Professor Hideyuki Tokuda specializes in computer science, ubiquitous computing and distributed systems, or what is now commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). He serves as Director of Keio’s Ubiquitous Computing and Communication Laboratory, where he explores the formulation of intelligence infrastructure in a society where almost everything will be managed and controlled by computers and networks. Prof. Tokuda is also a leading researcher in the university’s Creativity Initiative, one initiative at the heart of Keio’s research under the Japanese government’s Top Global University Project.
The Keio Times recently caught up with Prof. Tokuda to learn more about his laboratory and the unique environment of Keio’s Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC), where his lab is located.
The Future in Mind
I’m based in the Hide Tokuda, Kaz Takashio, and Jin Nakazawa Laboratory, or, as it’s more commonly known, the Tokuda Lab. As part of the Creativity Initiative, we are currently forging ahead with the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems (CPS), ubiquitous computing, and what we call "smart spaces." These are spaces where all sorts of things are connected to the Internet, and we are seeing whether this kind of space can help to empower people, businesses, communities and even towns.
For example, if a room is installed with a sensor system that can perceive the exact position of your hands, it’s possible for you to turn the lights on or off merely by putting your hands in certain locations. By linking sensor systems and computers together it is possible to create such switches in virtually any space.
Connecting various objects to the Internet in this way allows for data gathered via sensors and other means to be shared online, where it can be analysed and processed, giving us feedback on the real world. Our research goals align with the ultimate objective of the Creativity Initiative—to embrace new ways of value creation through cutting-edge and innovative research.
Out of the Lab and into the World
We are developing actual applications and smart services with smart cities in mind, but the lab isn’t merely focused on areas like core information technology and data gathering. We are also investigating whether we can solve the challenges inherent in the real world by using extant services and applications and conducting real, on-site experiments and assessing the value of their eventual implementation. We’ve already built a sensor-data platform that circulates information from various kinds of sensors around the world. Ideally, we would like potential application creators to use our intelligence infrastructure.
We’ve also worked within our community for the city of Fujisawa to carry out experiments for a project called Smile Wave. For this project, senior citizens use smartphones to access their pictures of smiling faces of family, friends or caretakers they know and see on an everyday basis, and they also upload smiling pictures of themselves to an Internet community. This kind of project helps perpetuate a circle of smiles. We all know that a smiling face can brighten your day, so we reason that sharing pictures of happy people may help to improve people's moods and increase positivity. Currently, nine people are taking part in the project. On the other hand, certain ethical problems can arise during this type of individual-based research, so we take protection of privacy very seriously. Our work is overseen by an ethics committee, and we also visit participants and conduct interviews with them.
Looking ahead, we plan to cooperate with investigations with Keio’s other initiatives, namely the Longevity Initiative and Security Initiative, in hopes of gathering and consolidating knowledge from other fields to create new relationships between computers and society and computers and people.
A Spotlight on Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC)
Keio University’s expansive Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) can be found in the Shonan region of Kanagawa Prefecture and comprises three faculties and two graduate schools: the Faculty of Policy Management, Faculty of Environment and Information Studies, Faculty of Nursing and Medical Care and the Graduate School of Media and Governance and Graduate School of Health Management.
Many of Keio faculties conduct research in conventional fields of study, but education and research at the Faculties of Policy Management and Environment and Information Studies are somewhat unique. Our methods integrate the humanities and sciences, known as bunri yugo in Japanese, and put particular emphasis on spurring students to explore new horizons. SFC’s flexible curricula and group research projects allow students to identify and solve problems for themselves while acquiring expertise in various domains based on an approach known as project-based learning (PBL).
In recent years, an increasing number of universities are following in SFC's footsteps as the bunri yugo approach has become more common. The aforementioned faculties—established at SFC upon its founding in 1990—break down the barriers between the humanities and sciences to create an interdisciplinary campus. In a speech made in the years leading up to SFC’s founding, then Keio University President Tadao Ishikawa demonstrated insight when he said it would be almost impossible for a single discipline to tackle the social challenges of the 21st century. SFC is a prime example of Keio’s progressiveness.
The SFC Student
At SFC, we expect our students to become experts in their field, yet require them to have a broad knowledge base, too. In other words, we’re keen to develop the kind of talented people who possess a wide-ranging outlook and in-depth knowledge of one particular area, as opposed to churning out students with knowledge in a single field. I have one student in my seminar class who has a particular interest in computer science and also takes law classes, while another student occasionally drops by to pick the brains of a teacher who specializes in intellectual property issues. The social challenges of the 21st century are extremely complex, making it impossible for one discipline to solve all of the issues facing our society today.
Once they get out into the real world, graduates won’t be presented with problems in a clearly written or formalized way, namely via textbooks. Nowadays, individuals can no longer undertake the immense task of identifying and solving complicated social problems alone; this requires collaboration between specialists from various fields. SFC’s strength lies in its readiness to get undergraduates involved in the research and problem-solving process.
Real-World Contributions on a Global Scale
Members of research groups at SFC conduct their studies while simultaneously interacting with society, regardless of the particular theme they are pursuing. In fact, we participate in many projects on national and international levels and engage in commissioned research with industry. Participation in these projects provides students with opportunities to learn about social problems and people’s needs on a first-hand basis.
For example, ClouT is an international project being pushed by EU and Japanese researchers to find ways of creating smart cities through a fusion of IoT and cloud technology. We encourage students to get involved in these kinds of large-scale ventures to hone their international communication skills and learn how to get things done effectively. I believe that the classroom is merely one exercise to reinforce intellectual stamina. A lot of learning happens outside of lectures, so it's essential that our students are actively engaged with their community. SFC highly encourages citizen participation and provides students with opportunities for teaching and research assistantships as a continually progressive figure in Japanese higher education.
Hideyuki Tokuda Professor Tokuda is currently a full professor at the Faculty of Environment and Information Studies and the Graduate School of Media and Governance.
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