Daily Management Review

To Leap into Technology Future, Japan Plans Supercomputer


To Leap into Technology Future, Japan Plans Supercomputer
In a bid to arm the country's manufacturers with a platform for research that could help them develop and improve driverless cars, robotics and medical diagnostics, Japan plans to build the world's fastest-known supercomputer.
A budget breakdown shows that as part of a government policy to get back Japan's mojo in the world of technology, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will spend 19.5 billion yen ($173 million) on the previously unreported project. Amid intensifying competition from South Korea and China, home to the world's current best-performing machine, the country has lost its edge in many electronic fields.
Reuters reported that as early as next year, a machine that can make 130 quadrillion calculations per second - or 130 petaflops in scientific parlance would be built by Japan’s engineers in a move that is expected to vault Japan to the top of the supercomputing heap.
Japan's computer would be ahead of China's Sunway Taihulight that is capable of 93 petaflops at that speed.
"As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast," said Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at Japan's ‎National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, where the computer will be built.
The heydays of Japan's technological prowess has dwindled since China overtook it as the world's second-biggest economy and the push to return to the vanguard comes at a time of growing nostalgia for the heyday.
To enable Japan win in robotics, batteries, renewable energy and other new and growing markets, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for companies, bureaucrats and the political class to work more closely together.
Enhancing artificial intelligence (AI) based technologies such as "deep learning" technology that works off algorithms which mimic the human brain's neural pathways, to help computers perform new tasks and analyze scores of data, is the aim of the project and in the area of supercomputing, Japan's aim is to use ultra-fast calculations to accelerate advances in AI.
Google's DeepMind AI program, AlphaGo, which in March beat South Korean professional Lee Seedol in the ancient board game of Go, is at the centre of recent achievements in this area.
Helping factories improve automation or allowing driverless cars r are some of the applications which are helping companies improve their output.
Among other things, weather forecasting, pharmaceutical research and  industrial design are some of the areas that China uses the Sunway Taihulight for.
Sekiguchi said that Japan's new supercomputer could help tap medical records to develop new services and applications.
Sekiguchi and others involved in the project said that Japan's corporations now outsource data crunching to foreign firms such as Google and Microsoft and the supercomputer will be made available for a fee to Japan's corporations.
ABCI, an acronym for AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure, is the name given ot the supercomputer.  Bidding for the project has begun and will close on Dec. 8.
The Oakforest-PACS, capable of 13.6 petaflops is the fastest supercomputer in Japan at the moment and its builder, Fujitsu Ltd, declined to say if it would bid for the project. The company has, however, said it is keen to be involved in supercomputer development.