Monday 15 July 2019

Society 5.0

Tech industry is notorious for bringing up newer technical terms and the "next big disruptor" all the time. You stop reading for a few weeks and you'd have missed the introduction of a new trend. That's how fast things evolve. Blockchain, AI, Microservices etc. are some such examples. Allof them have at least one good practical use, but many a times, they are treated as Panacea of all problems in that domain - that is not the case.
Evolution of society (Image courtesy -

One term that is NOT just another fad, is Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is not about a technology or a tool. It's about automation of shop floor (especially in manufacturing industry) with multiple relevant technologies in  such a way that the speed and productivity of the plant is improved by a big margin. It includes hardware/robotic automation plus software automation and intelligence brought in with various technologies including ML, augmented reality devices, etc.

A new concept that is emerging is Society 5.0. While industry 4.0 is about automation and monitoring of a manufacturing plant, Society 5.0 is about automation and proactive monitoring of the whole society in general. There's no specific set of checkboxes to be checked for building such a society. But there are many areas which contribute towards society 5.0. Some examples are -

  1. Digital Multipurpose ID - This is a single ID that every person will have (embedded in the body/permanent bracelet, Fingerprint, etc.) that will be linked to the individuals user identity manager, bank accounts, travel accounts, etc. There will be no need to maintain any other id or credit card or travel card or medical card or any other form of identity. Every organization will get details from a central database (or blockchain can be used for this) and accordingly process the transaction. No need to pay at a supermarket - money gets deducted directly from the bank account. Similarly all other transactions are handled automatically with this ID. There are of course problems of identity theft - that needs to be managed with this single ID.
  2. Access/Authorization control - This is an extension of the multipurpose ID. All access/authorization across the city/country/airports etc. is managed through this ID. All violations are also automatically tracked and hence always available for checking when needed.
  3. Health Monitoring - This is probably the most important aspect of society 5.0. Health monitoring devices are connected to the body (through small devices connected to the wrist or chest, or embedded in the clothing). They continuously monitor the health of the individual and also any events like an accident, fall etc. and relay the information directly to the nearest hospital and emergency services automatically. This way, crucial time in the golden hour is saved resulting in better situation management.
  4. Emergency situation management - Just like health monitoring, other emergency situation management can also be made more intelligent. Based on sensors across various areas or based on multiple health devices' signals from a particular area, emergency services personnel can be sent over for management of the event, bringing rescue quickly to the affected people.
  5. Automated infrastructure management - There are many ways in which this can happen. Eg. based on the number of vehicles traveling on a road, rerouting can be automatically triggered to avoid traffic jams. Traffic signal timings can also be adjusted automatically based on traffic. Train traffic can be up-scaled or down-scaled based on the number of people traveling. There are many such possibilities.
There could be many more examples, and not all of these things are in distant future. We have already moving towards society 5.0 in bits and pieces. Example, health monitoring of ageing population is already being done automatically in Singapore and Japan. Other countries are also trying implement it. Single ID is becoming a reality slowly in many countries. It's only when many of these things come together that we can truly say that we are in society 5.0. There will be a newer set of problems with this over-dependence on technology (e.g. malicious use of health data by insurance companies), but is more likely that the positives far outweigh negatives with effective management. That will be a crucial aspect to be considered on our way towards reaching society 5.0.

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