« Back Employing “Unemployed” Data: Creating a World of Co-Existence and Co-Creation

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We are now witnessing an explosion of data as computing devices are embedded in our everyday objects. Data from our purchasing decisions, health conditions and performance of equipment in factories are examples contributing to this explosion, however these data have not yet been fully employed. When data is processed, organized and presented in a given context, it becomes meaningful information that can improve our daily lives. What more can be achieved if we employ such “unemployed” data?

Toshiba Data Corporation, a new company established in 2020, aims to explore possibilities of tapping on everyday data and realizing tangible benefits for society. But what is a “data-circulating ecosystem” that the company intends to create, and how will data be utilized in effective ways? The Toshiba Clip team asked Taro Shimada, CEO & Representative Director of Toshiba Data Corporation, Executive Officer, Corporate Vice President, & Chief Digital Officer of Toshiba Corporation, to share his views.

From Data 1.0 to Data 2.0

“In the past 10 years, many companies have created immense corporate value using the information they’ve gathered from computers and smartphones. I consider their business model as ‘cyber-to-cyber,’ but recently, with the growing problems including limits to data volume and data acquisition processes, these companies have started to acquire data from actual environments (the physical world),” said Shimada.

Taro Shimada, CEO & Representative Director of Toshiba Data Corporation,
Executive Officer & Corporate Vice President of Toshiba Corporation

The days of relying solely on cyber data to create profitable businesses appears to be coming to an end. Previously, these companies were able to create enormous corporate value by utilizing consumer data for cyber-to-cyber businesses—more so than manufacturers that require high-level technologies and services, like industrial machinery and infrastructure. Shimada calls this age of cyber-to-cyber business “Data 1.0.” We’re due for “Data 2.0,” where we use data extracted from the physical world to improve people’s lives – a “cyber-to-physical” world.

We live in a big data society. According to estimates by the IDC (International Data Corporation), the total amount of data in the world will grow more than five times from 2018 to 2025—a veritable explosion of data in just seven years. And this growth is expected to continue. Here at Toshiba, we believe that the amount of data created from the physical world —things like factory equipment and transportation systems—will far exceed the data created in the cyber business.

Source: Created by Toshiba, based on the IDC White Paper “The Digitization of the World from Edge to Core”

“We’re entering an age where data from the physical world will be mainstream. We think it’ll be an age where companies like Toshiba which have provided different hardware—will be able to harness the power of data and make further contributions to create convenience and comfort in people’s lives,” said Shimada.

Data is ubiquitous. At a train station, we pass through the ticket gate and hop on the train. At the office, we enter data into various systems, and carry out maintenance services on various kinds of equipment. We visit shopping malls and pay at the cash registers. In many of these instances, data is idle and not harvested for use.

That’s where Toshiba comes in. With the company’s offerings and involvement in point-of-sales (POS) systems, industrial machinery and social infrastructure, Toshiba can transcribe the data from the physical world, feed it into cyberspace, and then combine the new data with already existing cyber data to create something of value.

In this society, we live and breathe information, and information security is an indispensable aspect. In addition, there is one important point that companies should keep in mind.

“When it comes to handling personal data, we should adhere to the existing regulations of data protection which is ultimately an issue about human rights and ethics. One of the challenges in the age of Data 1.0 is the issue of privacy, where data can be compromised and used in unexpected ways. This is far from the right way to do things,” said Shimada.

Big Data and… SDGs?

“Many companies are trying to create a new world of co-creations, forming strategic partnerships to make faster intelligent decisions. The heightened need for data security is contributing to this change too. I think SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), a guideline that’s shared worldwide, will form a basis on how business should operate,” said Shimada.

Though SDGs lay down clear goals to address issues like poverty, water resources, and energy, Shimada highlights that data is an important component to realize these goals. The collective approach towards realizing SDGs is to weave data into these categories to identify problems, propose strategic solutions and approaches, monitor situations and access the resources around us.

“There are 17 goals in SDGs, and I would like to highlight two of them. #9 is about building infrastructure for industrial and technological innovation. This goal isn’t addressing the problem directly, it’s building a foundation from which countries could work towards to realize the SDGs. Similarly for #17, partnerships— data-sharing can build a foundation for co-creating and co-existing too,” said Shimada.

The newly established Toshiba Data Corporation is part of “The Toshiba Next Plan,” a five-year plan Toshiba launched in 2018 to drive company reforms and deliver solutions to social issues. It is also a definite step in the company’s move to embrace cyber-physical systems—the main concept of the plan.

“The first step is that we make the move from closed systems—where we provide everything ourselves—to systems that are more open. We want to compete and collaborate with different industry players and be part of a vibrant ecosystem to drive value creation. The second is working on our business structure. Instead of putting all our resources into capital-intensive fields, we’ll diversify our business to include asset-light business fields. The third is to take a strategic programmatic mergers and acquisitions (M&A) approach, performing small-scale M&As in fields with high levels of synergy with our existing businesses, instead of focusing only on large-scale M&As,” said Shimada.

A New Business Model for a “World that Connects”

Our focus is to aggregate behavioral data of consumers in the physical world, and with their permission or after anonymizing the data, give value created back to the consumer. Various service providers could provide different customer offerings according to the data gathered. An example is the ’Smart Receipt’ developed by Toshiba TEC Corporation.

A Smart Receipt system digitizes the paper receipts that customers would receive when they make payments at stores. With this system, customers will be able to receive receipts in a digital format when barcodes are scanned from their smartphones. Customers can retain the information easily as proof of purchase or as a means to keep track of your expenses. Retailers can also use the same information and offer specific discount coupons according to consumers’ buying behavior. For example, offering discount coupons on sandwiches to a customer that often buys. It depends on how it’s applied, it could even be used as a tool for regional vitalization.

Toshiba Data is dedicating efforts to increase the availability of the Smart Receipt system for consumers to enjoy these benefits.

“Data acquisition is a very sensitive issue, but we believe data is an essential form of infrastructure to create a sustainable society. We also believe that the personal data shouldn’t be monopolized. What we want to do at Toshiba is create a ‘world that connects,’ one in which we work together and collaborate with other companies, so we can co-exist and thrive together,” said Shimada.

That’s not all. Toshiba Data is considering to offer management support to medical institutions. By collaborating with other providers, Toshiba aims to help medical institutions to analyze patients’ data and identify various pre-symptomatic diseases for health monitoring purposes.

Overcoming challenges, Toshiba Data is committed to create an ecosystem where everyone can reap the benefits of data.

2020