Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Apple and IBM team up to help elderly citizens in Japan

Steve Rogerson
May 12, 2015
Japan Post Group, IBM and Apple have joined forces to improve the quality of life for millions of Japanese senior citizens. Built on the global partnership Apple and IBM announced last year, the initiative will deliver iPads with IBM-developed apps and analytics to connect millions of seniors with services, healthcare, community and their families.
After piloting iPads and apps custom developed for the elderly, Japan Post Group will expand the service in stages with the objective of including four to five million users in Japan by 2020. Today more than 33 million seniors make up about 25 per cent of Japan's population, projected to grow to 40 per cent over the next 40 years.
"We are joining with two of the world's most respected leaders in technology to bring our elderly generation into the connected world, expand our businesses by deepening relationships, and discover new ways to strengthen the fabric of our society and economy," said Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post Group.
The initiative includes iPads with built-in apps, capabilities and features including FaceTime, messages, mail, photos and iCloud photo sharing, along with access to content in the App Store, iTunes Store and iBooks Store. Accessibility features include settings for low vision and hearing impaired users.
Custom-built apps specifically for the elderly have been developed by IBM for reminders and alerts about medications, exercise and diet, along with direct access to community activities and supporting services such as grocery shopping and job matching. Also included are exclusive cloud services of the IBM MobileFirst for iOS platform, for data integration and security, analytics, and management of millions of devices, along with systems integration services and training for Japan Post Group employees.
Text analytics and accessibility technologies, many invented at IBM Research in Tokyo, include Japanese natural language analysis and tracking to guide seniors and make the experience more natural.
"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. "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."
The nationwide infrastructure of Japan Post Group includes the ability to cover the last kilometre 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.
"This initiative has potential for global impact, as many countries face the challenge of supporting an aging population, and we are honoured to be involved in supporting Japan's senior citizens and helping enrich their lives," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. “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."
As a percentage of global population, the elderly will increase from 11.7 per cent in 2013 to more than 21 per cent by 2050. Every day, 10,000 people turn 65, and 40 per cent of seniors live alone or with their spouse only.
In Japan, these historic generational shifts contribute to an imbalance in the labour force, a concentration of wealth among people who tend to spend less than other age groups, and significant strain on extended families. Today, nearly 180,000 people in Japan between the ages of 15 and 29 provide care for a family member.
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.
The pilot service will begin in the second half of this year, which will be offered with the Watch Over service. The service will expand in stages, ultimately aiming to reach four to five million users in Japan by 2020.
Japan Post Group was established in 2007 under the Postal Service Privatisation Act in Japan. Japan Post Holdings provides postal, banking and insurance services through three wholly owned subsidiaries – Japan Post, Japan Post Bank and Japan Post Insurance.