TOKYO -- Toshiba, which has been undergoing wide-ranging business restructuring, plans to significantly increase the number of employees working on research and development of "internet of things" technologies in the hopes this could open the way to future growth and ensure the company's survival.
Toshiba will increase the number of personnel working on internet of things R&D by 50% to 1,500 in the year through March 2020, focusing on developing technology mainly for manufacturers. The internet of things connects a wide range of devices, from home appliances to door locks and vehicles.
Since a major accounting scandal broke at Toshiba in 2015, the troubled company has sold off several of its core businesses, including its lucrative medical equipment business. It has recently finalized negotiations to sell its main semiconductor unit. Although its infrastructure and energy businesses remain unsold, they do not likely have the potential to drive the company's future growth. This has led Toshiba to conclude that its survival may hinge on internet of things technologies that could bring much added value to a wide range of products and services.
Toshiba has already agreed to provide its internet of things technology platform to auto parts maker Denso for use in its production facilities.
Under its current plan, Toshiba will increase the number of development staff at its subsidiary, Toshiba Digital Solutions, from 1,000 currently to 1,500 in fiscal starting in 2019. The information and communications technology service unit was spun off from Toshiba in July this year. Development staff will be assigned to strengthen its proprietary internet of things platform, called Spinex, which will be used for wider applications in areas such as energy and infrastructure.
Toshiba also seeks to sell Spinex-related technologies to corporate users. One such technology, Digital Twin, can digitally reproduce the environment of a company's past manufacturing sites using a large amount of data, as well as predicting the future of such environments. The technology is currently being used for some Denso factories. Toshiba has received numerous inquiries about the technology from other domestic manufacturers, a company official said.
Toshiba is also leveraging its expertise in artificial intelligence, putting into practical use or carrying out demonstration tests of 400 projects combining the internet of things and AI. The company aims to lift the group's internet of things-related sales to 300 billion yen ($2.6 billion) in the fiscal year from 2019, from 200 billion yen in fiscal 2016.