Japan has traditionally been ahead of the curve when it comes to tech. Panasonic shares its vision of what the smart home will look like
Japan has always been a country whose citizens more readily accept technological innovation so it is likely to be prove fertile ground for smart home and city innovations.
Mountainous terrain makes up 60 percent of Japan’s total area, meaning the remaining landmass is used to house a population of 127 million, the majority of whom live in vast, sprawling metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka.
The benefits of smart technology are reasonably universal but Japan’s population density make it a stronger example than most.
Panasonic’s vision for the smart home focuses on the efficient transportation of goods and making the most of what can be small properties, with land values at a premium.
Panasonic smart home
The company believes ‘smart windows’ that shield a conventional display of goods can change into large screens that allow customers to interact either physically or through the use of smartphones.
They can see more information about a product, read a menu, or even summon a translation using their device and then order it to their home.
The next step of the process is something called ‘Wonder Life Box’, a system comprising numerous two way units installed on the side of the house. Each box is labelled for certain items, some are refrigerated while others have a certain humidity.
Customers can obtain the products by opening a door on their side of the wall, which also displays information such as temperature and even messages from the retailer. These are displayed using projectors, which also power smart counters and tables within the home.
An in-house AI (also projected) can be asked to perform tasks such as pouring water from a sink or heating a hob, while it can also make recommendations. Users can also tech surfaces to recognise certain objects. For example, placing a book on the table will produce a light, while a toy train summons a track.
Is it ready?
Access to the house can also be determined by facial recognition, only allowing family members or expected visitors to enter.
Upstairs, lighting and heating are set according to outside temperature and weather, and sensors can even monitor sleep. Transport and weather information is displayed on the ceiling after wake up (again using a projector).
Smart mirrors will be able to detect a person’s mode using a smile checker and will play certain music to cheer them up. They can sense blood pressure, recommend exercise or diet tips and allow people to envisage how they would look like with certain make up, hairstyles or outfits.
Most of the tech on display at Panasonic Centre in Tokyo is a concept, but some of the innovation seems a long time away. It would seem unpractical or impossible to install a large array of units in the side of the house, while the systems at present rely heavily on the use of projectors – an area in which Panasonic has a significant legacy.
Also, many people already have AI assistants like Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, while the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home are taking them beyond the smartphone to dedicated devices. Both are (significantly) more affordable and integrate with third party smart home products.
Panasonic is better known for its business technology in its homeland than in the UK so it is unlikely that any of the products will be released over here. But what is clear is that a country that has always done things a little bit differently, as demonstrated by the mobile phone industry in the 1990s and 2000s, could do the same in the smart home space.