Toward a world where companies and people co-create new value using a safe and secure data exchange system

Each company and organization accumulates various data. To enable mutual utilization of such data, it is necessary to establish a safe and secure data exchange network. Aiming to realize such a network, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. developed Virtual Private digital eXchange (VPX) technology, which is control technology for dispersed data in decentralized way. What kind of society does Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. see in the future, and how will this technology contribute? We interviewed three researchers from the Service Centric Network Research Center.

April 25, 2019

Researcher Interview

MEMBERS

  • Satoshi Imai

    Research Manager, Information Centric Network Project, Service Centric Network Research Center

  • Motoshi Horii

    Information Centric Network Project, Service Centric Network Research Center

  • Motoyoshi Sekiya

    head of the Service Centric Network Research Center

Developing the concept of an information centric network

With the rapid spread and advancement of IoT and AI, initiatives are underway to analyze large amounts of data and apply them to new business. Since there are limits to extract meaningful result using just the data held by a single company or organization, it is desirable to enable the mutual utilization of data owned by each company and organization. Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. has advanced efforts to realize such a world, and Satoshi Imai, Research Manager of the Information Centric Network Project, Service Centric Network Research Center, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. told us as follows:

“Fujitsu has a vision for “Digital Co-creation,” which aims to integrate digital technologies and business know-how and create new value beyond the borders of companies and organizations. Each company and organization has various scattered assets (data), and we have carried out research and development on a network that enables companies and organizations to control their data while determining who is able to utilize their data.

There are currently already systems to promote sharing and utilizing data, such as by sharing data via a cloud and disclosing some public information as open data. However, to mutually use data beyond the borders of companies and organizations, in most cases a centralized system is used in which each company and organization needs to give its own data to a third party. With this system, there are limits with respect to exchanging and using data seamlessly and closely as well as concerns regarding security measures and privacy protection, and consequently a lot of companies get cold feet. It is a big barrier for digital co-creation.

One of the keys to solving this problem is the concept of an information centric network. An information centric network enables a system that directly link users and providers of data without using a centralized system as represented by a content provider.

“As per our project name, initially we studied information centric networks (ICNs) and content centric networks (CCNs) and it could be replacements for IP networks. ICN and CNN are the network architecture that control distribution of information based content. Since they are based on concepts that replace existing protocols, they are not practical. Therefore, we considered creating a new architecture in which existing protocols are not replaced but overlaid with ICN and CCN.” (Imai)

Digital Co-creation is driven by data

VPX technology to which blockchain technology is applied

Securely realizing the exchange of actual data and various information and value generated from such data within the framework of existing IP networks and eliminate the anxiety of companies... To achieve this vision, the Information Centric Network Project at the Service Centric Network Research Center of Fujitsu Laboratories focused on a data exchange network based on Virtual Private digital eXchange (VPX) technology.

It is said that the project started with R&D on realizing a decentralized system using distributed IoT data. As a means for realizing such a decentralized system, Fujitsu Laboratories focused on blockchain technology and proceeded with technology development by applying it.

We realized the potential for applying blockchain technology, which was being used for distributed ledgers of virtual currencies, to other fields and immediately launched development of a system for applying it to exchange and use of data.” (Imai)

As a result, VPX technology was developed. Motoshi Horii, Information Centric Network Project, Service Centric Network Research Center, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., explains as follows:

“VPX technology uniquely extends the distributed ledger function of blockchain technology which is practically impossible to tamper with, and this is applied to the network control of each data location in a distributed environment. While conventional data distribution has a centralized structure in which companies and organizations give their data to an external cloud provider, using VPX technology that has decentralized structure enables companies and organizations to directly exchange the required data to only reliable partners when needed as they keep and manage their own data. This VPX technology can be applied to much more than just data distribution. It can be also used as a structure for distributing and using various assets including business processes.”

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. unveiled VPX technology at Interop Tokyo 2017 held in June 2017. The technology received the Special Prize, and was consequently operationalized immediately and commercialized as the “FUJITSU Intelligent Data Service Virtuora DX data distribution and utilization service” (Virtuora DX) in May 2018.

Schematic view of VPX technology

Commercialization as a data distribution and utilization service

Virtuora DX, which is based on VPX technology, was released as a data distribution and utilization service that realizes co-creation by multiple companies and organizations through the sharing and visualization on a portal website of overview information of data possessed by companies and organizations. Companies and organizations who want to utilize such data either participate in an appropriate consortium created by theme or create a consortium for data that they want to utilize and then solicit participants.

“ID associated with actual data and attribute information are registered in a distributed ledger that utilizes blockchain technology as the data owner keeps the actual data itself. The user searches the required data based on the attribute information and makes a request to the data owner for approval to use the data. When the owner approves the request from the user, the data is sent to the user.” (Horii)

Furthermore, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. also tackled R&D of new technologies to enhance the trust of data distribution.

“Some usable data is created by combining and/or processing multiple data items. Companies who use data need to track the history information of such data to check whether or not it is trustworthy. In addition, stricter personal information protection such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU requires more data transparency. To solve these issues, we developed technology that securely manages and shares history information such as the data creation/processing history and consents for handling personal information. This technology is called “Chain Data Lineage.” (Horii)

A proof of concept in which Chain Data Lineage is implemented as an extended function of Virtuora DX to show its practical use is planned.

Chain Data Lineage for managing data distribution histories and realizing a trustworthy society

Continuing R&D leading to social contributions

Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., which developed Virtuora DX based on VPX technology and its Chain Data Lineage extended function one after the other, says it is also expects utilization of distributed data using AI.

“Data is essential for creating an AI learning model. For this reason, there is a need to surely trace the source of data to be used for learning by AI and guarantee that the data is trustworthy. When AI processes data, new data is continuously generated and expanded in a chain reaction, and there is a need to distribute only trustworthy data according to purpose. It is VPX technology based on an information centric network and Chain Data Lineage that is most suitable for fulfilling this requirement,” Motoyoshi Sekiya, head of the Service Centric Network Research Center, Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., says.

The ultimate goal of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd., who has continuously tackled development of technologies to promote further exchange and use of data, is contributing to society through ICT.

“It has been 30 years since the emergence of the Internet, and nowadays we can obtain various information easily. However, a negative aspect is that there are large amounts of unreliable data and it is impossible to identify which data is trustworthy. Taking this factor into consideration, we place importance on “Trust”, which is proposed by the Fujitsu Group for the digital age. Technologies of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. enable data to be not only distributed, but also for trustworthy data with a clarified history and basis to be used. Our aim is to proceed with research and development based on this concept, and we believe it will result in contributing to society.” (Sekiya)

Demonstration experiment in Tokyo/Marunouchi area, where they are striving for urban development using data from across industries
(Lead by Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd., Fujitsu Ltd., SoftBank Corp., Osawa Group of the Tokyo Univ.; Conducted from May 2018 through Dec. 2018)

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