As early as 2017, the Japanese government introduced the notion of Society 5.0, a term to designate Japan’s next societal inflection point. In this next step, technological developments would be utilized to improve life and society, while business success remains a driving factor, “quality of life” is the primary objective.

At CEATEC 2019, several companies are showing products or concepts designed around Society 5.0.

CEATEC stands for Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies and is one of the largest technology exhibition in Asia that we have been covering for ten years. 2019 is the 20th anniversary of CEATEC, and Society 5.0 is a major theme of the show.

For context, Society 1.0 refers to hunting-gathering, Society 2.0 begins with agriculture, Society 3.0 is the industrial age of mass production/consumption, Society 4.0 is our current “big data” society.

Putting quality of life first might, for example, mean that instead of shifting as many things as possible to artificial intelligence (A.I) and automation to increase profits, a better balance can be struck by taking into account social stability. It also means using resources (time, energy, material) more optimally.

Japan is also ahead of the curve when it comes to having a fast-aging population, which is why the country has been working hard on robots, automation, and AI. Technologies like self-driving transportation could benefit society as a whole, not only by keeping older people independent longer but also by optimizing time and cost for everyone.

Robots and remote-controlled “avatars” can keep workers away from danger, and can “project” (they say “Teleport” here) expertise instantaneously regardless of distance. The convergence of a lot of different industries (telecom, sensors, robotics, AI, aerospace…) enables new possibilities that were not on the map just a decade ago.

Take artificial intelligence (AI): it’s been less than ten years since Deep Learning, has forever changed perceptive computing. Recent optimizations can now run A.I inference with 1/100 of the computing storage, making it possible to run AI on “the edge” of the network.

These technologies have been in the works for years, so the Society 5.0 term is more about how to apply these developments on a societal scale, but also how to prioritize future research.

At CEATEC 2019, several major industrial Japanese actors are presenting products and concepts aimed at delivering this vision of society introduced a couple of years ago. We’re curious to see how this will unfold over the next decade.

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