Japan: Getting its groove back with IoT - Embedded.com

Japan: Getting its groove back with IoT


YOKOHAMA, Japan — Japan, which once looked like a world leader as it pushed its Home Energy Management System (HEMS) and the smart home standard, is now trying to get her groove back via the Internet of Things.

If last week's conference programs and exhibits at Embedded Technology 2014 show here were any indication, Japan's M2M, HEMS, and Echonet Lite programs have been rebranded as a part of the IoT effort.

In the late 1990s, NTT Docomo talked about how the communication traffic of the future would be driven by machines calling up other machines (M2M) to help humans without human involvement.

Backed by the Japanese government, Japanese companies established Echonet (later, Echonet Lite), communication protocols for linking appliances made by different manufacturers — a decade before the emergence of Apple's HomeKit and Google's Thread.

Positioning Echonet as the linchpin of the smart home initiative, Japan earnestly pursued the idea of energy management. That was, of course, well before Google bought Nest.

Last week, Japanese exhibitors, whole-heartedly embracing IoT and its technology building blocks, were busy showing solutions bridging the old and new.

One company pitched a bridge device between HomeKit and Echonet. Another unveiled a simplified wireless platform “with 920MHz wireless module and Echonet wireless module adopter,” intended to link home appliances and sensors. Exhibits pitching Wi-SUN — low-power, wireless utility products based on IEEE 802.15.4g — were everywhere.

Yamabiko is a 'bridge device' between Apple's HomeKit and Japan's Echonet

Yamabiko is a “bridge device” between Apple's HomeKit and Japan's Echonet

Another notable development at this year's show was the makers' movement — an unmistakable global trend in IoT. Macnica, a Japanese distributor, is one of the most aggressive IoT promoters for “makers” in Japan. The company exhibited a number of easy-to-construct IoT kits, using chips from Broadcom, Texas Instruments, Analog Devices, or Silicon Labs, branded as “mPression.”

Renesas was a no-show on the show floor. But other Japanese IT giants, Toshiba, NEC and Fujitsu trotted out “IoT” solutions –ranging from software and applications to data network and servers.

The following pages show some of the IoT-related exhibits we spotted at the Embedded Technology 2014 show.

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