Digital InclusionEnsuring digital power makes
“A computing and communications society should be a friendly society” That’s the society NEC envisioned 40 years ago in a front-page advertisement published on January 1, 1979, in the Asahi newspaper to welcome in the New Year and herald the nascent “C&C” era of computing and communications. To me, ensuring technological progress is friendly and inclusive is as important in today’s digital era is as it was in the C&C era nearly forty years ago.
From space to deep-sea cables, robots and TV phones, nearly all of the physical C&C aspirations depicted in the colorful, buzzing manga advertisement designed by the respected manga artist, Osamu Tezuka, are now very much a part of our everyday lives.
From the invention of things to the shaping of society
Back then, the emphasis was on advancing equipment and appliances. Today, we are focused on imagining the shape of our future digital society as technology development from computers through networks, clouds, big data, mobile, and now IoT and AI, has propelled us into today’s era of digital transformation and inclusion, and tomorrow’s era of singularity.
NEC’s view of singularity is similar to that expressed earlier today by Jonathan Knowles of the Singularity University, namely that the connection of multiple AI devices will create a powerful artificial super intelligence that will trigger exponential technological growth, and, at some point, surpass human intelligence.
We must consider two facets of singularity. First, the inevitable point when AI capability surpasses that of humans. Second, the prospect of AI controlling humans. That could be a legitimate concern If we do nothing to shape the future of AI, but not if we take proactive steps to guide AI development. Merging technology and human awareness is the most powerful way to maximize the power of human imagination. NEC is striving to do just that by forming ecosystems and co-creating digital solutions that channel AI development into the building of an inclusive society and a richer life for all.
How have we been doing that? By staying ahead of the game. Two years ago, in 2016, NEC launched the NEC Future Creation Forum to look beyond singularity and debate issues society might face in 2050 as rapid technological advances induce significant social change. By determining what action to take now to ensure change does not deplete but enriches people’s lives.
Also, in 2016, NEC launched a co-creation project with Tokyo University that focused initially on technology development, but soon expanded to discuss evolving ethical, moral and legal frameworks, human resource training, human awareness and intelligence building.
Technological tools for digital transformation and inclusion
NEC seeks to advance digital transformation and inclusion by digitalizing multiple streams of real-world data, adding further meaning to people, things and concepts in the cyber arena to generate deep learning and knowledge, and channeling that acquired knowledge back into the real world to resolve challenges and create value.
To that aim, NEC has developed two vital solution sets: Bio-IDiom and NEC the Wise.
1.Bio-IDiom multi-modal biometric solutions
Bio-IDiom, released this April, is a core NEC visualization technology. NEC has been recognized as the world’s No.1 in fingerprint authentication and facial recognition technologies for several years. Now, as the name suggests, we are combining six strong biometric technologies (face, iris, ear acoustics, voiceprint, fingerprint and palm print, and finger vein) to offer powerful new value.
NEC’s facial and fingerprint recognition technologies have amassed successive global accolades, ranking No.1 in the world eight times since their initial introduction in 2003, No.1 for still facial recognition technology 3 times between 2009 and 2013, No.1 for moving facial recognition in 2017, and No.1 for iris recognition in 2018.*
The ultimate convenience of today’s digital society also increases the risk of impersonation and other fraudulent acts. Addressing these risks with sophisticated biometric solutions is vital for protecting society and AI-driven services, and NEC stands ready to guard the gate into the digital inclusion realm.
2. NEC the WISE: “Black box” and “White box” AI
The second solution set applies AI to the three-stage process of visualization, analysis and prescription, under our NEC the WISE brand. We categorize AI usage into “black box” computing of answers to fixed goals at breakneck speed and efficiency with no explanation of the method, and “white box” provision of fully traceable, sophisticated indicators that aid human judgement and enhance human intelligence.
3.“White box” AI in action
NEC’s use of white box AI in digital marketing to collect and analyze data streams from websites, mail magazines, seminars and events has proved five times more accurate in terms of pinpointing potential customers, tailoring customer services and boosting customer engagement. The white box AI also picked up on factors that humans previously missed.
The use of NEC’s white box AI at Asahi Breweries Ltd. predicted potential sales of frequent new product launches to over 90% accuracy by analyzing data streams such as past shipments, consumption and calendars. It also helped optimize production and inventory planning, lower lost sales opportunities and boost sales efficiency.
Leaving black box computations up to AI devices makes sense, but we believe the combination of human intelligence and white box AI will play an increasingly important role in shaping an inclusive and friendly digital society.