TRON News Items for April 2003

Ubiquitous ID Forum Holds a Seminar on RFID Tags

The Ubiquitous ID Forum, a non-profit organization set up to apply the TRON total architecture to solving the problems involved in creating what is known as ubiquitous or pervasive computing, held a day long seminar on April 8 to discuss the issue of RFID tags under the title of "Realization of the Ubiquitous Society by Means of RFID Tags." According to TRON Project Leader Prof. Ken Sakamura of the University of Tokyo, the concept of "radio frequency identification" actually goes back decades and originated as a result of air combat in WWII, the goal being to distinguish friendly aircraft from enemy aircraft. As a result of advances in microelectronics, it is now possible to put this technology on a tiny silicon chip little more than 0.4 mm square, which includes built-in wireless communication functions. RFID chips are one of the key component technologies for attaining a long held goal of the TRON Project--the creation of computerized living and work spaces that will make life more pleasant and convenient for humans. However, exactly how to introduce this new technology, in what form, and with what safeguards are problems that have yet to be worked out.

The seminar was divided into five parts: (1) a keynote lecture by Prof. Ken Sakamura in which he discussed what is possible with RFID technology; (2) lectures by Prof. Ken Sakamura and Prof. Noboru Koshizuka of the Univeristy of Tokyo who outlined the technology; (3) a panel discussion in which a shipping company executive, a pharmaceutical company executive, and a department store executive discussed what problems they are aiming to solve with RFID chips; (4) a panel discussion in which technology developers from Hitachi Ltd., NEC Electronics Corporation, Dai Nippon Printing Co. Ltd., and Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., discussed the trends and issues with RFID chips, and (5) a panel discussion in which two systems integrators, NTT Data Corporation and Nihon Unisys, Ltd., discussed the future of the technology from the point of view of companies that develop systems and services on the basis of it for their customers. Some scenes from the seminar can be seen at the following link.

TRON Project Subject of Popular NHK TV Series

On April 15, the TRON Project was the subject of the 111th episode of a popular NHK television program that goes by the title of "Project X: The Challengers." This program reports on the activities of numerous unknown Japanese who have literally worked their butts off since the end of WWII to make Japan the advanced and successful country that it is today. The Project X episode on the TRON Project traced the history of the TRON Project, the unjustified attack on it by the United States Trade Representative that almost led to the derailing of the project, and its successful revival in the field of embedded and ubiquitous computing. Some pictures from the show have been posted on the program's Web site (click here). These include a team shot of Prof. Ken Sakamura surrounded by key TRON technology developers (top), a picture of former USTR Carla Hills who successfully derailed the BTRON educational computer project (lower left), and Prof. Ken Sakamura and Mr. Hiroshi Monden of NEC Electronics Corp. (lower right).

The Project X episode on the TRON Project had some interesting reverberations. After the show, Personal Media Corporation, the developer of the BTRON operating system offered a standard laptop computer with its BTRON3-specification operating system Cho Kanji 4 installed in a partition. The 100 units that it had prepared sold rapidly, and within 48 hours the company posted a notice on its Web page that the sale was now closed. This seems to indicate that the TRON Project in general, and the BTRON subproject in particular, could be more successful if they were given more coverage on Japanese television and in other mass media. Perhaps this will be the case when PIN CHANGE Co., Ltd.'s new, low-cost BTRON-based educational terminal is introduced into Japanese classrooms over the coming year. Although the first BTRON-based educational computer in the 1980s failed due to U.S. government interference, that project has been revived, and it looks like PIN CHANGE's educational terminal will be successful in the near future.