April 17, 2014 4:35 am JST

Corporate Japan to pool big data

TOKYO -- Japanese companies in fields as diverse as precision machinery, food and advertising will open up their storehouses of data to one another in hopes of creating new products and services.

     The country's first big-data exchange, set to launch next month, will seek to grow from an initial 30-odd members to 300 in 2017. Broadcasters, retailers, railway operators and telecommunications companies are among those expected to participate.

     Many businesses are sitting on mountains of digital information, but few have the computing or human power to mine them for potentially useful bits. The consortium will also provide the necessary resources to members.

     Members will pay a 300,000 yen ($2,900) annual fee. They will be able to browse a list of data available for sharing, ask for permission to use a particular set, and offer information of their own.

     Say a food company wants to know what consumers think of a new product without taking the time to conduct a survey. By looking for patterns running through its shipment logs, an analysis of Twitter posts, and retail sales figures, the manufacturer may be able to gauge the reaction to the product in real time. The consortium will also draw on national and local government data.

     Datasection, which analyzes tweets and other social media activity, and online marketing company Digital Intelligence have set up the umbrella organization. Internet service provider Internet Initiative Japan and the Fujitsu Research Institute will take part in running the exchange, with the former to configure a cloud computing service for analyzing big data while the latter supplies consumer activity data gathered from blogs and other sources.

     Companies have occasionally found themselves in users' bad books for selling data to third parties. In an effort to prevent such trouble, exchange members will agree to common rules for safeguarding personal information.