Uncovering the Real Cool Japan- Part 4

After exploring product design, architecture and fashion in our bid to bring the “Cool Japan” campaign up to date with a contemporary and marketable image, we have dealt with the more creative side of the country. In Part 4 however we turn our attention to something a little less sexy but nonetheless every bit as “Cool Japan” if communicated correctly; Japan’s technology and innovation. We examine how Japan’s dominance in some markets has all but vanished but uncover how innovation is still very much alive and kicking in areas where the country could set global standards.


Japanese technology and innovation has been a leading light of the country for many years; however, in recent times, there has been a huge slowing down in the edge that the country once had over other nations. For example, the days of Japan’s mobile industry being years ahead of any other countries are now gone, as the world has caught up to the kinds of technology—such as mobile wallets—that the Japanese have had for years. As rising economies nip at its heels. China and India, which are both embracing capitalism and globalization at blindingly fast rates, don’t seem to struggle with the language and culture issues like Japan. This, combined with Japan’s lack of foresight on how they could market their technology globally, means that many areas have become stagnant. This being said however, there are still many areas of innovation and technology, often ignored by the media because they lack the “wacky” factor that unfortunately the world has come to expect, that are both groundbreaking and potentially globally influential. We explore just a few of many that, with the right strategy, could certainly be communicated as true symbols of a “Cool Japan.

Continue reading the full story “Uncovering The Real Cool Japan- Part Four” in full on the global blog where we look at how can Japan’s innovation can become synonymous with Cool Japan.

For those who missed it:
Uncovering the Real Cool Japan – Part One
Uncovering the Real Cool Japan – Part Two
Uncovering the Real Cool Japan – Part Three

Toshiba’s Smart City of Tomorrow

Toshiba have launched a new marketing campaign aimed at promoting their vision of the Smart Cities of the future. The, not hugely catchily titled, M/E/S/S/A/G/E “Symphonic Balance Of Smart Community” uses Facebook and is a pretty fun video that users can personalize.


The lego town in the video represents Toshiba’s smart city with the balls rolling around in it color coded to represent the different green energy alternatives or technologies needed for the community to function. Visitors to the site are instructed to link to their Facebook accounts and can then type in a personalized message into the site. A fun video is then played which features different avatars and characters from your Facebook friends as the balls which roll around the town symbolizing the ways in which energy and technology are used to make it function. The final scene then has the balls roll down to display your personalized message which can be captured and uploaded onto your Facebook wall.


The site also links to “Toshiba’s Technology Vision for Innovation” page which shows off some of the company’s leading technology that they see “contributing to safer and more comfortable lifestyles and a sustainable society”. As with many major industrial companies in Japan this year, Toshiba have ramped up their CSR activities since the energy concerns precipitated by the Fukushima power plant events, focusing particularly on society and new energy saving technology. Companies have seen the new focus on energy as an opportunity to push a message to the public showcasing their sustainable commodities in a way that isn’t just focusing on their reaction to environmental issues but more trying to prove that they are doing their part to help the country in it’s time of need and attain energy security.


It is this strategy, of focusing more on the concrete real issues that the public can actually see and benefit from, whether it be in staving off energy shortages or simply meaning lower prices for petrol, that stands to have far greater chance of success in driving new green technology, not just in Japan I would argue but further afield. Focusing on real tangible activity rather than the tired practices of images of polar bears or arctic ice melting, that the everyday consumer has no true connection with, which will align the consumer more coherently, and ultimately therefore really driving investment into sectors that work toward a real sustainable future.

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Inhabitat’s Week in Green: quantum levitation, Zombie-Powered Vertical Farm and Macquariums

Alternative transportation blasted off into the future this week as DeLorean revealed plans to launch an all-electric vehicle in 2013 and Richard Branson announced the official opening of the Virgin Galactic Gateway spaceport. Researchers also developed a next-gen quantum levitation technology that could lead to floating vehicles, and we spotted a cloud concept blimp that soars through the skies. We also brought you an exclusive interview with Revenge of the Electric Car director Chris Paine, and we shared a leaked brochure with specs on Toyota’s new Prius C.

Renewable energy also rocketed towards a more sustainable tomorrow as Japan’s team Tokai took first place in the World Solar Challenge and Apple filed a set of patents for next-generation solar technology. Meanwhile Facebook announced plans to launch a new energy efficiency app in 2012 and we launched a contest where you can win one of 25 $600 home energy audits. We also showcased a stunning set of satellite photos of the world’s power lines, and since Halloween is on its way, we brought you a Zombie-Powered Vertical Farm designed to keep its inhabitants safe from the Living Dead.

Speaking of Halloween, this week we shared instructions for making a DIY cardboard box robot costume, and we launched our 2011 Green Halloween Costume Contest for kids. We also brought you several developments from the realm of eco textiles — a material that repairs its own rips and tears and a Japanese company that recycles old bras into power-generating fuel. Finally, we showcased several slick developments in aqueous technology: an oil skimmer that cleans up spills four times faster, an artificial muscle that could one day propel nanobots through the body, and a quirky set of ‘Macquariums‘ made from Apple iMacs.

Inhabitat’s Week in Green: quantum levitation, Zombie-Powered Vertical Farm and Macquariums originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 23 Oct 2011 20:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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GE’s new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds

General Electric is sending its troops to Colorado to conquer the thin film solar panel business. The 38th state will play home to a new facility that leverages the supermodel-thin panel know-how of PrimeStar Solar, which GE scooped up back in 2008. In traditional solar panels, sand is refined into silicon ingots, sliced wafers of which are then placed in a frame. The thin film process eliminates this, sandwiching layers of semiconductors between panes of glass — saving time, money and, most importantly, energy. The factory will open ahead of schedule in 2012 and is reportedly capable of producing a new panel every ten seconds. You can learn all of that and more in the press release we’ve got for you after the break.

Continue reading GE’s new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds

GE’s new factory will push out one solar panel every ten seconds originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 17 Oct 2011 15:55:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Toshiba’s Energy Saving Eco Chip

A major focus of this years Ceatec Exhibition looked at new solutions in energy management with a number of brands displaying their latest innovative and leading edge “green” technologies. One product that caught our attention from Toshiba was their new “Eco Chip” displayed in their popular Regza LCD TV, which cuts power consumption in standby mode to zero watts.


The Eco Chip effectively means that the TV can be turned off by the remote control and achieve the same shut down as if being unplugged from the wall, drawing no power at all. This new technology therefore eliminates the “phantom load” drain, when appliances are still drawing a small amount of power when left plugged into the wall even though turned off. This “phantom load” can be as much as 10 to 15 watts per device and can make up nearly 10% of total residential energy consumption over a year.

The power conserving “Eco Chip” is a semiconductor that operates a mechanical relay between the AC (alternating-current) power cable and the power supply circuit inside the main body, and the Eco Chip is used to turn it on and off.


The Eco Chip was part of Toshiba’s “Smart Community” showcase and their “Home Energy Management System” (HEMS) which displayed a smart home “as an integral part of a future smart community”. With various energy challenges over summer just past in Japan, this type of energy control through visualization of energy use has already proven effective. Train stations throughout Tokyo displayed the city’s energy usage on digital boards, keeping the need to conserve energy at the forefront of the public’s mind and avoided any blackouts during the period, cutting the capital city’s energy usage by 20%.

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Inhabitat’s Week in Green: Solar Decathlon, hydrogen jet and a solar LED installation

Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.

This week an incredible crop of sun-powered prefabricated houses popped up in Washington DC for the 2011 Solar Decathlon, and Inhabitat was on the scene to bring you exclusive coverage of this year’s stunning homes! We took a look at all 19 of this year’s ultra-efficient projects, we rounded up seven stellar teams set to take the competition by storm, and we’ll continue to keep you posted as the results roll in, so stay tuned. We also highlighted several inspiring projects from MIT’s $1,000 house challenge, we saw a massive solar LED installation light up the night in Croatia, and we spotted plans for a futuristic floating island paradise at sea.

Green transportation got things rolling this week as Chicago launched a lush green subway car filled with plants, and Edison unveiled an electric version of their X-Prize winning Very Light Car. Two-wheeled transportation took off as well as an all-electric Tron Lightcycle hit the streets for the first time and researchers developed a nylon bike that is as strong as steel using satellite technology. We also took a spin in the 2012 Honda Insight Hybrid and we showcased plans for a Lockheed Stratoliner hydrogen jet that can travel anywhere on earth without refueling.

As September winds down schools across the county are now in session, but if you’re still scrambling to pick up a few last-minute supplies don’t miss our roundup of 14 green gadgets for back to school and ten solar-powered designs to charge your life. We also saw eco-fashion go high-tech as researchers developed a smart t-shirt that can monitor hospital patients’ vital signs, designers created a motion-sensing interactive window display and a Star Wars fan made a remarkably realistic stormtrooper helmet entirely from Adidas sneakers. Finally, we shined a light on a Swedish daycare center’s plans to track kids with GPS tracking devices.

Inhabitat’s Week in Green: Solar Decathlon, hydrogen jet and a solar LED installation originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 25 Sep 2011 18:01:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Cafe Uniforms Become Designer T-Shirts

The popular Japanese social commerce recycle shop and website Pass The Baton has come up with another great concept of turning the old and used into design desirables. The new idea will see the staff uniforms from Tokyo’s popular cafe Soup Stock, recycled as new t-shirts featuring exclusive designs.


Both Soup Stock and Pass the Baton are the brain child of the Masamichi Toyama, who also runs the neck tie clothes range Giraffe. Pass the Baton works as a kind of vintage flea market, where members can sell there items which they have become attached to but no longer need, putting a note with a story of why they loved the product being sold. Mostly a social web commerce site they also have two stores in the fashionable districts of Omotesando and Marunouchi (both designed by Wonderwall’s Masamichi Katayama).


Toyama is well known for his design and artistic flair having designed all 35 of the Soup Stock cafe interiors himself. The t-shirts, which would normally go to waste as used items, have been redesigned and given a new lease of life by designer Tetsuya Chihara, who has worked on a number of fashion designs in the past. There are 4 different designs to choose form including “Tokyo Borscht”, my personal favourite t-shirt name!


The idea of taking iconic old uniforms and redesigning them into limited edition items is a great idea. This could easily be expanded into other areas such as the delivery companies uniforms or convenience store shirts. Collaborating with famous designers this wouldn’t just be a nice bit of CSR for the companies but actually a decent source of revenue from what would normally just go to waste.

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Fisker inks BMW deal, Nina EVs gain Ultimate Driving Machine DNA

Fisker Nina — sounds more like a Bolshoi ballerina to us, but these codenamed, future EVs are now on course for a German heart and soul infusion. BMW has recently inked a deal that will see its four-cylinder turbocharged engine and additional components included in 2012 production models of the American auto maker’s mid-sized sedans. The line of electric cars are currently slated for an early 2013 debut, but we’d sprinkle a cup of salt on that date considering the Karma’s long road to launch. Skip on past the break for the company’s official eco-meets-luxury handshake announcement.

Continue reading Fisker inks BMW deal, Nina EVs gain Ultimate Driving Machine DNA

Fisker inks BMW deal, Nina EVs gain Ultimate Driving Machine DNA originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 02 Sep 2011 11:43:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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EnergyHub’s energy management system on sale now to American planetlovers

Those Smart Meters may not have went over so well in San Francisco, and Google may have shuttered PowerMeter just a few months ago… but that doesn’t mean that Ma Earth is doomed to live a life a few centigrade higher than she should, right? EnergyHub has just announced that its snazzily designed energy monitoring system is now on sale for eco-minded folk in the USA, with $399 netting you a home base, a socket, a strip and a wireless thermostat (simpler bundles start at $299). According to the company, this kit’s ready to take on shacks, apartments or even houseboats, though no seal of approval from the Old Spice guy has been garnered in the case of the latter. Previously, this here package was only available through utility-sponsored programs, but now the simpleton in your life can see live energy use information, automatically switch appliances off while one’s away and sleeping, and even control settings remotely via the web or an iPhone / Android app. Head on past the break for an introductory video, or visit the source links to get in on the buying frenzy.

Continue reading EnergyHub’s energy management system on sale now to American planetlovers

EnergyHub’s energy management system on sale now to American planetlovers originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 31 Aug 2011 18:54:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Energy-Saving Through Sensors from Omron

Omron, a Japan-based global company that focuses on developing MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) products for customer solutions, has attempted to address Japan’s recent energy concerns with three particularly interesting innovations that were on display at MEMS 2011. The lineup included a full office energy management solution featuring: the “Indoor Environment Monitor,” new facial recognition security system, and an automated air-conditioning adjustment system.


The Indoor Environment Monitor utilizes MEMS technology to create a comfortable (and safe) working environment. The monitor aggregates information such as the room’s temperature, relative humidity, air velocity/airflow, and occupant’s active metabolic rate to calculate an effective body temperature. The system then determines the severeness of heat illness in levels in ascending order from “Need for Care, “Caution,” “Heightened Alert,” to “Danger.” What’s interesting about this monitor is that it wirelessly transmits this information to a smartphone app or PC, which can be used remotely to monitor a grandparent or young child left by themselves at home. Innovation such as this that allow remote care via sensors is a particularly useful advancement.


With the recent increase in software security threats causing a slight panic among the general public, and growing concerns of unsafe and unprotected passwords, Omron also introduced an “intelligent” security system that takes into account “setsuden” (energy saving) as well. In the form of a webcam, this system adds the concept of using thermal detection on top of facial recognition, and combines these two security measures to solve two challenges: unauthorized access to users’ computers and energy saving.

The process is fairly simple in the sense that the thermal camera detects faces of registered users and only allows access if body temperature is detected. Holding up a picture of a registered user would not grant access to the computer. Not only does this make logging in easier and convenient, with regards to “setsuden,” it saves energy by going into sleep mode the second the user leaves their computer (laptop). This reduction may seem trivial when compared to the rest of energy saving products that we have introduced in previous articles, but the Japanese have a popular saying: “even ashes can pile up to form a mountain.” What is most fascinating about this new system is that the whole process is instant and takes less than a second to turn itself on and off.


Omron’s third product involves using SSMs (Smart Sensing Module) to significantly reduce air conditioning power by using adaptation features while maintaining production standards. Using the same technology from the two innovations above, the SSMs are placed in strategic places, acting as a human detection sensor, air flow, and temperature/humidity sensor. The SSMs then transmit their calculations to the air conditioner, which adjusts accordingly the amount and temperature of the air flow it releases. Omron’s Semiconductor factory, which monitors clean room conditions in real time, has been testing the effectiveness of their new technology and so far, have successfully achieved a power consumption reduction of 25%.


New products that use cutting-edge technology never fail to impress us, and Omron has certainly done a fine job of appealing to society’s latest concerns like the aging community and “setsuden”. Energy saving measures have been rolled out across all industries as a result of the disasters in Japan, and innovations in technology aimed at reducing energy consumption due to blackout threats have become a noticeable selling point in consumer appliances.

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