Here we introduce IOWN (Innovative Optical and Wireless Network), an initiative for future communications infrastructure to create a smarter world by using cutting-edge technologies like photonics and computing technologies.

What’s IOWN ? The social background and purpose.

What’s IOWN?

To create an affluent and diverse society, NTT has proposed the Innovative Optical and Wireless Network (IOWN) concept, which is a new communication infrastructure that can provide high-speed broadband communication and enormous computing resources by using innovative technologies including optical technologies. NTT also believes that these innovative technologies can optimize society as a whole and individuals using all types of information. We have started R&D with the aim of finalizing specifications in 2024 and realizing the concept in 2030.

The IOWN concept is aimed at transforming existing information and communication systems and realizing a new information and communication infrastructure that goes beyond the limitations of current ICT technology. It is composed of an “All-Photonics Network”, which introduces photonics-based technology to everything from networks to terminals, a “Digital Twin Computing” that realizes predictions of the future by combining the real world and the digital world, and a “Cognitive Foundation®” that connects and controls everything.

Figure 1: Functional configuration image of the IOWN concept
Figure 1: Functional configuration image of the IOWN concept

Toward a new world

Important innovations, such as the Internet and smartphones, have changed our society dramatically. As a result, people’s values have also been affected such as from ownership to usership. As computerization and informatization in our society accelerates, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) will increase, such as for new financial services with ICT (information and communication technology) and automated driving through AI. It is conceivable that our lives will change drastically and that diverse values will emerge.

Responding to diversity

What makes this new world diverse is the understanding of others. To deepen such understanding, it is very helpful to see information and sensibilities from the perspective of others. To build this world through technology, it is necessary not only to obtain more information by developing high-definition and highly sensitive sensors but also to process information by taking into account the sensibility and subjectivity of others. It is necessary to incorporate not only science and technology but also the humanities and social sciences. We use the term natural for the condition that arises when humans enjoy the results of technology without stress. We also use the term natural harmonic for a world where people and the environment are in harmony. These will be our objectives.

Figure 2: Global data growth.
Figure 2: Global data growth.
Figure 3: Power consumption of IT (information technology) equipment.
Figure 3: Power consumption of IT (information technology) equipment.

Transcending the limits of the Internet

In such a world, transmitting and processing a huge amount of information is required, and current information and communication systems cannot handle such information. It is estimated that the amount of Internet traffic in Japan will increase 190 fold from 2006 to 2026 (From 637 Gbit/s to 121 Tbit/s) and global data volume will increase 5.3 fold in just 7 years (33 ZB in 2018 to 175 ZB in 2025) (Figure 2)

If we try to mitigate such a situation using only current information communication systems, we will face serious problems such as further increase in communication volume, further complication of networks, and increase in delay due to congestion.

Overcoming increases in power consumption

The explosive increase in the number of connected devices due to advances in IoT not only increases network load but also raises serious concerns about energy consumption (Fig. 3). The increase in power consumption of datacenters, which are essential for providing cloud services, has become a global problem.

The IOWN concept is expected to solve these social issues as follows.

  • Dramatic reduction in power consumption and broadening of communication bandwidth can provide enormous processing capacity for the explosive increase in computational complexity.
  • By increasing the capacity and reducing the delay of communications, it is possible to share in real time huge amounts of information collected from various sensors, exceeding the five senses.
  • Dedicated use of optical wavelengths provides a high level of confidentiality and stability and can be used for mission-critical services.
  • Multi-orchestration capabilities for centralized management of various resources, enabling resource utilization across industrial and regional domains
  • The creation of a cyberspace that replicates and expands the real world by combining various digital twins and human models

Future created by the IOWN concept

The IOWN concept makes it easy to share the viewpoints and experiences of others by distributing and processing huge amounts of information, including various values, in real time and without divisions. By promoting social behavior based on understanding and empathy of others, we believe that we can improve the quality of “connections” between people and with society, and thereby update people’s values.

“Predicting the future” is the key to the society that the IOWN concept aims for. We will create new value of future prediction based on the communication-oriented network we have built so far. If we can make accurate predictions, then we can respond accordingly. This essentially means “changing the future.” Relatively simple predictions of the future can be realized with the current system, but predictions aimed at with the IOWN concept are characterized by orders of magnitude of difference in accuracy and speed.

For example, in the medical and healthcare fields, this might include advanced future predictions using biodata. By combining daily biodata such as body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate with history of illness, genomic information, and other information, it is possible to accurately predict when and what illness is likely to occur. This allows for individual prevention and quick response in case of illness.

Establishment of IOWN Global Forum

To enable IOWN, it is necessary not only to create and combine many innovative technologies but also promote these technologies for widespread use. Major changes in information processing, communication, and network infrastructure are required, and extensive knowledge and insight is needed. NTT Group alone cannot achieve this.

Accordingly, NTT, Intel, and Sony established the IOWN Global Forum to achieve IOWN, and will invite partners with a wide range of knowledge and insight from various industries [3]. The purpose of this forum is to promote IOWN by creating and publishing specifications, frameworks, and reference architectures of new technologies in the following fields.

  • Research and development of photonics using advanced photoelectric fusion technology
  • Research and development related to distributed computing
  • Use cases and best practices to create a smart world and R&D to realize them

In addition, we hope to bring in people who have knowledge of the humanities and social sciences as well as the technical field, so we can imagine a new world together.

We hope that all interested companies and organizations will join us. For more information about the IOWN Global Forum and its membership, please visit (English).