In recent years, information and communications technology (ICT) is having an enormous impact on business and in people’s daily lives. Fujifilm has developed a wide-ranging ICT business, which it continues to refine and expand to drive innovation.
ICT continues to advance rapidly. One recent example is the Internet of Things (IoT), in which devices and appliances have Internet connectivity and ICT functions built in. Moreover, ICT appears ready to take off in industry as never before, spurred by new advances in such technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR). Some even view these trends in ICT as having the potential to lead to a new Industrial Revolution. As a leading technology company, Fujifilm is poised to become a major creative force in ICT and drive its own wave of innovation.
This advantageous position didn’t suddenly arise out of nothing. Applying machine learning* to massive digital photo files, Fujifilm developed Image Organizer, a photograph analysis technology that can automatically identify what humans tend to view as the best shots in a set of photographs. ICT technology was also an integral part of Fujifilm’s development of SYNAPSE VNA, a medical integration archive system that can centrally store and manage diagnostic images and videos, allowing them to be shared within a medical facility and among multiple facilities. Fujifilm has continuously refined its ICT technologies and used them to create a wide variety of products and services.
To accelerate the company’s ICT initiatives, Fujifilm established the ICT Strategy Management Office in October 2016. The goal is simple but far-reaching: take Fujifilm ICT to the next level and leverage it to add value to current products, services, business methods, and manufacturing processes—while creating entirely new ones as well.
*The emulation of natural human learning processes by a computer with the goal of enhancing analysis capabilities, etc.
Among the many important ICT initiatives at Fujifilm, materials informatics is expected to have a particularly strong influence on the company’s products and services going forward. A new approach to materials development based on big data analytics, materials informatics searches vast quantities of data for materials that will exhibit desired properties in specific products. This method can even help optimize the combination of multiple materials in a formula in order to realize the needed performance characteristics.
Over the decades, in the course of fulfilling its original mission of developing and producing outstanding photographic film, Fujifilm has developed color, monochrome, negative, reversal, and instant films in a tremendous variety of formulations. In turn, developing these fine chemical products has led Fujifilm to research and develop a vast number of chemicals in over 100 different categories, including couplers, sensitizers, anti-fading agents, and surfactants. This R&D work has allowed Fujifilm to accumulate a vast chemicals database. In the 21st century, this database has continued to grow at a rapid pace as Fujifilm has diversified and become a leader in highly functional materials, skincare products, pharmaceuticals, and regenerative medicine.
Whereas, in the past, experimental and analytical materials data was managed by various businesses within Fujifilm, it is currently being organized in a companywide database so that it can be conveniently accessed by all of Fujifilm and analyzed automatically by AI to identify materials with desirable properties. Working to make this efficient system a reality, Fujifilm seeks to shorten the lead time required for laboratory experimentation and bring advanced products to market much sooner.
One example of a Fujifilm product that can benefit from this system is photoresists, which make possible the formation of circuit patterns on a silicon wafer or other substrate in the manufacturing of semiconductors. Fujifilm is currently developing AI that can automatically calculate the performance parameters of a photoresist formula containing multiple materials. In the fast-moving semiconductor industry, the ability to present photoresist candidates to customers sooner will give Fujifilm a significant advantage. In this way, Fujifilm is already making materials informatics a reality.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to develop quickly, Fujifilm is staying ahead of the curve. For example, Fujifilm’s EXCLEAR sensor film for touch panels is an important material that makes possible touch control on smartphones, tablets, and other devices. As IoT gains further traction, EXCLEAR could have an even wider application: integrating this film into everyday items could make touch control more widely available while allowing the gathering and analysis of data on human motion for a more people-centered and customized usage environment. Devices and appliances could literally learn to respond to people’s individual usage styles.
Fujifilm is also developing ICT technologies for the benefit of operators of medical systems and their patients. Gathering operation data in real time can help predict and prevent equipment issues. Moreover, advanced systems with ICT functionality could distinguish problems arising from normal wear from operator error. This data could be fed back into R&D and used to produce predictive maintenance protocols and systems with even more robust failsafe functionality. The final goal is always human-scale medical systems that are ready to take on real-world conditions.
Fujifilm is leveraging advanced ICT to generate accessible, user-friendly, and even heart-warming experiences. After all, photographs are advanced chemistry turned into irreplaceable memories. With the goal of adding value to people’s daily lives and global society, Fujifilm will continue to develop ICT technologies that drive innovation forward!