Hitachi's Sensor Depicts Human Relationships as Topographical Map

Jun 25, 2007
Shinya Saeki, Nikkei Electronics
A name-tag-shaped sensor network terminal
A name-tag-shaped sensor network terminal
[ If it clicks, the expanded picture will open ]
"Topographical map of the organization." The closer a pair is to the center of the map, the closer their relationship is. Some groups in the organization hierarchically form islands.
"Topographical map of the organization." The closer a pair is to the center of the map, the closer their relationship is. Some groups in the organization hierarchically form islands.
[ If it clicks, the expanded picture will open ]

Hitach, Ltd. experimentally produced "business microscope," a system to display communication and other activities among an organization in a picture similar to a topographical map by sensor network technologies, the company announced on June 22, 2007.

The system can be used to clarify the problems within an organization and, thus, reduce the risk in organizational operation, in addition to the improvement of productivity, by quantitatively showing the strength of the relationships among the members of the organization, according to the company.

A name-tag-shaped sensor network terminal measures the time used for face-to-face communication among the members of the organization and their activities. And it functions as an inflated radiation sensor, a triaxial acceleration sensor, a sound sensor and a radio communication device.

The massive data collected by the sensor network terminal are signal-processed by the server and displayed as a "topographical map of the organization."

The system depicts the frequencies of organizational activities using the data of each pair of the members. The closer a pair is to the center of the map, the closer their relationship is.

Some groups in the organization hierarchically form islands. In those islands, members who have relationships with many others, based on the frequencies of their face-to-face communication, form mountains plotted with contours. By connecting those contours, the human environment in the group is shown as mountains.

The sensor network terminal is equipped with four inflated radiation sensors. It can detect other terminals located in an angle of less than 30° on the left, right, top and bottom and within two meters' distance because each sensor is set at a different angle, according to the company.

Also, the company employed a "beam scan technology," which enables four infrared modules to operate sequentially. With the intermittent operation, the power consumption was reduced to 7.2 mA, and 20.8-hour continuous operation was realized.

Hitachi is planning on proceeding with verification experiments of the system in the businesses of banks, retail stores and so forth. The company aims to put the system to practical use in 2008.