The COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound changes in our society and our lives. In this new normal, many companies are struggling to figure out how to protect the safety of their employees while they continue their business operations, and how they can contribute to society through their business. Toshiba Digital Solutions is using the technologies and experience it has built up over the years, together with its digital technologies and personnel, and leveraging a variety of data from around the world to develop solutions that will lead the way in the new normal of today. In this article, we provide an overview of them, focusing on solutions that can be put immediately into use.

The three keys to leading the way for “new normal”

The impact COVID-19 has had on society is not limited to changing the world order and disrupting the global economy, but has been so profound that it has also changed peoples’ work styles, lifestyles, and values. In order for companies to continue their business activities while taking care of the safety and health of employees, such as minimizing employee contact and movement, they must rapidly adapt to society’s new normal and solve various issues.

Toshiba Digital Solutions believes that digitalization has been recognized as effective in solving the issues under the COVID-19. For example, there have been a growing number of examples of telework, which prevents direct physical contact between workers, eliminating the need to commute and thus the time taken in traveling, improving productivity and freeing meetings from location and participant number restrictions, enabling rapid information sharing.

The IoT is used to monitor and collect data regarding people, goods, equipment, environments, and more without direct contact. That data is then analyzed to produce new insights. Examples such as these show how data has become more valuable.

We believe that technology, people, and data hold the keys to this digitalization.

Technology is essential for the development of new services. This also requires people to create new services. The world is also brimming with data. This is why there is a need to create environments capable of extracting and leveraging useful data in a timely manner.

Taking these three elements into consideration, we have arranged the concrete value that can be offered through digitalization along the following three axes: (1) corresponding to the new normal -- protecting peoples’ safety, health, and lives, (2) accelerating the implementation of digital technology -- remote operation, automation, and intelligence application, and (3) supporting resilient business operation. This article introduces some of the solutions we are providing along these axes that are leading the way in today's new normal and contributing to society (Fig. 1).

Corresponding to “new normal” - Protecting safety, health, and lives

These solutions enable contact-free and non-face-to-face communication, support peoples’ health, and ensure that companies can monitor employee health and safety while ensuring social distancing.

The first is Generalist/LM, an e-learning cloud service provided free of charge for a limited time in response to the difficulties COVID-19 has caused for many companies that normally conducted group training for new employees. In addition to basic educational content such as new employee training, we also delivered the up-to-date content that was useful for improving the telework efficiency and new style working. We are now making new efforts to make content providers, instructors, and students feel more convenient.

 *Generalist/LM is introduced in detail in the third article of this article.

Next is “kitekite,” a Generalist portal for employees that will be released in November 2020 to provide services that enrich the lives of all working people. We developed and created “kitekite” based on the track record and customer base of Generalist, a human resource management solution, which we first began offering over 20 years ago.
Generalist is currently in operation in over 1,000 client companies, and is used by their employees on a daily basis. We have digital contact points with several million people. We had created this new solution to provide new values to them.

When people access “kitekite”, they can make use of convenient services tailored to their needs, when they need them, such as “wanting a care helper to come” and “requesting a food delivery.” One of the key points of “kitekite” is that, through integration with company personnel systems, it provides functions that reduce the effort involved in registering information in advance. We aim to provide more convenience to employees and expand the range of social contributions by increasing the number of partners (service providers) who provide individual services as needed.

We have also provided a service focused on peoples’ health -- a disease risk forecasting AI service. This service uses AI and predict the risk of developing lifestyle diseases up to future 6 years from the current health examination data for individuals. Lifestyle diseases are one of the risk factors for COVID-19 complications, so we hope that this will provide motivation for people to change their everyday behavior in order to improve their health.

Last is a solution for visualizing manufacturing site work and supporting the safety and health of the employees working there. Due to COVID-19, social distancing must be maintained in manufacturing worksites, just as it is in public. One effective way to achieve this is through the use of a Field Work Visualization Package, which enables managers at remote locations, separated from work areas, to confirm the locations of all workers and provide work support. Employees simply wear wearable devices and carry smartphones. If someone is found to have COVID-19, their movement records can be used to determine if they have been in close contact with any other workers, as well as when that contact occurred (Fig. 2).

A Field Work Visualization Package was developed in conjunction with a major automotive part manufacturer. At manufacturing worksites there are various workers of varying ages with different levels of experience, from new hires to veteran operators. Needless to say, the level of operational efficiency will vary from person to person, so this solution was developed in order to help eliminate those gaps and raise overall operation efficiency. In other words, a Field Work Visualization Package can be used not only to maintain social distancing but also to improve work efficiency. Currently, this solution is also being used by suppliers of the automotive part manufacturer with whom it was developed, and, based on their positive experiences with it, we are receiving requests to deploy it in other companies as well.

Accelerating the implementation of digital technology
-- Remote operation, automation, and intelligence application

At first, we introduce an solution for remotely monitoring and managing equipment. This is work performed by the equipment manufacturer, and, at the same time, by client companies such as the factories and plants that use the equipment. We offer an Asset IoT Cloud Service for Equipment Manufacturers and an Asset IoT Cloud Service for Factories for monitoring and operation. They can be used to reduce the number of times maintenance service personnel go onsite to service equipment and the amount of time they spend on-site, helping reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. We have also begun providing a data platform to make these solutions even easier to use.

* An Asset IoT Cloud Service for Equipment Manufacturers is introduced in detail in the fourth article of Vol. 32 and an Asset IoT Cloud Service for Factories and the data platform are introduced in detail in the fourth article of this article.

Another of our solutions is a Distributed Co-simulation Platform for developing automobiles on the cloud. It combines software developed by various companies to perform overall vehicle operation verification on the cloud, instead of through the use of prototype vehicles, as done in the past. This automobile development environment is the perfect fit for the new normal. This innovative solution protects the confidential design information of individual companies while making it possible to create digital prototypes together, remotely, thereby improving automobile development efficiency.

* Distributed Co-Simulation Platform is introduced in detail in the second article of Vol. 31.

Another of our initiatives was announced in the August 2020 meeting of the Anti-Covid-19 Tech Team, led by Minister Yasuhiro Nishimura. This initiative consists of a solution for detecting and issuing notifications regarding crowding, closed spaces, and fevers, built in co-creation with various companies, and the ifLink Open Community, a community created by this solution. ifLink is an IoT platform that modularizes various IoT devices and web services, making it easy for anyone to combine them freely and create convenient systems. Together with members of this community, they are using ifLink to continue to engage in activities tailored to current conditions.

* ifLink and ifLink Open Community activities are introduced in detail in the second article of Vol. 34.

Now, we introduce a automation and intelligence application solution that uses Toshiba’s AI technologies. First is “RECAIUS Contact Center Plus.” As COVID-19 makes business operation more difficult, contact centers strive to continue to meet the needs of their customers by spacing operators apart and redesigning work shifts. RECAIUS Contact Center Plus provides support for these contact centers. For example, this solution automates and applies intelligence to various functions, such as converting the inquiries being handled by operators into text in real time to visualize it, using AI to automatically search for and display corresponding FAQ* entries, and visualizing inquiry trends. This helps improve efficiency in the face of the rapidly growing number of online inquiries.

* FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

* RECAIUS Contact Center Plus is introduced in detail in the second article of Vol. 30.

In addition, an AI automatic image inspection package helps automate inspection work, which has previously relied on the use of tremendous numbers of inspection personnel, but which COVID-19 has made difficult by preventing people from gathering in large numbers. This solution uses Toshiba’s AI technology, learning from image data for non-defective products and determining if inspected products are non-defective or defective. It is highly efficient and helps achieve greater inspection judgment accuracy in a short amount of time.

Supporting business through resilience in this time of change

The greatest business problem resulting from the COVID-19 is the interruption of supply chains. Let’s look briefly at a Strategic Procurement Solution for tackling this problem. The Strategic Procurement Solution, which began from the Toshiba Group’s own procurement reforms, makes supply chains more resilient. It has been used by the Toshiba Group to deal with natural disaster over the past decade, and continually improved. It has been praised by customers who have used it to investigate and deal with the impact of the growing COVID-19 pandemic on their own product production.

* Strategic Procurement Solution is introduced in detail in the second article of this article.

Raise our vision of “Making society better with Digital Solutions,” we are developing various new services and solutions that leverage digital technology. 

Through our solutions, which are leading the way in the new normal, the Toshiba Group will continue to contribute to COVID-19 countermeasures, enhance the ESG investment as a company, and use Cyber-Physical System (CPS) technology to create sustainable companies and societies.

* ESG: Environmental, social, and corporate governance

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

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