Greetings from the founder
WIDE Project 2015
WIDE Project emerged out of discussions, primarily in the JUNET community beginning in 1984, surrounding the next generation of autonomous distributed operating systems and networks. The historical record indicates that JUNET began in 1984, and I think this is accurate based on the connection records and sequence of events. When I saw (then lecturer) Eiiti Wada from the University of Tokyo at an Information Processing Society of Japan meeting and told him that we had started JUNET using modems to transfer digital data over telephone lines, I remember his words of encouragement being, "It's a very important initiative and I will support it, but keep a low profile because the area comes with complications". Those "complications" indeed included the Telecommunications Business Law regulating the use of telephones lines, which came into effect the next year, in 1985, so the legality of what we were doing was not even clear. Jump ahead 30 years to 2015 and we marked the 30th anniversary of the law's enactment, with various commemorative activities held across Japan. In short, 2015 marked 30 years of digital networking in Japan.
Perhaps partly as a reflection of that, I felt that a new wave began rolling out of the calm that had settled over the digital technology landscape in 2015. The internet had become pervasive, and smartphones no longer felt novel as an individual technology. Meanwhile, household appliances such as TVs and air conditioners connecting to the internet via home Wi-Fi to access individual services had become an everyday norm. The various data collected and generated by these devices to fulfill their individual functions, in combination with the internet, has the potential to create unlimited value. WIDE Project was engaged in this sort of research & development from the mid-1990s through the Internet CAR Project. GPS devices used to determine geolocation cost several hundred thousand yen at the time, and with the sky being the limit for the experiments' mobile data usage costs, WIDE Project itself ran up an almost crippling data usage bill for the over 1,000 test vehicles it operated.
By 2015, GPS was incorporated into smartphones, even wireless internet services were available on flat-rate plans, and household appliances incorporated new types of sensors, giving rise to something akin to a battle of knowledge and ingenuity using a plethora of data. The IoT, as these developments are referred to, elicits visions of a very different society, not based solely on the use of data but also shaped by links with new devices such as drones and robots. Scenes of agriculture buzzing with drones in China bear a vivid resemblance to the visions of our skies buzzing with flying cars that I dreamt of as a child.
WIDE also faces many issues in its areas of engagement. In order to design large-scale, wide-area distributed computing environments, including drones and automobiles, we need to design and deploy data communications and data processing architectures based on the demands of new wireless technologies and autonomous distributed cooperative systems.
With the rapid advance of social infrastructure in the form of the internet and IoT, safety and security are also now evaluated on the basis of new criteria that differ from those of conventional network security. In the area of cybersecurity, we must take the initiative in moving from technology to policy action as part and parcel of building technological environments.
You could say that, in terms of areas of engagement from 2016, WIDE Project faces a situation similar to 30 years ago when we were exploring what was then a new world, as I described at the beginning of this address. But given the nature of this area as a part of social infrastructure, we now face far greater and much broader challenges than back then. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for everyone who participated in fiscal 2015 and ask for your active involvement in WIDE Project going forward.