TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo

Ubiquitous computing has become a boom in earnest. When we begin a new project, Japanese are prone to attach an English name to it. This, of course, is because it looks nice or has a good ring to it. In that same sense, in the case of Americans, they will probably use a Latin word. The late Mark Weiser of Xerox PARC, who is the godfather of Ubiquitous Computing, used the term "ubiquitous," meaning "(God) exists everywhere simultaneously," which is based on a Latin word. In expressing computers "being in all sorts of places (= J. henzai ['ubiquitous'])," it is definitely smarter than simply "computing everywhere." To Japanese, it's no big difference whether it's Latin or English, but for many Japanese, it doesn't ring a bell. Since ubiquitous is a word that people aren't used to hearing, it has ended up spreading all the more. To begin with, "computing everywhere," which is synonymous with ubiquitous computing, is a term the TRON Project started to use in the 1980s. Even as to the concept of numerous computers scattered throughout actual living spaces and operating cooperatively, we were earlier by far than Xerox PARC's Ubiquitous Computing. That, after arriving at the present where the technology has become mature, is beginning to prevail.

Ubiquitous computing has become not just a Japanese boom, but a worldwide boom. Projects have begun in the U.S., of course, but also in the EU. Somehow, in the world of computer science at present, in obtaining a research budget it seems easy to get a budget if one inserts the keywords ubiquitous or pervasive. For instance, even if it's research that's not very related, it is. It's exactly like the Internet at one time.

Ubiquitous computing is a world in which computers will penetrate every nook and cranny in the entire living environment. It is also a world in which we will live without being conscious of the existence of computers, which differs from today. We are aiming at technology that can be used effortlessly and calmly. Both privacy and security are important. Of course, things like that don't come in a day. There are even reports that make us think the "ubiquitous society" (this is a term for those who don't know what they want to say) will appear tomorrow. For example, "ubiquitousness will be realized if we make all home appliances IPv6 compatible and connect them to the Internet all the time." Huh, something's wrong here. What ubiquitous computing requires is not IP, i.e., Internet Protocol, but rather a real-time-oriented protocol with strong real-time performance.

From this background, it has come about that we are establishing a new research laboratory jointly between industry and academia, and that we will develop over a span of five years infrastructure for ubiquitous computing. I would like to introduce you some day to what kinds of technologies we go on to develop. I want you to focus your attention on this new movement that is now beginning.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 75 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 2002 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 2002 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo