Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cool Japan, hot frogs and singing robots at OGF30/GRID2010

Cool Japan, promoting Japanese culture and industry to the outside world, is a new phenomenon – there’s even an office devoted to it at METI, the Ministry for Economics, Trade and Industry. (

But there is another effect at play – Japan’s market share for DRAM, DVD players and LCD players has dropped from over 90% to less than 20% in about ten years. Why?

Satoshi Sekiguchi, Director of the IT Research Institute and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan introduced a term for it, Jalapagos. A new word to me, this is Japan + Galapagos, a term that describes a product or society that is evolving in isolation from globalisation, referring to Darwin’s observations on evolution in the Galapagos Islands. Products developed in Japan have been doing phenomenally well initially, but having been developed in the isolation of the Japanese market, they do not adapt well once they emerge into the global environment.

Sekiguchi also referred to the business metaphor of the frog in hot water (pretty cruel idea but treat it as strictly hypothetical!) Frogs are supposedly great at detecting sudden changes in temperature, but if the water is gradually heated up they won’t notice until it’s dangerously hot. Leaving aside the poor frog, the message is that it’s the gradual changes in the market that you don’t notice until it’s too late.

A new body is keen to make sure this doesn’t happen to cloud computing in Japan. The Global Inter-Cloud Technology Forum (GICTF) aims to develop a set of specifications for inter-cloud federation, as well identifying secure technologies and raising awareness in industry and government. This is driven by a METI cloud computing policy covering innovation, regulation and platforms. Cloud computing in Japan should respect global partnerships and stop cloud lock in – for the future, it’s all about inter-cloud computing, using more than a single cloud.

The benefits for Japan (and beyond) could be huge – managing data from networks of earthquake centres, guiding smart cars on the roads, handling the data deluge from medical imaging and the complex analysis that is needed to squeeze the most out of Japan’s space-limited agricultural resources.

Sekiguchi closed his presentation with a song from a singing robot created by Yamaha (see YouTube clip from DiginfoNews). Perfect for Cool Japan but perhaps of limited appeal for living rooms elsewhere – this is the way cloud computing should not go!

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