Professor Tadao Saito, CTO Toyota, is a global top pioneering leader, inventor, researcher and innovator shaping business, industry, research, education, government policies, international standards and society. This is the first extensive interview with Tadao and the first with the CTO of a global Fortune 8 company with revenues of 221.7 Billion. To put this in perspective, Microsoft ranks 120th, Apple 111th and Dell 124th in the global Fortune 500. Prior to joining Toyota, Tadao invented digital switching that laid the foundation for “all” digital communications including voice communications and the internet. You will read more about this in the interview plus valuable insights into leadership, technology trends and more. I first met Tadao at the G7 Summit of IT Societies in Vancouver August 2006 where I represented CIPS as president-elect. I had a chance to talk with Tadao at the World CIO Forum (WCF) in November 2011 where I participated as vice-chair international advisory board and chair of the EA panel session. After the WCF Tadao agreed to this exclusive interview to further explore his unique insights. Excerpts from this interview are appearing today with itWorld and CIO Canada plus in print later.
Tadao, you have a strong history of significant global impact in leadership, research and innovation. Your work has shaped world history. Thank you for sharing your considerable expertise, deep accumulated insights and wisdom with our audience. Information technology is changing rapidly. Moore's law started when I was a student. Computer technology is changing the fastest. Now computers are the most important component of many equipment including home appliances and automobiles. In these systems surrounding us, all will further change continuously. In infrastructure which is traditionally expected to be stable for a long time, change has sometimes encountered difficulty. Function and services of infrastructure are also subject to change. To have coordinated architecture to accept change is the most important property of technology for the future of our society. It is requested for experts of information technology to share the vision with the society of the future world based on information technology.
Tadao, you are a pioneering legend who has shaped our present world and you have laid the foundation for global communications and networks. For my first question, I will go back to your early days. Can you share your experiences and insights from the University of Tokyo? In my early days computers were still low in performance and expensive. Electronics were used broadly in telecommunication signal transmission. I graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1963. At that time computers were mainly used for research but not in social services. Only in communication business electronics are used as the base of socially active service. So I selected my study subject in use of electronics for communication business. But at the same time I am very much interested in a variety of possibilities to use electronics in socially useful applications. Starting from telecommunication systems I worked in a variety of subjects on social application of information technology.
As Chief Scientist and CTO for Toyota, one of the most important positions in the world as Toyota is a global Fortune 8 company, what is the future of ubiquitous information services? Automobiles are one of most important and useful fields to use electronics. The success started from air prolusion control of engine to have smog less air in big cities. Stand alone use of electronics improved the automobile in broad applications and what is now required is to connect automobile in automobile to automobile communication and in automobile to infrastructure communication. What I am interested in is the creation of attractive and useful automobiles using network technology.
What are your top 5 goals as CTO and how will you measure success in achieving your goals? Soon after human beings appeared on the earth, our ancestors started to move on the earth and penetrated globally starting from Africa to South America. Mobility is the most important nature of human being. In history, human beings started to construct cities and roads, interconnecting cities. Realization of efficient and safe mobility is the essential way to improve human society.
What are your 5 lessons in leadership from your role as CTO?
Tadao, can you profile your current research and what you hope to achieve and the value to the broader audience? My current research is on automobile to automobile communication without infrastructure. This is a kind of mobile ad hoc network studied broadly in communication specialists. From the viewpoint of the automobile it is needed to know the performance requested for automobile application. If the performance parameters are accepted among network specialists and if the view of the market is clarified, collaboration must be much easier. Of course the performance figures depend on application. Easiest application to help human drivers will be realized in near future, and in a long future this technology can be used for automatic driving to realize accident free highway.
Describe three areas of controversy or much discussion in the areas that you research.
In your research, what are your top five ways of measuring success? Automobile design needs a long period. Of course market acceptance and common global use is final success. Before that, we must set a variety of intermediate success.
In your current research, what are your top 3 challenges and top 3 opportunities? How will the challenges be solved and the opportunities be actioned? Challenges
Can you profile your research in communication networks and its social applications such as ITS (Intelligent Transport System)? ITS is the technology based on a variety of communication between automobile and infrastructure and between automobile and automobile. The communication between automobile and infrastructure has already broadly used in a variety of applications including fee collection. Next step is to realize communication between automobile and automobile for application like safety assist and sharing of information among automobiles running nearby. This kind of communication is M2M communication for which many researches are ongoing.
What are the outcomes you are driving as chairman of the New Generation IP Network Forum of Japan? New generation IP network research is called in different way in variety of countries. Some times the research is called post IP network. In the US, a variety of subjects to improve the network wide operation are studied. It includes open flow network and mobility first network studies. In our New Generation IP Network Forum of Japan, we are discussing a variety of social applications M2M IP network to know the performance parameters of the network, including communication setup time, communication speed, and busy time traffic. This study assumes a variety of applications including health care, energy saving, home network, automobile safety, etc. To share the information among broad range of specialists is an important framework for open innovation.
You made what is widely considered to be the most important contributions to digital communications and computer networks. Can you share your work on switching networks and its global impact? My study which led to global change of communication network is the invention of time division switching network of time-space-time type. The switch was applied for patent in 1964 and the patent was assigned to ATT Bell Lab., because the study was done under the sponsorship of Bell Lab. The principle was used as the core switch of the world's first digital switch put in the field in 1975 as No4ESS. Before that all telephone switches were based on mechanical switch element using metal contact. After the No4ESS toll switch, Bell lab developed No5ESS local switch, again based on my time-space-time switching network. After that, a variety of TDM switches were developed by a variety of communication system manufactures in the world around 1980's, and in all switches the core component of the switch is based on my patent. Production of TDM switches continued for 20 years and still used as the main component for telephone service in the world. Before TDM switch, telephone switching system was bulky, heavy equipment. TDM switch made it possible to realize compact switch taking advantage of improvement of electronics. Using the technology, competition of traditional carriers and new carriers became possible and drastic price reduction of telephone charge became possible. During the period of TDM switch, in almost all countries regulation of telecom carrier was changed and competition of infrastructure was started. This deregulation is essential to start internet services globally. It means that the global telecommunication network formulation including internet started from TDM switch technology using the core component of my invention. This is the global impact of my study which changed the world.
How is voice switching shifting from TDM to IP? Internet is the next global network after telephone network, which has been the only global telecommunication infrastructure for 100 years. Global service of internet started from 1992 by the deregulation of ITU. After that, use mode of internet changed rapidly to make broadband contents possible. Now much more information is handled by the internet compared to telephone network. Mass production and improvement of optical transmission, justified by the high traffic of internet made the cost of internet much low compared with telephone service. Using the condition, cost of voice services using IP is lower than TDM switch. Because of this reason, the majority of telecomm manufacturers who used to produce TDM switch stopped production. In addition, many people who used telephone for everyday life replaced the communication to mail. Total telephone traffic is also reduced sharply. Still penetration of broadband service is not enough in many countries. Quality of voice by IP telephony using narrow band internet is still lower than TDM telephony. This is caused by change of basic technology and total replacement of telephone to IP will take further 10 years.
Describe your work as a member of the designing group for the Tokyo Metropolitan Area Traffic Signal Control System? The study is sponsored by Tokyo Metropolitan Police Authority which controls all traffic signals of the city. Signal is to be controlled to maximize the traffic capacity of the road. Controlled parameters are the signal period, split, and phase of signal between neighboring intersections. These parameters are controlled based on measurement of traffic in each link of the road. For this purpose, traffic of each link must be measured and all signals are to be controlled. For this purpose, a large scale network is requested. In early 1970's, computers are still low in capability and construction of big system need a lot of effort. My function is to design total architecture of the system using a one mainframe computer to calculate the signal parameter and a number of mini-computers for communication to distributed signals and traffic sensors. It took nearly 10 years for construction to control all signals in Tokyo, and capacity of city traffic was estimated to be increased by 20% by the effect of computer control. At the period, communication to automobile from infrastructure was difficult because of premature wireless technology. Terminology of ITS had not been used at the time, but this was the first large scale information system support for traffic improvement. This system was penetrated into many cities in Japan. In parallel with the effort of Tokyo, similar system also constructed in US cities. Traffic situation of big US city is different from that of Japan, therefore US cities having comparable scale to that of Tokyo is still rare.
Tell us more about your books?
What is the impact of your work on the “deregulation of communication services”? I worked on the "deregulation of communication network" in collaboration with Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication of Japanese Government starting from 1978. My initial interest is on digital computer network. I felt many of digital network applications were restricted by the monopoly of network services by the telecommunication carrier NTT. We worked on University Computer Networks like ARPANET 1973-1976 but because of monopoly, although the system was completed by 1976, we must wait the inauguration of operation for 5 years waiting for service of data packet network operated by NTT. I proposed a competitive environment for communication services, and helped the government working in the direction. NTT monopoly was ended in 1985, and competition started. From this time, I worked with government in all aspect of communication deregulation.
What lessons can you share as chairman of the Telecommunication Business Committee of the Telecommunication Council of the Japanese government? On regulation of communication network, government must consult the Telecommunication Business Committee of the Telecommunication Council. In the sense, the council has a big power on communication policy. Communication law in Japan experienced major change in 1985 and 1998, and I became the chairman of Telecommunication Business Committee in 1998 and keep the position for nearly 4 years, helping the government on execution of 1998 law. Major change in 1998 law is asymmetric regulation on incumbent service provider to enhance competition. Use of equipment of incumbent carrier by new carriers is called unbundling. This is a good rule to enhance competition but at the same time if unbundling is improper, the rule can cause difficulty in future development of telecommunication network. In this sense, regulator must have a vision of long future of global network. I helped the government from the technical viewpoint. But this function is a difficult function which needs leadership on a broad aspect of services and technologies. So far, my leadership resulted in successful improvement of network services in Japan, but we must be careful as such success is only possible by deep understanding of technology.
What lessons can you share as Japanese representative for the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) General Assembly and Technical Committee 6 (Communication Systems)? I have been the Japanese representative of IFIP TC6 since 1994 and GA representative since 2006. Since I have a longer history in TC6, let me start from TC6 first. TC6 have 2 committee meetings a year. It is interesting to find that more than 30 members got together globally and frequently. The oldest member continued to be the national representative since the first year of TC6 (1972). All members are so familiar and exchange information twice every year. It is a special community in the center of study on telecommunication. Such relationship is possible because the majority of members are from European countries. If some member visited other countries, often the visitor contacts the representative of the visited country to renew acquaintances. To continue this kind of relationship is sometimes difficult to continue for a long time; many of Asian and American countries tend to have less frequent attendance. I attended 22 meetings out of 36 since 1994, and enjoyed the close relationship with representatives from other countries. Lessons I learned are the situation of telecommunication research of each country and found that subjects interested in are same in some cases and in some cases different country by country. Examples of lessons is in many European countries, more practical research are selected even in universities but in North America, university studies are generally more theoretical. I understood the background of the differences by free talking. In general assembly, in recent 5 years I was so much impressed by the difficulty of management of academic societies in the world. Although information technology became the most important social technology which grows global economy, the number of members of each academic society is decreasing rapidly. In some countries payment of annual fee to IFIP is difficult and retired from IFIP membership. IFIP did not find the way to resolve the issue. WCF held in Shenzhen is one of a trial to move IFIP to more social interest not only in academic interest.
Please share what you learned from your roles with the IEEE and IEICE? In IEEE I was a communication switching committee member of communication society for a long time. I studied a lot on future of communication switching technology. In IEICE, I got lessons on management of an academic society. One of the difficulties of many academic societies, when researchers lose interest to submit papers to the society, number of young members tends to decrease. A kind of monopoly on paper publication by US societies including IEEE and ACM caused the difficulty of many other academic societies outside the US. When I was the president of IEICE, the effort is concentrated on collection of papers from Asian countries. When I was the president of IEICE, the number of papers from China and Korea exceeded the number of papers from Japan in English journal of IEICE. Continuous effort is important to keep stable operation of academic societies.
Tadao, can you profile additional areas of your extensive research history and three valuable lessons you wish to share from each of your top four research areas? A: Additional area 1. Mutual synchronization: Mutual synchronization that I studied is the most basic framework for digital communication network. In digital communication clock all switches must be synchronized. If difference of clock exists data transmitted is lost in the same rate of difference of clock frequency. It can be avoided if buffer is inserted and signal transmission stops for a duration during which buffer transmit all stored data. For this purpose, data transmission by users must be controlled because of imperfect nature of the network. When I studied mutual synchronization in mid 1960's, the cost of atomic clock was so expensive that it is difficult to have an atomic clock in each switching point. In mutual synchronization each switching point have a simple clock source and the clock sources control each other and adjust the frequency by themselves to have identical frequency. This is based on automatic control of frequency. Actually a network include so many number of independent clock sources and one stable common frequency is to be composed by mutual interaction. I proved that the system have complete stability even when the links have any delay, and established a beautiful theory. But actual selection of clock infrastructure used by industry is simple and expensive atomic frequency generator. They do not need any control theory and simple. Now every country has one common master clock and all other switching stations are controlled by forced control from the central clock. Network of each country thus have a common frequency by a stable atomic oscillator. But still in international frequency adjustment, the principle of mutual synchronization is used. It is somewhat common to my principle but different my original idea of clock harmonization of autonomic oscillators. Lessons
You were a key participant at the November 2011, first World CIO Forum (WCF). What 5 key lessons can you share from the WCF?
More generally, what specific technologies should IT practitioners be embracing today and in two years, five years? Complexity of software will be more and more serious in future IT. Automatic software generation from specification is now more practical and will be more important. Also, quality assurance of software will attract more interest.
More generally, what specific technologies should businesses be embracing today and in two years, five years? Analysis of big data and software for that have already started and will be more important technology for all organization in the future. Size of data which can be analyzed practically will increase rapidly and idea to use big data will expand as the competition edge of many organizations.
Please make predictions for the future, their implications, and how we can best prepare? Also in coming future, cost of energy will be higher and cost reduction of electricity and energy in general will be more important. In current discussion, energy issue is discussed on global warming and CO2 reduction. But in near future energy issue will be discussed on real economy base.
What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession like medicine and law, with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council] As for professionals, medical and law professional have a long history, sometimes several thousand years. In every use of professional capability, activity of medical and law professional is related directly to lives and destiny of individual people. So problem of ethics is easier to understand from the viewpoint of the general public. On the other hand, in the case of information technology, many of issues of activity of professionals are related to organizations which use information technology. Problem of ethics will appear indirectly, and sometimes difficult to be realized by individuals. At the same time, class of IT professionals is distributed to many levels, and scope of responsibility is different class by class. In this sense, creation of commonly recognized credential is more difficult compared to medical and law professionals. Considering that medical and law credential ware established in long history, further continuous effort is requested globally. IP3 is the start of the important global activity.
From your extensive travels and work, please share 3 stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
Tadao, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your substantial wisdom with our audience. Stephen, although your questions are so many, and I spend many time after dinner to fill up the sheets, I enjoyed to answer. It is a good chance for me to recall my past work. I am sorry to write too much. You may have difficulty to understand in some answer but I hope you find my answer is useful. I also realized that the time I started study on communication is very lucky timing. Technology was still young and I had so many opportunities to study new ideas to contribute to the world. So far I believe that I was able to contribute for current society and human being. In that sense I am a lucky person.
Prof. Tadao Saito received his PhD. in electronics from the University of Tokyo in 1968. Subsequently he served as lecturer, associate professor and professor of the University of Tokyo, where he is now a Professor Emeritus.
Since April 2001, Saito is the Chief Scientist and CTO of Toyota InfoTechnology Center, where he studies future ubiquitous information services around automobiles.
Professor Saito has worked in a variety of subjects related to digital communication and computer networks. His first patent from 1964 is on digital time division switching networks and he invented both Time-Space-Time and Space-Time-Space time division switches which are the core technology for time division (TDM) telephone switching systems globally used since 1975. Although voice switching is now shifting from TDM to IP, Tadao's switching principle is still the core technology in traditional voice switching systems generally used in the world. His research includes a variety of communication networks and its social applications such as ITS (Intelligent Transport System). Saito is also the chairman of New Generation IP Network Forum of Japan.
Included in his past research from the 1970's, Saito was a member of the designing group for the Tokyo Metropolitan Area Traffic Signal Control System. This system was designed to control 7000 intersections under the Tokyo Police Authority.
Tadao authored two books on electronic circuitry, four books on computers and two books on digital communication and multimedia. He also worked on a variety of "deregulation of communication services" to form a legal framework suited for advanced network technology in Japan. From 1998 to 2002 he was the chairman of the Telecommunication Business Committee of the Telecommunication Council of the Japanese government and contributed to regulatory policy of telecommunication business for broadband networks. Based on the new regulations, Japan now has a penetration of optical fiber involving 40% of total households, which is No.1 in the world.
Tadao is also the Japanese representative for the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) General Assembly and Technical Committee 6 (Communication Systems). He is a life fellow of the IEEE and honorary member and life fellow of the IEICE.
A FEW SAMPLES OF: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES, PATENTS, TRANSLATED PAPERS, REVIEW PAPERS IN JOURNALS, TRANSACTION PAPERS, SHORT PAPERS
Here's are extracts from the interview featured in IT World and CIO Canada: