Communication Technology Is Taking a Quantum Leap Opening Up New Markets, Developing New Technologies, and Offering New Solutions Murata’s Communication and Sensing Technology Help Shape a Bright Future

Norio Nakajima
Executive Vice President(Board Member)Director, Communication & Sensor Business Unit

After joining Murata in 1985, Nakajima was appointed General Manager of the Multilayer Module Products Dept., Components Division 3 in July 2004, Director of the Communication Module Products Div., Module Business Unit in July 2006, and Vice President in July 2010. In June 2012, he became the Director of the Module Business Unit (currently Communication Business Unit) .
Nakajima is also Statutory Representative Director and President at Komatsu Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd., Kanazawa Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd., and Okayama Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. In June 2013, he was appointed Executive Vice President (Board Member) .

Sensors are designed to detect specific objects and parameters and feed the data back to the control system.
Communication technology is used to send the information collected to distant places.
Murata has long developed both technologies, to which it continues to attach importance today.
The 5G wireless technology, which will likely be widespread by 2020, will achieve a data rate 100 times as high as the current generation, heralding an age of information and communication technology (ICT) .
The widespread use of IoT, which connects various physical items via the Internet, will lead to a sharp increase in demand for electronic components.
Industrial experts believe that plants will experience “Industry 4.0” or the fourth industrial revolution, in which their production and supply systems will be automated.
By making a quantum leap, communication technology has the potential to transform our society.
Against this backdrop, Murata has come up with groundbreaking products that stretch the existing concept of filters.
Murata aims to build a new culture through the social contributions it makes while supplying electronic components to its customers. We are now seeing the beginning of innovation focused on communication and sensor technologies.

"The 5G technology will achieve a transmission rate of 10 Gbps, 100 times the current level."
"With the evolution of ICT, IoT or the Internet of Things will spread rapidly."
"There is increasing demand for technologies that can instantly process data from sensors installed in every nook and cranny of society."

During the Analogue-Digital Shift,
Electronic Components Undergo Rapid Downsizing

Murata first worked on communication technology in the 1980s. Cordless phones were just being accepted into homes, while the first cars to be fitted with phones were introduced. The term “mobile” had yet to be used in its current sense. In the 1990s, Western countries entered the age of analogue mobile phones. In Japan, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) established the high-capacity telecommunication standards named “analog mova,” ushering in the so-called first generation (1G) of mobile communications. In those days, analogue technology involved complex specifications and required large components, preventing it from being miniaturized to satisfying levels.

In the mid-90s, we entered the age of digitalized second generation (2G) mobile communications. This digitalization process triggered the rapid downsizing of electronic components. In addition to NTT Docomo, DDI, and IDO, the mobile communication businesses that then entered the market included Digital Phone and Digital Tu-Ka. Manufacturers of home electric appliances joined the market to supply terminals, leading to intensified competition and laying the groundwork for the widespread use of mobile phones. These were followed by the launch of the simplified personal handyphone system (PHS) services, which spread primarily among young people due to reasonable call rates and terminal prices. This is how we can summarize the evolution of the communication technology that connects people existing at separate locations—the process that began in the 80s.

Digitalization Ushers in an Age of Data Communication

With the advances in digitalization, communication technology accelerated the process of increasing communication capacity, leading to the development of technologies that enabled concurrent data transmission. In 2000, Japan was the first country to embark on the age of third-generation (3G) mobile communications and W-CDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) . With 3G mobile phones, it was possible not only to use additional videophone functions, but also to exchange data at high speed by connecting your phone to a computer. The initially limited use of the Internet on mobile phones was expanded to include web and image search from the same portal sites as those available for computers and posting comments on blogs and electronic bulletin boards.

The year 2010 saw the beginning of the shift toward 4G (LTE: Long-Term Evolution) , heralding the age of smartphones. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are expected to trigger a further step in 5G evolution. Information communication has gained momentum and will gain more momentum in the future. Traffic has increased tenfold over the past five years, and will likely soar tenfold in five years and even thousandfold by 2020.

2020 Will See the Dawn of the 5G Age,
Opening Up the World of IoT

The 5G technology is aimed at achieving a transmission rate of 10 Gbps, 100 times the current level. It will allow the super-high-speed transmission of high-resolution images and large amounts of information to smartphones and other mobile terminals. The key will be the evolution of ICT (information and communication technology) leading to the rapid spread of IoT (Internet of Things) . So there is increasing demand for technologies that can instantly process data from automobiles, railroad cars, robots, production equipment at plants, and sensors installed in every nook and cranny of society.

Depending on the “thing,” the data transmitted vary in content, and it may be prepared either manually or automatically. Murata is expected to help establish the infrastructure that increases the reliability of connections between people and between things and raise data transmission rates via such connections. Communication per se will become part of infrastructure in the world of 5G technology.

With communication established as such, all connections will be established automatically and unnoticed.
In Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution, for example, the development of intelligent monitoring and autonomous systems will combine with IoT implemented inside and outside of plants to prevent equipment failures. Aimed at creating new values and a new business model, this Industry 4.0-based concept will leave all users unaware of the communication taking place when they upload data to the cloud and perform remote operations. This is how IoT works completely unnoticed.

Further Growth Potential for High-Performing and Reliable Components

One of the requirements for increased communication reliability is RF (radiofrequency) technology for digitalizing radio waves (analogue signals) received by antennas. Murata’s strength here is that we offer all products used along the RF conversion path. Being capable of RF design and measurement, we can deliver reliable products by covering all phases of manufacturing from design to production. Here, in addition to the obvious need to increase the performance of separate products, it will also be necessary to modularize them and/or combine them with software. This is why we will need to take an integrated approach to communication and sensor technologies going forward. Sensing alone does not make sense. Additional value can only be created by transferring the sensor information via communication channels, storing it, and processing it for use.

I believe that today component manufacturers like Murata are favorably positioned for further growth. While smartphones are now mature in terms of quantities, in the world market, the number of components used per terminal grows with each generation of technology, just as is the case with 5G. The number is also increased by upward compatible products, which, despite having upper standards of functionality and performance, are compatible with lower level products. This is precisely where Murata is very good—producing high-performing and highly reliable products in quantities and supplying them in a timely fashion.

"In the future, creative ideas will be critical in innovation in all three areas of products, technology, and business operations."
"To take on new challenges successfully, we will also need ideas from non-scientists and people from outside Japan."

IoT Creates a Network that Connects 50 Billion Devices

How will advances in 5G and IoT technologies change the world? We will be able to have medical care at home, have automated vehicles drive for us, and experience the benefits of Industry 4.0 at the plants we work at. In our homes, it will be possible to store the power generated by solar panels for efficient use. By analyzing information on electric current and energy levels to identify how much power is consumed at each point in the grid, it will also be possible to reduce overall energy consumption and even achieve zero emissions. A certain estimate indicates that, by 2020, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet and cloud.

Norio Nakajima

We already know what the market will look like and what size it is expected to have in the future. One of the initiatives we will conduct in our bid to integrate Murata products in all of the 50 billion devices, is the same as what we have done so far: miniaturization. Reducing the size of a single electronic component help reduce the cost, because during production, many components are cut out of large mother boards. I wouldn’t go so far as to say all products for IoT need to be miniaturized, but in smartphones applications, it is still worthwhile to reduce component sizes.

Software is another area we will focus on. When everything integrates communication functions, we just know who in which industry could be a user of Murata products. Customers in completely new industries—for example construction, healthcare, and logistics—are now making contact with us—something which would have been just unimaginable in the past. With such customers, we need to provide more specific solutions, in other words, we need to indicate more clearly just what communication and sensing technologies can do for them. I feel we need to upgrade our support for such customers to create additional value in connection with customer operations, say by offering optimal user interfaces.

Completely New Ways of Thinking
Make Innovation Happen Everywhere

In July 2015, we set up an IoT business promotion department. Members of the new department are visiting customers operating in industries that are completely new to Murata, and developing activities no other existing product division has ever attempted. In the future, creative ideas will be critical in innovation in all three areas of products, technology, and business operations. We will also need new ideas from non-scientists and people from outside Japan. We will make unexpected findings in doing so.

In RF filters, components indispensable for communication, we have completed a technical innovation: “tunable filters” can change the pass frequency band. This technology makes it possible to integrate different filters that have been used for different frequency bands in a single unit. This would seem to have a negative impact on suppliers since it reduces the number of filters that sell. Once more than 50 billion devices are online, it is obvious that the suppliers that operate today will not have the capacity to meet the huge demand. Rather than being short-sighted, our approach is to anticipate the future and provide products featuring state-of-the-art technology.

We have also achieved an innovation for SAW (surface acoustic wave) filter technology, the key element used to single out the signal you need. New filters that completely redefine the traditional concept by substantially changing the wafer layer structure are now in the mass-production phase. These filters can accommodate frequency bands that could not be covered by traditional SAW filters, which I believe sets an innovative milestone in the history of filters. We call them I.H.P.  (incredible high performance) SAW filters.

"We have so far been successful by delivering hardware alone, but from this point on we will need to offer software as well. "
"Communication and sensor technologies will be increasingly integrated in the future. Sensing alone does not make sense. Additional value can only be created by transferring the sensor information via communication channels, storing it, and processing it. "

Amid Changes in Technology, Markets, and Customers, Murata Will Remain Committed toward Social Contribution

Communication as part of infrastructure will make it more likely for such new products to appear. Major technological developments will include an increase in the amount of information that can be transferred and a shift toward higher frequencies. They will require increasingly difficult technologies to implement. That’s where a Japanese electronic device manufacturer like Murata comes into its own. But it will be difficult for a single company to cover everything, and so there will be more collaborations and mergers and acquisitions. Against that backdrop, how will we make the most of our uniqueness? In line with changing markets, customer profiles, and logistic channels, we might independently develop applications and/or aggregate and process data. We now find ourselves in a situation where we have to strengthen such "software" aspects.

Communication technology will also be indispensable for future technologies such as automated driving, home care, and zero emissions. In those areas I suppose Murata will be able to make great contributions. As Murata Philosophy states, I hope we will be able to "contribute to the advancement of society by creating innovative products and solutions. "
To this end, we must clarify how Murata technology is different and what difference it can make. The important thing is to stick to these basics.

IoT and the Market

The ubiquitous-networked society, in which everything and everyone is connected to networks everywhere and all the time, was conceived in the early 2000s. Not just conventional ICT devices like computers, smartphones, and tablets, but also vehicles, home electric appliances, robots, facilities, and nearly all other things connect to the Internet and exchange information with each other. According to the concept, as things are converted into data and automation based on these data progresses, new added value will be generated. The construction of ubiquitous networks is now expressed by the term “Internet of Things” (IoT) . IoT means that a multitude of things will form part of the Internet by virtue of sensors and wireless communications.

IoT and the Market

An unmistakable indicator of the advent of the IoT age is the explosive growth in the numbers of things connected to the Internet. According to IHS, the number of things connected to the Internet in 2013 was approximately 15.8 billion. The company estimates this figure will soar to some 53.0 billion by 2020. IoT growth rates by sector show that its use is increasing so rapidly as to attract enthusiastic attention in automobiles and industrial plants. Cisco estimates that 99.4% of 1.5 trillion physical objects that may one day be part of the Internet of Things are still unconnected. In the future many more of these things are expected to be connected to the Internet, suggesting the scale of the latent value the IoT concept holds.

IoT and Costs

The advent of IoT is highly expected to trigger further advances in innovation that will lead to reductions in various costs. For example, communication equipment and sensors used to collect data are undergoing rapid commoditization, making it now possible to create compact devices that have full functionality at low costs. Further key challenges include standardizing communication standards on interfaces used to connect these devices to networks as well as improving sensor network technologies for stabilizing connections and reducing power consumption. An example from the energy sector is the Wi-SUN® standards, which were established in 2012 for smart meters. The use of IoT will likely spread rapidly as new standards are introduced in sectors predicted to introduce the technology.

IoT and Costs

In addition, sophisticated wireless networks and cloud-based services are also accelerating cost reductions and the promotion of IoT. The Cloud and other platforms play an important role in the data integration and management phase that collects separate data from sensors, analyzes them and develops actions accordingly, i.e., the process that leads to so-called big data analysis. The future expansion of address space and other Internet resources, expected to be triggered by the IPv4-IPv6 transition, will form an important foundation for establishing IoT.

In addition to the above developments in IoT use, the development of business ecosystems in the IoT market and the ensuing participation of new businesses also lead to cost reductions on both supply and demand sides. We already have a huge number of Internet applications for smartphones, computers, and tablets. By introducing a diverse range of additional sensors and functions handling parameters such as wind speed, humidity, temperature, and illuminance, the range of application services available will expand rapidly. In this way, new businesses utilizing the vast amount of data collected and stored by physical objects connected to IoT will attract even more attention. This trend is also aided by the “maker movement,” a subculture advocating online manufacturing by individuals or groups of individuals.

Adapted from White Paper 2015: Information and Communications in Japan, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications別ウィンドウで開く