What is IOWN? Impressions from the NTT R&D Forum 2019 (part 1)

I had the great pleasure to spend four days with NTT and NTT DATA in Tokyo at the occasion of NTT R&D Forum 2019. It was four days with an incredibly huge variety of innovation across all stages and technologies.

Starting with really fundamental basic research topics, such as “transparent battery” or “illusory movement of printed material” to innovative real-life projects in the public safety field, such as the “Smart City Project Las Vegas”.

The entire NTT group demonstrated its incredible research power across all layers, starting with the basic and more network & infrastructure-related research of NTT. On top of that, the development of solutions based on new technologies from the NTT DATA R&D team. Let’s say it using the following equation: NTT Research is a BIG “R” and NTT Data Research is a BIG “D” and together they build one of the most powerful R&D organizations I have ever seen.

Here’s some metrics of NTT’s R&D power:

  • $3.6 billion investment in R&D per year;
  • 2,500 researchers;
  • 16,000+ patents.

Figure: NTT’s R&D organization and fields of action (Source: NTT DATA)

Just after my arrival in Tokyo I was invited to see some 5G use cases provided by NTT Docomo at the Skytree (by the way, the second highest building in the world with 634 m).

The NTT Docomo cases were focused on consumers and media, gaming and sports entertainment. And they created a funny Avatar of myself, with which I can play around in a little app – by the way, it just took 30 seconds to take the picture and have it available in the app.

We spent the second day at the NTT Musashino Research & Development Center, where we started with a demonstration of NTT’s latest Kirari! technology. Kirari! collects and processes information, transmits it synchronously in real time, adds effects and reproduces it. Kirari! is a groundbreaking ultra-realistic technology for serving the entirety of sporting arenas throughout Japan and the world in real time and will be used for the Olympic Games 2020.

Subsequently, we visited the exhibition area and had a look at different innovations of the NTT R&D team – with an incredible amount of 100+ use cases by far too many to talk about all of them (another Expert View on NTT’s research activities will follow in the next weeks), but let me mention at least the research fields:

A special topic and the keyword for the whole R&D Forum was “IOWN”.

What is IOWN? IOWN stands for Innovative Optical and Wireless Network, which NTT R&D is currently working on. IOWN will shift from the world of electronics to the world of photonics, with IOWN NTT striving to realize an innovative network with excellent capacity, low latency, flexibility, and energy efficiency, which is based on photonic technology down to the level of information processing. IOWN, comprised of a function-specific dedicated network, cognitive foundation, and digital twin computing.

A special area of the exhibition showed use cases for IOWN under the key message “IOWN for Smart World”, with some examples of use cases following(some of them at an early research stage) in the context of IOWN:

  • Artificial photosynthesis,
  • Optical network for big data computing,
  • All-photonics network for IOWN,
  • Ultra-high-speed ICs towards beyond 5G,
  • and many more.

Further areas of action with various use cases provided from the different NTT Group companies are:

  • Media and devices/robotics (e.g. 3D motion sensing, haptization using cross-modal associations, etc.),
  • Basic research (e.g. transparent battery, optical metasurfaces, superconducting quantum sensing, etc.),
  • Network (e.g. DeAnoSâ Deep Anomaly Surveillance, traffic monitoring system with HWA, IoT data collection by gateway’s moving, etc.),
  • AI (e.g. Hikari Deep Learning, automated call center AI system, etc.),
  • Data collection (e.g. IoT data sharing platform technologies, etc.),
  • Security (e.g. false-sensor-data detection technology, linking blockchain and external storage, etc.).

We also had the opportunity to listen to two great keynotes from Jun Sawada, President and CEO NTT, and Katsuhiko Kawazoe, SVP, Head of R&D NTT.

On the second and on the last day of the Forum the focus was on NTT DATA and the innovations it builds based on the network-related research done by NTT. Since this would go beyond the scope of just one blog post, please also read my second post on the NTT DATA R&D fields.