Surprise showings for startups in Tokyo


This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.

Image credit: Wikimedia

October has seen many confabs where startups have been able to appeal their products and services, beginning with CEATEC which however was not held in Tokyo. Instead there were several others that attracted much attention. One was the Edo/Tokyo crafts & technology fair at the Tokyo International Forum. Last year it had robots such as those provided a startup by Prof. Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University as well as Tokyo startup Ex Machina displayed at center stage, with participants like YRP IoT which is actually based in Yokosuka, in Kanagawa Prefecture. This year it appears the only startup there was Shannon Lab, a Tokyo firm researching Artificial Intelligence applications.

confab-oct-2016-psi-dark-traceMore prominent were the Security & Safety Trade Expo (RISCON 2016) and Special Equipment Exhibition & Conference for Anti-Terrorism (SEECAT 2016) gatherings held concurrently at the Tokyo International Convention Center “Big Sight” in mid-October. Within RISCON there also was the new section dubbed “Cyber-security World” that focused on cyberspace, gathering companies ranging from Kaspersky the computer vaccine provider to PSI, a Japanese outfit working together with U.S. UK startup Darktrace.

As for SEECAT this year using two floors, had drones showcased in use during all types of emergencies upstairs, while lime-lighting the latest measures on the ground floor as to access restrictions for dealing with the heighted risks from terrorists organizations, not to mention startups involved in enhancing surveillance generally. It was noted that there would be increased need in Tokyo over the next few years, with both the Rugby World Cup (although this will be a nationwide event including a new stadium in the Tohoku region which was hit by the 2011 Tsunami disaster) in 2019 and the Olympics/Paralympics in 2020 being centered on the games to be hosted by the capital of Japan.

The Challenge team at their booth

At RISCON seminars covering crowd control, disaster countermeasures and public health threats were held as well. This year, University of Electro-Communications Prof. Masashi Hayakawa who had established a spin-off venture from school ventured that earthquakes may be predictable, unfortunately not scientifically proven at this time. Other startups such as Cybozu Startups exhibited measures to mitigate post-disaster effects quickly by use of expedited information-gathering from the Japan Meteorological Agency, which provides Early Earthquake Warning among other alerts related to natural including non-weather-emanating disasters.

Cybozu Startups’ booth

There were earthquake sensor maker on exhibit by Challenge, whose latest version of early temblor alert network EQguard-III could be checked alongside the SchoolGuard panic-button system for teachers. CEO Kazuo Sasaki noted that all these items are aimed at reducing casualty. The latest EQguard allows for 10 foreign languages to be used in announcing an impending major quake in enough time to increase the survival rate by 80%, with an eye to use at the Olympics. Digital signage and portable devices will also become linked to the EQGuard network. Challenge is said to be providing EQGuard anew in the Los Angeles area, near Caltech, too.

Renowned geophysicist & Caltech Prof. Emeritus Hiroo Kanamori (right) with Challenge CEO Kazuo Sasaki (left)

Sensor use was also focused on at ITpro Expo 2016 sponsored by Nikkei BP. Here also the emphasis was on Artificial Intelligence as well as security. Startups running the gamut from Abeja to Uhuru were talking Deep Learning and Internet of Things. Soracom had a large booth covering their solutions while other startups were offering Virtual Reality-related solutions. It is expected that more ventures will be honing in on such products and services over the coming years.

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Abeja CEO Yosuke Okada speaks at ITPro Expo.