2019年11月19日 星期二

Sony invests 100 billion yen in new 5G semiconductor factory


Recently Nihon Keizai Shimbun electronic version reported the following:
ソニー、5Gにらみ半導体新工場 1000億円投資
エレクトロニクス IoT モバイル・5G
2019/10/29 18:00日本経済新聞 電子版

ソニーは国内4拠点で画像センサーを製造している(熊本県菊陽町の子会社工場)

ソニーはスマートフォンのカメラなどに使う半導体画像センサーの新工場を長崎県内に建設する。1000億円規模を投じ、2021年度にも稼働する。ソニーは画像センサーの世界首位で、スマホカメラの高機能化や次世代通信規格「5G」の普及を背景に成長が続くと判断した。あらゆるモノがネットにつながる「IoT」時代の基幹部品で日本企業が攻めの投資に出る。

画像センサーはデジタルカメラや撮影機材、産業用ロボットなど幅広く採用され、「電子の目」とも呼ばれる。5Gや自動運転の普及、工場の自動化で、画像や映像をやりとりする需要が増える中、中核的な役割を果たす画像センサーの市場拡大が見込まれている。

米調査会社ICインサイツによると、国別の半導体全体のシェアで日本は1990年に49%あったが、韓国や台湾などの企業の攻勢を受け、18年に7%まで落ち込んだ。一方、半導体のうち画像センサーは構造が複雑で従来型の製造業のノウハウが生かせるとされる。ソニーは商用化で先駆け、世界シェアの5割を握る。2位の韓国サムスン電子も投資に動く中、新工場建設で25年度までにシェアを6割に高めサムスンを突き放す狙いだ。

ソニーが工場を建設するのは長崎県諫早市の既存工場の隣接地。74800平方メートルの土地に建設し、スマホ向けの「CMOS(相補性金属酸化膜半導体)イメージセンサー」を量産する。

半導体の新工場は16年に東芝から大分県の工場を取得し稼働させて以来、約5年ぶり。ゼロからの工場建設は07年の熊本県の第2工場以来となる。


ソニーは国内4拠点でスマホカメラ用の画像センサーを生産し、生産能力(300ミリウエハー換算)は月10万枚程度。213月までに月13万枚に引き上げる計画を掲げている。これまで既存工場のライン増強や効率化に取り組んできたが、需要拡大に対応し新工場で生産能力を上積みする。能力は今後詰めるが、21年度から順次拡大し、最終的に月産数万枚規模になるとみられる。

新工場建設を決断した背景には、複数のカメラを搭載したスマホが定着し始めたことがある。米アップルの「iPhone」の最新機種では3眼のカメラが搭載されている。画像や動画を共有するインスタグラムなどのSNS(交流サイト)の広がりで5万円前後の中価格帯のスマホでも性能の高いカメラを搭載し始めた。ソニーの画像センサーへの引き合いは高まっている。

米調査会社IDCによると、19年のスマホ出荷台数は前年比2%減の137000万台にとどまるが、20年は4年ぶりの増加に転じる見通し。今後は5G対応スマホの普及に伴い、データ容量の大きい動画撮影の需要が高まると予想される。自動運転や工場のロボット需要の拡大が市場の拡大を後押しする。

ソニーの半導体事業を巡っては、米投資ファンドのサード・ポイントが分離・独立を要求しているが、ソニーは応じていない。同事業の193月期の営業利益は約1439億円で全体(連結調整前)の15%を占める。ソニーは新工場建設で画像センサーを本体の成長を担う事業と改めて位置づけ、サード・ポイントの要求を拒む姿勢が鮮明になる。

景気の先行指標とされる半導体を巡っては、5Gの普及を見据え投資を増やす動きが出ている。台湾積体電路製造(TSMC)は79月期に5四半期ぶりの営業増益となり、19年の設備投資を例年の45割増となる1.5兆~1.6兆円に上方修正した。

Translation

Sony to manufacture image sensors at four locations in Japan (a subsidiary factory in Kikuyo-cho, Kumamoto Prefecture)

Sony would build a new factory in Nagasaki for semi-conductor image sensors used in smartphone cameras. The company would invest 100 billion yen that could be operational in 2021. Sony was the world's top image sensor and had determined that growth might continue against the backdrop of higher-function smartphone cameras and the spread of the next-generation communication standard “5G”. Japanese companies were making aggressive investments in the key components of the IoT era where everything would be connected to the Internet.

Image sensors was widely used in digital cameras, photography equipment, industrial robots, etc., and were also called “electronic eyes”. With the spread of 5G, autonomous driving and the automation of factories, the markets for image sensors that could play a central role was expected to expand as demand for image and video exchange increased.

According to a US research company IC Insights, Japan accounted for 49% of the total semiconductor shared by all countries in 1990, but fell to 7% in 2018 due to the challenges from companies in Korea and Taiwan etc. On the other hand, the image sensor as a kind of semiconductors had a complicated structure, and it was expected that it could make use of conventional manufacturing know-how. Sony pioneered commercialization and held 50% of the world share. While South Korea Samsung Electronics, ranking second, was also investing, and the company aimed to push Samsung up to a 60% height in share by FY2015 by building a new factory.

Sony would build a factory next to an existing factory in Isahaya City, Nagasaki Prefecture. It would be built on a 74,800 square meters of land and would mass-produce "CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) image sensors" for smartphones.

This was the first semiconductor factory in 5 years since the acquisition of a factory in Oita Prefecture from Toshiba in 2016. Construction of the factory from scratch would be the first time since the second factory in Kumamoto Prefecture in 2007.

Sony produced image sensors for smartphone cameras at four locations in Japan, with a production capacity (300 mm wafer equivalent) of about 100,000 pieces per month. The plan was to raise the number to 130,000 per month by March 2021. Up to now, the company would be working on line enhancement and efficiency improvement of the existing plant, but it could increase production capacity at the new plant in response to growing demand. Although its capacity could be crammed from now on, it was expected to expand gradually from FY2021 and finally reach tens of thousands of sheets per month.

Behind the decision to build a new factory was that smartphones with multiple cameras had begun to take root. The latest Apple iPhone model had a three-lens camera. With the spread of social networking sites (SNS) such as Instagram that shared images and videos, high-performance cameras had begun to be installed even on mid-priced smartphones at around 50,000 yen. Inquiries for Sony's image sensors were growing.

According to a US research company IDC, the number of smartphone shipments in 2019 decreased by 2% from the previous year to 1.37 billion units, but in 2020 years it was expected to start to increase for the first time in 4 years. In the future, with the spread of 5G-compatible smartphones, it was expected that demand for moving images with large data capacity might increase. Autonomous driving and increased demand for factory robots could support market expansion.

Regarding Sony's semiconductor business, the Third Point, a US investment fund demanded Sony’s separation and independence, but Sony did not respond. Operating profit for this business in FY March /2019 was approximately 143.9 billion yen, accounting for 15% of the total (before adjustment for consolidation). Sony had re-positioned image sensors as a business responsible for the growth of the main body in the construction of a new factory, and the attitude of rejecting requests from Third Point became clear.

With regard to semiconductors, which were the leading indicators of the economy, there was a movement to increase investment in anticipation of the spread of 5G. Taiwan Mazda Electric Circuit Manufacturing (TSMC) increased its operating profit for the first time in five quarters in the July-September period, and revised upward its capital investment for 2019 to between 1.5 trillion and 1.6 trillion yen, a 40-50% increase over the previous year.

     So, Sony is investing heavily on the production of image sensors.

2019年11月17日 星期日

Two people in China were infected with pulmonary plague - a high-risk fulminant type


Recently CNN.co.jp reported the following:

中国で2人が肺ペストに感染、危険性高い劇症型
2019.11.14 Thu posted at 10:04 JST
 中国で2人が病原菌によって引き起こされるペストに感染した/ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

(CNN) 中国でこのほど2人が肺ペストと診断され、北京の病院で治療を受けている。当局が12日に明らかにした。

この地域でペストの患者が確認されたのは、今年に入ってこれで2度目。5月にはモンゴル人の夫婦が現地で療法食とされるマーモットの腎臓を生で食べ、腺ペストのため死亡していた。

新華社通信によると、今回感染が確認されたのは内モンゴルから来た2人の患者で、北京の病院で肺ペストと診断された。現在は北京の朝陽区にある病院で治療を受けており、当局は感染予防のための対策を講じた。


ペストは病原菌によって引き起こされる感染症で、ノミや動物を通じて感染する。症状は3種類に分類され、腺ペストはリンパ節が腫れ、敗血症型ペストは血液に感染、肺ペストは肺に感染する。

世界保健機関(WHO)によると、今回中国で患者が発生した肺ペストは特に危険性が高く激しい症状を伴い、治療しなければ確実に死に至る。

中世の欧州ではペストの流行で5000万人が死亡した。その後抗生剤が開発され、早期に治療を受ければほとんどは回復が見込めるようになった。それでもペストが消えることはなく、ここ数年は再び台頭する傾向にある。

WHOによると、2010~15年にかけて世界で報告された症例は3248例を超え、うち584人が死亡した。感染報告が多かった国の筆頭はコンゴ民主共和国(旧ザイール)、マダガスカル、ペルーの順だった。

米疾病対策センター(CDC)米国でも年間数人から数十人の症例が報告されている。

Translation

 (CNN) In China, two people had recently been diagnosed with pulmonary plague and were being treated at a hospital in Beijing. The authorities revealed this on the 12th.

This was the second time that a plague patient was confirmed in this region this year. In May, a Mongolian couple died of gland plague after eating an uncooked marmot kidney which was a local therapeutic diet.

According to Xinhua News Agency, infection was confirmed in two patients from Inner Mongolia who were diagnosed with lung plague at a hospital in Beijing. They were currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Chaoyang, Beijing, and authorities had taken steps on infection prevention.

This plague was an infectious disease caused by pathogenic bacteria and was transmitted through fleas and animals. Symptoms were classified into three types: the gland plague swollen lymph nodes, the septic plague infected the blood, and the lung plague infected the lung.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the lung plague that occurred in China this time was particularly dangerous and had severe symptoms that would surely cause death if not treated.

In medieval Europe, 50 million people died in the plague epidemic. Later, antibiotics were developed, and could expect a recovery if treated early. The plague never disappeared, and it was emerging again in recent years.

According to the WHO, there were more than 3,248 reported cases globally between 2010 and 2015, of which 584 people died. The countries with the most reported infection were the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Madagascar and Peru in descending order.

US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported several to dozens of cases in the United States annually.

              So, if you are travelling in northern China, be careful of this infectious disease.

2019年11月12日 星期二

融冰重繪世界地圖並引發權力鬥爭


Yahoo News on 12 October 2019 reported the following -

Melting Ice Redraws the World Map and Starts a Power Struggle
Bloomberg Marc Champion, Bloomberg 23 hours ago

(Bloomberg) -- Melting ice is opening access to new energy resources faster than predicted, prompting a nascent great power struggle in the Arctic as the political and economic map of the world is transformed.

That, at least, is one picture that's being sharply drawn at this weekend’s Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland, a kind of Davos for the far north. The seven-year-old event is the largest annual forum for politicians, scientists, environmentalists and others to talk about the Arctic, including climate change, security and the exploitation of new oil and gas discoveries.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called for “free nations” to resist attempts from those “that seek to dominate the Arctic from the outside,” an apparent reference to China, which calls itself a “near Arctic” power. Speaking at Thursday’s opening session, he also warned against countries trying to do the same through energy sales, an oblique dig at Russia.

Yet the attempt to rally U.S. allies faces an uphill battle as the Arctic emerges as a potential 21st century geopolitical flash-point in the way transportation routes like the Suez Canal were in the 20th.

Perry was followed on stage by Dmitry Artyukhov, the governor of the Yamal-Nenets region in Russia. He spelled out the growing international involvement in his region’s new and planned liquefied natural gas fields.

In the three years from 2016 to 2018, these have quadrupled Russia’s share of the global LNG market to 8%, from 2%, with much more growth to come. Investors so far include Total SA of France, CNOOC Ltd. and China National Petroleum Corp. of China, and Mitsui & Co. and Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, of Japan. Further projects are already approved.

South Korea, meanwhile, is building ice-hardened LNG supertankers to ship the gas, at more than $300 million apiece. They can only deliver to Asia when Russia’s Northern Sea Route is relatively ice free. Still, this year it became navigable in August and traffic is still passing in October. The time-frame for when the passage will be consistently ice free is shrinking all the time. [sic]

Artyukhov was followed by a double act of diplomats from China and U.S. treaty ally South Korea, who talked about their tight trilateral cooperation on Arctic affairs with another U.S. treaty ally, Japan.

Asked if China might stop calling itself a near Arctic state in the light of U.S. opposition, Gao Feng, special representative for Arctic affairs in China’s foreign ministry, said simply: “No.”

We see the emergence in front of our eyes of a new economic, business and political map,” said former Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, who founded and chairs the Arctic Circle Assembly.

What is happening now is first, the emergence of Asia as the leading source of economic growth in the 21st century, and second, the opening up of the Arctic which, combined with new technologies, is creating access to the oil and gas to supply that growth,” he said in an interview just ahead of the conference in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik.

That emerging new world order was mapped out in a slide show on Friday morning by Henry Tillman, who runs Grisons Peak LLP, a London-based investment bank, and its research arm, China Investment Research. Projected onto the conference hall’s giant screen, he called it “Paving the Polar Silk Road.”

The Polar Silk Road is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and aims to reduce its trade logistics costs. Not only is the Northern Sea Route much shorter than current energy shipping lanes to Asia via the Indian Ocean and Suez Canal, there’s also less political risk, Tillman said. There’s nothing like the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, for example, where tension with Iran has escalated.

The U.S. has ambitions of its own to become one of the world’s leading LNG exporters. It’s projected to be producing 100 million tons of LNG by 2024, to Russia’s 63 million tons, but could face higher extraction and transport costs to get to export markets in Asia and Europe, according to Tillman.

That explains the aggressive stance the U.S. has taken against a planned natural gas pipeline from Russia to Europe and toward Russia and China’s activities in the Arctic, said Grimsson, Iceland’s president from 1996 to 2016.

Shawn Bennett, deputy assistant secretary for oil and natural gas at the Department of Energy, said the U.S. was not concerned about competition. Growth projections for natural gas demand in India and other Asian countries are so high, and the need for supply diversification in Europe so acute that there’s little risk of a glut, he told Bloomberg. “Global demand for LNG is just going to grow,” he said.

The U.S. may be pushing back in more concrete ways. On September 30, the Department of the Treasury imposed sanctions on units of China’s Cosco Shipping Corp., over alleged breaches of U.S. sanctions against Iran. The move immediately hit the Yamal projects LNG tanker routes because of Cosco’s share in one of the main shipping companies involved.

Still, for those who have been working in the Arctic for a long time, much of the geopolitical discussion sounds a little breathless. Last year, Russia’s Northern Sea Route carried 29 million tons of cargo, with projections rising to 90 million. The Suez Canal carries about 1 billion tons.

Ice floes are unpredictable even when retreating, and insurable risks for shipping through the polar ice can be significantly higher than in warmer seas, according to Janne Valkonen, who specializes in engineering ships and oil rigs for cold weather at DNV GL Group, a provider of maritime risk services.

Disputes, race, scramble – stop using these terms,” said Liv Monica Stubholt, a Norwegian lawyer with the firm Selmer AS, who advises companies on Arctic issues “There is no scramble for the Arctic. The biggest problem my clients have is attracting investment.”


Translation

(彭博)- 融冰正在以比預期更快的速度開放獲取新能源的途徑,隨著世界政治和經濟格局的變化,在北極引發了新生的大國鬥爭。

至少,這是本週末在冰島的北極圈大會上被透彻地製出的一幅写照,這是遙遠北方的達沃斯。這個成立了七年的活動是政治家,科學家,環保主義者和其他人談論北極的最大的年度論壇,包括氣候變化,安全性和新油氣發現的開發。

美國能源部長里克·佩里(Rick Perry)呼籲“自由國家”抵制那些“試圖從外部統治北極”的企圖,這顯然是指中國,中國自稱為“近北極”大國。在周四的開幕式上,他還警告各國不要試圖通過能源銷售來達到同樣效應,這是對俄羅斯的一種間接嘲諷。

然而,北極成為21世紀潛在的地緣政治爆發點,将使試圖集結美國盟國的努力面臨艱鉅的戰鬥。正如在20世紀蘇伊士運河出現成運輸路線。

佩里之後是俄羅斯亞馬爾·涅涅茨地區總督德米特里·阿秋霍夫(Dmitry Artyukhov)上台。他詳細明了國際對該地區新的及在計劃中的液化天然氣田的參與。

2016年到2018年的三年中,俄羅斯在全球液化天然氣市場中的份額從2%增長到了8%,並会有更多的增。迄今為止,投資者包括法國道達爾公司,中海油有限公司和中國石油天然氣集團公司,以及日本的三井物和日本石油天然氣金屬公司。更多的項目已經被批准。

與此同時,韓國正在建造冰硬化的液化天然氣超級油輪,以運送天然氣,每艘造價超過3億美元。它們只能在俄羅斯的北海航線在相對無冰的時候才運送到亞洲。不過,今年八月已通航,十月仍能暢通無阻。通道始終保持無冰狀態的時間框架一直在縮小 [sic]

阿圖霍夫(Artyukhov)之後是來自中國和美國的條約盟國 - 韓國 - 的外交官的雙重行動,他們談到一起與另一美國條約盟國日本在北極事務上的緊密三邊合作。

當被問及中國是否會根據美國的反對而不再自稱是北極國家時,中國外交部北極事務特別代表高峰簡單地:“不。”

創建北極圈議會並擔任主席的冰島前總統奧拉維爾·拉格納·格里姆森“我們看到了新的經濟,商業和政治地圖的出現”

他在會前在冰島首都雷克雅未克接受采訪時 “現在發生的事情是,首先,亞洲成為21世紀經濟增長的主要來源,其次,北極的開放,結合新技術,創造了石油和天然氣的供應渠道的增長”

這個新興的新世界秩序是由Henry Tillman經營的倫敦的投資銀行Grisons Peak LLP及其研究機構 - 中國投資研究部 - 在周五上午用幻燈片放映中呈現。他投影在會議廳的大屏幕上稱其為“鋪設極地絲綢之路”。

極地絲綢之路是中國“一帶一路”倡議的一部分,旨在降低其貿易物流成本。蒂爾曼,北海航線不僅比目前通過印度洋和蘇伊士運河前往亞洲的能源運輸通道短得多,而且政治風險也較小。例如,沒有像在海灣地的區霍爾木茲海峽有與伊朗緊張局勢升級的

美國有雄心壯志,成為世界領先的液化天然氣出口國之一。 Tillman表示,到2024年,該國的LNG量預計將達到1億噸,俄羅斯將達到6300萬噸,但要進入亞洲和歐洲的出口市場,可能面臨更高的開采和運輸成本。

在冰島由1996 2016當總統的格里姆森,這解釋了美國在面對俄羅斯接駁到歐洲的天然氣管道的計劃,以及俄羅斯和中國在北極的活動採取激進立場的理由。

能源部石油與天然氣副部長助理肖恩·本特(Shawn Bennett)表示,美國並不擔心競爭。他對彭博社,印度和其他亞洲國家對天然氣需求的增長預測是如此之高,而歐洲對供應多樣化的需求是如此緊迫,以至於幾乎沒有供過於求的風險。他:“全球對液化天然氣的需求將不斷增長。”

美國可能會以更具體的方式進行反擊。 930日,美國財政部因中國涉嫌違反美國對伊朗的製裁措施,對中國遠洋運輸公司的各部門實施了製裁。此舉立即衝擊了雅瑪律專案的液化天然氣油輪航線,因為中遠所占份額涉及其中一間主要航運公司。

但是,對於那些在北極工作了很長時間的人來,許多地緣政治討論聽起來有些喘不過氣來。去年,俄羅斯的北海航線運載了2900萬噸貨物,預計將增至9000萬噸。蘇伊士運河運載約10億噸。

在從事海風險服務公司的DNV GL Group工作, 而專門開發寒冷天气使用工的程船和石油鑽機的Janne Valkonen認為,浮冰即使在撤退時也是無法預測,況且经过極地冰的運輸的可保風險可能比在溫暖的海域高得多。

 Selmer AS公司的挪威律師Liv Monica Stubholt “停止使用這些術語: 爭端,種族,略奪” 。他職责是在北極問題上向公司提供諮詢意見 -- “北極沒有爭奪。我的客面臨的最大問題是吸引投資。”

       So, North Pole passage could become another flash-point for world powers to fight for resources.

2019年11月11日 星期一

"Super-calculation" in the hands of mankind - Google verification


Recently Nihon Keizai Shimbun electronic version reported the following:
「超計算」人類の手中に グーグル実証か
科学&新技術
2019/10/18 18:00日本経済新聞 電子版

グーグルが開発したとみられる新しい量子チップ

人工知能(AI)などに続く革新的技術として期待される量子コンピューターが「スーパーコンピューターを超える日」が近づいてきた。米グーグルは、理論上の概念だった性能を実証し、最先端のスパコンで1万年かかる問題を瞬時に解く実験に成功したもようだ。米IBMなども研究に力を入れる。急速な進歩はいずれ人類にこれまでにない計算パワーをもたらす。AIの活用や金融市場のリスク予測などを通じ、社会にディスラプション(創造的破壊)を起こす可能性を秘める。

グーグルが「量子超越」を達成したもようだ――。英フィナンシャル・タイムズは9月、こう報じた。日本経済新聞が入手した資料によると、最先端のスパコンでおよそ1万年かかる計算問題を、同社の量子コンピューターが320秒で解いたという。

量子超越は、従来のコンピューターでは困難な計算問題を量子コンピューターが解く性能を指す。理論上はスパコンを上回るとされた計算性能を、グーグルは世界で初めて実証したとみられる。同社は「コメントできない」としているが、事実なら「教科書に載るレベル。歴史に残る成果」(科学技術振興機構の嶋田義皓フェロー)だ。近く正式発表するもようだ。

量子コンピューターは「量子力学」という物理法則に従って動く。従来のコンピューターは「0」か「1」で情報を表すが、量子力学の世界は「0であり、かつ1でもある」という特殊な状態が起こりえる。

この仕組みを利用した「量子ビット」と呼ぶ計算単位を使うことで、膨大な情報もまとめて処理できる。計算の回数が大幅に減り、時間が劇的に短くなる。グーグルは今回、53個の量子ビットを実現し、乱数をつくる計算でスパコン超えの性能を実証したようだ。

グーグルなどが量子コンピューターの研究に乗り出したのは、半導体の微細加工による従来のコンピューターの性能向上に限界が見え始めたためだ。AIなどの登場を受け、膨大なデータを扱えるコンピューターが求められている。

50100量子ビットに到達し、開発は「NISQ」と呼ぶ中規模の量子コンピューターに移りつつある。まだ幅広い計算に使えるわけではないが、経済や産業、社会を変えると期待が膨らむ。

計算能力が足りないために、解決しない難題は多い。例えば都市部の渋滞解消。現在は無数の車がそれぞれの都合で走り、渋滞を招く。1台ずつが進む道を短時間に計算するのは困難だ。量子コンピューターを使い、車ごとに「渋滞を起こさない最適ルート」を指示できれば解消に役立つ。

AIによる画像や言語などの処理も短時間、省エネになる。計算力を生かし、個人の体質に合わせて薬を作り分けるような新たな医療の誕生も後押しできる。

量子コンピューターの「使い道」の開拓に力を入れるのがIBMだ。16年に量子コンピューターを外部の利用者にクラウド経由で公開した。世界で15万人を超す登録利用者のほか独ダイムラーや米JPモルガン・チェースなど80近い企業などと研究を進める。


日本では慶応義塾大学に連携拠点があり、銀行や化学大手が参加する。画期的な薬や材料の開発、金融市場のリスク予測などの研究が熱を帯びる。

ただし、量子コンピューターがもたらすのは「光」だけではない。革新的技術は時に脅威となる。ささやかれるのが、ネット社会が根底から揺らぐリスクだ。

現在は通信の際にパスワードなどの情報を暗号化している。最新のスパコンでも解読に時間がかかることから「安全」とみなす。量子コンピューターはこの暗号を破る恐れがある。新しい暗号技術の検討も進む。

IBMのメインフレーム(汎用機)の発売は1964年。従来のコンピューターもその前に20年ほどの黎明(れいめい)期があった。日本IBMの森本典繁執行役員は「量子コンピューターもそういうフェーズにある」と指摘する。

コンピューターの歴史で、およそ70年ぶりに起き始めた革新の動き。本格的な量子コンピューターの実用化には課題が多いが、米インテルや中国のアリババ集団なども開発に参入し、今後もブレークスルーが生まれる見通しだ。

Translation

New quantum chip that seemed to have been developed by Google

The quantum computer, which was expected to be an innovative technology following artificial intelligence (AI), was approaching the “day beyond the supercomputer”. Google seemed to have succeeded in demonstrating a performance that was a theoretical concept, and succeeded in instantly solving a 10,000-year problem with a state-of-the-art supercomputer. The US IBM and others were also focusing on research. Rapid progress would eventually bring unprecedented computational power to mankind. Through the use of AI and financial market risk predictions, it had the potential to cause disruption (creative destruction) in society.

It seemed that Google had achieved “Quantum Transcendence”. The UK Financial Times reported in September: according to materials obtained by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the company's quantum computer solved a computational problem in 3 minutes and 20 seconds that took about 10,000 years with a state-of-the-art supercomputer.

Quantum transcendence referred to the ability of quantum computers to solve computational problems that were difficult with conventional computers. It seemed that Google had demonstrated the world's first computing performance that was theoretically superior to supercomputers. The company said it had “no comment”; but if it was true, it was "a level that can be recorded in textbooks. A record that stands in history" (Yoshiaki Shimada, fellow of the Japan Science and Technology Agency). It seemed that it would be officially announced soon.

Quantum computers operated according to the physical law of “quantum mechanics”. Conventional computers represent information by “0” or “1”, but in the quantum mechanics world “it's 0 and it's also 1” special states could occur.

By using a calculation unit called “quantum bit” using this mechanism, it was possible to process a large amount of information collectively. The number of calculations would be greatly reduced and the time might dramatically shorten. This time, Google realized 53 qubits, and it seemed that it had demonstrated the performance exceeding a supercomputer in the calculation that made random numbers.

The reason why Google and others had started research on quantum computers was that the limits to improving the performance of conventional computers by micro-fabrication of semiconductors had begun to appear. With the advent of AI and the like, computers that could handle enormous amounts of data were required.

Reaching 50-100 qubits, development was moving to a medium-sized quantum computer called "NISQ". It was not yet usable for a wide range of calculations, but expectations increased when the economy, industry and society changed.

There were many unsolvable problems due to lack of computing power. For example, eliminating congestion in urban areas. Innumerable cars now ran for their own convenience, causing traffic jams. It was difficult to calculate in a short time the path that each vehicle took. If you could use a quantum computer to indicate the "optimal route that does not cause traffic jams" for each car, it would help.

Processing of images and languages ​​by AI might also save energy and time. Utilizing computational power, it might be possible to support the birth of new medical treatments that made medicines according to the individual's body feature.

IBM was committed to developing “ways of utilization” for quantum computers. In 2016 it released quantum computers to external users via the cloud. In addition to over 150,000 registered users around the world, research would be conducted with nearly 80 companies such as Daimler in Germany and JP Morgan Chase in the US.

In Japan, Keio University had a cooperation base, and banks and major chemical companies had participated. Research on innovative drug and material development, financial market risk prediction, etc. was in an exciting and passionate atmosphere.

However, quantum computers did not only bring “light”. Innovative technology could be a threat sometimes. What was whispered was the risk that the Internet society would be shaken from the ground up.

Currently, information such as passwords was encrypted during communication. Even the latest supercomputers were considered "safe" because it took time to decipher. Quantum computers could break this code. The study of new encryption technology could also proceed.

IBM's mainframe (general-purpose machine) was released in 1964. Conventional computers also had a dawning period of about 20 years before that. Norishige Morimoto, executive officer of IBM Japan, pointed out that "quantum computers are in that phase".

In the history of computers, after about 70 years, innovative movement began to occur for the first time. Although there were many issues in putting a full-scale quantum computer into practical use, the US Intel and the Alibaba group in China were also entering the development, and breakthroughs were expected to continue.

           So, it seems that a revolutionary change in the field of computer is happening.

2019年11月8日 星期五

The number of births drops below 900,000 in 2019: two years earlier than expected

Recently Nihon Keizai Shimbun Electronic Edition reported the following:
出生数90万人割れへ 19年、推計より2年早く
社会保障・成長に影
経済
2019/10/7 2:00日本経済新聞 電子版
日本の出生数が急減している。17月は前年同期に比べて5.9%減り、30年ぶりの減少ペースとなった。団塊ジュニア世代が40代後半になり、出産期の女性が減ったことが大きい。2016年に100万人を下回ってからわずか3年で、19年は90万人を割る可能性が高い。政府の想定を超える少子化は社会保障制度や経済成長に影を落とす。出産や子育てをしやすい環境の整備が急務だ。

 厚生労働省の人口動態統計(速報)によると、17月の出生数は前年同期比5.9%減の518590人。減少は4年連続だが、19年は月次でも3月に7.1%減となるなど、大きな落ち込みが続く。1817月は同2.0%減だった。


日本総合研究所の藤波匠氏は「団塊ジュニアの出産期の終わりを映している」という。197174年生まれのこの世代は、19年にはすべて45歳以上になる。

18101日時点の人口推計によると、日本人の女性は40歳代の907万人に対し、30歳代は23%少ない696万人、20歳代は36%少ない578万人。出産期の女性が大きく減っている。

1人の女性が生涯に生む子どもの数にあたる合計特殊出生率は18年に1.42と、3年続けて下がった。結婚して子どもを産みたいと考える人の希望がかなった場合の値は1.8で、理想と実態の差は大きい。政府はこの「希望出生率1.8」を25年度に実現することを目標に、保育所の整備や育児休業の推進などに取り組んできたが、効果は十分ではない。出生率が上がらなければ、出生減には歯止めがかからない。

人口動態統計の速報値は外国人による日本での出産と、日本人の海外での出産が含まれる。政府が公表する年間の出生数は3万人程度のこれらを除いて、18年の日本人の出生数は約91.8万人だった。19年は7月までの減少ペースが続けば、90万人を割り込む公算が大きい。外国人を含んでも90万人に届かない可能性がある。


国立社会保障・人口問題研究所が17年にまとめた推計では、19年の出生数は921千人(総人口ベース)だった。90万人割れは21年(88.6万人)としており、仮に19年なら2年早い。


少子化は現役世代が高齢者を支える形の医療や年金、介護の社会保障の枠組みを揺らす。特に公的年金は現役世代が払う保険料で支えており、担い手が減れば年金の支給額に響く。高齢者増で膨らむ医療費も、少ない現役世代にしわ寄せがいく。

少子化が進めば、一部業種での人手不足は一段と深刻になる。若い世代を中心に労働力の減少は、経済の潜在成長率も下押しする。

出生数を回復するためには、若い女性が出産しやすい環境づくりが課題だ。日本の出生率を年代別にみると30歳代後半については、1.71.9台と高いフランスやスウェーデンとも差はない。各国を大きく下回るのは20歳代だ。

正社員の終身雇用が多い日本の労働慣行では、出産や育児で休職するとキャリアが積み上がらず、仕事上の不利になりやすい。晩産化が進んで第2子以降は望んでもかないにくい状況にある。夫による子育ての参加拡大を認める企業文化の定着を含め、少子化対策を変えていく必要がある。

出生数の大幅な減少は海外でも相次いでいる。米国では18年の出生数が32年ぶりの低い水準だった。韓国の1916月の出生数は約8%減と大きく落ち込んだ。

Translation

The number of births in Japan was declining rapidly. From January to July, it decreased by 5.9% compared to the same period of the previous year, it was a decrease pacing not seen in 30 years. The baby boomers were in their late 40s, and the number of women in childbirth had decreased. Just three years after falling below 1 million in 2016, it was likely to drop below 900,000 in 2019. The declining birthrate that surpassed government expectations had caste a shadow on the social security system and economic growth. There was an urgent need to create an environment that facilitated childbirth and child-rearing.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare's demographic statistics (preliminary report), the number of births from January to July was 518,590, a decrease of 5.9% year-on-year. While the decline had been for 4 years in a row, in 2019,  month after month the decline in March was 7.1%. It was a 2.0% down from January to July 2018 year-on-year.

Mr. Takumi Fujinami of the Japan Research Institute said, “It reflects the end of the baby boomer's childbirth”. Born in 1971-74, all this generation would be over 45-years-old in 2019.

According to the population estimate as of October 1, 2018, comparing to the number of Japanese women in the 40s which was at 9.07 million, those in the 30s was 23% less to stand at 6.96 million and those in the 20s was 36% less at 5.78 million. The number of women in childbirth period had substantially decreased.

The total fertility rate, which was the number of children a woman would have in her lifetime, had decreased to 1.42 in 2018, a continuous drop for three years. The rate for a person who wanted to marry and give birth to a child was 1.8, and there was a big difference between the ideal and the actual situation. The government had been working on the establishment of daycare centers and the promotion of childcare leave with a goal of achieving the "desired fertility rate of 1.8" in 2015, but the result was not good. If the fertility rate did not increase, there would be no end to the decreasing births.

The preliminary figures for demographic statistics had included births in Japan by foreigners, and also overseas births by Japanese. Except for these annual number of births as announced by the government which stood at about 30,000, the number of Japanese births in 2018 was about 918,000. In 2019, if the rate of decline continued until July, it was likely that this number might drop below 900,000. Even including foreigners, it might not reach 900,000.

According to an estimate compiled by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in 2017, the birth rate in 2019 would be 921,000 (based on the total population). There would be a dropping below 900,000 people at 2021 (886,000 people), and if this happened in 2019, it came two years early.

The declining birthrate shook the social security framework of medical care, pensions, and nursing care in which the active generation was supporting the elderly. In particular, the public pension was supported by insurance premiums paid by the present generation. If the number of participants was reduced, the amount paid would be affected. The medical expenses that might increase due to an increase in the number of elderly people would burden the insufficient working generation.

As the birthrate declined, labor shortages in some industries would become more serious. The decline in the labor force, especially in the younger generation, would also lower the economic growth rate.

In order to improve the number of births, there was the challenge to create an environment where young women could easily give birth. Looking at Japan's fertility rate by age group, among the late 30s, it was 1.7-1.9 units, which was not as high as France or Sweden. It was among the 20s that there was a big drop in all countries.

In Japan's labor practice, where life-long employment was often practiced, taking a leave for childbirth or childcare would not be a plus for the career and tended to be a disadvantage for work. It was difficult to hope for further after a second child because of the late birth. It was necessary to change measures now employed to check the declining birthrate, including the establishment of a corporate culture that would allow husbands to increase their child-rearing participation.

Overseas, there had been a significant decrease in the number of births. In the United States, the number of births in 2018 was at the lowest level in 32 years. The number of births in South Korea from January to June 2019 fell sharply by about 8%.

          It seems that a dropping in birth rate is a world-wide phenomenon in many countries.