Vol.32 - Business transformation and value creation with TOSHIBA SPINEX - Accelerating the development and deployment of industrial IoT services


#02 A Technical Strategy supporting our business strategy toward CPS Technology Companies Accelerating Digital Innovation with Toshiba IoT Reference Architecture

Toshiba aims to become a Cyber-Physical System (CPS) technology company. Our objectives are to maximize customer satisfaction by solving social problems and to further develop and advance Toshiba's business. Digital Innovation Technology Center plays a vital role in these efforts. It coordinates with Toshiba Digital Solutions, which is responsible for Toshiba's digital solution business, and individual Group companies in various industrial fields, promoting the rapid development and refinement of TOSHIBA SPINEX, the industrial IoT (IIoT) service. Furthermore, it is carrying out various initiatives that tie together technology and business by crystallizing Toshiba's experience and expertise in a technology platform befitting the era of CPS. These initiatives include the creation of a common platform that spans business domains based on the Toshiba IoT Reference Architecture (TIRA). Let's look at Digital Innovation Technology Center's technical strategy in the cyber field.

An Open/Closed strategy aimed at evolving Toshiba into a CPS technology company

No matter how excellent a technology may be, it only becomes meaningful when it creates economic value. Toshiba's Digital Innovation Technology Center sees extensive technical capabilities as a management resource, and uses the advanced technologies and research & development results that it has cultivated to promote countless initiatives that are tied to strategic and efficient business.

Toshiba aims to become one of the world's leading CPS technology companies. To do so, we have positioned business that exploits data ("data business") as a pillar of our business strategy. In order to realize this business strategy, we have set up an "Open/Closed strategy" as our technical policy. "Open" and "Closed" respectively refer to "collaborative" and "competitive". "Collaboration" refers to the company not restricting itself to Toshiba hardware products and services alone, but instead also working with hardware products and services from other companies and other industries. "Competition" refers to the company differentiating itself from other companies through the data at the core of its business and data analysis such as machine learning and AI. This collaboration and competition is achieved using Toshiba IoT Reference Architecture (TIRA) common framework (Fig. 1).

* TIRA concept is introduced in detail in #01.

Fig. 1 Realizing an "Open/Closed" strategy using the Toshiba IoT Reference Architecture

The "IoT Bus" and "Service Bus" in TIRA are its collaborative "open" aspects. They are loosely coupled boundaries (interfaces), so they are able to coordinate with products from other companies. They can also be used by other companies' products and services, regardless of programing language and platform.

The "Data" and "Analytics" portions of TIRA are its competitive "closed" aspects. "Analytics" seeks to differentiate Toshiba from other companies by using its advanced data analysis technologies, such as the Toshiba Corporate Research & Development Center's AI technologies and Toshiba Digital Solutions' SATLYS analytics AI. Toshiba has the third highest number of AI-related patent applications in the world, and the highest number in Japan*.

* According to "WIPO Technology Trends 2019," published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

Toshiba's "Services" provide Toshiba's industrial IoT (IIoT) services to the entire Toshiba Group under the TOSHIBA SPINEX brand name. In addition to Toshiba's products and services, data produced by other companies and created by products from other industries are used to create new value through open innovation, bringing digital transformation (DX) to reality. We believe that the role of a CPS technology company is to fully leverage data from the physical and cyber worlds and provide value to customers as a data provider and platform provider. Digital Innovation Technology Center is responsible for driving these activities.

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Criteria and certifications for providing reliable IIoT services

Rei Yano

Digital Innovation Technology Center has defined two criteria that it applies to using TOSHIBA SPINEX to provide IIoT services to customers. Based on this, it performs certification of the IIoT services supplied by the Toshiba Group.

The first criterion is related to "interfaces." As mentioned earlier, interfaces are the collaborative aspects of systems. For example, in the case of Web API, these criteria require that their specifications are defined following the Open API Specifications standard, currently a de facto world standard. Explicitly defining and disclosing conditions in this way achieves "collaboration" through open architecture by enabling diverse service developers to use these interfaces.

The second criterion is related to "security." This criterion requires the accountability for security through a framework consistent with the Cyber/Physical Security Framework (CPSF) formulated by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. By satisfying this security accountability, customers can feel safe using secure IIoT services, even when using clouds operated by other companies. The CPSF also indicates corresponding international security standards and specifications such as ISO/IEC 27001 and NIST SP800. Even from the perspective of providing services overseas, we confident that these are sufficiently rigorous criteria.

Toshiba Group technical executive take part in committees to the determine whether IIoT services meet these criteria -- that is, whether they can be certified as parts of the TOSHIBA SPINEX lineup. Determining certification eligibility through company-wide meetings such as these also contributes to the reuse of IIoT services and the sharing technical expertise across business field lines. By making it an absolute requirement that these criteria are satisfied, Toshiba has ensured that IIoT services lined up as TOSHIBA SPINEX are excellent, reliable services that guarantee safety and quality backed by technology. TOSHIBA SPINEX is brand of effective IIoT services provided by Toshiba, which has a track record of positive results in the real world, and customers in various industries and fields have had great expectations for it since the very start.

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Accelerating CPS business by making development more efficient through standardization and containerization

Daisuke Ajitomi

By the end of fiscal year 2019, TOSHIBA SPINEX will have launched 12 types of services. From this launching point, Toshiba will continue to release TIRA-compliant IIoT services under the TOSHIBA SPINEX brand in various business domains.

* The 12 TOSHIBA SPINEX services are introduced in Fig. 3 of #01.

We also plan to mutually link these services and to create innovative solutions that realize DX through the open bundling of products and services from other companies. To do so, it will be essential that we implement initiatives to improve our productivity, service and technology reusability, and for more effective development.

That's why Digital Innovation Technology Center is currently working to integrate the development and operation platform used by IIoT services. Many of the technologies used to realize CPS can be shared between various industries and fields such as social infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, and logistics. For example, authentication & authorization, data collection & utilization, and control are typical ones. In order for each Toshiba group company to share the common technologies, develop and operate CPS on the same platform, we have built a Toshiba IIoT platform service "Habanero".

* Habanero is an IIoT platform service for use in the Toshiba Group that is positioned as one form of implementing Toshiba IoT Reference Architecture.

Fig. 2 Structure of Toshiba's "Habanero" IIoT platform service

We have a plan to collect, standardize and deploy common technologies used in CPS across various business domains on top of Habanero. In addition, we would like to introduce modern best practices related to technologies such as AI analytics into the platform and make them available on that. Through these activities, we have tried to shorten IIoT service development times and improve quality for Group companies. It produced a high level of competitiveness.

Furthermore, we are promoting effort to "containerize" the software that is implemented in compliance with TIRA. Container technology makes it possible to freely migrate applications between services and platforms without rebuilding them. This technology is attractive because of the reusability and portability it provides. By introducing containers from an early stage, TIRA has improved the development efficiency of the TIRA-compliant TOSHIBA SPINEX and further accelerated the transition to DX.

Toshiba is also working to reflect these activities, especially TIRA, in international standards such as IIRA*. Through this, Toshiba will further enhance its presence in the world's CPS market. We aim to globally reaffirm Japan's industrial capabilities in the new industrial revolution.

* IIRA: Industrial Internet Reference Architecture

Toshiba is closely coordinating its business and technical strategies as it accelerates its transformation into one of the world's leading CPS technology companies.

* The corporate names, organization names, job titles and other names and titles appearing in this article are those as of February 2020.

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Business transformation and value creation with TOSHIBA SPINEX Accelerating the development and deployment of industrial IoT services