IBM, Apple Partnership Takes Aim at Japanese Seniors

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2015-05-04 Print this article Print
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The companies involved also are providing pioneering text analytics and accessibility technologies, many invented in IBM Research – Tokyo. These include Japanese natural language analysis and tracking to guide seniors and make the experience more natural.

The nationwide infrastructure of Japan Post Group has the ability to cover the "last mile" to virtually every citizen of Japan. In addition to 24,000 post offices and a workforce of 400,000, Japan Post Group has existing financial relationships with nearly all of the 115 million adults in Japan.

“What we're starting today draws on IBM's long heritage of innovation at the intersection of technology, business and society," said Ginni Rometty, president, chairman and CEO of IBM, in a statement. “The potential we see here -- as broad as national economics and as specific as the quality of life of individuals and their families -- is one example of the potential of mobile-led transformation anywhere in the world where issues of an aging population exist.”

“This initiative has potential for global impact, as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population, and we are honored to be involved in supporting Japan’s senior citizens and helping enrich their lives," said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, in a statement. “iPad is incredibly intuitive, easy to use and has accessibility features built in, making it a perfect device for any generation to be connected and engaged.”

Japan Post Group's postal operations include the national Watch Over service. For a nominal monthly fee, Japan Post Group personnel check in on elderly customers and assure families about the well-being of their relatives. That service can now be extended and enhanced with iPad, complementing the in-person monitoring. Japan Post Group will begin the pilot service in the second half of this year, which will be offered in conjunction with the Watch Over service. Pund-It’s King said he believes there are caveats and pitfalls for the partners to consider. “Any plan as large and ambitious as this one is bound to encounter problems along the way, including adequately training Japan Post employees and engaging with elders who are often technology-challenged,” he said. “Bringing hundreds of national and local agencies into the mix, along with millions of family members will also have to be effectively managed.”

Moreover, the initiative should serve as a valuable test bed for IBM and Apple that could lead to additional, similar projects, King said.

“If this initial effort succeeds, it could eventually impact tens of millions of elders worldwide and provide lucrative lines of business for the two companies,” he said. “Overall, we consider the new initiative between the Japan Post Group, IBM and Apple an intriguing effort that offers potentially valuable benefits for everyone involved. If the program succeeds, it is likely to be replicated in numerous other markets by IBM and Apple, and copied by numerous other vendors.”



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