Photo:Warren Antiola on Flickr

Talking Tech: Japanese Innovations Coming Soon

Ever since the home electronics boom of the 1980s, Japan has consistently been a global leader in electrical innovations. Look from all your household appliances are chances are at least a few of them will be from Japanese brands like Panasonic, Sony, Mitsubishi and many others.

Today, whilst China has taken the lead in manufacturing and continues to close the gap on Japan and The US economically, Japan remains most people’s go-to place for exciting new technologies.

This shows no signs of changing with a number of fascinating and potentially life-changing new gadgets just around the corner.

So join me now as we take a look at some of the Japanese technologies that could be finding their way into your home soon.

We all want to get to work in the morning in the safest, least inconvenient and most cost-effective way possible. For this reason, cars have, for decades been at the forefront of Japan’s technological advancement. Toyota has long been a pioneer in this area, and the Japanese firm set a new global trend of socially conscious motoring 15 years ago with the launch of the Prius, the world’s most widely utilized hybrid car. A hybrid basically uses both electric power and conventional petroleum fuel to power its engines. This give greatly increased fuel economy as well as massively reduced carbon emissions. Not to be outdone in this area, the trend will continue in 2016 when Toyota releases the RAV4 hybrid, its latest addition to a growing catalogue of hybrid cars. This will be the first off-road capable hybrid to come out of Japan.

Photo by Kickaffe (Mario von Berg) on Wikimedia Commons.

It’s not just in fuel economy and reduced emissions where this kind of car can make a difference to our environment. Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi and many other Japanese carmakers are also making use of advances in LED technology. As anyone who studied physics will tell you, Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are a lighting source far more efficient than conventional filament light bulbs. Technology has now advanced to the point where, soon, all of a car’s interior and exterior lighting will be provided by LEDs.

Photo: Kit on Flickr

Safety is of course a primary concern to motorists and again Japan leads the way in this regard. The new pre-collision breaking system being pioneered by Japanese manufacturers utilizes the latest in sensory and scanning technology to make a car slow down when a collision is imminent. As crash statistics show even a difference of just 3 or 4 kilometers per hour can, in some cases, make the difference between life and death. It is hoped that, perhaps within the next decade, this technology can eventually progress to the point where a fully driverless system can become a reality.

Of course not everyone is a petrol head. As I once said to my father when he asked why I hadn’t learned to drive yet: “Some people are born to drive and some are born to be driven” to which my younger brother piped in: “And people like you were born to be run over!”

Joking aside, there’s far more to Japan’s future tech than just motoring. As many readers will know, Japan is on the cusp of a massive demographic time bomb. Longer working hours, less marriages and a more liberated female populous means that fewer and fewer Japanese are opting for the conventional marriage with children. This has left politicians and futurists scratching their heads, wondering how to deal with the problem. Thankfully technology may be able to offer at least a partial remedy.

With an increased elderly population comes a greatly increased demand for medical and nursing personnel. In some Tokyo hospitals now, pilot schemes have been going for a couple of years now using robots to perform routine tasks in hospital wards. Tasks such as cleaning the hospital floors, delivering medicines to patients and monitoring patients’ temperature and other basic indicators are now undertaken by robots. The hope amongst government health ministers is that, in the fullness of time, once the technology has matured robots will exist that can augment, assist and perhaps even replace conventional nursing staff. Last year even saw the launch of a personal robot that can adapt to a person’s mood and say soothing or funny things to cheer up someone who is lonely or depressed. I’m not so sure how I feel about that one, but then again maybe I’ve just watched The Terminator once too often!

Photo by kyu3 on Photozou.

The internet has, in a little over 20 years, revolutionized the way business is conducted and transactions completed around the world. Japan has been leading the charge as more and more people head online. This is set to continue as smartphones continue to proliferate. NFC (Near Field Communication) is one area where Japanese firms will look to make the most of online commerce. This new feature will mean that in the months and years ahead, people in Japan will be able to pay for transportation, food shopping, consumer goods and even holidays not with a credit or debit card, but with a swipe of their phone. Even now, many convenience stores across Japan accept payment for certain items via this method.

The transaction is scanned into the user’s phone and the charge will be added to their cell phone bill the following month. Be careful if you’re taking your phone with you on a drunken night out!!

Of course one of the most notorious “first world problems” of recent years has been the dreaded “low battery” warning your phone seems to show at the most inconvenient of times. Your desk or workspace soon becomes a maze of cables and connectors as you charge up your depleted phone, iPad, laptop and so on. Again Japanese scientists could be about to offer a solution of sorts. Recently, a team of Japanese researchers announced the first fully realized wireless energy transfer. Once this technology gets through the usual barrage of tests and assessments, and makes its way to market, hopefully within the next 2 or 3 years, that mound of messed up cables could finally be history. The technology would beam power from the mains directly to the required battery without the need for a wired connection. Think wi-fi but with electricity instead of radio waves.

Photo: Brendan C on Flickr

As you can see, Japan has no shortage of technology just waiting to be explored and enjoyed. Long may it continue.

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