It should first be noted that this JTEC panel's sample set for KB systems applications in Japan was strongly skewed to the side of success for the technology. We picked the places known to be prominent in the development and use of knowledge-based methods for problem-solving. By and large, that is what we saw: many fielded success stories, many more systems under development, and strong management support. If we had visited a random list of industries, we are certain the relative importance of KB systems technology would have been much less. With that as a caveat, we were still impressed by the depth and breadth of KB systems usage that was exhibited. In particular, the four large computer companies -- Fujitsu, Hitachi, Toshiba, and NEC -- have made major corporate commitments to KB systems technology, both as a tool for solving in-house problems and as a market for external sales. The effort at those four companies collectively seemed to be as large as the biggest U.S. corporate commitments (DEC and IBM).

We were also impressed by the number of high impact applications that we found. In addition to the ones detailed above, almost every site we visited seemed to have at least one KB system that had made a significant change in an important aspect of the company's business.

From a technology standpoint, the JTEC team saw very little that differed from first-generation KB systems applications in the U.S. As discussed above, there is relatively little use evident in Japan of the most advanced AI technologies such as model-based reasoning, machine learning, iterative improvement scheduling methods, etc. The one exception to this point is the widespread proliferation of fuzzy methods within KB system applications. As in the U.S., the emphasis is moving toward integrated application of first-generation KB systems. Almost all the significant work we saw interfaced with real devices, databases and/or conventional software systems.

Published: May 1993; WTEC Hyper-Librarian