward, NEC will focus on the development of data science technologies to facilitate the social value creation process and ICT platform technologies to execute the process securely and efficiently.

Social value created by ICT and sources of value amplification

Developing technologies from a social standpoint

Analysis plays a central role in the social value creation process and will be handled by AI. This field is one in which NEC excels. “NEC the WISE” is a lineup of AI technologies that leverages NEC’s advanced wisdom to solve the increasingly complex and sophisticated problems confronting society.
Most AI systems learn from Big Data. Unfortunately, many of the social issues we face today are not only not well understood, they are largely bereft of Big Data. Many other problems are so new we have no past examples to guide us. Beyond the lack of data, there are technological problems as well. Decision-making and control must be performed in real time when dealing with live problems in the real world; however, current AI technology must process huge volumes of data, which in turn consumes a huge amount of power, making it all but impossible for it to perform as required.
To take one example, in cyber security, measures must be rapidly developed to counter the new forms of cyber attack that occur daily. The problem is that it is impossible to defeat unknown attack patterns using measures and rules based on known attack methods. Currently, the only way to handle these unknown attacks is to rely on human security analysts with advanced expert knowledge. NEC will develop “reasoning AI” that will be flexible enough to respond creatively to even unknown problems such as new forms of cyber attack and work collaboratively with humans to solve new problems as they arise.
One of the challenges that we face is that an enormous amount of processing is required for AI to learn something, and all that processing sucks up a lot of power. This makes effective power management critical to the achievement of real-time control in the real world. Compared to the human brain, a computer is incredibly inefficient when it comes to power consumption.
Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo that became the first Computer Go program to beat a professional human Go player is estimated to use several hundred kW for learning. The power consumption of the human brain, on the other hand, is roughly estimated as a mere 20 W. To overcome the power consumption barrier, it will be necessary to develop computers that can perform advanced intelligent processing with maximum power efficiency by adopting a processing mechanism that is similar to that of the human brain. Moreover, when real-time control is required—for example, in driving automobiles—the computers that perform this processing will have to be installed in edge devices close to the real world. In other words, functionality and processing will need to be optimally distributed between clouds and edges in order to cope with real-world problems in real time.
In the following pages, we introduce seven technological evolutions that we believe will have a major impact on our lives and give rise to dramatic changes in society.

Reading NEC Vision Book 2017

More information about NEC's vision for social value creation and the steps we are taking to achieve this vision can be found in NEC's Vision Books.