TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo

I just got back from the Netherlands. From last year until the first half of this year, I went on a lot of business trips to Asia, but recently Europe-related business trips have increased. The greatest reason for this is because T-Engine and T-Kernel are steadily spreading throughout the world and development projects are advancing. Although I also had a lot of informal discussions with people who are actually using T-Engine and T-Kernel, my visit on this occasion was one in which I was invited by the government of the Netherlands, as there was a request to directly hear a talk on T-Engine, T-Kernel, and the Ubiquitous ID Center, which are the most advanced and vigorously active in the world, and thus I went to participate in a symposium. The symposium was sponsored by the government of the Netherlands, and it spanned several very lively days during which government officials, industry figures, and academics came. In regard to my activities, the reaction was great, and I got the feeling that in the ubiquitous area it is cutting the leading edge. Afterward, there were also those who joined the T-Engine Forum upon receiving my presentation, and so I think it turned out as a very good exchange.

By the way, there's something that I keenly felt in Europe; "ubiquitous computing" is a term that the late Mark Weiser first used, but in Japan this is no longer either English or Latin, rather it has ended up becoming the Japanized "yubikitasu." Traceability and the Autonomous Movement Support Project are very far from the ubiquitous computing that Weiser advocated. Besides ubiquitous, as for similar terms, we also call it "pervasive" or "invisible," "calm," and then "intelligent environment," "ambient intelligence," or simple "smart." If you ask why, among these, did I broaden the term ubiquitous, unfortunately Japanese cannot be made into a world language, and, moreover, there is no way for a Japanese person to hit upon a fine English word to transmit to the world. Accordingly, without any other coloring attached, when I made this into katakana, I selected ubiquitous as a word that is easy to read. While there are numerous similar ways of thinking, depending on what points you focus on, the way you use a term comes to change. In Europe, in contrast to Japan, whether it's owing to the fact that they understand the religious coloring attached to ubiquitous--of course, both ubiquitous and pervasive are understood--if you ask what they use, smart is used a lot. Because ambient intelligence is the name of a project the EU is supporting, it is frequently used. This is to the extent that even the title of the conference in the Netherlands was "How smart is smart?"

And then, as one would expect, reminding one of Europe was the attitude of stressing the top down approach rather than the bottom up. "If you do this, things will become smart = highly functional," or "on making the entire environment intelligent." As a result, there is a philosophy, an ideology, in which they think out how our living will change, and so on and so forth. Beginning from how technology and humans will get on with each other, the discussion proceeds without topics, such as the relationship between high functionalization and humans, being exhausted. Because the aging of the population is proceeding rapidly in Europe, their understanding concerning an aging society is extremely deep, and thus when I said in regard to the Autonomous Movement Support Project "Japan is fastest approaching the aging society in the world, and we are doing this because the elderly and the handicapped are increasing," I received applause. A way of thinking, currents, a philosophy, why is it that they do those things? I got the feeling that the place where you can have a high level philosophical discussion that differs with just reducing shrinkage and making supply chain management more efficient is Europe.

In the autumn of 1989, immediately after the fall of the East-West wall, I went to Berlin where I was invited to a seminar/symposium of deep density lasting several days where lectures and discussions were held concerning intelligent homes, intelligent buildings, and intelligent cities, in other words, intelligent environments. From that time, European people have exceedingly shown interest in our work, and while simultaneously pointing out various problem points, their attitude of seriously thinking about the future together impressed me. There are a lot of cases in which Weiser's "The Computer for the 21st Century" in the September 1991 issue of Scientific American is treated as the "original text of ubiquitous computing," but this was a event of about two years prior to that. That's right, Europe showed a strong interest in intelligent environments closely related to living from the latter half of the 1980s, and research began to sprout. On this occasion also, I felt their attitude emphasizes a philosophy similar to the one at that time. However, to put it conversely, they're top heavy, and it seems like there aren't many examples of execution. Furthermore, because the European people are particularly interested in improvement of the living environment, my introduction of the newly developed intelligent house PAPI went down well.

Of course, in the European zone also, things don't begin and end just on philosophy; practical applications of T-Kernel are beginning to rise up. Due to the fact that Asia is important in the embedded related areas, we have first placed development centers and the like in places such as China, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Singapore. In Korea, the activities of the local corporate body have become lively, and they are beginning to spread across the world. And then, this year is at last the year of the spread in Europe. I'm busy, but there is a great feeling of fulfillment to the realization that my thinking is spreading out across the world.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 94 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 2005 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 2005 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo