Topic: Japan

“Ubiquitous”, a Hidden Language Trap in Korean and Japanese IT

The word ubiquitous is a key to understanding Korean and Japanese information technology (IT). An example: U-city (U as in ubiquitous) is a concept heavily promoted in Korea. All the major Korean cities strive to earn the U-city label. Ubiquitous, according to an English dictionary, means found or seeming to be found everywhere. How can a city be found everywhere? The very ambition to be found everywhere may seem mysterious, or even suspect to a Westerner.

However, to Koreans and the Japanese ubiquitous has a different meaning. The double semantics of this word is little known. Since I couldn’t find any previous work on this subject I recently wrote an article about it, now published in the proceedings of the ICISA 2010 conference.
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Seriously Ubiquitous

This blog has featured a few posts and reports about “ubiquitous”, the way this word is used in Japanese and Korean information technology. Submitting these ideas to a reality test was tempting, so I decided to write up a paper for a Korean IT conference. The paper was accepted even though the conference is mainly technical.
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What’s So Ubiquitous About ONS?

There may be life on March, and there just may be people out there wondering why I wrote a post about ONS under the “ubiquitous” theme. What’s ubiquitous about an Object Name Service?

(Note in passing: If my use of ubiquitous seems suspect, please download the “U-Essence” report from this website.)

The reason is wireless sensor networks, also known as Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN) in Korea and Japan.

Wireless sensors are regarded as an extension of RFID technology even if they differ in several respects. Simply put, a sensor is active, transmitting a varying measurement value and depends on continuous power supply. A plain RFID tag is passive because it relies on radio frequencey energy beamed to it by the tag reader. It transmits the same identity every time.

The ONS (Object Name Service) was invented for passive RFID tags. By extrapolation the ONS is also found in some sensor network architectures. My previous post raised objections about the ONS for passive RFID tags, mainly based on security considerations. For sensor networks the ONS functionality is plain irrelevant in many cases. Let me sketch an alternative.
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Device Big Bang: The Need for an Infrastructure

The novelty of the e-era (e as in e-government) was to elevate digital documents to legally binding status. Before that time a word processor was a tool for preparing paper documents.

The u-era (u as in ubiquitous) introduces a new breed of communicating participants: objects. The e-era was concerned with digital people-to-people communication. The u-era adds people-to-object and object-to-object channels. The number of communicating devices keeps growing at an explosive rate. The “device big bang” is here. Devices will outnumber people on the Internet, creating the Internet of things.

Let me suggest that a new infrastructure is needed. Why would devices need more infrastructure than just the Internet? Let’s go through an example.
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The Essence of “Ubiquitous”

The West generally knows little about the ubiquitous wave that has swept into Korean and Japanese information and telecom technology with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. In some measure Westerners are hampered by a perplexing language issue.

Korea and Japan both attest to having passed from the e-era to the u-era. Is this just buzz?
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Useful Information Technology Resources

For those who want to know more about Information and Communication Technology in Japan and Korea, government web sites generally are valuable resources, but are in a state of flux. As for Korea, the Ministry of Information and Communication (MIC) no longer exists. We eagerly wait for the Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) to populate their web site. The links listed below offer information in English.
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Ubiquitous Computing Adopted and Redefined

Ubiquitous computing. If English isn’t your first language you probably scramble for a dictionary. The ubiquitous entry would say something like this:

found or seeming to be found everywhere; ever-present

So, ubiquitous computing literally means computing everywhere. The concept could have been buried in the sediment of time and forgotten, had there not been some startling development in East Asia.

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U-Korea, U-Japan, U-Fever

The newcomer to Korean or Japanese information and telecom technology will immediately notice the u-words. They are sprinkled all over presentations, descriptions, and reports. There is u-Korea, u-Japan to begin with. Other than that almost every aspect of life seems to have its u-version: u-city, u-home, u-tourism, u-business, u-government, to name a few.

Here is our report, a kind of linguistic introduction to this hot topic: U-Korea, U-Japan, U-Fever

You may think you know about ubiquitous computing. Find out how Korea and Japan have added a visionary touch and lots of energy to the concept. These countries are now re-exporting their u-vocabulary to baffled Westerners.


The Japanese Condition

What is quality? A classical question with many answers. As I’m just back home from Japan I find myself getting absent-minded, thinking about quality. I murmur about quality when there is no one around. These are characteristic symptoms of the Japanese condition. It hits the unsuspecting Westerner when they are confronted by Japanese quality. In my case it happened when I travelled by the famous Shinkansen high-speed trains and found out that speed is not the main point.

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