Having worked closely with many leading Japanese companies, I have always been impressed with their long-term mindset and the strong sense of social responsibility. Nothing illustrates this better than the leading role Japan is playing in defining ‘Society 5.0’. While ‘Industry 4.0’ focused on the digital revolution in manufacturing, Society 5.0 centres on creating an ultra-smart society, designed to further economic development and address social problems. The Japanese government is working hard, alongside the Japanese industrial giants, to move this high-level ambition forward. In terms of solving social problems though, I find that the UN Sustainable Development Goals provide a useful – albeit very high-level – starting point.

Clinical trials: how technology is driving digitisation.

The big challenge for both companies and individuals is to imagine what the future world could look like and make the high-level ambition of Society 5.0 concrete. This in turn makes it difficult to plan the necessary steps to prepare for and lead in this new society.

This year’s CEATEC event focuses heavily on Society 5.0 and, as an exhibitor, we wanted to make our contribution to envisaging this future, providing a series of future concepts that engage and provoke discussion. The challenge with envisioning a future is that even the experts lack a crystal ball – nobody knows exactly what the future will bring. However, we use this to our advantage by creating distinctly different visions. The reason for this is not so much to hedge our bets but to broaden our innovation horizons, ensuring that we have a wide range of futuristic concepts.

We decided to conduct our own visioning project specifically for CEATEC and tailored to a Japanese future. In the next few weeks we’ll write about different aspects of this visioning work and reveal our futuristic concepts at CEATEC itself.

The first step in our project was to select the timescale – we chose 2030. This is important because if you choose a timescale that is too close, for example three to five years, then you’re often drawn into extrapolating today’s reality. However, choosing a timescale that’s too far out makes the future difficult to envisage because there are too many unknowns. The 2030 timescale is at the upper end of the eight to twelve years that we normally recommend to clients because it’s a good timescale for people to suspend disbelief, while allowing sufficient freedom to imagine what could be possible.

Once the timescale was decided, we began the research that would help shape the distinctly different futures. This process is much wider than you might think… we do, of course, consult our internal technology experts who have written widely on technologies as diverse as artificial intelligence and synthetic biology. However, we also need to look externally and globally at different trends. One important element that is often missed is that the customers of 2030 are unlikely to be the same as today’s. For our project we decided to conduct research with ‘Generation Z’ (those born between 1995 and 2010) because soon they will form one of the largest consumer groups. My colleague Johanna Martin will discuss the research findings in a separate blog post later this month.

Our research led us to create two different visions of the future, both strongly inspired by the motivations of Generation Z. Our first vision is focused on climate change, while the second is focused on the increasing societal challenges of mental health. These are broad visions, but you will find out in a new blog from my colleague Yasuko Abe (now available here) how we made these visions concrete, so that we could then use them as a tool to underpin our futuristic concepts.

The next four weeks will be exciting as we bring these visions and our concepts to life, with sketches and descriptions. Stay tuned to find out more, and we hope to see you at CEATEC 2018.

AJ Van Bochoven
Head of Strategic Innovation

As Head of Strategic Innovation, AJ brings more than 20 years experience in technology consultancy, specialising in R&D management and technology commercialisation projects.