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November 16, 2021

NTT enters a new research partnership with Tohoku University for the realization of an ultra-resilient society

Utilizing 10 years of experience since the Great East Japan Earthquake to create a society that can respond to unpredictable changes in the environment.

Tokyo – November 16, 2021 – NTT Corporation has been conducting a vision-sharing joint research project1 with the International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS) at Tohoku University since 2018.

The aim of this project so far has been to create new value in the fields of disaster prevention, mitigation response and recovery/reconstruction based on the vision of creating "Fundamental technologies to support safe living." Building on the results from the first phase (FY 2018 to FY 2020), we will enter a second phase in our research partnership (FY 2021 to FY2023) with a new research vision.

1. Outline of Shared Vision for Joint Research

In recent years, natural disasters including earthquakes, typhoons, localized heavy rain, linear precipitation zones, and other extreme weather events have been occurring frequently. To respond to these environmental changes, there is a growing demand for basic technologies that provide safety and security in our everyday lifestyles. In the first phase of the joint research project, we combined big data on natural disasters collected by the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University (IRIDeS) with NTT's basic communication service technologies.

With a goal of encouraging behavioral change to improve societal safety and security, we worked on the following two research topics:

(1) Research on a social problem-solving service-design method using earthquake archives.

  • Purpose: To promote disaster prevention activities during peacetime.
  • Results: Creation of a design concept "stealth disaster prevention2" and development of a tool kit of disaster prevention design workshops that can be deployed in various regions.
  • Description: Up until now, conventional disaster prevention awareness activities have focused solely on damage caused by disasters. These kind of activities generally aim to encourage citizens to change their behavior through fear. In this technology, we have worked together with citizens to create a new design concept, "stealth disaster prevention". This design enables disaster readiness measures to be integrated into everyday life. We have developed a variety of design tool kit that seamlessly raise citizens' level of disaster readiness without the need for explicit training.

(2) Research on decision-making support methods using real-time tsunami flood-damage prediction.

  • Purpose: To support prompt and accurate decision making during the initial response of emergency operations centers (EOC).
  • Results: Construction of a prototype system linking the IRIDeS real-time tsunami inundation damage prediction system and NTT's integrated risk management support system "KADAN®" 3
  • Description: Up until now, EOC staff have had to interpret damage estimation information and examine the allocation of resources at the time a disaster occurs. We proposed a new method that converts damage estimation information from the time a disaster occurs to the post-disaster recovery stage. This enables EOC staff to examine resource allocation more efficiently, even under high pressure situations. The effectiveness of this method was confirmed through user evaluation through actual disaster drills and briefings conducted in Kochi Prefecture.

We began considering a new vision for the second phase of our joint research in the second half of fiscal 2020. In the first phase, technologies focusing on problems arising at the time of the earthquake were developed. The second phase will expand to the development of future technologies and the social infrastructure required to support them. About 20 people from several IRIDeS departments and three NTT Laboratory Groups4 participated in meetings to discuss and formulate the vision for the second phase of the research project.

[New Vision]

Learning from Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent 10 years of experience in reconstruction and recovery efforts, we aim to create an "ultra-resilient society". This society will overcome risk by creating a comprehensive system that can flexibly respond to future environmental changes that are difficult to predict.

2. Joint Research Topics for the Second Phase

Natural disasters like the Great East Japan Earthquake have occurred throughout history. However, victims affected by such disasters still say that they never thought that it would happen to them.
In order to change this, all citizens must recognize the possibility of a coming disaster as early as possible and take appropriate measures in the event of a disaster. Towards this goal, the following two research directions are proposed:

  • By learning from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent 10 years of experience in reconstruction efforts, it is necessary to reduce uncertainty in the future, visualize unknown future disasters, and improve the ability of citizens to respond to disasters.
  • Sensing technologies are required to grasp disaster situations in real time and circulate important information. Research into Digital Twin (DT) computing and applied AI will be conducted to analyze and elucidate human thought, growth and development processes and change peoples' way of thinking and values towards risks from "disaster prevention" to "environmental adaptation", and encourage citizens to respond flexibly against disasters.

The first phase of the joint research aims to realize a resilient society by accurately identifying disasters, predicting and responding to them based on past data. Moving into the second phase, we will build on past results towards the realization of an "ultra-resilient society". We will do this by accurately grasping information not only on disasters but also the state of the earth, society and regional environments. We will use this information to forecast the future, and respond to these futures flexibly. Towards this goal, the following two joint research topics are proposed.

(1) Study of an intervention model for the construction of a next-generation evacuation system, the improvement of life after evacuation and the promotion of actions towards disaster readiness by local residents.

  • Purpose: Based on the vast amount of knowledge and data accumulated by IRIDeS from ancient times to the post-earthquake period, we propose new action guidelines as the IRIDeS Standard5.
  • Effectiveness: Contribute to the realization of a resilient society that can flexibly respond to national crises.
  • Description: In the second phase, we will develop an action model designed future social infrastructure, in contrast to the models developed for use in conventional social infrastructure assumed in the first phase. Furthermore, we aim to establish technologies that foster values and encourage behavioral change based on the IRIDeS standard. Specifically, in order to improve life after evacuation, it is necessary to provide appropriate evacuation, logistics, and health-related information. We will design a model for a next-generation evacuation system that can provide this information. In addition, the Next-Generation Evacuation System will incorporate a sustainable community model that can be utilized during peacetime. Furthermore, by utilizing human thought and judgment models and behavior prediction in a Digital Twin (DT), action modification measures and intervention models will be constructed to promote disaster-prevention actions of local residents during peacetime and evacuation actions in emergencies.
  • Plan: In the first year, new social and behavioral approaches will be compiled. In the second year, an intervention model will be designed, and in the third year, a proof of concept experiment will be conducted.
  • Roles: IRIDeS is responsible for the design of next-generation shelters based on knowledge about disaster risk reduction and the proposal of community models based on social expectations. NTT is in charge of the construction and evaluation of action modification measures and intervention models for disaster prevention and evacuation activities, the preparation and proposal of disaster response standards, and the examination and evaluation of provision styles for new technologies.

(2) Research on decision support using a Disaster Prediction DT by linking disaster information provided by IRIDeS with the 4D digital infrastructure that NTT aims to realize under its IOWN initiative.

  • Purpose: With the aim of enabling administrative personnel to recognize the possibility of a disaster at the earliest possible stage and take appropriate measures in the event of a disaster, a Disaster Prediction DT that enables what-if analysis considering continuity of time and space will be constructed.
  • Effectiveness: We believe that we can respond flexibly to unknown disasters and contribute to effective decision-making.
  • Description: In the first phase, it was difficult to raise the level of experience of personnel sufficiently through the annual training alone. To rectify this, in the second phase, we will develop a system that provides additional experience in responding to disaster risk. Through the realization of a Disaster Prediction DT, we aim to create a change in personnel behavior that leads to an improvement in risk recognition and response capabilities by providing a simulated disaster risk response experience.
  • Plan: We plan to design a Disaster Prediction DT in the first year, construct it in the second year, and conduct evaluation experiments in the third year.
  • Roles: IRIDeS is responsible for creating disaster data through numerical simulations and developing what-if analysis scenarios. NTT is in charge of the design and construction of the Disaster Prediction DT.

3. Future development

By implementing the results from the first and second phases, we will contribute to the realization of an "ultra-resilient society" that proactively prevents disasters in high-risk areas and adapts to changes in the environment.

We aim to create an “ultra-resilient society” by utilizing ten years of experience in recovery and reconstruction since the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Tohoku University and NTT start new shared-vision-type collaborative research for promoting the resilient society against large-scale disasters.

2The Design Concept is a concept in a system that considers local residents as service co-creation partners, searches and discovers essential issues in the real-life environment of residents, and examines and verifies solutions.

3The Integrated Risk Management Support System (KADAN ®) is a management system developed by NTT for crisis response that assists management and management to efficiently grasp the situation and make effective policy decisions in large-scale complex crisis events.

4Service Innovation Laboratory Group, Information Network Laboratory Group, Science & Core Technology Laboratory Group.

5Guidelines and models for disaster response and reconstruction based on Knowledge of IRIDeS × Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction × SDGs × crisis response know-how (KADAN).

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