Kenji Miura, president of IT solutions designer and developer Systena Corporation, looks at the leading role Japanese technology and know-how will play in the global rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the fourth industrial revolution.
As a leader in the private industry, do you feel there has been a shift in the Japanese mindset? Do you feel Japan has become more open?
Indeed, Japan’s economy is improving. Are we utilizing our strengths to go global? That is the question I have on my mind. The automobile sector is definitely going global, but in terms of the IT industry, we have to do more.
IoT (Internet of Things) is our core idea and we are strategizing how to utilize this idea in the global market and export Japanese technology. We are not only dealing with technical problems; it is also important to note the uniqueness of core services. We are still in a trial phase where we are experimenting the utilization within Japan before applying it globally.
We have partnered with a company called Plasma and also Fido, specializing in security systems. Making use of cutting-edge technologies from American companies, we can import and implement it with the current technologies that we have and experiment with it. We also want to experiment in the broad field since social infrastructure, smart cities and deregulation of electric power will be accelerating towards Olympics coming up in 2020
The way America uses IoT is very unique. They have different uses of wind power and also natural energy in places like Texas, since they have a big land mass. However, since Japan has a limited land mass with a very concentrated population, utilization of those energies is different and that is why we want to experiment with it and look for possibilities here.
Do you think Japan is ready to take on the leadership of the fourth industrial revolution?
I agree with Mr. Abe that the Japanese market has a high chance of producing products and opportunities that can go global. However, it is not all about the products that we invent and innovate; it is just as much about the lifestyle. In Japan, the lifestyle is changing; for example, the banks are turning away from branches and only use virtual money, the airport mileage systems, and of course bitcoins. All these things are still in process, but we want to spotlight them and think about how to utilize it as a service. I am not only referring to the product, but also focusing on things which are changing due to shifts in lifestyle.
In the utilization of all these projects, it brings to mind big data, which is the core concept of the fourth industrial revolution, because you cannot have this kind of technology without the data to back it up. As an IT solutions company, how are you planning to take advantage of big data and also offering services to make your customers more competitive with big data?
One thing is I guess, taking into account directivity and migratory, is positioning oneself as the one receiving the service? I am not in a position to answer your question since our company does not have a direct link to big data, and as a company, we do not analyze it nor create the engines for it. We offer services to clients by sending warnings by detecting emails and conversations which are analyzed by big data.
One of the driving factors behind the fourth industrial revolution is the Internet of Things, or IoT. The US research firm Gartner Inc. estimates that IoT will generate sales, cut costs, and provide other economic benefits valued at $1.9 trillion by 2020. With such an opportunity for innovation and growth, do you feel that the Japanese ICT sector would benefit from collaboration with ICT sectors in other countries such as the United States?
Definitely. In terms of IoT, we are partners with Plasma, and from this partnership we are not only expecting the utilization of the country and how to utilize IoT in the cities, but also how to link the devices to the service. Our plan is to experiment with this in Japan first, and then tap further into the Asian market. We are not in direct contact with Europe yet, but it is definitely on the horizon for the future.
As part of the process, we are especially looking at the automobile industry. As a start-up, we are working together with automobile manufacturers to facilitate not only the automatic driving technologies but also thinking about how we can link sensing technologies with IoT.
Systena America Inc. was established in the United States in 2013 to build a larger presence for your company. Do you have plans to further expand into the American market? How are you planning to promote this expansion to investors?
Indeed, we do have parts of our business in the American market, but our main focus remains the Asian market. There are a lot of venture companies arising in America compared to Japan, so we would like to use joint ventures as a first seed to grow.
As our second stage, there might be cases of re-importation of Japanese services since some services are more precise compared to the ones in America but that is mainly targeted towards companies such as AT&T and Texas Instruments through collaboration.
The world is changing every day with new innovations and technologies that come from both large corporations and start-ups, which makes the ICT market more and more competitive. Even in the face of such challenges, Systena Corporation has sustained a tradition of growth and success, and posted over 45 billion yen last year in sales. What would you attribute to such growth despite these challenges?
There are a lot of things I can attribute this growth to. Our originally focus was the mobile. However, we have experienced difficulties due to the rise of MVNO, which made us change our business model. We started thinking about IoT, robotics, social infrastructure and energy. This shift in development has made our company to grow. These developments are very recent, so I believe it will expand further.
We have a designated management department that specializes in supporting B2B business. Japan has a very unique market. You may even notice by the word APJ – Asia Pacific Japan – that Japan is distinguished. It is not the matter of what to buy, but rather whom to buy from. The characteristics of the Japanese market is that there are services which aim to support clients with a Japanese approach and detect their needs. We also have a technology department, specializing in providing aftercare services after the operation and maintenance development. These sections of our company are moving forward and we are leaning towards these types of business.
The American market is a lot about creating things from scratch, from the garage; such as how companies like HP, Dell, Apple are doing. In comparison, the Japanese market is about how to produce convenient things, how to collaborate and create new things. I believe that is what distinguished the American market from the Japanese.
You mentioned that your main objective is the Asian market. Talking about the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and the market beyond China, only with these countries we are talking about more than 300 million possible customers. Do you believe service and the way of doing things in a Japanese way is a competitive advantage of Systena? Is this how you are going to beat your competitors from other countries?
It is important to create something that can be differentiated in the Japanese market and also be competitive in the global market. I believe it is a good idea to target the “pro-Japanese” countries like Thailand and Vietnam. Especially, to follow the movement like the automobile sector and expand where Japanese companies are already present.
Like the insurance sector, we have recently acquired an insurance company. Many industries in Japan are going to shrink due to the aging society. These markets are shrinking in Japan, but I believe it to be a good idea to target those markets in countries that are not experiencing the same problems as we are – utilizing these services and adapting to the needs of each region in order to meet the demands of the people in the specific areas.
What is your vision for the future, and under your leadership, how do you plan to make this vision a reality?
First of all, I want to make a point that my aim is for this company to run for at least 100 years. The Japanese market has a challenging time ahead and the responsibility from the IT sector will increase. It is not all about creating products, but also about supporting all these different sectors through our IT technologies. If you look on the label of a product, it usually says “Made by Honda” or “Made by Toyota”. I want to label products that say “Produced by Systena”. That is my vision.