Hiroshi Esaki, Ph.D.
Hiroshi Esaki, Ph.D. Director

By connecting all computers via digital technology, the internet has succeeded in forming a global platform for the transparent transmission, exchange, analysis, and processing of digital information. As a result, digital information has been brought online and networked to form a globally distributed cyberspace. This is not merely a digital space. Instead, this cyberspace is made up of diverse individual digital spaces combined in an autonomously distributed fashion. This cyberspace gives rise to a space that differs from that of the real world. The term IoT (Internet of Things) has recently come into frequent use, but the concept had already been around since the time that the internet first appeared.

All people on earth are being connected with computers via digital communications, a vast sea of digital data (big data) is being brought online and digitally processed to become information, and people and “things” are interacting using that information, forming a huge, global-scale ecosystem that continues to expand and spread at a rapidly increasing rate. Having passed through the “web” as its first wave and “information search” as its second, the internet now appears to be diving headlong into a third wave: “digital native / internet native”.

The fusion and integration of cyberspace with the real world is shifting from the Cyber-Twin stage into the Cyber-First paradigm. Moreover, the interconnection of all people and things is driving a rapid structural shift away from the push market structure (supply chain) in place until now toward a pull market structure (demand chain). Computer networks, and the internet in particular, are driving a dramatic evolution in long-tail business structures.

With a view to the staging of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, a new IT strategy for Japan has been formulated, and there is a crucial need to push ahead with efforts to make social infrastructure more sophisticated and smarter with the internet and Cyber-First as cornerstone. Expectations are on WIDE Project to contribute to the global community based on the results of its various research & development activities. Deliberations at the ICT Ministers’ Meeting led to a declaration at the G7 Summit held in Ise-Shima during May and June 2016 of the crucial role that the existence and development of a transparent internet play in the advancement of the global digital economy and of the need for the expansion of cybersecurity, and efforts are constantly being made to instill this thinking and direction into the global mindset. The task of enhancing the quality of “trust” offered by the internet is recognized as a priority amid the internet’s broad penetration throughout our society and the availability of commercial internet services. Because the internet is now so widespread and acts as a basis for industrial and social activity, governments seek to tighten their control over the internet for national security considerations and reasons. This trend appears to be gaining momentum not only in the likes of China and Russia but across the entire world. From this perspective also, it would seem crucial that we remain acutely aware of the importance of maintaining and developing environments apt to creating and forming the knowledge and experience to independently design, implement, build, and operate global research & development networks, and that we reaffirm the responsibilities that WIDE Project shares with all of its member organizations. Against this backdrop, WIDE Project must develop and expand the global network environment and set in motion a new stage of research & development.

In the late 1990s, we held discussions regarding IPv6 at WIDE Project, and we have since pursued practical research & development projects including the Internet CAR and smart buildings. The biggest concern back then was that various TCP/IP-based systems could be introduced and deployed in areas outside of the internet industry, forming standalone silos and individual networks operated in isolation with no interconnectivity. Although the current IoT may use TCP/IP, which can provide global connectivity, the systems being built are vertical lock-on systems that hold users captive and intentionally form protected spaces (silos) that are often called walled gardens, leading to a highly fragmented landscape. Very frequently, the application-layer identifiers used in these walled gardens make no considerations for global applicability nor interconnectivity with other walled gardens, and we are also seeing a not entirely uncommon phenomenon whereby adequate cybersecurity measures are in some sense being intentionally neglected. A number of organization have expressed concern about the fragmentation of the internet. I feel we are at a critical juncture that will determine whether we can maintain the internet’s important position as the globe’s sole shared platform. Preventing fragmentation is a necessary condition for the success of the IoT.

The theme at this year’s study camp, which we hold every summer primarily for board members, was “SWEET”. Discussions at the camp were not simply a technology-centric affair dealing with cybersecurity. Under the leadership of Professor Youki Kadobayashi from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology, we held comprehensive discussions, ranging across fields such as sociology, economics, management, and psychology, about the design, implementation, building, and operation of systems.

In our physically limited, not unlimited, real-world space, we must build and operate a single, shared commons space (i.e., shared platform formed based on the internet and the Internet by Design) while also maintaining a structure for ongoing, sustainable innovation. Indeed, we must pursue the design and construction of a global, 21st century ecosystem made up of cybersystems and artificial structures coexisting with nature.

WIDE Project is operated as a consortium of academic and industrial partners. By offering an environment geared toward practical and applied research—which differs from the objective-based research common to business organizations and fundamental research found in academic circles, where creativity and originality are sought—WIDE Project has been able to achieve results that go beyond those of conventional research institutions. This is a research model unique to WIDE as a defining element, and it is essential that we further develop and maintain this approach to our research.

In closing, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to all those individuals and organizations that have supported the activities of WIDE Project and to ask for your continued participation, cooperation, guidance and encouragement. With your help and cooperation, I am excited at the prospect of having this opportunity to work together with you all to explore new fields and strive towards the realization of safer, more secure social infrastructure.

Hiroshi Esaki
March 2018