Saturday, November 14, 2015

No. 885: Hitachi unveils its first prototype autonomous driving vehicle (November 14, 2015)

Hitachi built its first autonomous driving vehicle as a concept car. Based on Subaru’s vehicle, Hitachi’s prototype vehicle carries such important parts as control unit and sensors that are totally made by Hitachi. They include stereo camera, sound camera to tell the situation of the four areas around the vehicle, various sensors like long distance surveillance radar, a high-precision map that can tell the lanes on the express way precisely in coordination with GPS, and inter-vehicle communication device to detect the situation ahead.

Hitachi’s strategy is to be an Intel of the autonomous driving technology, saying “Hitachi inside.” Leading automakers are developing the autonomous driving technology independently, but Hitachi wishes to sell its system to small- and medium-size automakers. The autonomous driving market is expected to grow from 300 billion yen in 2015 to more than 1 trillion yen in 2020. Hitachi plans to increase its share in the autonomous driving market from the present  5% to 20% in 2020. 

Hitachi's autonomous driving technology

Toyota's autonomous driving technology

Nissan's autonomous driving technology

Monday, November 9, 2015

No. 884: Reducing the price of an LED material to one tenth (November 10, 2015)

Rengo, Japan’s leading cardboard manufacturer, is scheduled to start mass production of an LED material, which is one tenth in price of the existing material, at the beginning of 2016. The company successfully developed a fluorescent material to make LED lighting red without using rare earths. Combined with purple LED, it can create white color close to natural light.

The new product is a fluorescent material that grows red when it absorbs ultraviolet light. An LED light bulb uses several milligrams of this new product. It is created by applying the technology to mix lots of silver with zeolite that is used to make cardboards antibacterial. Traditionally, it costs much to produce the same kind of product because rare earths are required, and the traditional product is too hard to process. Because the new material can be mass produced without rare earths, it can simplify the production process of LEDs and will be applied to create anticounterfeit ink. 

Rengo's advanced technology active in business

Rengo's advanced technology active in logistics 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

No. 883: Smart forestry is growing widespread (November 2, 2015)

Smart forestry that utilizes information technology to forestry is growing widespread. Sumitomo Forestry has decided to exert more energy in forest management consulting in alliance with Nakanihon Air Service and a data analysis firm. Laser beams are irradiates form a helicopter to know the number of trees and forest density, and data and photos are analyzed constantly. A database is constructed and submitted to local governments to help them formulate guidelines for their forest management policies. Using Geographical Information System (GIS) is also increasing popular. The University of Tokyo started to survey using GIS with Jitsuta that is a survey company in Matsuyama of Shikoku. With the help of 3D scan system, they measure the number and figure of trees with three times more operating efficiency than in the past. Kamaishi Forest Owner’s Association actually used this system and found that the data amount increased three to four times bigger than in the past. The system currently costs 180,000 yen per hectare, but the cost is expected to go down as it grows more popular.  

Japanese forest land is 25 million hectare, and the volume of wood is 4.9 billion cubic meters that is 20% bigger as compared with that of 10 years ago. The number of forest workers was about 70,000 people, about 30% smaller than in 1990. Smart forestry is expected to make up for the decrease of forest workers. Iwafuji Industrial developed a system to several trees simultaneously using wires. This system increased the transportable amount of trees from 300,000 cubic meters to 500,000 cubic meters per day.

What is smart forestry?

High school students are learning about forestry.

No. 882: Nihon Kohden’s latest technology to keep watching the elderly (November 1, 2015)

Nihon Kohdan that is Japan’s largest maker of automated external defibrillators will launch a service named “Sukoyaka (Being healthy)” on November 30 to participate in the service to keep watching the elderly. A sensor installed inside the house detects such actions as standing up, getting seated, and walking of the elderly and digitalize them. The figures will be divided into 100 levels and uploaded on the special site every day. A figure that goes down suddenly indicates possible trouble, and an e-mail will be sent to family members to inform them of the possible trouble. The sensor is a little bigger than a PET bottle. Because it can also measure room temperature and humidity, it can prevent family members from suffering heat stroke. It comes with a meter to measure the amount of activity that can be carried whenever leaving home. It will be distributed by Yamada-Denki, Japan's largest distributor of home lectronics, that has already started to sell the service by subscription. The service is 89,800 yen excluding tax for the system, and the basic usage charge is 2,980 yen excluding tax per month is needed.

Secom that is Japan’s largest security company is scheduled to launch a wearable terminal in 2-3 years for keeping watching the elderly. The company has already started the service to keep watching the elderly for 24 hours in alliance with Tsukui that is one of the leading nursing service companies in Japan. When a user pulls a string, Secom’s terminal will be activated and security staffs will be dispatched. Japan Post will start demonstration experiments of a service for the elderly in alliance with IBM. The elderly respond to a question coming from the tablet “Have you taken medicine?” The answer the elderly make by pushing buttons will be transmitted to family members living apart to let them confirm the health of the elderly. Hitachi collects consumption of electricity and water supply of a household, and immediately informs people concerned of an irregularity whenever it occurs.  

 Nihon Kohden's electrocardiogram

Secom is active around the world

No. 881: TDK develops a highly heat resistant magnet without rare earth (October 31, 2015)

TDK developed a rare earth-free highly heat resistant magnet for the first time in the world. The new magnet does not deteriorate its property even at such as high temperature as 130 degrees centigrade. The company succeeded in eliminating the necessity of dysprosium that is very expensive because of limited source of supply: Dysprosium was close to 3,000 dollars per kilogram in 2011 because China is virtually the only source of supply. It improved the structure of materials and heat treatment process, and thereby it successfully made the new product entirely without dysprosium. Because the existing product can stand the heat up to 90 degrees centigrade, it can only be used for motors of hard disc drive. But the new product can be applied to electric power steering of vehicles because it does not deteriorate the property of magnet even at 130 degrees centigrade. The company already started the commercial production for several tons per month.

The market of magnets for industrial purposes is estimated at 100 billion yen worldwide, and Japanese companies, such as TDK, Hitachi Metals, and Shin-Etsu Chemical, have strong presence in the world market. Magnet manufacturers are actively involved in developing magnet with increased heat resistance. A magnet that can stand the heat up to 180 degrees centigrade can be used for motors of electric vehicles.   

The world of TDK products

TDK's advanced techology for HDD heads