Highlight from Integrated Report
The Nisshinbo Group creates safety and security solutions for the super smart society and supplies them to markets worldwide by harnessing the technologies and expertise of Group companies.
Nisshinbo's safety products include weather radars, river level monitoring equipment and other elements of disaster prevention systems, as well as equipment for ships to ensure safe navigation.
Nisshinbo is also developing safety devices for the medical and healthcare field.
Weather radars developed by Japan Radio Co., Ltd. are widely used by Japan’s Meteorological Agency and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and by overseas meteorological agencies to forecast weather conditions and rainfall.
Cases of localized heavy rain have been increasing in Japan in recent years due to thunderclouds occurring in linear precipitation zones and other weather conditions, leading to elevated risk of natural disasters caused by flooding and extreme wind. Existing radar systems, which typically need about five minutes to complete a single observation cycle, are too slow to create stereoscopic images of fast-forming thunderclouds.
Phased array* weather radars developed by Japan Radio comprise multiple antennas that emit a beam of radio waves that can be electronically steered, enabling fast, stereoscopic observation of thunderclouds. Weather forecasting systems with phased array radars can rapidly create forecasts for localized heavy rain, helping to reduce damage from natural disasters.
Japan Radio is running tests on its latest phased array radar at a location in Chiba to overcome challenges such as converting weather observations to rainfall estimates and identifying the difference between rain, snow and hail, which is currently hard to do with current weather radars.
* Compact weather radars with multiple, overlapping antenna beams that
reduce blind spots in radar coverage.
Overseas Solutions Business
Japan Radio is working to increase overseas sales of integrated disaster prevention systems, which combine weather radars, river level prediction and forecasting systems and other elements. The company is focusing on markets in Asia, where there is a growing need for disaster prevention systems.
In Indonesia, where Japan Radio already has a strong track record in wireless facilities for coastal applications, we established a local subsidiary in January 2017 and launched full-scale marketing activities in June to tap rising demand for ship navigation support systems and disaster prevention facilities.
We are also working with partners in the public and private sectors in Japan to expand exports of airport surface surveillance systems and weather radars in Southeast Asia. In May 2018, Japan Radio signed an agreement with the Vietnam Air Traffic Management Corporation to test a new multilateration system* for airport surface monitoring and to cooperate on related technologies, under a contract awarded to us by Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
* Multilateration systems receive secondary radar signals from aircraft via multiple receivers located around the airport, enabling precise detection of aircraft positions based on the difference in time between signal reception at each receiver.
The J-Marine Navigational electronic Conning Station Table (NeCST), jointly developed by Japan Radio and Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) Line, is a vessel navigation support system that manages and shares route information such as digital nautical charts, which are viewable on a large screen. The system is also linked to J-Marine Cloud, a package of cloud-based maritime information services. In a world-first, users can make handwritten annotations to digital charts on the NeCST screen, helping to improve the efficiency of route planning. The system has the potential to be an important part of autonomous shipping operations in the future as it facilitates information sharing between ships and land and supports safe navigation.
During development, we sought to make the system as usable as possible by using input from many experienced crew and by dispatching R&D staff to work on ships. The system, which combines the flexibility of paper charts with the intuitive user interfaces of tablet devices, was launched in January 2018 after undergoing testing on the NYK Group’s cruise ship Asuka II. We plan to launch a second-generation system with improved functionality in October 2018. We estimate the target market for the system is roughly 10,000 ships worldwide and we plan to drive uptake by offering different screen sizes.
New digital tools such as IoT and AI now make it possible to connect various physical objects and collect and analyze vast amounts of data from them. Companies are stepping up efforts to develop new markets by using those technologies to add more value to products that are used every day. The Nisshinbo Group aims to help create monitoring services and improve workplace environments by developing smart textiles as devices that can collect more vital data than existing contactless devices.
For example, we are currently developing uniforms for workplaces where people are exposed to loud noise. Drawing on voice-recognition support technology from New Japan Radio Co., Ltd., communication technology from Japan Radio and conductive textiles from Nisshinbo Textile Inc., we have created a uniform that allows the wearer to hear conversations clearly in noisy environments. Using the same principle, we are also developing a waist band that can predict the onset of labor pains. The band collects and analyzes information on the baby’s vital signs (heat rhythm, heart rate, pulse, etc.) and relays the information to smartphones or devices in hospitals and clinics. We aim to make these products a reality by combining the sensor development capabilities, data communication and data analysis technologies of Group companies with our textile planning and procurement capabilities.
Securing stable supplies of safe and reliable food products is a growing problem due to extreme weather events worldwide. Nisshinbo is working on technology to cultivate plants in hermetically sealed plant factories. We have already applied the technology to create Japan's first plant factories that use only artificial light, allowing the cultivation of tasty strawberries all year round, regardless of temperature and weather conditions. The factories are located at our Tokushima and Fujieda business sites and supply strawberries under the APOLLOBERRY brand.
Also, in August 2017, we supplied the facilities and technologies to Okinawa Cellular Telephone Company, which started selling strawberries in Okinawa Prefecture in July 2018.
We will build on our success in plant factories to develop smart factories, using the Group’s sensing and communication technologies to monitor and collect large amounts of data on cultivation conditions to support harvest forecasting and stabilize yields. Our aim is to expand the business by supplying smart factory equipment and services.
Plant factories are another example of how we are combining the Group’s technologies to contribute to society as an Environmental and Energy Company group.