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TRON creator calls on Japan to prioritise IoT

Posted: 23 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:University of Tokyo 

For a country that has enjoyed being one of the leaders in technology, Japan has, for the most part, taken the back seat in terms of developing game-changing technologies in the recent years. Now, during his keynote speech at the Embedded/IoT Technology conference here Wednesday, Ken Sakamura, creator of TRON, Japan's home-grown open real-time operating system (RTOS), criticised Japanese embedded systems designers for their inability to lead the Internet of Things (IoT) on the global arena.

Sakamura, professor at the University of Tokyo, has always been an out-of-the-box thinker, provocative speaker and passionate proponent for next-generation computing architecture. He has spent most of his professional life developing TRON and promoting such concepts as pervasive or ubiquitous computing in Japan.

Sakamura claims that he envisioned the concept of an "Intelligent Object Network," similar to IoT, as one of the TRON's objectives as far as back in 1987.

Ken Sakamura

Sakamura: 'Industry 4.0 is Germany's policy.' (Image: EE Times)

Sakamura spoke with no holds barred about his disappointment with the Japanese embedded community. "Japan simply let Germany initiate 'Industry 4.0' policy, while allowing the U.S. to lead the Industrial Internet Consortium," Sakamura said. Japan's embedded designers, despite years of experience in embedded RTOS and familiarity with ubiquitous computing, haven't made an attempt to take the initiative in global IoT development.

Instead, said Sakamura, they sat back, letting others do the hard work and define the 'IoT' spec in hopes of "getting their hands on the 'winning' global standard soonest to run with it." He criticised Japanese engineers for skipping the critical process of developing standards and being too narrowly focused on rolling out commercial products.

Referring to a recent conversation with German engineers, he said, "I am told that Germany is flooded with inquiries from Japan on Industry 4.0."

Japanese engineers are apparently looking for a technical standard called Industry 4.0, not realising that Industry 4.0 is Germany's policy. It's not a technical spec, Sakamura explained.

Japan: Good at closed IoT, but not open IoT

Sakamura, during his speech, talked of revolutionary changes in the engineering world today, as the market moves from closed IoT to open IoT.

"The key here is the Internet," he stressed. As long as you keep the rules, TCP/IP protocols, intact, anyone can connect anything with the network, he noted. "No permission needed. That's the beauty of open IoT."

Openness has become pervasive in every aspect of engineering practice. It starts from open architecture, continues with open-source hardware and open OS, open API and goes all the way up to open data, Sakamura explained.

Intelligent Object Network

Intelligent Object Network

Once IoT becomes 'open' in Industry 4.0, for example, he explained, deliveries of every part and component necessary for assembly will be coordinated throughout distribution channels and communicated to factory floors with unprecedented transparency.

"You might ask how this is different from Toyota's Kanban (Just-in-time) system," Sakamura said. "This is exactly Toyota's Kanban. The only difference is that Toyota only allows Toyota affiliates to be the part of the Kanban system."

The same applies to KOMTRAX, Komatsu's remote monitoring system. "What Komatsu has already done isn't so different from what GE is trying to pull off with the Industrial Internet Consortium," observed Sakamura. The degree of openness is what separates KOMTRAX from Industrial Internet Consortium. KOMTRAX while working with Komatsu's own machines isn't designed to work with other machines and equipment in the world.

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