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How far-reaching communication networks could change society

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At Keio University, the Nishi Laboratory, in the Department of System Design Engineering (Faculty of Science and Technology), is doing research on how far-reaching communication networks, primarily involving the Internet and various devices, could help to change society.
Q. Our first research topic was smart grids, which are infrastructure combining power grids and communication networks. Nowadays, communication networks extend to many other aspects of life, including buildings, agriculture, and healthcare. Our research focuses on what kinds of society could be created by utilizing sectors where different types of infrastructure converge, and exchanging various kinds of data between them.
The Nishi Laboratory is pursuing a variety of projects using power grids and communication networks. One of these, the Infrastructure Integration Project, is being done together with local governments, including the Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture and Kurihara in Miyazaki Prefecture. The aim of this project is to create a new paradigm for local communities, and help society deal with global warming, by flexibly incorporating weather forecast data into integrated infrastructure for healthcare, agriculture, and energy.
Q.If we move on to the viewpoint of urban development, various kinds of infrastructure come into the picture in urban areas. We’re currently engaged in projects on smart communities and smart cities, in places like Musashi-Kosugi in Kawasaki, and Urawa-Misono in Saitama. Infrastructure for water, gas, electricity, buildings, and disaster prevention will obtain a lot of data, which could be collected and highlighted, to develop new services for cities and their residents. That’s the kind of topic we’re researching here.
In addition, the Nishi Laboratory is working on the Zero-Emission House Keio Project, which involves building an experimental house and doing field tests, with the aim of creating advanced, user-friendly HEMS. The Nishi Lab is also doing research on constructing next-generation smart grid infrastructure using service-oriented routers, and high-speed anonymized processing technology to protect personal information in such infrastructure. In this way, the researchers are working on a diverse range of technologies to support next-generation networked societies.
Q. Our main field of research is information science. The main problem is that, because the issue is how to handle data in ways that enable everyday services, this research can’t be done effectively through information science alone. Ultimately, we want to collect information so we can do something. Consequently, sometimes, we become involved in the social sciences and fields like that. It’s very important for us to be alert to all kinds of information, and know how we’re going to utilize the data. In other words, I think it’s important for us to consider not just information science, but how to help achieve changes in society from a broad range of perspectives.
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