Japan is well on its way towards bringing ubiquitous computing (one person, many computers) home to its people. IP-enabled devices and networks now pervade virtually every sphere of human activity in Japan: in homes and workplaces, in open public spaces and even in cars.
DoCoMo, the wireless unit of Japan’s major carrier Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp. (NTT), has been responsible for the proliferation of the cell phone market in Japan, which is one of the largest and most advanced in the world. With the coming of age of wireless Internet (3G) thanks to DoCoMo’s huge success, the non-PC era of mobile computers such as smart cell phones, wearable computers (personal network devices), and advanced PDA-like devices such as Ubiquitous Communicator terminals in addition to a host of other IP-enabled devices (many of which are run on the IPv6 platform), is set to revolutionize lifestyles and the way communication and business is done.
Multinational telco equipment manufacturers Fujitsu Ltd., Telefon AB L.M., Ericsson, Nokia Corp., NEC Corp., and Lucent are collaborating with DoCoMo in designing 3G handsets, base stations, and services. 3G mobile services, gaming, smart appliances, smart sensors, home automation, and VoIP are all a part of the new digital technology that would be within reach of most homes in Japan.
The Chip-less RFID tags are also available at lower cost than the integrated circuit based tags. Traditional RFID tags are available in three varieties: Passive, Active, and Semi Passive.
Based on their features, these tags are used in specific tracking purposes.
T-Engine technology for Pervasive Computing
Considered to be the latest phase in digital technology, pervasive or ubiquitous computing is run on the highly sophisticated T-Engine platform, making it easier and cheaper to create embedded computers in everyday objects, which can in turn be connected to networks. T-Engine is the standard real-time OS designed to work with the TCP / IP protocol stack (IPv6). The new IPv6-compatible TCP/IP stack, “KASAGO for T-Engine was developed by Elmic Systems, and forms the middleware that supports Internet connectivity via high-performance, high-reliability TCP/IP and IPv6, and has been designed, developed and refined specifically for embedded devices. T-Engine technologies are rapidly gaining an entry into a variety of environments, from homes to automobiles. They are a complete end-to-end solution allowing for easy distribution of software resources, while ensuring standardized hardware and tamper-proof network security.
Japanese Government Initiatives
The Japanese government’s initiatives to promote IPv6 adoption and pervasive computing are noteworthy for their wide reach and ramifications. In a novel experiment, cows being reared on a ranch in Hida Takayama, have their own IPv6 addresses. The idea is one of applying networking technology to the field of agriculture, and enables the tracking of cow and beef all through the growth and distribution process. The project is in progress in the Gifu prefecture (and uses IPv6), while a similar one is being conducted on orchards in the Yamanashi prefecture.
As a way to monitor the health of cows in the Gifu prefecture and for breeding purposes, the cattle were tagged with tiny networked devices making it possible to track their movements and body temperatures – all in wireless mode.
In another experiment, Taxis in Nagoya City were fitted with Internet-enabled sensors on their windshield wipers, which made it possible for dispatchers to monitor rainfall based on wiper speed and to dispatch more cabs to areas of heavy rainfall.
Networked Road Navigation
The Japanese government’s initiatives to promote IPv6 adoption and pervasive computing are noteworthy for their wide reach and ramifications. In a novel experiment, cows being reared on a ranch in Hida Takayama, have their own IPv6 addresses. The idea is one of applying networking technology to the field of agriculture, and enables the tracking of cow and beef all through the growth and distribution process. The project is in progress in the Gifu prefecture (and uses IPv6), while a similar one is being conducted on orchards in the Yamanashi prefecture. As a way to monitor the health of cows in the Gifu prefecture and for breeding purposes, the cattle were tagged with tiny networked devices making it possible to track their movements and body temperatures – all in wireless mode. In another experiment, Taxis in Nagoya City were fitted with Internet-enabled sensors on their windshield wipers, which made it possible for dispatchers to monitor rainfall based on wiper speed and to dispatch more cabs to areas of heavy rainfall.
Navitime is a commercial mobile phone-based navigation service used by 1.82 million citizens in Japan for route guidance information, traffic information and parking information. Navitime runs on GPS mobile phones, and is influencing the way people navigate in and around the intricate web of urban roads, including when they travel by car. Navitime is large-scale system with formidable capabilities in that it provides comprehensive navigation information, including maps, timetables, prices, and even carbon footprints for various journey options. Electronic tags and road sensors have been embedded in the pavement, sidewalks, and roadside fixtures all over Kobe and Tsuwano cities, for providing information to tourists about historical sites and to caution wheelchair users in case there are obstacles in the path.
There is also a “robot-friendly zone” in Fukuoka city, which adjusts the streets, and changes traffic rules to allow robot engineers to test robots, and public reactions, in public spaces.
Cars with IPv6 mobile connectivity and multiple applications are already in use. Plugging in a router into the cigarette lighter in your car is all it takes to connect to the Internet using the same high-speed cellular-phone networks used by wireless PC cards. IP-enabled cars today generally include the following features:
- Internet access for passengers.
- Wireless connectivity within the car to connect PDA and other wireless devices.
- Wireless connectivity from the car to WiFi, GSM data, GPRS, infrastructures while providing for future radio systems.
- In-car diagnostic system: IP-enabled alarm and general diagnostic environment, with connectivity to support center allowing for remote monitoring and assistance.
- Enhanced fleet management system based on “always-on, always reachable” basis.
- GPS localization system integrated in the IP infrastructure, for enhanced real-time services.
Networked Convenience Stores
Convenience stores or “combi’s” in Japan are Internet-enabled, especially in urban centers and are located within easy reach from homes and workplaces. Convenience stores use IPv6 Multicast technology to send Store manuals, and advertisement to staff and customers. When entire cities are “tagged,” robots equipped with ucode readers can be programmed to make deliveries of food or medicine.
Networked Home Appliances
Many Japanese home appliances are also fitted with pervasive computing features. For instance, some appliance manufacturers have launched microwave ovens that download cooking recipes direct from the manufacturer’s server! Rice cookers have microchips embedded in them for effective control of the heating sequence, although these appliances are not strictly ‘network-connected’, but these have been in use since long.
“Fuzzy” logic air conditioners have in-built temperature control systems that are highly sophisticated, and incorporate the features to become IP-enabled and interactive. Appliance computerisation in Japan is more highly evolved than elsewhere in the world, thanks to the emphasis on domestic activities such as cooking, cleaning, and house maintenance as part of the Japanese culture. It may take comparatively longer for the United States to adopt appliance computerization because households take less time to engage in such domestic activities.
Examples of Internet-enabled home appliances are:
- WLAN digital camera (SANYO)
- Air-con and oven (Panasonic)
- Internet Refrigerator (Toshiba)
- “CoCoon” HDD/DVD recorder (Sony)
- CD audition system by Yokogawa
The Toyota Dream House PAPI
The Toyota Dream House PAPI – the brain child of Toyota Home – is an intelligent home embedded with T-Engine boards and designed to have an interface with other Toyota technologies. PAPI comes packed with advanced technologies including high-definition digital video formats with surround sound, high-capacity DVD players, and wide screen display technologies.
Its intelligent home theater senses human occupants in the house and adjusts the lighting and sound based on their locations and pre-set preferences. The Ubiquitous Communicator makes changes as needed to any devices in the room, such as the heating, ventilation or air conditioning.
The most interesting aspect of the home’s automation is that the Toyota Prius hybrid sedan can supply the Toyota home with electricity for 36 hours in an emergency situation, and likewise, the house can supply electricity to the vehicles via a stand located in the garage. The roof and sides of the house are covered with solar panels that trap energy for distribution.
The Japanese people are pro-active and receptive to advanced technologies and improved functionality. They demand and buy cars and home appliances with high-end features and functionality well beyond their actual need planning ahead for future so they will be able to use services and contents when they become available. This is one of the key drivers of sales in Web-enabled home appliances.