A few months ago, the first opportunity opened up for Israeli digital health startups to collaborate with one of the world's biggest telecommunications companies. The company in question is NTT - Nippon Telephone and Telegraph Corporation, which has set up NTT Innovation Laboratory Israel.
Kineret Muller, the lab's business development manager, says that its aim is to collaborate will startup companies and academic institutions in Israel. Through the innovation lab, she says, Israeli technologies can be integrated into services and products being developed by NTT, or to cooperate in marketing products relevant to NTT's customers around the world. In the future, NTT may also invest in Israeli companies.
NTT was founded in 1870 and was privatized in 1985. Its annual revenue is $91 billion, and it has market cap of $107 billion on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It employs about 320,000 people in some 900 subsidiaries. Besides telecommunications in Japan, it has international activity in various fields, chiefly in consultancy and implementation for communications solutions for local partners in different countries.
Besides collaborations with its existing businesses, NTT wants to form collaborations with academic institutions on futuristic projects.
"Like all telecommunications companies, we are changing our orientation towards broad IT services. The profitability of classic telecommunications services is steadily declining," says Kazuhiro (Kazu) Gomi, president and CEO at NTT Research, Inc., which was founded two and a half years ago and is based in Silicon Valley. "Our vision and mandate is to do basic research, that is, research that is not intended to turn into a product within the next year or two. We want to be there when the next big thing breaks, in five to ten years," he says.
NTT Research has three labs: physics; encryption technology; and digital health. The physics lab mainly researches quantum physics applications for telecommunications and computing. "The aim is to solve unsolved problems within a reasonable time," Gomi says. The encryption division deals with the development of the next generation of blockchain, while the aim of the digital health division is "to promote health through making future preventative health services accessible, and providing a personalized solution with the full participation of the patient."
The technological solution that the company is developing in this field is "digital matching" that will model each patient's state of health and enable different treatments to be tried on him or her. Full and efficient modelling of the human body, certainly of the brain, is still a long way off, but that is the group's mandate.
The inspiration for digital matching comes from the aero-engine industry. "Every engine is manufactured in different conditions and is subject to different stresses. If together with the engine a model is built simulating its operation, then the maintenance procedures that will be required can be planned in advance," says Gomi. Similarly, if the digital health model is run a few years forward, it will be possible to know that a heart attack will occur in two years' time, for instance.
This will not happen within ten years, Gomi admits, "But perhaps within 30-40 years. Initially, we'll develop limited systems that the doctor runs. Today, for example, if a doctor wants to know the right dosage for a blood thinning drug, he can calculate it in accordance with various parameters of the patient, but he doesn't always have the time and leisure to do that.
"We set up our headquarters in Silicon Valley because it's easier to reach the best people there, but we already have people working in Israel, Germany, and other parts of the US."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 23, 2022.
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