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Developing Strategic Collaborative Research for Creating a Super-smart Society

Institute for Advanced ICT Research (WISE Research Initiatives)

Jiro Katto

[Commentary: Waseda Research Institute for Science and Engineering, University Research Initiative]
Waseda University established Vision 150 to meet a variety of objectives for the 150th anniversary of its founding (in 2032), with 13 core strategies in development. One of the core strategies that has been laid out is the “promotion of original research and enhancement of the ability to deliver this internationally.” In order to drive this core strategy forward in the field of science and technology, seven research initiatives for responding to social challenges were newly established with the Waseda Research Institute for Science and Engineering (WISE) at its core. A research institute was established for each initiative in April 2018 with the aim to pursue globally first-class research. In order to pursue interdisciplinary research and to strengthen international research in each field of focus, this group of research institutes, called the cluster institutes, will work cooperatively. There is also a plan to launch the “Waseda Earth Restoration School” (WERS) as a place where visions of future research can be formulated.

The seven cluster institutes established for each research initiative

Commemorative symposium for the establishment of the research initiatives, where research representatives and members of the seven initiatives gathered (December 22, 2017)

In this article, we focused on the Institute for Advanced ICT Research, which promotes the "Advanced ICT Research for the Creation of a Super-smart Society" out of the seven research initiatives. We spoke with Professor Jiro Katto of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, who heads the institute, about the aspirations and visions of the soon-to-be-launched institute.

Objective: Implementing Cutting Edge Technology in Society

Over the past 25 years, telecommunication technology has advanced at a staggering rate. Computing power, communication speeds, image and video resolution, data storage capabilities using cloud technology, and other technologies have improved at an extraordinary rate. What used to only exist in the realm of research has rapidly been implemented in society for practical use. The future of these remarkable advancements is the arrival of AI (artificial intelligence) and IoT (Internet of Things: the interconnection via internet of everyday objects). With the implementation of these technologies, we are heading towards a super-smart society (also called "Society 5.0"), where we will see technologies that surpass human intelligence to achieve high levels of optimization, efficiency, and productivity. The mission of the Institute for Advanced ICT Research is to produce research that will contribute to the actualization of this super-smart society (Figure 1).

"Since the 1990s, telecommunication technology has evolved at speeds that have shocked even us researchers. Internet connection speeds of 1 Gbps has become standard—that's 15,000 times faster than 64 Kbps, which was considered high-speed 20 years ago. We could not have possibly imagined this kind of advancement back then. Technologies that used to be confined to the realm of theoretical research presented at academic conferences have been getting implemented in the real world one after the other. Even the future vision of the super-smart society we imagine today is not a something that is decades away, or even 10 years away. These technologies will become reality within the span of a few years." (Prof. Katto)

Even in universities, telecommunication technology has been a field that started at theoretical research, and often advanced to the development of prototypes. However, today, this no longer stops at the prototype development stage. These technologies leave the research labs of universities and directly develop into products and services and are actually used in society. This is how quickly technologies can be implemented today. Meanwhile, companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft recruit able researchers from universities and make massive investments in order to drive their research and development forward.

"I think we are entering an era where the boundaries between universities and the private sector in the realm of research and development are becoming thinner. The main mission of research in universities is certainly not outcome-oriented or market-oriented, but we have made it clear in our research policy that taking the research results that we have accumulated and making efforts to implement them in society in this era is one of our objectives. In order to achieve this, we consider it the mission of our institute to strategically pursue industry-academic projects with companies, and to obtain research funding on a large scale from the government. Of course, we consider it to be more an important objective of ours to reciprocate by using this research development funded by external sources to develop more scholarly research, next-generation research, and to train young talent." (Prof. Katto)

Figure 1: Cutting-edge ICT infrastructure for the creation of a super-smart society

The Four Research Platforms

The Institute for Advanced ICT Research was established with the combined efforts of the IT faculty members based in Waseda's science and technology campus (Nishiwaseda). Each faculty member is put in charge of one of the following four platforms depending on their field of expertise: the computing platform, communication engineering platform, security platform, and data platform (Figure 2). Depending on the theme of each research project, cross-platform cooperation as well as interdisciplinary cooperation with cluster institutes of other research initiatives are already being planned based on cooperative efforts made in the past.

Figure 2: The four research platforms and their members (the ◎ symbol is placed next to the leaders)

The main pillars of the computing platform will comprise architecture, OS (operating systems), programming languages, and system LSI, with the objective of establishing a new computing foundation that makes the increasingly large-scale and complex nature of next-generation computing into a technology that is reliable and robust. They have the foundation of research and development in the areas of scalable parallel and distributed operating systems, next-generation integrated circuit design such as many-core and multi-core, precise analysis and conversion technology that connects super high-level programming languages with machine code, and more.

The communication engineering platform will mainly conduct research in the areas of wireless communication, mobile communication, communication quality, multimedia communication and processing, IoT and machine learning, and big data. Communication technologies play an important role in various aspects of a super-smart society, with core technologies such as 5G next-generation communication and optical wireless communication, as well as self-driving vehicles, drones, 3D video broadcasting, biometric sensors, and remote surgery. They have a foundation in various research results in areas such as infrastructure development for next-generation mobile communication, analysis and management of distributed content in the form of big data, and autonomous decentralized control of ad hoc networks.

The objective of the security platform is to establish a safe and secure technological foundation by focusing on the following two areas of research: cyber security and the quality management of software, systems, and services. Their foundation is based on a wide range of cutting-edge research results in security and privacy, as well as software engineering, such as technologies built to detect and analyze cyber-attacks, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated, by using machine learning, as well as quantitative and qualitative methods of evaluating software products.

The objective of the data platform is to advance research projects in areas such as image processing that uses AI, sensory information research infrastructure, recognition robotics, and physical signal processing infrastructure, with a focus on a future with an exponentially growing amount of global data. The research will be advanced with foundations in the underlying technologies of big data code processing, and their research results in image, video, and voice data processing, as well as log, IoT, and CPS (cyber physical systems) data processing. CPS refers to technologies that fuse machinery with IT to improve the functionality of physical and bodily systems. Well-known examples include drones, self-driving vehicles, robots, and wearable devices.

Targeting a Wide Range of Social Applications

A super-smart society will impact every facet of society. Each of the platforms has an extensive record of research and development projects in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Ministry Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. However, going forward, we are proactively planning research and development projects in other fields, by broadening the scope of social implementation to the following: the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

"In the field of transportation, we are already moving forward with a wide range of experimental projects surrounding social big data, such as service management and digital content distribution in trains and train stations based on a wide range of data sensors along the railways of Tokyo. Furthermore, in the Green Computing Center, where Professor Hironori Kasahara is in charge, they are producing research results that are gaining global attention, and are organizing many large-scale collaborative research projects and consortiums with the automobile industry and companies in other fields." (Prof. Katto)

Some of these activities were conducted as a result of being selected as the center for the educational research program developed by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology with the goal of promoting universities with strong international competitive power. Starting with the 21st century COE program in 2002, titled "Productive ICT Academia," Waseda University has consistently been the center of these programs, as exemplified by the global COE program "International Research and Education Center for Ambient SoC," the program for leading graduate schools "Graduate Program for Embodiment Informatics," and the Top Global University Project's "Waseda Goes Global: ICT and Robotics."

"We are furthering our research while at the same time focusing our strength in human resource development. While increasing the numbers of graduate students who would go to pursue a Ph.D., we also want to increase the number of Ph.D. holders with working experience in our workforce. There is a growing need in companies for IT human resources who have a research background. To answer these needs, the Smart SE program spearheaded by Professor Hironori Washizaki, which is aimed at reeducating working adults, has started after being selected as a enPiT-Pro (Education Network for Practical Information Technologies) organization, which is funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The kind of human resources we want to cultivate is people who will lead value creation through the provision of smart systems and services." (Prof. Katto)

We have dedicated a space within the Nishiwaseda campus (photos below), and hire new researchers. We also plan to receive researchers from companies who are our collaborative research partners. We have high hopes for the future endeavors of the Institute for Advanced ICT Research as we collate our past achievements and take on the challenge of creating a super-smart society.

The research office prepared within the science and technology campus (Nishiwaseda)