The internet connects all people on earth with computers via digital communications, and the number and variety of people and “things” (any object equipped with a computer) connected is ever expanding. A vast sea of digital data (big data) has been brought online, the data are digitally processed to become information, and people and things interact using that information, forming a huge, global-scale ecosystem that is constantly spreading and expanding. 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, dubbed IoT (Internet of Things) and CPS (Cyber Physical System), is shifting from the Cyber-Twin stage into the Cyber-First paradigm. Moreover, the growth of computing functionality continues to give rise to artificial intelligence capabilities that appear to surpass human capabilities, and this is on the way to becoming ubiquitous. Further, 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 now at last engendering widespread use and general applicability of 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 the IoT Acceleration Consortium, chaired by WIDE Project founder Jun Murai, has been formed, reflecting the crucial need to push ahead with efforts to make social infrastructure more sophisticated and smarter with the internet as cornerstone. With a view to 2020, and indeed 2050, 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. 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. In particular, ISOC (Internet Society)—where I serve on the Board of Trustees—is engaged in activities aimed at spreading the use of an approach in which all stakeholders collaborate and cooperate in relation to the internet and the digital economy (the multistakeholder approach). In Japan also, the IGCJ (Internet Governance Conference Japan) has been set up and is actively engaged in efforts to roll out similar activities. The direction set by the G7 was also pursued at the OECD Ministerial Meeting in June and the G20. Moreover, the G7 Summit participants shared our view of the need to continuously upgrade and expand internet testbeds for the purpose of global education and research as well as the need for environments to facilitate free interaction among human resources able to work together globally, and this is a source of encouragement for WIDE Project’s activities.
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. There are concerns that this trend will become stronger not only in the likes of China and Russia but also in the US ahead. From this perspective also, it would seem crucial that we reaffirm 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. Against this backdrop, and with the support of many WIDE member organizations, including Huawei Technologies and Cisco Systems, and global partner organizations, WIDE Project has continued to expand the broadband connectivity and regional connection footprint of the WIDE Internet backbone. We must continue this development and expansion of the global network environment and set in motion a new stage of research & development using the WIDE Internet.
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 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. 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 “Software Defined Infrastructure, SDN/NFV”. Discussions at the camp considered the future direction of and research themes for wide-area networks and large-scale datacenters in the cloud computing era. Effectively, we ironed out research themes relevant to the building of digital infrastructure for the IoT/cloud era.
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 discover new fields and strive towards the realization of safer, more secure social infrastructure.