TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

The University Museum, The University of Tokyo

Paper, it is said, came into existence in China around the second century before Christ and was kept secret for a long time, and then with the years it was transmitted from Arabia to Europe in the 12th century. The printing press came into being during the Renaissance and has arrived at the present as an important medium for transmitting knowledge to large numbers of people. In the 21st century, out of consideration for convenience and the environment, the movement to switch from paper media over to electronic media will probably gather speed. In the case of electronic media, modifications are immediate, and if it is predicated on the existence of a network, copying and distribution are easy and furthermore low cost. Epochal progress is also forecast for display technology that has been a problem up to now, and it will probably continue to approach without limit the technology for printing on paper.

However, there is one more use to this medium we call paper. Extraordinary difficulties are attendant when, for example, we try to convert into electronic media such things as certificates and vouchers, contracts, stock certificates, and paper money. With things finely printed on paper, just "making copies of them is difficult," but complete copying that also includes paper is not possible. Writing in can be done freely, but if one makes amendments, traces are left behind. If we make holes or tear things off, it is not possible to return it to its original state. Moreover, as long as we don't dispose of it, it continues to exist as a thing that equals an entity. With things like paper currency and contracts, it is understood that they nicely utilize the properties that paper possesses to maintain credibility. However, for electronic commercial transactions, it is ideal to complete all transactions with electronic data that can be sent via networks by leaving out the entity called paper.

Accordingly, after considering electronically converting paper employed in these types of uses, we decided to construct an eTRON Architecture to realize for the economy electronic entities that can move (be conveyed) through networks at the "speed of light" and that furthermore include even the properties that paper possesses. In order to give these electronic entities the same functions as paper contracts and the like, it has to be possible to establish access permission/limits, such as "possible to write in only once," "rewriting impossible," and "writing in possible." In order to ensure high level security, we are planning to develop an LSI exclusively for use with eTRON. By means of this, it will be possible for eTRON to become both a security mechanism for electronic books, and to serve as the security base for general-purpose electronic commercial transactions. For that reason, it can also be used in electronic charging for electronic ticketing and services, and for uses such as point service and mileage service. Through the realization of eTRON, we think it will be possible to realize safely and efficiently, without grandiose hardware, many electronic commercial business models that cannot be put into practical use at present.

As to the EC boom that arose in the latter half of the 1990s, there was a stock slump among Internet firms, and weeding out is progressing. At present, things are settled for the time being. In spite of the fact that there was also a great clamor about electronic money, it was barely put into practical use. Various causes come to mind for that, but the fact that the technology was immature and also the fact that people were inexperienced in carrying out activities on the Internet were important. Today when the way forward for the economy is not clear, we think we can provide new business chances to many people through the development of eTRON.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 67 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 2001 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 2001 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo