NTT and NEC use vibrating optic fibres to figure out if there's snow on the road

Japan’s short of workers and limiting overtime, so it needs stuff like this – and remote-controlled excavators

Japanese tech giant NTT has shown off some tech tricks it hopes will help alleviate the shortage of workers created by the nation’s ageing population, and looming regulations that restrict weekly working hours.

One of NTT’s experiments relies on using optic fibre that’s already in the ground as part of comms networks as a sensor, a feat made possible by the fact that shooting lasers down a fibre can detect and locate nearby vibrations. NEC provided that capability using a system it’s developed that can detect the speed of passing traffic. NTT and its Japanese neighbour used a correlation analysis to detect when snow had fallen in Aomori City, home to around 250,000 people near the northern tip of Honshu, Japan’s largest island.

Using vehicle speed info, plus the vibration frequencies correlated with different road surface conditions, the two companies were able to detect when snow had fallen and make recommendations to have it cleared.

Such recommendations are valuable because assessment of road conditions is currently only made during daylight hours, and labour shortages mean there aren’t enough people available to assess whether it’s time to fire up the snowploughs.

Workers are especially scarce in Japan’s rural areas, some of which are experiencing population declines.

NTT and NEC therefore suggested the results of their tests are promising, and will conduct further experiments in other locations to advance the tech.

Acting alone, NTT has tested remote control of construction machinery, using its All Photonics Network to connect an excavator cockpit at one of its offices to actual excavators at a remote site, with the final connection between the fibre network and diggers using an unspecified wireless tech.

The network beamed back 4K video with 500msec delay, a span of time deemed sufficient for a remote operator to work safely.

Again, NTT thinks the results are sufficiently promising to try the technique on more sites.

Another motivation for the tests is a law that, when it comes into force in 2024, will limit the amount of overtime that construction workers are allowed to perform each year. NTT reckons one way to reduce overtime is removing the need for equipment operators to travel to building sites. Even if its other efforts have ensure the route is free of snow. ®

Send us news
1 Comment

Japan may need 50% more electricity for hungry, hungry AI and chip fabs

While Tokyo pours billions into revitalizing chipmaking sector, it might want to check out the grid

Toshiba to shed 4,000 jobs as part of revitalization plan

Over-50s to get early retirement offer

Once Alibaba’s main investor, SoftBank sheds remaining stake

SoftBank to focus on AI, but might pick up LINE, Yahoo! holding company

Japan will use AI to find out what bears do in the woods

Because nobody wants a big surprise

Japan's space junk cleaner prototype closes in on its target

PLUS: Huawei returns to top Chinese smartphone market; China's new IPv6 goals; Malaysia's golden VC Visa

AI could crash democracy and cause wars, warns Japan's NTT

Calls for ecosystem in which AIs keep other AIs in check, and lots more regulation

Tokyo wags finger at Google for blocking Yahoo Japan<i>!</i> from using ad tech

Seven years of stonewalling and no consequences for advertising giant

Rapidus US chief says AI chip crunch, supply chain paranoia make for an ideal growth climate

Japanese foundry upstart aims to bolster domestic production while catering to growing demand for custom accelerators

Japan to draw up routes for roads dedicated to robot trucks

Digital reform conference sees PM repeat calls to get online government services right at last

Japan's NTT and NEC reckon they can boost optical network capacities 12x

First tests of manycore fibres hailed as success over oceanic distances

Japanese and Singaporean devs battle over gamified crowdsourced telco maintenance app

You read that right – it's a bit like Pokémon Go, but for telephone poles

Japanese government rejects Yahoo<i>!</i> infosec improvement plan

Just doesn't believe it will sort out the mess that saw data leak from LINE messaging app