Hitachi plans to create cities in the cloud

Hitachi plans to aggressively pursue large cloud computing projects and market software that will integrate data from infrastructure across entire cities, it said on Thursday.

The massive Japanese conglomerate said it will market cloud-based systems that merge and analyse data collected from diverse sources such as roads, shipping, energy grids and mass transport.

"Currently these systems exist independently, such as train control systems or company management systems, but we can connect them using the cloud," said Kaichiro Sakuma, who heads Hitachi's platform business. "This is something that other IT vendors can't offer."

Linking cities in the cloud

He said the company was up to the heavy security requirements, which it will handle by using dedicated cloud systems for sensitive data, and teams devoted entirely to monitoring and protecting networks.

Hitachi, which manufactures everything from nuclear power plants to mobile phones, said it aims for revenues of ¥500 billion (£4.2 billion) in the fiscal year through March, 2016 from cloud-related business, a big jump from the ¥70 billion (£584 million) it generated last fiscal year in the business.

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As an example of Hitachi's plans, Sakuma pointed to a system the company is installing in Japan's southern Okinawa islands, a summer tourist haven in Japan. The system will manage a fleet of electric rental cars and charging stations, monitoring power use and electronic payments.

"Big data" computing 

The company plans to expand the system abroad to locations such as Hawaii and Spain in the future.

Hitachi said it also wants to focus on so-called "big data" computing, which analyses extremely large and diverse sets of information. Sakuma said that until now much of the focus in infrastructure projects had been on real-time monitoring and feedback, but now such data can be saved and combed over to find larger trends and inefficiencies.

The company will establish two new data centers in China to drive the business, in addition to one that went live two years ago and those it operates domestically.