Hitachi held court at its own Innovation Forum in Tokyo, Japan last week, and the main message was the imperative for "social innovation," defined as using technology to create a better world and improve people's lives. This is not to be confused with the social innovations of Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, or the like, and while it sounds like the loftiest of corporate mission statements, there is some real potential here.
Check out my brief video summary to get the basic idea, or read on below for more detail.
While many American companies talk about the cutting edge, Hitachi is taking a dynasty-building view of the topic. They openly acknowledge that it isn't about being the first to market; it's about cultural change that may take years to achieve. Very few tech startups or public companies have such a long term perspective, but nor do many others have the global reach and 900 sister companies with deep vertical expertise to aid them. Yet somehow this vision works for Hitachi, and over the course of several days, I was witness to some examples of how this strategy may be realized.
Many people who work in IT think of HDS and Hitachi as much the same thing, and aren't usually thinking of the company's diverse efforts in industries like transportation, construction, finance, healthcare, and energy. It's the marriage of these different fields that really will drive the concept of social innovation, and only when we see the application of technologies like big data and Internet of Things to build differentiated solutions. Think about building the machinery and infrastructure that goes into these verticals, and then think of the possibilities when a city's power grid, MRI scanner, or train engine is fully instrumented, automated, and self-tuning, if not imbued with artificial intelligence. A lot of tech companies talk about "end to end" solutions, but this moves those endpoints much, much further into the real world.
Not content to merely add sensors into devices and machinery, rather Hitachi is now building deeply integrated vertical-specific solutions, backed by significant industry domain expertise. If the components exist to do the job, they can be taken off the shelf and wrapped into a smart application. If not, HDS can invent and hone them to suit the need, as they've done with an embedded database and data integration tool for more advanced functionality and purpose-built performance. This was illustrated in an example of a smarter power grid to be both greener and avoid blackouts even during catastrophes, remember the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami for an idea of why this matters. With power management units generating tens of terabytes of streaming data to be monitored for rapid response, the need for a better big data and IoT solution becomes clear. The Hitachi Advanced Data Binder (HABD) and data integration (HADI) provided for the first registered TPC-H benchmark at 100TB, naturally running on HDS blade servers and unified storage. And they are promising many more such vertically integrated infrastructure solutions over the next year.
With the emphasis on solutions for tackling worldwide problems of scarce resources, climate change, and population demographic shifts now more tightly combined with both industry and technology capabilities, Hitachi is uniquely poised to make an impact that is both cutting edge and designed to have an impact for generations to come.