Category Archives: Business

Wireless Japan 2012 Report: Lucy and her football

Call me Charlie Brown. Every year I fall for it.

A decade ago, the first trade show I ever visited in Japan was Wireless Japan. I was dying to see the new 3G network phones and cutting edge wireless technology that was the envy of consumers around the world. Ostensibly my main goal revolved on finding out when Japan would add Blackberry service or what alternatives there were in the works. Oh what an absurd rabbit hunt into Wonderland that turned out to be.

This year, as is tradition, I made the trek to Tokyo Big Site to see what I could see. At first, I wondered if the malaise I felt was because things had changed. The venue seemed less full, less energetic. But now I realize the problem is not what has changed, but what has not changed.

Here’s an example. Casio was there with, I kid you not, a Cassiopeia branded barcode scanner running Windows CE.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Had a nice chat with an engineer at the booth about how sad I was that the once revered Casio PDA brand had been completely wiped out years ago and how it would be great if they could find a way to revive it with something new and innovative like the old days.

I spotted the Brother booth showing off their new Air Scouter glasses type display system. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release next month to learn more about this device which looks like a slightly more dorky version of Google Glasses.

Indeed, the device was very shiny. While the look made me feel like a 1980’s era science teacher, the display was crisp, and seemed by usable, creating a floating screen that felt like a monitor about a foot away from my left eye.

“How’s the power requirements” I asked. “It draws from the USB port so as long as your computer has charge it works” the rep replied.

“ah, cool… Wait… Huh?”

After some roundabout answers we come to the point that there is only one interface available. USB to Windows OS. When I asked by there was no HDMI/VGA/Composite Video interface the rep said, “this was the easiest way”.

Stupid football…

It’s like no one there was even trying. Well, one group was. NTT had a huge booth pitching its mobile VOIP solution 050+ which is kinda like Skype where you pay lots of money. But what they lack in ethics or originality, they more than made up in audacity with booth attendants dressed up like idol singers, one of which kept flashing her knee tattoo of the brand logo to me so much I think she must be a soccer player.

Sure there were plenty of Android phones and Apple accessories, but nothing new, nothing interesting. It feels like walking around a 5th grade science fair. Everyone showing off a potato battery and looking at you to praise them for making something so cool.

 

Meanwhile no one official seems to take this event remotely seriously. While Docomo and Au were there, they mostly had leftovers and hand me downs from other shows and events. Despite its recent launch, there was practically no presence by Docomo’s NotTV, the Nth iteration mobile TV boondoggle that they have spent a fortune marketing. While they had a giant booth with a live TV studio at CEATEC last year, they were happy with a small table in a corner of the Docomo booth here. SoftBank of course boycotts most of these trade shows in Japan, and even OEM giant Huawei just has a tiny booth in a corner of the floor where it looks like they just handed out business cards to anyone curious enough to stop by their spartan space.

I can’t stress enough how wrong this feels. This is Japan. Japan pushed the boundaries of consumer mobile tech to mythical levels before the iPhone showed up. While Americans were excited over a Color LCD screen on their Nokia, Japanese consumers had Digital TV sets in their handset. Sharp made the first mobile Cellular PDA, J-Phone introduced the camera phone, Docomo had the first active 3G network. While the world media was glued to Tim Cook’s speech at D10 today, no one was watching for Japan’s premier wireless technology expo, not even here in Japan.

Except me. Sitting here in the dirt, watching Lucy laugh as she walks away with that football.

 

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Panasonic lights up Tokyo with Firefly festival

On the final day of Golden Week, the cluster of national holidays in Japan each spring that sends families all over the country into a spring break like frenzy, a new type of festival was launched.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 09

The Tokyo Hotaru (firefly) Festival, sponsored by Tokyo Municipal Govt. and other businesses and government entities literally lit up the Sumidagawa river near Asakusa by floating 100,000 small LED lanterns downstream.  The festival, with a heavy Eco-friendly theme highlighted the lanterns, provided by Panasonic, each containing a small solar cell and a rechargeable battery.  The result was a summer festival for a new generation, replacing large fireworks display with a high tech version of an ancient tradition.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 01

This was an excellent opportunity for Panasonic, having recently purchased state of the art eco-tech through their Sanyo acquisition, to highlight their line of LED lightbulbs.  Each of the 100,000 glowing balls dumped into the river contained a high power LED bulb and an Evolta rechargeable battery.  I was very impressed with the overall design of the lanterns, each waterproof ball containing it’s own solar panel recharging system.  Two metal leads on the bottom of each ball creates a circuit, that when floating in water is connected turning on the light.  Simple, elegant and a stunning effect when floating en mass in the water.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 07

(a shot of  my recently obtained Sphero robot pondering joining its friends)

Another winner for this festival is Tokyo Skytree, the new digital broadcast tower that at 634 meters is the second tallest structure in the world.  Officially opening in just a few weeks, the tower is illuminated with thousands of high intensity LED light bulbs (also by, you guessed it, Panasonic), but as part of the festival, the tower was fully illuminated.  The cherry on the cake was the Supermoon rising right behind the tower just as the festival hit full swing.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 20

Last year many festival were cancelled after the 3/11 quake and the full shutdown of all nuclear reactors in Japan has put huge pressure this summer on power conservation efforts, so this festival couldn’t have come at a better time.  A combination of large scale festive, public event, a strong eco-friendly message, and a celebration of the technical ability of the country that was well received at challenging time.  I look forward to more events like this in the future and hope this marks a new tradition.

Tokyo Hotaru Event Webpage

Panasonic Hotaru info page

Mobile Office: Power Up Version

Ever hunting for the ultimate mobile setup, I’ve just put the finishing touches on my latest revision of my mobile workstation. This time around, I’m aided with a new MacBook Air 11 inch laptop for a “Pro” configuration.

With the new Sandybridge 1.8ghz i7 chip, this tiny netbook size computer packs some big-boy scale power, enough to let me tether the iPad 2 as a second monitor using the Avatron Air Display app. This way I can run the system as either a dual monitor computer or as two separate machines. I can also add a Bluetooth keyboard and a wireless trackpad to the mix to get that full desktop experience.

Throw in the iPhone for video chatting and etc, and I have three powerful computers that can work together and have enough power to run a small TV station or two Japanese nuclear power plants.

The scary part about this is that including the stands and a wireless cellular router for Internet anywhere, the entire setup weighs just over five pounds, or less than a 15 inch MacBook Pro laptop and it all fits inside the smallest laptop bag I own. Of course I expect a few stares if I set the whole thing up in a cafe and start coordinating an orbital launch while munching a scone.

Progress has allowed us to make computers lighter, smaller, more powerful, and even cheaper at a frightening pace. I expect in just a couple of years I’ll look at this setup and scoff at it’s pitiful specs. But I figure this should last a few months or so.

Would you go out in public with a rig like this? Post a comment below and let me know.

So scary because it is true

You could ask the question, “Do companies think that their customers are all complete idiots”?Dilbert.gif

You don’t really want an answer to that question do you?

Green Tea Coke?

What is it with Japan an oddly flavored soft drinks? It was only a few years ago that Pepsi *very* briefly experimented with Cucumber flavored Pepsi.

You think I am kidding don't you? Good thing I took a picture.

Pepsi Cucumber - 1

Well, one small miscalculation by Pepsi. They actually made it taste like cucumber. Seriously. Spot on, and so, so wrong. This is one drink that did not stay on the shelves long, and I doubt it was due to high sales.

Now Coke enters the "because science can anything" game with the Coca Cola plus line of drinks.

"plus" in this case means some healthy ingredient such as vitamin C or Catechin. In other ways, it's really a "minus" as this series is targeted to women by keeping it no-calorie and using Sarah Jessica Parker in the advertisements. Check out the webpage here.

So the Coca Cola plus Catechin drink is supposed to be flavored like green tea. I've poured myself a glass and am drinking it down while writing this post. My assessment is…

Green Tea Coke? - 1

Green Tea Coke? - 2

Not bad. Really, Tastes kind of like Coke Zero. But actually a more mellow aftertaste. I actually think it's pretty good.

But I have no idea what they are talking about when they say Green Tea.

No green tea flavor at all that I can taste. But as experiments go it could be worse.

Trust me on that.