MARKET & TECHNOLOGY FOLLOW UP IN JAPAN FOR TEKES
INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATIONS TEAM
28th January, 2004
1. Economy & policies ............................................................................................................................... 2
1.1. Trends in economy and industry ................................................................................................. 2
1.2. E-Japan strategy .......................................................................................................................... 2
1.3. University reform ........................................................................................................................ 4
2. Telecommunications in Japan ................................................................................................................ 4
2.1. Internet usage .............................................................................................................................. 4
2.2. Mobile communications .............................................................................................................. 6
2.3. Wireless LAN .............................................................................................................................14
3. Software industry in Japan ....................................................................................................................15
4. Electronics .............................................................................................................................................17
4.1. RFID tags ...................................................................................................................................17
4.2. Low voltage / low power technology .........................................................................................19
4.3. Micro fuel cells as power source ................................................................................................21
4.4. Environmental issues ..................................................................................................................22
4.5. Nanoelectronics ..........................................................................................................................22
4.6. Microfluidics & Microsystems ...................................................................................................23
4.7. Networked home appliances .......................................................................................................24
5. Digital media in Japan ...........................................................................................................................24
5.1. Digital TV ..................................................................................................................................24
5.2. Electronic paper ..........................................................................................................................27
6. Space technology and positioning .........................................................................................................28
7. Healthcare applications .........................................................................................................................30
7.1. Examples of advanced ICT utilization in hospitals ....................................................................30
The University of Tokyo Hospital .........................................................................................................30
Kameda Medical Center ........................................................................................................................31
Kitasato Institute Hospital .....................................................................................................................32
7.2. Electronic medical records .........................................................................................................33
7.3. Networks of medical institutions ................................................................................................34
7.4. Telemedicine ..............................................................................................................................35
7.5. Medical Mobile Multimedia Information System ......................................................................35
7.6. Mobile Remote Patient Monitoring ............................................................................................36
1. Economy & policies
1.1. Trends in economy and industry
After over 10 years of stagnation the Japanese economy is gradually showing signs of recovery,
and is expected to expand by 2% in the fiscal year 2003. Corporate profits are improving, owing
especially to growth in USA and China, which has resulted in increased capital investments.
However, some problems still remain, like deflation, joblessness and bad loans, and it is
considered that Japan continue its regulatory reforms to sustain the growth.
As an important indicator of the starting economic recovery in the electronics and information
technology fields, the PC shipments in Japan for the first half of fiscal 2003 increased 13 % from
the same period a year ago. Especially strong boost to the recovery is expected also from
consumer electronics products such as mobile phones, digital cameras, television sets, car
navigation systems and DVD players and recorders. According to a survey by Nikkei, 90% of
Japanese semiconductor and electronic parts manufacturers have said to increase their output in
An important feature of future consumer digital appliances will be networking, i.e. wired and
wireless interoperable networks by the various appliances. This will emphasize the importance of
standardization among the various manufacturers.
1.2. E-Japan strategy
The e-Japan Strategy was formulated by the Japanese government in 2001 and its goal is to make
Japan the most advanced ICT country in the world by 2005. In the mid-term evaluation of the
programme carried out in July 2003 it was found out that many of the targets concerning
infrastructure had already been achieved or that development was already well on the way. This
resulted in e-Japan Strategy II and e-Japan Priority Policy Program, which shifted the emphasis of
the programme from infrastructure evolution to effective IT-utilization and services. In order to
achieve practical utilization of IT it is important to develop real applications for users.
Following is a list of 7 leading fields for the promotion of effective IT utilization identified by the
government as well as examples of concrete objectives in these fields:
- establishment of a certification system and approval of the transfer of electronic patient-
care information over the network and storage of information by external organizations
- start on-line procedures for claiming medical reimbursements (by 2004)
- implementation of a traceability system for beef and other foodstuffs (by 2005)
- establishment of EDI system for fresh food distribution (by 2005)
- implementation of a remote video conversation system to single senior citizens (by 2008)
- implementation of remote reading of gas/water/electricity meters (by 2005)
Finance for SMEs
- establishment of on-line procedures for using credit guarantee (by 2005)
- triple the number of courses offering distance learning through IT (by 2005)
- infrastructure development to enable distribution of commercial broadcasting programs
on the Internet (by 2003) and all other forms of non-commercial content (by 2008)
Employment and labor
- increase to 1 000 000 the number of people who annually gain employment through
electronic means (by 2005)
- to have 20% of the working population working as teleworkers under appropriate
working environment (by 2010)
- construction of a one-stop, user-oriented government portal site (by 2005)
- optimization of administrative organizations‟ working systems and processes (by 2005)
In addition to service development, also infrastructure development continues. This means not
only broadband infrastructure, but efforts will also be made to promote R&D and advanced use
ubiquitous network technologies and services.
Realization of ubiquitous network is estimated to bring the following benefits:
- creation of new industries and markets worth of 276 billion USD in 2005 and 766 billion
USD in 2010
- increasing safety and convenience of the society
- improvements in various fields, such as education, ecology and employment
- strengthening Japan‟s industrial competitiveness
Also one ambitious goal of the e-Japan Strategy II is to enable high-speed WLAN usage in whole
Japan by 2008.
More information about e-Japan Strategy and e-Japan Strategy II can be found at:
The latest suggestion to strengthen Japan‟s competitiveness in the field of information technology
calls for an administrative change. Prime Minister Koizumi has instructed ministers in his cabinet
to consider the integration of the IT sections of different ministries possibly into a new ministry,
kind of „IT Ministry‟, in order to better coordinate regulation and development in the field.
1.3. University reform
Japanese universities will go through a big transformation in 2004. The 99 national universities in
Japan will be transformed into Independent Administrative Institutions, with more autonomy and
private-sector-style management, starting in April 2004. With this reform the government aims at
improving the quality of university education and research as well as their management. The
government also promotes competition among universities by giving subsidies to them according
to the results of a third-party evaluation. As for the scope of university activities, the government
is planning further deregulation of universities‟ investment in technology licensing organizations
in order to increase industry-academia collaboration.
Japanese universities have already been active in becoming more business-like institutions.
Currently there are 36 TLOs at Japanese universities, and their combined licensing revenues
totaled 400 million JPY (about 3 MEUR) in the fiscal 2002. According to preliminary data, this
figure would be almost 800 million JPY in 2003. By the number of technology transfers,
University of Tokyo has been the most successful university in 2003, followed by Tohoku
University, Keio University, Nihon University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Waseda
In response to the changing operating environment, Japanese universities are also forming tie-ups
with their foreign counterparts. For example, Kyoto University is set to launch an industry-
academy collaboration liaison office with Fudan University in Shanghai, and Kobe University
plans to set up a similar unit at University of Washington in Seattle.
2. Telecommunications in Japan
2.1. Internet usage
The number of Internet users by different access methods was the following at the end of October
- DSL subscribers 9 590 349
- FTTH subscribers 756 211
- CATV Internet subscribers 2 376 000
- Dial-up Connections on Telephone Lines 19 347 930
Internet subscriptions by different access
October 2003, total 32 070 490
20 000 000
15 000 000
10 000 000
5 000 000
FTTH DSL CATV Dial-up on
Internet subscriptions in Japan
The number of broadband subscriptions has been increasing by about 400 000 new subscriptions
per month and broadband fees Tokyo are said to be the cheapest in the world (0.09 USD/100
kbps). The monthly increase has continued to fall since April 2003 when it was a record high 562
455. In contrast, however, new subscriptions to FTTH services have been increasing monthly and
currently the number of FTTH subscriptions increases by about 70 000 every month. The
subscribers of cable Internet services have been increasing steadily by 50 000 people per month.
The number of dial-up internet connection service users has been decreasing since the peak in
May 2002, when the number of users amounted to 21 540 000.
These subscription figures are, however, far below the number of households that would be able
to have a high-speed internet access. According to the Ministry of Public Management, Home
Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications (MPHPT), 35 million Japanese households could have
access to the Internet by using DSL connections, 23 million by cable TV and almost 18 million
by FTTH connections. This gap between usage potential and actual usage has been one reason
behind the focus shift in the government‟s „e-Japan Strategy‟ from establishment of infrastructure
to promotion of applications using IT.
As for current usage of Internet connections, IP telephony has proved to be a particularly popular
application. Not only consumers but also many Japanese companies are shifting to using IP
phones due to the pressure to cut costs. According to some estimates about 12 000 companies in
Japan started using IP telephony in 2003, and several large companies have launched projects to
replace their phone lines with IP telephony solutions. Currently Japan is estimated to have about
5.3 million Net phone lines, and the figure is expected to rise to 28 million in four years. Also the
dominant regional phone carriers NTT East and NTT West have announced their plan to start
offering IP telephony services, and their entry into the market will probably further accelerate the
adoption of IP telephony. The increasing popularity of IP telephony has also spurred interest in
Power over Ethernet technology. At least Sanyo and Sony are developing IP phones with PoE
The possibilities offered by broadband connections are getting attention also in the health care
and medical field as a potential means of improving the operational efficiency and quality of the
services in the sector. Especially sharing of electronic medical records (EMR) and other data
between institutions is being studied, more details can be found in Chapter 7 of this report.
Online gaming is one application field that is expected to grow strongly along with increasing
Internet penetration at households. According to Digital Content Association of Japan, the online
game market was about 1.4 billion JPY in 2001, 6 billion JPY in 2002 and is expected to total 22
billion JPY in 2003.
In addition to boosting broadband usage domestically, Japan is committed to the „Asia Broadband
Program‟ which aims at making Asia the leading region in ICT. The program involves, among
other things, facilitating transition of networks to IPv6 ones and significantly increasing
information flows between Asia and North America and Asia and Europe.
As the first R&D project pursuant to the Asia Broadband Program the MPHPT has adopted a
proposal for “R&D on Asia Broadband Satellite Key Technologies”. The project will help
establish seamless satellite links with terrestrial networks, and the R&D activities will be carried
out in relation to the following themes:
- IPv6-ready large-scale multicasting technology
- IPv6-ready dynamic band assignment and management technologies
In addition to Japan, research institutes and universities from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are taking part in the project.
More information about the Asia Broadband Program can be found at:
2.2. Mobile communications
At the end of November 2003 the number of mobile phone subscribers amounted to 79 280 700
indicating a 62% population penetration. Currently 16% of all mobile phone subscribers are 3G
subscribers. According to some analysts the 3G subscribers will outnumber 2G subscribers in
Japan in 2006.
Mobile phone subscriptions by system
Total 79 280 700
Mobile phone systems in Japan
Starting on 1st October 2003, the name of the operator J-Phone was officially changed to
Vodafone. In August 2003 Vodafone sold the fixed line network (Japan Telecom) it had acquired
to American Ripplewood Holdings, Ltd.
Although NTT DoCoMo is still the market leader among Japanese operators, in terms of new
subscribers KDDI seems to be leading the game at the moment. KDDI attracted more new
subscriptions than its Japanese rivals in November 2003. It gained altogether 239 300 new users
compared with 63 800 for NTT DoCoMo and 35 500 for Vodafone. Apart from Vodafone, the
subscriber gains are attributed to growth in 3G subscriptions, while the number of 2G
subscriptions has been falling. KDDI signed up 509 400 CDMA2000 1x users compared with 289
300 W-CDMA subscribers by NTT DoCoMo and 4 600 W-CDMA subscribers by Vodafone.
Mobile phone subscriptions by operator
Total 79 280 700
KDDI Group group
Mobile operators’ market shares in Japan
The Japanese mobile market is not saturated quite yet, but the growth seems to be slowing
somewhat. Although the mobile penetration rate is not higher than 62%, in terms of mobile
internet access Japan is in the top position in the world. The number of mobile internet
subscribers is 67 207 200 or 85% of all mobile phone subscribers. This is a few percentage units
ahead of South Korea and about twice as high as in China.
Mobile phone and mobile internet subscriptions in Japan
80 000 000
70 000 000
60 000 000
50 000 000
40 000 000
30 000 000
20 000 000
10 000 000
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 Nov-
Mobile phone subscriptions Mobile internet subscriptions
Mobile internet subscriptions in Japan
Mobile internet service subscriptions by service
Total 67 207 200
Vodafone Live /
Ezweb / KDDI i-mode / NTT
Mobile internet services in Japan
In terms of 3G, the CDMA2000 1x service by KDDI has continued its steady growth, but in the
past few months also the W-CDMA service by NTT DoCoMo has shown signs of stronger
growth after a slow start.
3G subscriptions in Japan
Total 12 889 500
14 000 000
13 000 000
12 000 000
11 000 000
10 000 000
9 000 000
8 000 000
7 000 000
6 000 000
5 000 000
4 000 000
3 000 000
2 000 000
1 000 000
NTT DoCoMo (W-CDMA) KDDI (CDMA2000 1x) Vodafone (W-CDMA) Total
Growth of 3G subscriptions in Japan
What is significant is that 3G seems to be finally picking up also in terms of ARPU. According to
data released by NTT DoCoMo during the first half of fiscal 2003 the ARPU for the company‟s
3G users was 10 120 JPY (80 EUR) while for the 2G users during the same period it was 8 060
JPY (63 EUR). In the fiscal 2002 the ARPU for 3G users was 7 740 JPY and for 2G users 8 120
JPY. This is taken as indication that many of the problems associated with the 3G service earlier
have now been solved or at least significant improvements have been made.
2G 8060 JPY (~63 €)
(8120 JPY in FY2002)
3G 10120 JPY (~80 €)
(7740 JPY in FY2002)
NTT DoCoMo ARPU in 1H of 2003
28th November 2003 marked a milestone in mobile data transmission speed development as
KDDI launched its new CDMA2000 1x WIN (CDMA2000 1x EV DO) 3G service, which
enables data transmission speeds up to 2.4 Mbps. This is six times faster than the W-CDMA
services provided by NTT DoCoMo and Vodafone. The CDMA2000 1x WIN service is initially
available in Kanto, Chubu and Kansai regions, but it will be expanded to major cities nationwide
by end of March 2004 (national population coverage 70%). In order to support the content
volume expected to grow with the availability of high speed data communications, the operator
has introduced a flat charging system which is the first fixed packet communications service rate
plan in the industry. The monthly charge is 4 200 JPY (33 EUR).
CDMA 1X WIN offers rich content services which have been made possible by the high data
transmission speed. EZChannel is a program distribution service offering a variety of multimedia
content (up to 3 Mbps) such as TV programs or magazines. At launch, the programs offered cover
entertainment, including music, movies, and shows, and on-line books and learning courses. As a
new feature CDMA 1X WIN supports SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language)
which enables a larger freedom of expression combining movies, animations, still images, sound
and text data. CDMA 1X WIN also supports the dedicated EZAppli (JAVATM) viewer and
various types of electronic book formats arranged for mobile phones, enabling electronic
magazines, cartoons, and other similar media on CDMA 1X WIN handsets. The downloadable
content size of movie clips will be increased to up to 1.5 Mbyte, which will extend content replay
approximately 3 minutes. Live video distribution function supports VB series video network
video camera by Canon and Bread Stream RT MPEG-4 network video camera by IO Data.
The following figure shows future mobile technology development in Japan based on the
information released by the operators.
Mobile communications –
2003 2005 2010
NTT DoCoMo 384 kbps 14 Mbps
CDMA2000 1x CDMA2000 1x EV DO
144 kbps 2.4 Mbps
Mobile phone technology development in Japan
In the past few months, there has also been interest in the TD-CDMA standard. According to
some sources Multimedia Research Institute Corporation (MRIC) is already conducting tests on
the next generation mobile phone service, while Softbank and eAccess have also applied for a
licence to test TD-CDMA services. NTT Communications and Cable and Wireless Group are also
considering providing 3G services with TD-CDMA in Japan. At the moment, however, it is
unclear whether the Japanese telecommunications regulators are willing to open the market for
further competition. TD-CDMA is basically similar to TD-SCDMA that is being considered in
China as a 3G standard (along with W-CDMA and CDMA 2000 1X).
According to MRIC it plans to begin the business with a data communication service, not a voice
communication service. It is targeting customers who use PCs or PDAs to send and receive data
through modems or PC cards. The data transmission speeds of TD-CDMA service will be 1.5
Mbps uplink and 3 Mbps downlink.
Although Japan has the benefit of earlier introduction of 3G, it seems that the industry first wants
to fully exploit the 3G before starting to introduce 4G commercially. According to the president
of NTT DoCoMo, for example, it will still take 10 years before 4G will be launched
commercially in Japan.
However, development of 4G technology continues strong with NTT DoCoMo apparently
leading the way. The following figure summarises the company‟s design objectives for 4G
mobile communications system.
New services by new capabilities
-smooth development and rapid deployment of
-seamless connection and handover between
heterogeneous access systems
Enhanced services by
100 Mbps (mobile environment peak rate)
1 Gbps (indoor environment peak rate
• information bit rate 10 times that of 3G
• system capacity 1/10 to 1/100 per bit
• cost all-IP
• base station network (multiple QoS classes, IPv6 support)
• transport system
• connection delay time 500 ms or less
• transmission delay time 50 ms or less
Objectives for capability and performance of 4G system (Source NTT DoCoMo Technical
Journal, Sept. 2003)
In-depth discussion about the related technologies can be found in the following articles in NTT
DoCoMo Technical Journal Vol. 5 No. 2 September 2003:
- The Fourth-Generation Mobile Communication System
- Broadband Packet Wireless Access
- Broadband Wireless Access Technology using VSF-OFCDM and VSCRF-CDMA
- Technology for Efficient Packet Access in the Data Link and Physical Layers
- Wireless QoS Control Technology
- IP-Based Mobile Management Technology
As for new capabilities in mobile handsets, emphasis on visual communications continues strong.
Some cameras equipped in mobile handsets have already a resolution of 2 megapixels. Cameras
in mobile phones are becoming a standard feature, and according to some sources currently about
75% of new handsets sold in Japan are camera phones.
D505iS by Mitsubishi Electric with maximum resolution of 2 megapixels (weight 113 g)
The boom in camera phones has given birth to a new business of vending machine type printing
stations for printing photos taken by mobile phones. Some of the machines not only print
ordinary photos, but also photos on stickers or business cards. A few companies, e.g. Bandai and
Fuji Photo Film, are developing compact portable printers for the same purpose. It is expected
that as the performance and capabilities of camera phones become similar to digital cameras the
competition between camera phones and digital cameras will become fierce.
After camera phones, mobile phones with television, particularly digital, broadcast receiving
function are predicted to be the next big hit. NEC has supplied Vodafone with a handset with an
embedded TV tuner for receiving terrestrial analog television broadcasts. The service started in
December 2003 and it allows users to watch broadcasts for 1 hour before having to recharge the
V601N by NEC, first handset in Japan with an embedded analog TV tuner (weight 119 g)
NEC has also developed a working prototype of a mobile phone equipped with a receiver for
terrestrial digital television broadcasting. Terrestrial digital TV broadcasting was started in Japan
in December 2003 and it is expected that programmes designed specifically for portable terminals
will be offered after a couple of years, perhaps as early as 2005. The prototype features a portable
antenna for digital TV broadcasting, UHF tuner and OFDM decoding LSI developed by NEC for
W-CDMA mobile phone. With this LSI, low-power consumption and ultra-small package has
been achieved. Sanyo, too, has developed a prototype CDMA2000 1X type mobile phone with a
built-in digital TV broadcast receiving module.
Sanyo’s prototype for digital TV broadcast reception
NTT DoCoMo has announced that it will incorporate IC cards in some of its FOMA 3G phones,
which will enable their use as tickets or for payments. The cards will be based on the FeliCa
technology developed by Sony, which is already used in a total of 17 million smart cards in Japan
for Suica automated ticketing system and for making payments at some 2 700 convenience stores
throughout Japan. NTT DoCoMo has said it will market phones with smart cards by the middle of
2 months after NTT DoCoMo‟s announcement, also KDDI revealed that it is working with
Hitachi on equipping mobile phones with IC cards. KDDI, too, has adopted the FeliCa
technology developed by Sony. The adoption of FeliCa technology by NTT DoCoMo, which
accounts for about 60% of the Japanese mobile phone market, and KDDI, increase the likelihood
that FeliCa will effectively become the industry standard.
Progress has also been made in mobile payment, which is expected to increase consumers‟
confidence in online payments. KDDI has conducted field tests on a payment service „Kei-Credit‟,
which stores credit data on a User Identity Module (UIM). The user inserts the UIM in a mobile
phone, and the service reads the data via software installed inside the phone. Authentication
systems based on fingerprints have emerged, too. JCB Co, Ltd has conducted a trial that makes
use of the fingerprint authentication capability provided in mobile handsets when users access the
MyJCB site for cardholders with mobile accounts.
Fingerprint authentication for mobile payment. The user accesses the MyJCB site, starts the
authentication "i-Appli" Java applet and places his/her index finger on the fingerprint sensor on
the mobile phone. If authentication is successful, the user can then access the website.
All in all, the quest for the killer application continues in the mobile industry and companies seem
to be willing to try almost anything to find a successful service. A case in point is the Bow-
Lingual Connect service developed by Takara and Index for Vodafone: it is a service that can
convert dog barks into text and expressions. If a customer comes within 40 cm of a dog, barks
will be analyzed resulting in text and illustrations of six different dog feelings on the mobile
2.3. Wireless LAN
Despite fewer than expected users at the moment, analysts estimate solid growth for the WLAN
service market in the coming years, led by expected strong demand by individual users. With
increased usage of high-speed Internet services at home, more and more users are linking up their
PCs via WLAN networks. In the fiscal 2002 some 690 000 WLAN systems designed for
household were shipped in Japan. According to a survey made by Yano Research Institute the
WLAN-related equipment market will grow 5% to 41.9 billion JPY in FY 2003 and to 55.6
billion JPY by FY 2005. The growth could be hindered by security concerns, though, and
resolving the security problems is seen as the key in the industry. Also the conflicting connection
formats between operators and incompatible equipment is one factor slowing the growth of the
market, and to tackle this problem a special committee consisting of major electronics
manufacturers and operators was set up within the Mobile Computing Promotion Consortium
(http://www.mcpc-jp.org). The group plans to expand the market by establishing standards for
In addition to the development of wireless IP telephony systems to be used within company
WLANs, there are also efforts to develop dual mode WLAN/mobile phones that work both on
WLANs and mobile phone network. This kind of dual mode phones would offer high speed
access to company servers through WLAN and also work as regular 3G mobile phones outside
the office. NEC has already developed a prototype for NTT DoCoMo which aims to
commercialize it in the fiscal 2004 to boost its 3G user base. The handset is based on the
IEEE802.11b standard, which was originally designed for data communication and therefore the
quality of the VoIP communication is still not very good. Also the standby time for WLAN based
mobile phones is shorter than those for ordinary mobile phones owing to greater power
Not only mobile phone suppliers, but also other companies are planning to equip their products
with WLAN mechanism. Sony Computer Entertainment has said that it will add WLAN
functionality to its planned mobile video game handset to enable users to play video games online
from various locations with access points. Fuji Photo Film has presented a prototype of digital
camera with WLAN card, by which the user can directly send the pictures to a PC or a printer.
Hitachi has developed a positioning system based on WLAN. The system measures the terminal
position to an accuracy of 1-3 meters, which is more accurate than GPS positioning, and it works
both indoors and outdoors. Moreover, with a range of 100-200 meters the WLAN based system
can monitor larger areas than is possible in Bluetooth or IC tag positioning systems. Ordinary
PCs, PDAs or WLAN tags that are compatible with IEEE802.11b standard can used in the
system and the location of a device is determined by the difference in arrival times of radio waves
to base stations. In case of several devices, they can be distinguished by their IP addresses.
Hitachi is considering at the least the following applications for the system:
- determining the location of products in factories or warehouses
- navigation is sites such as theme parks
- locating the closest printer to a mobile terminal
- detection of in-house WLAN violators
Hospitals are also one area where great improvements in efficiency are expected to be brought by
WLAN applications. For example the University of Tokyo Hospital is using a wireless mobile
computing system, in which care personnel can scan a patient‟s bar code identification from the
patient‟s wristband by using a handheld computer to instantly access the patient‟s medical history
and medication dosage information on the hospital server. More information about this can be
found in Chapter 7.
3. Software industry in Japan
In Japan Linux seems to be gaining in popularity on many fronts. Fujitsu, IBM Japan and Oki
Electric Industry have been commissioned to design a new human resources management system
for all government agencies and ministries and they plan to use Linux for this purpose. This is
taken as an indication that Linux may later become more widely adopted as the backbone for e-
government in Japan. Also the Japanese telecommunications giant NTT has announced its plans
to install Linux OS on its servers used for billing and customer data management in order to cut
operating costs. According to NTT, Linux could also be used as an OS for the routers, which are
the central equipment in the next generation IP telephony services which it plans to start offering
As for consumer electronics devices, Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial cooperated to
launch an industry-wide forum to develop next generation Linux for home appliances and to
promote its widespread adoption by manufacturers. The CE Linux Forum was started in July
2003 and its members include some of the leading home appliance manufacturers
The trend towards Linux is also affecting mobile phones. Until now, the majority of Japanese
mobile handsets have used either TRON or proprietary OSs, but NEC is currently developing a
Linux mobile phone in order to reduce the application development load. On the operator side,
NTT DoCoMo is promoting the use of both Linux and Symbian for its 3G handsets in order to
reduce production costs and encourage wider adoption of 3G handsets. Fujitsu is already
supplying NTT DoCoMo with Symbian OS handsets, while the first Linux handsets are expected
to come to the market in late 2004. All the new CDMA 1X WIN handsets sold by KDDI are
compatible with BREW.
As a countermeasure, Microsoft has entered into partnership with the Japanese TRON association
to develop a technology that will enable network appliances to run under both TRON and
Windows CE. The partnership is expected to optimize the strength of both operating systems.
TRON excels at control of hardware but has few available software applications. Windows, on
the other hand, has a good graphical user interface. The T-Engine Forum (http://www.t-
engine.org) had previously started partnership with MontaVista Software to work on Linux
applications, but according to T-Engine Forum the partnership with Microsoft does not mean that
it would abandon Linux related development, it just wants to keep all alternatives open.
Moreover, Japan, China and South Korea have formed an alliance to develop an operating system
more suitable to their character-based languages that will probably be modeled after Linux. Also
one aim of the new OS development is to make the countries less dependent on Microsoft‟s
In response to grid computing technology development in US, the Japanese Ministry of Economy,
Trade and Industry has started „Business Grid Computing Project‟ to support the development of
the technology in Japan. The project is a three-year project lasting until 2005 and it aims to
develop a standardized middleware platform to actualize grid computing. METI sees the platform
as open and plans to disclose it widely to the public. NEC, Hitachi and Fujitsu have been allotted
2.6 billion JPY in FY 2003 to formulate the framework of the platform.
In terms of applications, various business management software as well as software for mobile
and embedded systems are considered to have especially good outlook. In these fields, companies
such as Works Applications (http://ir.worksap.co.jp/english/) and Aplix Corporation
(http://www.aplix.co.jp) are getting a lot of attention at the moment. Although game software
sales began declining in 2002, there is a lot of interest in game development as broadband
connections are considered to offer huge market opportunities for online gaming. Also
increasingly sophisticated portable handsets are expected to lead to a growing portable gaming
market. As PCs, mobile phones and PDAs become more popular game platforms, software tools
that allow easy cross-platform will probably be in high demand.
4.1. RFID tags
RFID is considered to be one of the most promising technologies over the next 10 years in several
business sectors. The development of RFID technology has been increasing in Japan and its cost
has been declining, and both the government and companies are enthusiastically trying to apply it
commercially. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is making efforts to
standardize RFID technology and it has set up Improvement of Products‟ Traceability Group,
which together with other government agencies and companies is conducting the standardization
Yano Research Institute estimates the Japanese RFID tag market size by volume to be 14.5
million units in FY 2003 (137% compared with FY 2002), 28.5 million units in FY 2005 and 1.2
billion units in FY 2010. As for demand by different application fields in FY 2003, 41.4% comes
from manufacturing, 29.7% from logistics and 6.9% from retailing etc. In FY 2010 logistics is
predicted to account for 90% of the total demand.
So far, the wider utilization of IC tags has been hampered by the existence of different and
incompatible communications protocols and data formats. Standards are being developed to
overcome this difficulty, but the field still seems to be divided into two camps: the US-based
Auto-ID Center, led by MIT (http://www.autoidcenter.org/), and the Ubiquitous ID Center, an
electronics industry group centered around the TRON project of the University of Tokyo
(http://www.uidcenter.org/). The Auto-ID Center considered its work completed and officially
closed on October 26th, 2003. The center transferred its technology to EPCglobal
(www.epcglobalinc.org), which will administer and develop EPC standards from now on. In
Japan, the Auto-ID Center is represented by Keio University.
In the technology advocated by the Auto-ID Center, only a code is assigned to objects with all the
remaining data being stored on the host computer on the network. This helps to minimize the
functionalities loaded on the RFID tag and, consequently, to reduce the cost of the tag. The
commercialization of this kind of tags is expected to start in cost-oriented applications, for
example as replacement for bar codes. The approach of Auto-ID Center would also mean heavier
load on the network because of larger amounts of data transmitted.
Contrary to this approach, the technology proposed by the Ubiquitous ID Center is based on more
sophisticated RFID tags and reader/writer terminals that are able to process information on the
spot. This will reduce the load on the network and allows RFID tags to process information in
real time. The production cost of tags with more sophisticated functions is naturally higher, and
therefore this kind of system is expected find applications first in areas where security and
privacy are given highest priority.
According to Ubiquitous ID Center the range of applications of RFID tags based on their
technology will be much wider than what can be offered in the systems developed by Auto-ID
Center. Also, in the concept of Ubiquitous ID Center, there would be less dependency on central
databases storing the data related to a specific codes reducing data storage concerns. A critical
part of the Ubiquitous ID concept is T-Engine, a real-time system development environment
based on TRON (The Real-time Operating System Nucleus). The Ubiquitous ID center has
established uniform standards governing the specifications, recording format and the wireless
communications protocol for IC tags. Some 170 major Japanese companies, including electronics
manufacturers and telecommunications carriers, such as NEC, Hitachi and NTT, are members of
the Ubiquitous ID Center.
As for frequencies, Japan is advocating the 2.45 GHz band for RFID tags, which offers some
benefits over the 13.56 MHZ band promoted by ISO. At 2.45 GHZ band, the tags can be made
smaller and the reading range is also 1.5 to 2 times the distance in a system using 13.56 MHz.
Because of longer ranges than those available at 13.56 MHz, the US is promoting the usage of
915 MHz band, which has the additional advantage of longer wavelength resulting in better
performance when reading in object shadows. In Japan, however, this band has already been
allocated for mobile telephony and analog multi-channel access, making it not applicable for
Miniaturization of RFID tags is also an important consideration for their wider utilization. Hitachi
has developed a new mu-chip with a size of 0.3x0.3mm, the production cost of which is currently
about 50 JPY/piece. In order to increase their usage, the cost needs to be lowered substantially
and the company plans to cut the cost to about 10 JPY/piece by the end of 2003. Hitachi has also
pioneered in the development of a version of mu-chip with an embedded antenna, which makes it
possible to use it without the need to attach external devices. The dimensions of a mu-chip with
internal antenna are 0.4 x 0.4 mm.
In October 2003, Ubiquitous ID Center announced that it has developed a new portable terminal
called „Ubiquitous Communicator‟ that incorporates wireless communication technologies,
including WLAN and Bluetooth as well as IC tag reading capability. Data of IC tags is displayed
on the LCD display or output as audio signal to the embedded speaker. „Ubiquitous
Communicator‟ is able to read data on tags that use either 2.45 GHZ or 13.56 MHz frequencies if
the tags are certified by Ubiquitous ID Center. The device can also retrieve information related to
the IC tag from a server on the networks using WLAN or Bluetooth communications.
In order to enable utilization of tags in countries with different frequencies, Japanese companies
Toppan and Telemidic (owned by NEC) have a developed a dual format tag that can work at both
2.45 GHz and 915 MHz. Some industry experts predict that there will be hard competition
between manufacturers to develop dual format tags to facilitate the flow of goods equipped with
IC tags between different countries.
As for practical applications of IC tags, Maruetsu, a major supermarket chain, has conducted a
trial in one of its outlets in which some IC tags were attached to some foodstuffs. Customers
could take these items to special terminals in the store that would then display the origin of the
item, recipes and other related information. According to Maruetsu, the sales of items with IC
tags doubled during the trial. Several other retailers and department stores have announced plans
to carry out trials with IC tags within 2004.
Sony, together with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and others, is heavily promoting its
IC card electronic money called Edy. Some shopping centers have already agreed to accept e-
money as payment, and East Japan Railway company is planning to add e-money function to its
Suica IC card that currently only serves as a train ticket or commuter pass. There are already
more than 6 million Suica cards in use as tickets. In the beginning, the card can be used for
payments in shops and restaurants located at stations in greater Tokyo area.
4.2. Low voltage / low power technology
Research and development of ubiquitous power sources for mobile terminals is accelerating in
Japan as usage of various mobile equipment increases. This kind of power sources include not
only natural energy such as sun or wind but also user body movement and body heat. Some
researchers also looking into utilization of actions like opening and closing of doors as well as
utilization of thermal energy generated by components in electronic equipment. Also wireless
power transmission is being studied. Key issues in the development of these power sources are
boosting output and making the dimensions of generators suitable for mounting on mobile
Miniaturization of existing generator designs is one approach to powering smaller equipment. A
Zip Charge solar cell module measuring 110 mm x 57.5 mm, for example, can charge the
batteries in a mobile phone in only four hours sufficiently to talk for about an hour. Researchers
at Toin University of Yokohama Graduate School have developed a flexible solar cell that can be
molded around the curves of cases for mobile phones or other equipment. Wind powered
generators are also being made smaller, aiming at uses in illuminating roadway signs or home
nightlights. The wind-powered SMG-1001 generator from Systec Corp of Japan, has a propeller
diameter of only 200 mm, but generates about 0.3 W at 4 m/s, or about 1.4 W at 10 m/s. It is
possible to generate electricity at wind speeds down to about 1.5 m/s.
Natural energy may not always be available and therefore Nissho Engineering has developed
hand-powered external generators for mobile phones. The system generates power from a rotor,
powered by pulling a cord, which has magnets mounted on it. It generates 2.5 W of power by
pulling the cord 40 times a minute. The company has also proposed a foot-powered generator,
which would mount two generator units of the same type as used in the hand-powered model. 40
strokes per minute would produce an output of at least 10 W.
Instead of deliberate power generation, the Furacell sensor developed by USC makes use of a
container with steel balls inside, which move when it is shaken. The steel balls roll under inertia,
impacting a ceramic piezoelectric device to generate electricity. The power drives a wireless
circuit, which notifies the receiver that vibration was detected. The signal is transmitted at about
426 MHz, covered by Japanese regulation for special lower-power wireless transmission.
Instantaneous output voltage is about +40 V and the output current is up to 10 mA.The
transmitter itself runs on +2.5 V, drawing about 3.5 mA in operation. About 1 mW of
transmitting power can be obtained from the piezoelectric device alone and the range is about 100
m in urban environment, or up to 2 km at sea. The transmitted signal is a 16-bit identification
code, serving to specify which sensor was activated.
Also Hitachi has developed a new technology that generates electricity by using vibrations. The
systems makes use of vibrations of several micrometers that occur naturally. Electricity is
generated when an electrode fixed on a leaf spring vibrates and its distance from another
electrode changes. The company has made a test device measuring 2.5 x 7.0 cm which generated
0.12 μW when vibrations of several micrometers, which occur naturally even in the air inside a
quiet building, were used. Although the output is rather low, this power source is available
anywhere and Hitachi plans to incorporate it into a sensor to determine, for example the degree of
obsolescence of buildings or machines.
System developed by USC
Also, blood sugar and thermocouples are being studied as power supplies for implanted
equipment in the human body. Seiko Instruments is experimenting on thermocouples that can
achieve an open voltage of +0.2 V for a 1 °C temperature differential, with an output power of 10
μW. Matsushita Electric Industrial is developing „sugar-air battery‟ in which an organic molecule
like sugar is used as the fuel.
Instead of using internal power generators, another approach is to transmit power wirelessly over
short distances. NTT Energy and Environment Systems Laboratories is developing technologies
and systems for short-range transmission of power to mobile equipment. The methods under
- electromagnetic induction
- radio (such as microwaves)
By using electromagnetic induction, an AC current passes through a coil to change a magnetic
field, transmitting electricity to the coil on the receiver. In a prototype of the system a card-sized
solar cell combined with a Li-polymer rechargeable battery as the transmitter have been used.
Power generated by the solar cell is first stored in the Li-polymer battery, and then transmitted to
the receiving equipment when needed.
By utilizing light, electricity is converted into laser light for transmission. An 800 nm wavelength
laser through an optical fiber to prevent light leaks is used. The fiber is a step index (SI) quartz-
based fiber with transmission losses of 4.7 dB/km and in experiments about 2.3 W over a distance
of 200 m, with an output voltage of +5 V, have been sent.
In a system based on sound energy is passed between a pair of piezoelectric devices. With
ultrasonic waves about 20 kHz, an experimental system has already successfully transmitted a
fraction of a mW of power over a distance of 1 m.
Also large-scale radio transmission is being studied by organizations such as the National Space
Development Agency of Japan (NASDA, which has now merged into Japan Aerospace
Exploration Agency JAXA). In their plan large arrays of solar panels in orbit beam generated
electricity to Earth by using microwaves. NASDA hopes to deploy the system in 2020, with a
target of about 1 GW of power at the point of connection to the commercial energy grid.
4.3. Micro fuel cells as power source
Japan seems to be determined that fuel cells will become an important power source for mobile
devices. With current batteries it is difficult to significantly increase battery capacity and
therefore expectations for fuel cells as a new power source are growing. NEC, Sony and Toshiba,
as well as dozens of other companies are in the process of developing ever smaller fuel cells to
replace rechargeable batteries in laptops, cameras, cell phones etc.
NEC has demonstrated a fuel-cell powered laptop which can operate 5 hours before a methanol
refill is needed. The laptop weighs 2 kg but NEC plans to start selling a lighter version in 2004
and also to lengthen the „battery-life‟ of the cell. The current version has a power output density
of 40 mW/cm2, an average output of 14 W and a maximum output of 24 W. It uses 300 cc of 10%
methanol per fuel cell cartridge. The electrodes of the cell are made of carbon nanotubes, which
offer better performance than activated carbon.
Toshiba has developed a fuel cell battery for mobile phones and PDAs which it expects to
commercialize in 2005. The weight of the battery is 130 g and its dimensions are 100x60x30 mm.
The volume of methanol solution used is 25 cm3, which gives an average output of 1 W and
supplies power for 20 hours.
Also Sanyo, the world‟s largest manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, plans to release compact
fuel cells to power portable electronic devices by 2005.
4.4. Environmental issues
Electronics industry is giving more and more attention to environmental issues when designing
products and planning their manufacture. The Japan Electronics & Information Technology
Industries Association (JEITA) has announced new guidelines for the procurement of
components to produce eco-friendly products).The guidelines will make it easier for
manufacturers to see eco-friendliness of the components, and on the other hand simplifies the
reporting procedures of the component suppliers. More information at:
Major Japanese manufacturers are individually making various efforts to prove their eco-
awareness. Matsushita Electric Industrial announced that its group companies will meet the EU‟s
RoHS requirements (banning the use of lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, cadmium and
bromine based flame retardants) starting from April 2005. Sony, Canon and NEC along with
some other manufacturers are taking the initiative to jointly create toxic-free procurement system
in response to the EU restrictions. The group aims to create common standards for the restricted
materials, their permissible content levels and their measurement. Canon is also developing a
system that will evaluate the total environmental impact of a product during its entire life cycle,
which will make it possible to compare environmental burdens of products even before test
production begins. The data can also be publicly disclosed for new products launched.
As for recycling, the Japanese legislation stipulates that TV sets, air-conditioners, washing
machines and refrigerators must be 50-60% recyclable. In response to these laws, Matsushita
Electric Industrial has established an advanced recycling plant called Matsushita Eco-Technology
Center. Consumers have to pay up to 4600 JPY to dispose of these appliances. The law also
requires that PC manufacturers collect and recycle all PCs they sell. NEC and Fujitsu, for
example, charge 3000 JPY for collecting PCs or displays.
The budget request for FY 2004 released in August 2003 indicates that the Japanese government
may increase nanotechnology R&D budget for 2004 by over 20% compared with 2003, when the
budget totaled roughly 1 billion USD.
Various players in the industry working on nanotechnology related R&D in Japan are joining
forces to promote the commercialization of nanotechnology. Some 250 companies have in
October 2003 formed a nanotechnology promotion body called „Nanotechnology Business
Creation Initiative‟ (http://www.nbci.jp). To accelerate the commercialization of nanotechnology
inventions, the organization will aim at promoting corporate tie-ups, start-ups and technology
transfers. According to a survey conducted by Nikkei Research Institute also venture capital
investment in nanotechnology in FY 2002 more than tripled to 1.3 billion JPY, although total
venture capital investments in the same period decreased 30% from the previous fiscal year.
Venture investment in nanotechnology was, however, still quite modest compared with
bioventures (8.8 billion JPY) and information technology sector (24.5 billion JPY).
Progress has been made in production of nanomaterials that could be utilized in electronics
applications. Osaka University and Kochi University of Technology have developed a synthesis
method that yields carbon nanotubes with lengths of 50-100 microns in a density of 1 billion
nanotubes per cm2. Arrays of this kind of nanotubes could be used as capacitors, but with greater
charge storage capacity. Following figure shows one roadmap for the utilization of carbon
nanotubes in electronics devices (source: Nikkei Electronics):
NEC has improved the production process of carbon nanohorns, used for electrodes for fuel cells,
so that production rate is about 100 g/h. About 1 g of carbon nanohorns will be needed for one
cell, and with the current process the cost of a fuel cell is reduced to 10 000 JPY.
The overall confidence in the potential of nanotechnology related products was confirmed by a
recent corporate survey by Nikkei. According to the survey, half of the 240 respondents were
interested in developing products based on nanotubes and other nanomaterials, and expect
nanotechnology to evolve into market worth of 2 trillion JPY by 2005. The technologies found
important by the respondents were „microfabrication technologies‟ and „nanoparticles‟, and the
often quoted goals in both cases were miniaturization and energy conservation.
4.6. Microfluidics & Microsystems
A comprehensive report on Japanese R&D activities related to MEMS, including microfluidics
and bio-MEMS, can be found at: http://wtec.org/mems1/
The 10-year-long Micromachine Technology Project, which was financed by METI, developed
basic technologies and helped Japanese companies to establish skills for further MEMS and
microfabrication development. As a part of a new program „FOCUS21‟, designed to accelerate
the commercialization of innovative technologies, METI has reserved a budget of roughly 2.1
billion JPY for the promotion of the Japanese MEMS industry in the fiscal 2003. NEDO (New
Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation, http://www.nedo.go.jp), which
operates under the auspices of METI, has chosen to promote the commercialization of sensor
MEMS, optical MEMS and RF MEMS devices under the FOCUS21. These show promise for
commercialization in the short term, while for example bio-MEMS or microfluidic systems are
promising from a long-term perspective.
Also, a well-established foundry infrastructure is considered a prerequisite for accelerating the
commercialization of MEMS devices, and consequently seven Japanese MEMS foundry
providers (Oki Electric Industry, Omron, Olympus Optical, Hitachi, Fujikura, Matsushita Electric
Works and Fuji Research Institute) are currently assessing the establishment of a Foundry
Network System, that would enable MEMS fabrication to be performed jointly by several
4.7. Networked home appliances
Encouraged by the rapid growth of residential broadband access, several consumer electronics
manufacturers have been proposing to link a variety of electronic devices over a network. So far,
however, there has not been any strong demand for networked appliances. For example, various
ideas have been presented for controlling household appliances via the Internet, but it is unclear
how much consumers are willing to pay for such functions. Audio-visual equipment enabled for
content delivery has similarly failed to take off in the market. Contrary to these applications, anti-
theft and surveillance functionality seems to be an emerging trend in home networking. Many
large companies, e.g. Matsushita Electric Industrial, have started selling net-enabled security
devices and home networking services.
As a latest development in this field, Sanyo Electric Co, Ltd announced that it has developed a
home network integration system that interconnects competitors' home appliances based on
different technical specifications. The appliances included in the „DarWIN‟ system are networked
household electrical appliances, digital home appliances and crime/disaster prevention systems.
The integration system can be configured to automatically control various appliances in a home
according to information transferred from sensors that have detected, for example, a trespasser or
an unusual change in temperature or humidity. The system, which is implemented on a home
server and a remote controller with a touch panel, supports ECHONET and Universal Plug and
Play for communications.
5. Digital media in Japan
5.1. Digital TV
Terrestrial digital TV broadcasting was launched in Japan on 1st December 2003. At the moment
the service area includes only the cities of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, but nationwide coverage
should be achieved by the end of 2006.
Digital broadcasting in Japan uses a proprietary standard, ISDB-T, which is based COFDM like
DVB-T, but has highly technical time interleaving and band segmentation which make digital
signals stronger in Japan's mountainous terrain. ISDB-T system segments the elemental OFDM
carriers into groups which can be transmitted with independent OFDM modes. Thus a single
transmission can service a robust mobile application and a higher data rate fixed reception
application at the same time. Also, the DVB-T family of transmission modes has been extended
by the option to include time interleaving.
For a more detailed description of the evolvement of digital broadcasting and standardization in
Japan see the following article “Trends in Digital Terrestrial Broadcasting”:
An introduction of the ISDB-T system can be found at:
So far, however, only some 300 000 digital broadcasting compliant TV sets have been shipped
although there are 12 million households in the current digital TV service area. Digital
broadcasting compliant TV sets are still rather expensive and a digital TV set top box costs 80
000 JPY (610 EUR). Also, to enable nationwide digital broadcasting will still require large
investments from the broadcasters (several hundreds of billions of JPY), which is a serious
burden especially for smaller TV stations.
Nevertheless, because of HDTV imagery terrestrial digital broadcasting has given a boost to sales
of flat panel TVs, both LCD and plasma. Some retailers have reported that sales have doubled
since last year, and also manufacturers of flat panel TVs say that they are producing at full
capacity in order to meet the demand. So far sales have mainly resulted from smaller models as
bigger ones are still quite expensive. 32-inch LCD TVs are priced at about 500 000 JPY (3 800
EUR) and 42-inch plasma TV sets at about 600 000 JPY (4 600 EUR).
Following figure shows the market shares of manufacturers both in the LCD and PDP TV market
in Japan. Most manufacturers have announced strong growth targets for their market shares
indicating a tough competition in future.
Manufacturer shares in Japan LCD TV market
LG Electronics Hitachi
Japanese LCD TV market
Manufacturer shares in Japan PDP TV market
Victor Co Other
Japanese PDP TV market
Sony is also developing a mini single-segment digital broadcast tuner module, which enables the
addition of digital terrestrial TV and DAB functionality to handheld devices such as mobile
phones and PDAs. The BTD-ZJ611 module, with external dimensions of approximately 20 mm x
16 mm x 2 mm, addresses the two major hurdles to TV-equipped mobile phones: battery life and
bulk. The power consumption is less than 150 mW. The chip has a digital interface to simplify
integration into other digital devices as a PDA, laptops and mobile phones, and can receive a
common VHF (channels 1-12) and UHF (channels 13-62) radio signal input.
Sony’s single-segment digital broadcast tuner module
5.2. Electronic paper
Several Japanese companies are working on the development of ultra-thin displays or electronic
Toppan Printing is using printing techniques to form circuit patterns on very thin plastic films to
make the same kind of thin film transistors (TFT) that are put on glass plates to produce
conventional LCDs. Owing to simple production technology, the cost of making the displays will
be only 1/10 of that of similar products that use conventional techniques. The company aims to
have commercial products ready by about 2008. Currently, TFT circuitry is formed on glass
panels using vapor deposition of metal films to make LCDs. Toppan Printing's technology does
not use glass, so the displays can be lighter and thinner. In addition, the TFTs themselves are only
50 microns thick, compared to 2 mm for the thinnest TFTs currently made. Once the displays are
covered with such materials as color filters and surface films, they are still less than 1mm thick,
allowing them to be rolled up.
Hitachi with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology and
Optoelectronic Industry and Technology Development Association is also developing technology
to produce transistors for electronic paper displays. They are using printing technology and
special organic materials to reduce the thickness of transistors to less than 1 mm. The
organizations aim to produce prototypes of ultra-thin display panels in order to bring the products
to market in 2008.
Soken Chemical & Engineering is developing two-color microparticles for use in electronic paper
and plans to commercialise them within next 3 years. The particles will be based on acrylic resin,
with half of the spherical surface coloured with carbon and the other half with titanium dioxide.
When voltage is applied the particles invert and thereby enable display of characters etc.
As for commercialization of electronic paper media, nineteen Japanese electronics companies,
publishing houses and other firms announced in September 2003 that they will form a consortium
to promote the use of eBooks and the devices that display them. The alliance, the Electric Book
Business Consortium, will seek to promote widespread use of such devices, as well as the
practice of reading books using such gadgets. The companies include Toshiba Corp., Matsushita
Electric Industrial Co., Kenwood Corp., Iwanami Shoten Publishers, Keiso-Shobo Publishing Co.,
Dai Nippon Printing Co. and Softbank Corp.
The consortium will form several working groups that will discuss the e-book platform and
business, compression technologies, international collaboration, e-book distribution and how e-
books can revitalize existing bookshops. The consortium said it will accept multiple display
formats and viewing platforms. No specific data format is defined for e-books at present. The
consortium intends to work with existing book distribution systems, which comprise publishers,
wholesale agents and bookstores. Also, the consortium will consider making cell phones one of
its e-book viewer platforms.
Though the consortium said it intends to support multiple data formats and e-book viewers,
Matsushita has already developed a prototype e-book viewer and the consortium will initially
promote e-books suited for that viewer. Matsushita‟s Sigma Book consists of two A5-size LCD
panels facing each other and it displays pages of books electronically downloaded from the
Internet or via special downloading terminals expected to be installed at bookstores across Japan.
The Sigma Book, which will sell for roughly 30 000 JPY, is designed to replicate the precise look
of pages in conventional books and comics.
In November 2003, Sony with 14 other companies, including publisher Shinchosha as well as Dai
Nippon Printing and Toppan Printing, jointly established an e-book publishing company. The
new company will provide rental ebooks, which users can download and then read in a certain
period of time on a PC or a special ebook reader currently under preparation. The prototype is
based on E Ink‟s epaper display, in the development of which also Toppan Printing and Philips
In the future these two groups may share the content data format(s), but in terms of ebook
distribution they may compete.
6. Space technology and positioning
On 1st October 2003, the following three organizations merged into one independent
administrative institution called Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA, www.jaxa.jp):
- Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS)
- National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL)
- National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA)
JAXA is now the Japanese organization in charge of space exploration, from basic research to
development as well as practical applications.
As for positioning applications, there is said to be no other country where the GPS system is as
heavily used as in Japan. Almost 10 million Japanese drivers rely on dashboard GPS systems in
their navigation and according to some sources there are also about 4 million mobile phones
equipped with GPS receivers in use in Japan. However, as a response to growing concern about
dependence on a US government system and in order to improve the coverage and accuracy of
positioning systems, Japan is looking into so-called Quasi-Zenith Satellite System (QZSS) to
augment the GPS system.
The current GPS satellite constellation offers limited availability in Japan, which has very
mountainous terrain and also „urban canyons‟ in metropolitan areas. By launching a few satellites
so that one of them is always at a high-elevation angle over Japan the positioning accuracy would
be significantly improved, even to an accuracy level of 25 cm according to some estimates.
Signals from QZSS would be GPS compatible. The system envisages the launch of three satellites
in 2008, which would fly in orbit over Japan along a trajectory resembling the number 8.
The QZSS is considered as a multimission satellite system for mobile communications, mobile
broadcasting and positioning and it is planned under government-private sector co-operation.
From government side JAXA is involved with the development work and the private sector has
formed a consortium called Advanced Space Business Corporation (www.asbc.jp) to promote the
project. The consortium consists of some 40 companies, including Mitsubishi Electric, Hitachi,
Toyota Motor, Itochu, and NEC Toshiba Space Systems. Government‟s role is mainly to support
the development and launch of the system, while private sector would pay for operating the
JAXA is proposing to the QZSS plan a High Accuracy Positioning Experiment System which
- developing a high accuracy positioning satellite technology
- improving GPS signal availability for GPS users
- providing a test bed for research on advanced high accuracy GPS augmentation
7. Healthcare applications
Japanese medical institutions are under great pressure to improve their efficiency and ICT is
certainly something that has a lot of potential in terms of improving the efficiency of
administration and management of operations. Also the government of Japan has recognized the
importance of this and has selected medical services as one of the seven main focus areas in the
promotion of effective ICT utilization in its recently updated „e-Japan Strategy II‟.
Some Japanese hospitals have already built very sophisticated hospital information systems, and
judging by the great number of public tenders for integrated hospital information systems the
trend seems to be growing. However, according to a medical industry specialist, not all of these
hospitals have fully utilized the potential of these systems for the management of hospital.
Apparently the systems have been used mainly just for collection and storage of data, and it is
only recently that hospitals have started to actively utilize the data for improving the efficiency of
hospital operations. Due to lack of system integration and interoperability, sharing of information
between hospital information systems is still very limited. The leading providers of hospital
information systems in Japan are Fujitsu, NEC, IBM, Hitachi and Toshiba. On the academic side,
University hospital Medical Information Network was established in 1989 for sharing latest
information and to promote communication among healthcare professionals.
7.1. Examples of advanced ICT utilization in hospitals
No uniform model hospital concept seems to exist in Japan (apart from some architectural
models), but following are a few examples of Japanese hospitals that have pioneered in
improving their administration and management of operations, mainly through development and
adoption of ICT applications. Altogether there are thousands of hospitals and clinics in Japan,
most of which probably are exploring the opportunities created by adoption of various ICT
applications, but these examples describe some of the cases that have attracted most attention.
The University of Tokyo Hospital
The University of Tokyo Hospital has 1200 beds and a staff of about 2000. In addition to
inpatient care the hospital also handles an average of 3000 thousand visits by outpatients every
day. In 2002, 29 724 surgical procedures (of which 19 862 anesthetic) were performed in the
hospital, and in the same year the central laboratory of the hospital handled 6 573 968 tests. The
hospital is running at about 90% capacity utilization rate, but is trying to increase this further. The
hospital also aims at shortening the average length of stay at the hospital, which was 23 days in
In its new 14 floor building, taken into use in 2001, the hospital has implemented a wireless
mobile computing system consisting of wireless local area network and handheld computers
integrating a laser bar code scan engine. Using the handheld computer, which is about the size of
a PDA, care personnel can scan a patient‟s bar code identification from the patient‟s wristband to
instantly access the patient‟s medical history and medication dosage information on the hospital
server. The medication and dosage is then logged into the handheld computer which then checks
and confirms the information in the hospital database. At the moment, the applications of the
system are still limited to certain kinds of care procedures, such as giving blood transfusions, but
the hospital is continuously working on to expand the uses of the new system. For example,
software is currently being developed to allow inputting the vital signs of a patient by the bed
directly by using the handheld computer.
According to the hospital, the new system, combined with the central database of the hospital that
includes the medical records in electronic format, has significantly improved employee efficiency
and patient care while reducing errors when administering medication. The information system
has led to a reduction of paper documentation, which is seen as the main source of patient care
and medication errors. Also, it has made it faster for doctors to prescribe some medication or tests
for patients simply by choosing the relevant procedures from the menus on the screen. Similarly
test results are directly put into the database in the laboratory when they become available.
Furthermore, cost information has been included in the database which has made it easier for
hospital administration to keep track of the actual costs accrued. The wireless mobile computing
system is based on a US company Symbol‟s technology which worked together with Fujitsu and
Nihon Kohden to develop the system as implemented at the University of Tokyo Hospital.
Logistics is another field where there is potential for major improvements. According to some
studies, as much as 46% of a hospital‟s total operating budget is spent on logistics related
activities, and often it is the internal supply chain of a hospital that has been the most difficult to
integrate. To overcome logistics related problems, the University of Tokyo Hospital has built a
very efficient supply, processing and distribution system (SPD) which enables just-in-time
delivery of supplies to nurse stations where they are needed. The system consists of a intricate
system of tubes inside walls, along which small containers move to the wards from the control
center. The system incorporates a computerized tracking mechanism which can automatically
route supplies around congested areas in the system. In addition to speed, another benefit
resulting from the system are reduced inventories.
Also the care process for outpatients has been made more efficient. When patients arrive at the
clinic with their hospital ID cards, they are given pagers along with their appointment time. They
can then move around the hospital lobby area or eat a meal in a restaurant until they paged to the
examination room. Examination rooms are connected to the hospitals information system, where
doctors can view the details including a patient‟s previous visits, test results, examination notes
and other particulars. Moreover, if the doctor needs to retrieve more information about an illness,
he can call up an online textbook or manual right in the exam room. Also tests or appointments
with specialists can be easily scheduled by clicking on appropriate icons and requesting time.
When a patient arrives at the laboratory, his ID card is read at the reception desk and the patient
can proceed to the test. The test results are then fed back into the database of patient records so
that the referring doctor can see them as soon as they arrive.
Kameda Medical Center
Kameda Medical Center has been cited as the most advanced IT hospital in Japan, even in the
whole world by some sources. Kameda has pioneered in the development of its electronic
medical record system and its telemedicine system, in addition to which it is famous for its strong
customer focus. The center is a private hospital having 850 beds and it treats daily about 2 500
Kameda started the development of its own electronic medical record system, called KAI, in 1991,
and it has since then been introduced to about 20 other hospitals or clinics in Japan. The hospital
says that one factor for the success of KAI was that it was developed by its technology
development branch, Kameda Health Informatics Institute, together with a Kameda group
company, Apius.com, exactly to the needs and patterns of the Kameda Medical Center, instead of
building it on software developed elsewhere. This way it was guaranteed that the system was
developed so that doctors and nurses would not need to make major changes to the way they
work and the system could be easily adopted. The KAI system has been patented also in the US
and the EU and has enabled Kameda Medical Center to become a virtually paperless ,and filmless,
hospital. Owing to usage of digital images and their integration with electronic medical records,
the need for storing images on films has been eliminated.
Patient data is collected at the point-of-care to the patient records by attending nurses or doctors.
The system is also capable of checking if e.g. a drug prescribed to a patient might lead to
complications due to other concurrently prescribed drugs. Kameda, too, is utilizing wireless LAN
and in addition to desktop computers care personnel can access KAI by their wireless laptops
from anywhere in the hospital. As for mobile handheld devices, the hospital is not planning to
extend the system to include this kind of terminals due to limited screen size and difficulty of data
In 2002 Kameda expanded the EMR system by making it possible for doctors to examine almost
the entire contents of medical files at Kameda over the Internet from any location. At the same
time, the hospital also provided IC cards to some 1 000 patients who were interested in checking
their own medical records by using a computer equipped with a card reader. The patients can
access the system, called Planet, either from their homes, or from the about 100 PCs that will be
set up at medical institutions and public facilities in the Kamogawa area with government
subsidies. For security reasons data is encrypted, and patients can also request that unwanted
information be deleted from their data before it is put online.
Kitasato Institute Hospital
Kitasato Institute Hospital implemented a comprehensive hospital information system in its new
facility opened in 1999. The new system developed in co-operation with NEC and it was
designed to integrate a number of separate systems handling different operations such as order
placement, testx and billing. The new system enables information to be shared through all the
hospital's PC terminals via a LAN that runs throughout the hospital.
The HIS is built around the ordering system, and consists of subsystems for handling radiology
information, images, clinical tests, hospital meals (nutrition management), medical records,
hospital administration, and health tests. All the subsystems are based on NEC packaged software,
which were used with minimal customization for time and cost savings.
As a part of the system, registered patients can complete the reception procedure simply by
passing a hospital reception card through card-reader. Doctors can conduct examinations while
viewing the patient's basic data or test results, and can enter orders for required tests or drugs via
a computer, which directly forwards the instructions to the relevant department. Also the results
of tests and examinations are immediately forwarded to the hospital administration system.
The system has effectively reduced waiting time for patients and increased the efficiency of
operations. In addition to facilitating the use of accumulated medical data, the system puts more
emphasis on communication with the patients and thereby promotes what the hospital calls
patient-centered medical care. When operations such as tests and prescriptions require less time
and effort the care staff can use more time for communicating with patients, enabling them to
provide the most effective treatment to meet the needs of each patient. Also the accuracy of the
above mentioned hospital operations has improved along with improved communications
Based on the doctor-patient communication Kitasato Institute Hospital has developed the so-
called NEOCIS concept to improve the quality of care. It is basically a form of knowledge
management that combines evidence based medicine and narrative information obtained from
patient through communication to offer optimum medical care for the patient.
7.2. Electronic medical records
A central part of the hospital information systems are electronic medical records (EMR), which
are currently getting a lot of attention in Japan, both from regulators and from system developers.
Deployment of EMRs is gaining popularity and for example in the International Modern Hospital
Show 2003 a significant part of the exhibits were different kinds of EMR solutions and image
processing techniques that work in connection to EMRs.
From regulatory point of view, medical records in electric format are now accepted without any
obligation to keep records on paper in parallel with EMR. In fact, the Ministry of Health, Labour
and Welfare has set as target that main medical institutions introduce electronic medical record
systems in fiscal 2004. According to the ministry about 15% of large hospitals have already
introduced such systems, although they are still mainly operated within the institution. Although
the benefits of EMRs, such as increasing the efficiency of hospital operations, is generally
recognized in Japan, some doctors have criticized EMRs because they can make their workload
bigger due to the difficulty of data input. It seems that there is still plenty of room for
improvement in the user interface of EMR systems to enable fast input of all appropriate data.
Sharing of EMRs between medical institutions is still modest, largely due to incompatibility
problems. Incompatibility stems not only from differences in the technologies of the systems but
often also from lack of uniform terminology. Doctors in different hospitals use medical
terminology somewhat differently, making it difficult for doctors in other hospitals to fully
comprehend the patient‟s history only on the basis of the description in the patient‟s
EMR. The Medical Information System Development Center is working towards standardization
and R&D of medical information systems, including EMRs, in Japan. From technical point of
view, Japanese Association of Healthcare Information System Industry is working towards the
same goal. As one solution to incompatibility problems, researchers at University of Ryukyus and
Chiba University Hospital have developed so called Template Definition Language (TDL) to act
as a platform-independent language for describing the contents and structures of EMR templates,
which may thus be exchanged between institutions using different platforms.
Also, the reluctance of some doctors and hospitals to disclose patient information to other
medical institutions, or even to the patients themselves, has been hindering the sharing of medical
records between institutions. However, the mindset is gradually changing and the parliament is
currently discussing legislation that would oblige medical institutions to release the medical
records to patients.
Security is a major concern in sending medical records from one institution to another. In addition
to IC cards and encryption, as described in the Kameda example, biometrics is expected to
become a common security measure in these applications. In June 2003, big Japanese firms
developing or using biometrics technologies formed a consortium to promote the development of
these technologies in Japan and this consortium sees electronic medical records as one main
application area for biometrics.
Not only biometrics companies, but also telecommunication carriers view electronic medical
records as a promising business area. In order to protect the privacy of patient information, KDDI
is developing secure medical-use high-speed communications network together with
Telecommunications Advancement Organisation of Japan. They plan to conduct field-tests with
Hokkaido University and other institutions in 2004. Encryption technologies will be used to block
unauthorized access to the network and communications within the network will be implemented
in peer-to-peer format enabling computers at different hospitals have direct communications with
each other. NTT, too, has been developing a dedicated network for electronic medical records. In
the NTT system, medical data will be stored at NTT‟s control center and made available to those
who have an IC card incorporating an electronic key.
7.3. Networks of medical institutions
Although generally information sharing between medical institutions is still rather modest,
recently some examples of sharing patient information online have emerged.
Wakashio Network, launched by Togane Hospital in 2002, which links 15 clinics, pharmacies and
home nursing centers in the same local area is somewhat similar to the Planet system developed
by Kameda Medical Center. All these institutions can share patient records, with the hospital
functioning as a hub.
Also a Japanese medical solution provider Secom Medical System has launched so-called
ubiquitous electronic medical record system which allows authorized personnel (and patients) to
access EMRs on a central server from anywhere they happen to be. In this case, too, identification
is realized by IC cards.
Local government of Shikoku, the smallest of Japan‟s four main islands with some 4 million
inhabitants, has been conducting Shikoku Electronic Patient Record Network project since 1999.
The systems aims at connecting clinics to a core hospital in each prefecture but also at enhancing
co-operation between clinics. Every prefecture would have a prefectural data center, in addition
to which all hospitals and clinics would have access to common medical data center for the whole
Shikoku area through a VPN. Similar VPN based core hospital-clinic network has also been
proposed by Yokosuka Medical Association in Yokosuka area in Kanagawa prefecture.
The Japan Medical Association Research Institute (JMARI), too, has taken steps towards
networking hospital computers. For the last two year the association has been working on so-
called ORCA (Online Receipt Computer Advantage) project, which has developed a medical fee
processing system making it easier for doctors to calculate the subsidies to be billed from public
health insurance programs. ORCA medical networking does not include EMR, at least not yet,
although some experts say that IPv6 was adopted as the ORCA protocol so that it would enable
sharing of EMRs in future.
In the field of telemedicine, Japan has built a few successful pilot cases especially for
telehomecare applications. For example, in Katsurao village in Fukushima prefecture remote
medical services using ISDN connections, videophones and database technology began to be
provided as the community‟s primary medical infrastructure in 1999. In this system images, voice
and health data are sent through a home patient terminal to a hospital allowing the patients to be
examined by a physician and receive prescriptions for a medicine without having to travel to the
hospital. This is a significant benefit especially for elderly people, in addition to which it also
results in lower traveling costs. In the Katsurao pilot project, videophones and data transmission
infrastructure is provided by NTT, while Sanyo and NEC have developed the remote monitoring
In order to expand the possibilities of telemedicine, KDDI has together with Tokyo Medical and
Dental University built a system for sending complex medical data over a fiber-optic network. In
an experiment video images taken with an endoscope at the Musashino Red Cross Hospital were
sent to Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital for diagnosis. Until that data transmitted
online was limited mainly to still images of CT scans and x-rays.
With a similar goal, Tohoku University and Keio University have joined forces to develop an
advanced video communications system for transmitting ultra high quality video images for
medical purposes. The project combines the expertise of Tohoku University in large-size displays
and Keio‟s skills in optical fiber technologies.
Japan is also developing robot technology that enables surgeons to perform very fine-scale
operations which currently are beyond the ability of unassisted human hands. When robot
technology becomes mature for surgical purposes and it is connected with high quality video
images systems that can in principle also enable remote-controlled surgery one day.
The Kyushu University Hospital has implemented a system designed to provide remote support
for endoscopic surgery using a high-speed Internet link between the cities of Fukuoka in Japan
and Seoul in South Korea. The system was developed together with Olympus Optical, Fujitsu
Nishi-Nihon Communication Systems, the Genkai Project Association and Kyushu Electric
Power. The link represents the first international high-speed Internet connection completed in
Japan that has been created specifically to support tele-surgery. The connection bandwith for the
link between Kyushu University Hospital and National Cancer Center (S. Korea) is 70 Mbps and
it uses DVTS (Digital Video Transfer System). For security VPN configuration is used together
with signal encryption.
7.5. Medical Mobile Multimedia Information System
In order to expand the possibilities to access medical records through mobile networks,
researchers at Global Information and Telecommunication Institute of Waseda University have
suggested a so-called Medical Mobile Multimedia Information System (M3IS). The system is
based on the premise that each user should be able to access his medical record by a personal
mobile terminal. M3IS would function as an interface with the ability to integrate data capturing,
browsing and processing of medical information such as personal EMR, personal current medical
condition monitored via wearable devices, educational content in medicine and regional medical
related information, such as addresses of clinics. The system would be using information from
several different sources, which however is considered necessary in order to provide all the
relevant information to the user. In addition to mobility the system also puts emphasis on
multimedia capabilities to present the data in sufficient quality. Compatibility with various global
standards should be taken into consideration, too, when building such a system.
The research lists a number of enabling technologies for content generation and description in
M3IS. As mechanisms to generate content correctly and efficiently, Japanese organization called
Advanced Institute of Wearable Environmental Information Network (NPO WIN) is developing
healthcare applications of sensor-based networking technologies.
For image processing networked video authoring, transcoding system from real image into CG
and video mosaic technologies are expected to be developed.
For content description the following enabling technologies are proposed:
- medical data format: HL7 (Health Level 7), MML (Medical Markup Language), DICOM
(Digital Image and Communications in Medicine)
- location information data format: G-XML (Geography Extensible Markup Language) and GML
(Geography Markup Language)
- multimedia data format: MPEG-4 (Motion Pictures Coding Experts Group – 4), X3D
(Extensible 3D), JPEG2000 (Joint Photographic Experts Group 2000) and MPEG-7
To facilitate data collection, storage and management, miniaturization of wearable sensors and
storage devices, development of networks such PAN (Personal Area Network) and BAN (Body
Area Network) over wireless technologies as well as networked home appliances with IPv6 are
considered to be important.
7.6. Mobile Remote Patient Monitoring
Before mobile access to medical records becomes a reality, mobile networks will probably first
be used for remote patient monitoring. Mobile remote physiological monitoring (MRPM) systems
are under development to allow patients to remain mobile while medical personnel or medical
information systems can continue to monitor their physiological condition. Such system not only
helps control the costs but also improves the quality of care as more frequent or continuous
monitoring of patients can easily be achieved. Also inclusion of actuators which can deliver
medicine or other stimulus to the patient based on software or remote commands is being studied.
According to researchers at Global Information and Telecommunication Institute of Waseda
University a typical MRPM system would consist of the following components:
- sensors and actuators
Development of sensors and actuators relies heavily on complementary technological
progress in miniaturization, power efficiency, authentication and security solutions.
- BAN protocol
Most tests on body area networks use standardized protocols, among which
Bluetooth/802.15 and ZigBee seem to be dominant.
- BAN application platform
Application platform is probably the component of most design and functional
uncertainty at the moment. Because it is likely that the systems will be deployed by using
standard mobile phones or PDAs, the approach in most development projects seems to be
for the BAN application to be able to run on various operating systems in cross-platform
Java application environment or similar.
- relay terminals
There are three possible categories for relay terminals: high capability PDAs, mobile
phones and customized „black-box‟ type relay devices.
- mobile network
While systems could also run over wireless LANs, the focus in development is on wide-
area mobile telecommunications networks. How to deal with non-coverage or congestion
is also an important consideration when designing the system.
- connection to medical facility
In the connection between the network operator and data collection/patient monitoring
facility, it is expected that authentication and encryption will be done between the BAN
application platform and the receiving software. In case of large facilities, a dedicated
line or the establishment of a VPN may also be relevant.
- medical information system
Options for processing the data at the receiving end can vary from web-browser based
solutions to dedicated software. Depending on standardization and configurability the
monitoring data could be integrated to EMR system, too.
The components of MRPM systems as listed above are still at different levels of maturity and
being developed by separate industries. Although there are many opportunities for development
in each of the component markets, the key players in coordinating the MRPM market will be
integrators of technology which function as service providers for institutions and individuals.
Strict legal and regulatory medical device approval processes are likely to affect the deployment
and also standardization of these systems.