Monday, November 28, 2005

Mom, Your Teapot Emailed Me, And...

The Daily Yomiuri reports today on some new inventions intended to invade your privacy, er, help the kids of the elderly make sure they are okay. (The article is bylined "The Yomiuri Shimbun", which I often suspect means they are cribbing from press releases.)

The first one is an electric hot water maker for tea (a "potto", or hot pot) from Zojirushi (the biggest hot pot maker). The i-Pot is the first product in their "Mimamori" ("keeping an eye out") service. (Website is here, but Japanese only; a few photos are here.) It has a built-in DoCoMo DoPa packet radio transceiver, and sends email twice a day to a designated list of recipients with the recent usage records, or you can poll it to find out the latest. The pot is 5,250 yen (about $50), then the service is 3,150 ($30) a month. They claim to have more than 2,500 customers already.

I've never seen my mother-in-law drink water; she drinks tea continuously. But what if yours doesn't? Not to worry, ArtData can attach sensors to everything from your refrigerator door to the toilet floor mat to check up on you. Paramount Bed Co. makes an adjustable (hospital-style) bed that will report the height and tilt of the bed via some sort of wireless, and Yozan has a gadget based on a two-way pager that the city government of Wako, Saitama Prefecture is deploying. A local government official sends you a message each morning, and you respond by pressing one of the three buttons, "well", "not well", or "call me".

The privacy implications are not going unnoticed, but Japan is most decidedly coming down on the side of more information. Helping the community take better care of the rapidly aging population here is seen as the principal imperative.

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