Saturday, June 28, 2014

No. 843: NTT DoCoMo develops a remote management system for livestock (June 28, 2014)

NTT DoCoMo concluded a two-year agreement with National Federationof Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh) on the joint development of systems that utilize smartphone for livestock farmers. As the first product, the company will market a cow delivery monitoring system through Zen-Noh’s marketing channel within the month. The system figures out the delivery date by analyzing the temperature change shown by the temperature sensor attached to a cow and sends information to the smartphone of the livestock farmer. It can help farmers reduce the labor to monitor a cow expected to deliver shortly and reduce the number of fatal accidents in delivery considerably. It is priced at 300,000 yen excluding the communication charge. NTT DoCoMo plans to sell 10,000 livestock farmers in four years.

The two organizations will develop a system to monitor the change of body temperature of calves and piglets and inform livestock farmers of their disease immediately to help them take necessary measures as soon as possible. At the same time, they will merge the functions of the management system that Zen-Noh provides to farmers with the functions provided by smartphone and tablet computer to help farmers input and output information without a PC. IT application is somewhat behind in the livestock industry. NTT DoCoMo plans to put more energy in the machine-to-machine (M2M) field, and the alliance with Zen-Noh is in line with the company strategy to develop the M2M market. A private research company predicts that the domestic IT-related business will grow about nine times from the level in 2013 to 600 billion yen in 2020 in the agricultural industry alone. 

 Increasing the efficiency of 
the livestock industry is under way

Friday, June 27, 2014

No. 842: Using an unmanned helicopter for material management (June 27, 2014)

Chiyoda Corporation, one of Japan’s leading engineering companies, will use an unmanned helicopter to manage materials for plant construction within the year. Plant construction usually takes 3-4 years, and nearly one million kinds of materials are stored in a vast material storing site. A large-scale construction project usually needs 300-350 staffs to manage materials. Chiyoda will introduce an unmanned helicopter loaded with the GPS function in the construction sites in the Southeast Asia and the Middle East within the year.

The helicopter in which the flight route is input beforehand will reads IC tags put on stored materials while it flies above 5-10 meters above the ground and takes photos to allow the operator to know the exact location of the material he is after. The helicopter to be introduced is made by enRoute that is a maker of radio-controlled products. It is priced about 750,000 yen a unit. The tag to be used in the material management is made of plastic and 0.8 mm thick, 100 mm long. It costs merely 50 yen apiece. Currently, a large number of staffs are required to manage materials in a storing site, and checking can be made several times a year. Chiyoda reckons that the unmanned helicopter can reduce the labor cost involved in materials management to one third. 

Spraying pesticide over paddy fields 
using an unmanned helicopter

Demonstration flight of an all-purpose 
unmanned helicopter

Thursday, June 26, 2014

No. 841: Toyota’s fuel-cell vehicle makes a debut within the year (June 26, 2014)

Business trend:
Toyota will put its fuel-cell vehicle on the market this year mainly in large metropolitan areas where networks of hydrogen filling stations are being built rapidly. The scheduled retail price is about 7,000,000 yen excluding tax, but the company wishes to reduce the price down to 5,000,000 yen by dint of government subsidy for the purchaser. It will also make strenuous efforts to reduce the production cost by increasing volume efficiency and reviewing materials, and ultimately it plans to reduce the price of a fuel cell vehicle to the same level of a hybrid vehicle of the same size in 2025.  

The fuel cell vehicle to be introduced in the market this year has a maximum cruising range of 700 km, about three times longer cruising range of an existing electric vehicle. It takes only three minutes to fill up hydrogen. The greatest problem with the spread of fuel cell vehicles is the shortage and installation cost of a hydrogen filling station. There are currently about 30 hydrogen filling stations, and it currently costs 300-500 million yen to install a hydrogen filling station. The central government has eased the regulations concerning hydrogen filling station to reduce the installation cost to 200 million yen in April this year. Toyota plans to export its fuel cell vehicles to western countries by the summer of 2015.

Let's try a Toyota's fuel-cell vichel