What is NEC's Technology Vision?

How should technology evolve? What innovations should we introduce to society?
NEC is creating new value by considering these questions and developing innovative new solutions utilizing AI and IoT.
Here is a glimpse of the shape of technology to come, zeroing in on the technology we expect to see ten years from now—technology that we believe will help sustain the brighter, more prosperous future that we are working toward.
How should technology evolve? What innovations should we introduce to society?

Pervasive Connectivity
Today we are fast getting to the stage where not only will you always be connected to the Internet no matter whether you are indoors or outdoors, but so will just about everything else. As communications technologies become ever more sophisticated and efficient, humans and “things” will merge seamlessly with the network. Contexts in the real world generate data that will manifest in the cyber world where it can be processed, analyzed, and interpreted. Interconnection and comparison of events will help create new value. Similarly, by providing a transparent and secure means for tracking transaction data related to the ownership of things and transfer of digital assets, Blockchains will make it possible to safely and efficiently track transaction data with no need for a central authority—something that will revolutionize the way we do business in the future.

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Data Science

Insightful Sensing

Thanks to advances in sensor technology, real-world events will be able to be transferred in detail to the cyber world. Sensing technology will continue evolving—expanding the dimensions of observation areas, increasing the depth of observation, and improving the ability to detect changes. For example, wide-scope observation using multiple cameras and change detection using image analysis will facilitate identification and profiling of suspicious individuals who appear in multiple locations, while observation and analysis of facial expressions and the way people walk will support assessment of health and psychological conditions.

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Augmented Wisdom

The ability of artificial intelligence (AI) to learn rules and propensities from large-volume data is enabling it to take over increasingly complex tasks conventionally performed by humans. This makes it ideal in many business and industrial applications. When dealing with social issues, however, the complexities and unknowns of a given problem and the lack of simple solutions challenge even the most powerful AI. Humans will remain an integral part of the decision-making and problem-solving process with AI expected to evolve into a “partner” that will work closely with humans to solve complex problems. The integration of AI and simulation technology will be of particular importance in this regard, providing critical support for decision-making in unknown situations.

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Adaptive Robotics

Once confined to factories, robots are now beginning to show up in everyday life. Designed to adapt to unknown objects and changing environments, these robots take many forms, including self-driving vehicles, robot assistants that expand or support human physical capabilities, and robots that can communicate with humans. The latest concept in adaptive robotics is “cloud robotics.” Just as the Internet increases human intelligence and connectivity by an order of magnitude, so cloud robotics will give robots access to vast amounts of processing power, enabling them to perform tasks and learn skills that would be impossible for a self-contained, non-connected machine to do on its own. This means that robots will be a key part of any information and communications technology (ICT) systems that interface with and directly control activities in the real world.

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ICT Platforms

Brain-Inspired Computing

AI requires a massive amount of processing. However, with computers based on conventional von Neumann architecture, power consumption increases in proportion to scale, meaning that as a computer approaches a human-level scale of processing, it uses an inordinate amount of power. The human brain, on the other hand, is much more efficient, performing extremely sophisticated processing, while consuming the equivalent of only 20 watts of powers. Today’s challenge is to develop a new computer architecture that adopts a processing mechanism similar to that of the human brain. Going forward, we will need to use systems that combine conventional von Neumann architecture—which is good at accurate calculations—and a new style of architecture which replicates the architecture of the human brain.

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Cloud to Edge

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to evolve, network edges—including sensors, actuators, and various network devices—will be provided with computing and processing functions. In the future, IoT systems will consist of both cloud and edge components. Each component’s role will be allocated according to data volume and real-time properties, enabling flexible processing and dynamic control. Because real-time information will be processed in the locations where the events actually take place, this converged system will help create value that will enable immediate response to emergent events.

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Holistic Security

With the proliferation of IoT, the target areas for security will expand into physical systems. In addition to protecting itself from cyber attacks, an IoT system that interfaces with the real world must take into account the risk of human intrusion into and physical destruction of facilities. This requires development of a holistic security system that integrates real-world security measures such as intrusion detection by video surveillance with enhanced cyber security protocols. This type of converged security system can provide a certain level of pre-crime detection by collating and analyzing crime-related data and connecting that data with real-world events, using observed correlations to help prevent crimes from occurring.

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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.