currently on temporary assignment to Furukawa Battery Co., Ltd.
With a university major in mechanical systems but wanting to also become involved in software, after graduation Mr. Sato found employment with a software-related subsidiary of a hardware manufacturer. After having gained experience in research and development of controls and systems, he joined FITEC in 1998. He currently spends his days investigating control techniques in new fields on both the hardware and software fronts.
Putting Technology and Experience to the Task of Helping Address the Issues Society Faces
――To begin, could you please explain the AG Business Development Team's role?
One of the future growth strategies for Furukawa Electric, our parent company, is to create and cultivate new fields of business that will be of use to society going forward, as well as areas in which the company has a technological advantage. In line with this strategy, we are increasing our involvement in fields such as next-generation vehicles and smart grids that will help to address the problems society faces. The name of our AG Business Development Team comes from the first letters of the names of those fields, "automobile" and "grid."
――I see. So, your team focuses on business development in those key fields?
Yes, that's right. These fields represent new genres for our company, so for the moment we are operating as a small and selected team.
Creating Storage Battery Control Systems Centering on Smart Grids
――Could you describe some of your particularly noteworthy recent successes?
Until just a few days ago, I was building control systems for storage batteries in smart grids.
――Could you explain the characteristics of these systems in more detail?
Storage batteries play an important role in smart grids by effectively using stored surplus electricity to adjust the balance between supply and demand. To fulfill that role, systems are needed that can tell the status of storage batteries, determining things such as how much electricity they have stored and how much more they can be charged.
The system that I was in charge of measures, stores and calculates various types of data for storage batteries in real time, and provides this information to related systems.
――What parts of this project did you find particularly difficult?
The most problematic parts were defining the requirements and fixing the specifications for the calculations needed to determine the status of the storage batteries. Another difficult point was the fact that determining in real time the status of constantly changing storage batteries required us to accumulate and store vast quantities of data within the system.
System Development Professionals Taking on Challenging Projects
――How would you say that this work showcases FITEC's strengths?
Through our work addressing the problems faced by customers in a variety of industries and businesses, we have accumulated strength as "system development professionals." I believe that our current work effectively demonstrates our strengths in understanding customers and developing efficient systems.
――Could you explain these strengths a bit more specifically?
Understanding customers is the key to every type of system development. First of all, this project required specialized knowledge in storage batteries, as these were the systems we were working to control. Although we didn't have much experience in this area before we started, we communicated closely with storage battery manufacturers to learn how storage batteries are structured, and in a short period of time we accumulated the data that we needed to understand and control them. The only way to accumulate sophisticated expertise is to share information with customers and understand customers' technologies.
――I see. What about "developing efficient systems?"
On a job like this, new requirements arise as system development progresses. As conditions change, we frequently have to revise the requirement definitions. But completely going back to the start on system development each time would require a huge amount of time. By knowing how requirement definitions need to change and understanding the background, we are able to develop systems efficiently and optimally without wasting the development successes we have achieved up to that point. This is the area where we can really show our strengths.
Aiming to Provide Broader Support for Smart Grids by Leveraging the Experience and Abundant System Control Expertise Accumulated to Date
――What sort of feedback did this project provide in terms of business developments in the field of smart grids?
Sophisticated measurement and control systems are essential in order for ICT to use smart grids for optimizing electric power supplies. In this sense, our role as a system development company is significant. With the search for ideal infrastructures underway, we intend to aggressively pursue business opportunities in the field of smart grids.
――What sort of role will FITEC play in realizing smart grids?
By taking advantage of our experience on this project to develop technologies in the field of storage batteries that are unmatched by other companies, we intend to acquire other similar projects in this category. We also have a great deal of experience in the field of equipment control. In addition to developing controls systems for a variety of machinery and equipment, as a proprietary package product we provide "doSmart FMP," a communications equipment control platform. In addition to storage batteries, we aim to take on the challenge of using this product for total control of large-scale smart grid systems such as power grids and power generation facilities that comprise a diverse array of machinery and equipment.