An Italian Bar near Shimbashi Station

Yesterday, I joined Android Bazaar and Conference 2011 Winter which was held in University Tokyo. After the conference, I stopped by an Italian Bar called "Italian Bar UOKIN" which is being operated by UOKIN restaurant group. 

Someone might say this is not Italian but Spanish, maybe another one says this is not Italian nor Spanish but Japanese. That implies this restaurant serves a fusion cuisine from Italian, Spanish and Japanese. 
The food is delicious, Aqua Pazza, Terrine,  Carpaccio,  Bagna Cauda, Smoked Oysters, Steamed Mushroom and Whelk with very affordable prices, say JPY500-800 (USD6-10) for each plate.  They have a wide selection of wines also, you can try various reasonable prices. 
This restaurant is very small and busy. Within 2 hours, you are asked to leave so as to welcome other guests. In that sense, the atmosphere is casual enough to rush into four or five small plates with a bottle of red wine.

Tokyo has many Italian and Spanish bars; I'd appreciate living here.


New Year's Thoughts

The next decade will show another landscape which is completely different from what the last decade has shown to us. During the last decade, we have been experiencing the successful innovation of i-mode derived in 1999 from the combination of ACCESS micro-browser and DOCOMO’s always-on mobile packet network that had been already existed in 1998, years ahead GSM GPRS packet network development.
After having the success, rules of the game are changing from local to global, from  walled-gardens to open markets, and from pay services to fee-on-free serves.  Telecommunication operators need to act otherwise they are doomed. Given no status quo, a rolling stone gathers no moss (in American Interpretation).
The i-mode business is now hitting on a plateau on the first ‘S’ curve, thus DOCOMO R&D needs to jump onto a second ‘S’ curve.

Where will be such a next ‘S’ curve? Here are some hints.

The essence of Communication is secure and reliable “Redirection” which appears at several levels: packet routing, directory services for session creation, search engine applications, and SNS relation such as Facebook. As we know, that essential redirection functionalities are now away from telecommunication operators’ monopoly, and being integrated to web services.  Any Internet company who owns data enough to provide redirection functionality may replace the telecommunication operation with their own.  Google voice, skype, and twitter are good examples. Only data with a large customer base for redirection has the power to win the game. Thus, operators’ leverage lies in two holds: 1. Scale of data, customer-base, delivery system and sufficient free cash flow,   and  2. Trustability, in other word, reliability of redirection.
Redirection may have effects in the following two areas.

  1. Machine Communication. That means “non cellular phone communication” in a broader sense.  The market expansion of wireless internet card shows very positive figures nowadays.  Dr. Keiji Tachikawa, the CEO of NTT DOCOMO at that time in 2000, predicted that around 20 million cats and dogs in Japan would wear tracking devices linked to cellular networks by 2010. Although his prediction has not come true yet, his envisaged direction is valid enough to explain the current non-voice cellular application trends.Seeking non-voice communication services is the key to expand the revenue. Here the crucial point is that we design our business model carefully so as to promote our business to be a machine communication platform business. At this moment, most “Machine Communication” businesses have remained at just selling data communication cards.My colleagues at DOCOMO Service & Solution development department invented a digital photo frame service called Otayori Photo Service™  in 2009.  (This system was adopted by Korean Telecom and exported to Korea.  See http://www.nttdocomo.com/pr/2010/001492.html).  That’s a good example to thinks about the next step.  Any Machine communication platform should have a redirection function empowered by data or reliability.
  2. Federation of Data Monetization.  There are things multiple companies can accomplish working together that they couldn't do alone. That’s O’Reilly’s remark in “What lies ahead: Data” (see http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/12/2011-data.html) .Data mining, to which I devote everything from machine learning algorithm developments to high-performance massive parallel servers deployment at DOMO, is a tough process, since without mining the data we cannot find its value. Data mining involves very ironically self definition.  If we are allowed to federate data among data-driven companies, we can reach to critical points where innovations emerge. Let us see what will happen.  http://strataconf.com/strata2011 may give us some clue to figure out the future. Data is the power. Federation is the key to reach the critical points.

That’s it about S-curve identification. In identifying the next ‘S’ and increasing its success rate, we need collaboration with external companies. The open innovation concept described by Chesbrough is essentially imperative to generate the next innovation.  That includes, in general, licensing out of patents, collecting ideas, collaborating with other businesses, external R&D or consultants on development and so on.

The term, open innovation, is easy to understand though, it is not easy to implement.
We need the culture transformation Our way of seeking next S-curves with open innovation scheme should move toward High Performance Culture. Those consists of  
        Empowered people and cross-functional communication,
        Creating focused, collaborative, results-driven teams; energizes others,
        Integrating existing solutions without not-invented-here syndrome and adding new values,
        Facilitating the creation and communication of a compelling and strategically sound vision,
        Changing our mind from “technology push” to “collaborative innovation” with business departments (ultimately i.e., our customers), and
        Transforming our value from technology consultation to commitment of any necessary technical support until its service launch; that means we need to engage “concurrent engineering.”
Implementation of Open Innovation scheme requires culture transformation. 

With the above consideration, I hope year 2011 will give us good developer experience.


What Innovation entails, i.e., Neuer Kombinationen

Innovation is the source of new business. We need to understand what R&D efforts are needed to generate innovations in this era where the ecosystem is currently undergoing great changes driven by globalization.

Joseph Schumpeter, one of the leading economists of the 20th century, defined innovation as “new combinations” (Neuer Kombinationen). He asserted that innovation refers to the new goods, new production methods, new markets, and new organizations that are borne out of these “combinations.” 
This points to a new way to change society, particularly the process of setting new values and bringing about change by coming up with new combinations from existing elements. I learned from my mentors that development is based on existing technology, i.e., it is made up of validated  technologies, and that including unvalidated technologies, i.e., those still in the research stage, is not allowed. An iconic example of using only validated, i.e., dependable, technologies is the Apollo Project, which aimed to land a man on the moon and bring him back to Earth. In that massive system development, only dependable technologies were used. The plan was implemented by combining existing technologies. But research is different. In research, the goal is to come up with innovations based on technological discoveries or inventions. If inventive technologies have foundational versatility, then combinations geared towards practical applications can be made from them later. This is the reason that in the development of scientific technologies, the wave of inventions and discoveries of technical elements and basic theories and the wave of systematization, although the latter did not come right after, came about through mutual interference.

NOTE: The field of communications is still experiencing the systematization wave.

Going back to innovation, the main thing is how to be able to come up with new combinations. As an example, in 1998, i-mode was born out of the combination of DOCOMO’s always-on mobile packet network and microbrowsers.
 You can either seek out combinations around the world, or, more importantly, come up with attractive platforms that the world will seek out. To do this, open innovation and concurrent engineering must be practiced. In open innovation, a new system is designed from a combination of your own company’s and other companies’ technologies. In such cases, even the operation of the system can be delegated to other companies. In concurrent engineering, development of technology is carried out in coordination with the operations department and with a constant evaluation of its relationship with the market and with other companies. In other words, market search and technological development, which includes research, should be done in parallel. These two are indivisible activities and must be linked with investment activities.

When I was fresh out of university and entered the industry, I learned this saying, “The more half-hearted  you are as an engineer, the more conservative you become.” The average successful engineer would stick to his technology and work style of ten years ago and would not change and challenge himself to learn about new technical fields. He was content with the status quo. Since innovation is a process that brings about new values and changes to society, it revolutionizes the ecosystem. Around the world, convergence of terminal platforms and consolidation of network services on the Internet are advancing. There is no stopping the wave of innovation; there is the emergence of cloud computing, which enables a service delivery platform that can serve from millions to several hundred millions of clients, as there was the emergence of search services, internet shopping, electronic publications, social network services, and smartphone application stores. Ecosystems for these innovations did not exist ten years ago. Thus, innovation necessitates creation of new ecosystems rather than just adapting to them. In this era, there is no room for conservative and half-hearted engineers. It would be easy to find comfort in existing ecosystems, but this will not encourage innovation. I hope that we can have the readiness to challenge ourselves to create new environments and take up new technical fields.

To conclude, let me reiterate that what innovation entails is facing the challenge to pursue new combinations and to reconstruct ecosystems.