Upgrade 2023: Innovative NTT Technologies and Services

In addition to the panel discussions and NTT Research-related presentations, Day 2 at Upgrade 2023 included five talks showcasing more of NTT’s broad base of innovative technologies and services, which are driven by 2,300 researchers and more than a dozen laboratories. The first of these afternoon talks featured the winners of NTT Research’s Attribute-based Encryption (ABE) hackathon, who noted upfront the dramatic inspiration for their application. 

“Back in September of last year, we were brainstorming,” Senior Associate Data Scientist, NTT Belgium, Jean-Philippe Cabay said, “and we remembered news that was happening at the time, where in the metro station in Brussels, a man pushed someone onto the tracks.” Fortunately, no one was hurt, but video leaked onto the internet, with the faces of everyone visible. For the duration of the session, titled “Using ABE to Protect Privacy in Surveillance Camera Images,” Cabay and Implementation Engineer and Tech Lead Pascal Mathis explained ABE, its application to surveillance video (allowing authorized personnel alone to decrypt images) and several other use cases. The application’s value has been quickly recognized, as Cabay noted that the team in Belgium has “multiple projects in the pipeline.”

Other technologies discussed on Day 2 are poised to enhance today’s disrupted workplace. That was the theme of the next session, titled “Digital Workplace – Future Solutions, Experienced Today.” “We were challenged with how [to] bring forward the IP and solutions that we have,” Digital Innovation and GTM, NTT DATA, Mary Leos said, reflecting on the recent pandemic years. “How can we still engage with our clients?” The answer was to build a virtual environment that resembled the team’s physical office in Plano, Texas, with additional industry-specific features for clients they serve. 

Businesses also need new ways to connect inwardly, while anticipating the needs of the next generation. “What would hybrid work mean for them?” Chief Evangelist and Digital Workplace Leader, NTT DATA, Vishal Brown asked during this session. Whatever the future holds, immersive, augmented and virtual technologies already are impacting the workplace, with demonstrated efficiencies onboarding, learning and skills acquisition, IT services and support, and organizational change. “An immersive environment allows that change to be quicker, faster and gain more adoption,” Brown said.

Principal among the prerequisites for such workplace experiences and other transformative applications is the right infrastructure. In the session, titled “Innovation at the Edge – Delivering Real Business Outcomes,” two more NTT leaders discussed the rise of IoT and emergence of new business designs (including the blurring of physical and digital domains). These new applications are especially associated with the network edge, defined by VP Enterprise 5G Products and Services, NTT, Parm Sandhu “as everything south of the cloud.” 

To help enterprises tap into these services and capabilities, NTT launched Edge as a Service (EaaS), which brings together connectivity, core computing platforms as well as the application management and AI analytics platforms. The connectivity component also includes a private (P)5G offering. Comprised of open and licensed spectrum, integrated public networks and global NOC support, this offering enables IoT solutions in geolocation, remote data collection and M2M telemetry as well as more advanced applications. 

NTT’s unique global cellular connectivity allows IoT services to scale. “Our main innovation has been to set up an abstraction layer to the mobile [SIM] card worldwide, so that we become a virtual global operator,” Research and Innovation Director, NTT-Transatel, Romain Durand said. Holding signed, access agreements with more than 190 operators, NTT gives customers a single point of contact, enabling them to integrate once and deploy globally. Airbus uses NTT’s SIM cards to collect flight data, which is then sent to the cloud for predictive maintenance. Car makers are also tapping these flexible cards for telematics and infotainment. 

NTT is also backing the transition toward carbon-neutrality. Motivated by a disconnect between what business leaders say about their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and their simultaneous lack of supporting metrics, NTT developed a solution it named Truth in Sustainability, discussed in an Upgrade 2023 session bearing the same name. “Simply put, it helps you onboard your sustainability journey,” VP NTT SMART World Solutions Bennett Indart said. While regulatory-driven reporting requirements are a work in progress, prudent companies should take steps now, which includes translating kilowatt hours of specific energy types into a footprint measured in metric tons of carbon. “It’s [about] getting started,” Indart said, “because you want to be ready.”

The final session, “IOWN for Sustainable Smart Worlds,” amplified that larger, societal goal. One of the reasons NTT is so invested in IOWN, featured prominently in the event’s exhibit hall (see here and here), is a sense of responsibility. As a leading global data center provider, NTT recognizes that these facilities consume a lot of energy, an amount projected to increase by many orders of magnitudes by 2030. “In short, it’s not sustainable,” EVP, Head of Research and Development Planning, NTT, Atsuko Oka said. “High-capacity networks and energy-efficient technologies are necessary.”

NTT’s IOWN initiative answers the need for more power and efficiency, as well as lower latency. Existing optical-to-electrical (OE) and EO conversions are simply counterproductive. “It’s like having many traffic lights on the expressway,” Oka said. Enabling use cases such as live remote performances, telesurgery and “fast and fair” financial transactions, IOWN’s All-Photonic Network (APN) foundation is deployment-ready, with four manufacturers having built IOWN-compliant products. At the close of Upgrade 2023, Oka announced that APN-driven services have now become commercially available. (For more, see this report in the Asahi Shimbun.)