TOKYO -- Cellphone carrier NTT Docomo and General Electric of the U.S. will join hands to offer remote-monitoring services for bridges and other structures in Japan.
A lot of the infrastructure that was built during Japan's post-war high-growth period is now aging. The two companies will offer Internet-based services to optimize management of these structures.
GE will install sensors on bridges and roads as well as water, gas, power transmission and other equipment to measure such data as vibration, rotation, flow rates and temperature, transmitting it via Docomo's mobile network. The information will be analyzed to predict equipment trouble, and notifying clients of potential problems in advance could help them save on maintenance costs.
The duo plans to share analysis results with customers via custom software and smartphone and tablet apps. Details such as how to run the business and service pricing have yet to be set. The partners aim to begin marketing next year to power and gas providers, municipalities and others.
GE has abundant experience with "Internet of Things" technologies and considers the harmonization of connected machinery and services as a core business. Its sensors on aircraft engines collect and analyze data via the Internet, helping airlines cut costs. AirAsia, Asia's biggest low-cost airline, reduced fuel costs by $10 million annually thanks to GE's system.
As rivals like IBM increase their focus on the Internet of Things, GE looks to expand operations in Japan and found Docomo, which is eager to cultivate businesses beyond its stagnant mobile services.
Many manufacturers and IT companies from Japan, the U.S. and Europe have adopted Internet of Things technologies at their factories or operations and now are diversifying services to others. Hitachi devised a grain-sized sensor to measure changes in materials, analyzing collected data. Fujitsu will sell sensors to monitor production lines and construction workers starting in December. Toshiba, Mitsubishi Electric and NEC also are building Internet of Things businesses.