Japan


Foreign staff bring new perspectives to smaller firms in Japan

The Japan Times

There's no denying that Japan, amid a severe labor crunch and a shrinking population, will need to rely more on foreign workers in the coming years, and that's especially true for small and midsize companies. Because of language issues and cultural differences, smaller firms often struggle to integrate foreign workers. But once they overcome those hurdles, many find that the addition of foreign perspectives can lead to new opportunities. Sakae Casting Co., a small aluminum cast manufacturer in Hachioji in western Tokyo, learned this the hard way. But its experience may be an example of what other firms will have to go through in the coming years.


AI as a job saver? Why Japan's auto industry is embracing Industry 4.0

ZDNet

The International Auto Show is underway in New York City today, and technology is in the spotlight. Much as the auto industry paved the way for industrial automation, carmakers have started to adopt artificial intelligence to speed up manufacturing and increase precision. That's brought increased focus on human workers. Just as the auto industry is a bellwether for manufacturing tech, it's also a real world laboratory for the effects of new technologies on the labor force. Artificial intelligence in the real world: What can it actually do?


NTT to launch trial of farming support service with drones and AI tech in Fukushima

The Japan Times

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (NTT) said Thursday it will launch a trial for a farming support service using drones and artificial intelligence technology, with a goal of commercializing the service in Japan and other Asian countries. The new system, which connects drones with GPS satellites, is anticipated to help the farm industry in the nation amid a serious labor shortage. NTT aims to raise crop output by up to 30 percent through the new service. The telecommunications giant will conduct the trial service on 8 hectares of a rice field in Fukushima Prefecture from later this month to March 2021. It aims to launch the service on a commercial basis in Japan in two years.


Nidec to acquire Omron's auto electronics unit for ¥100 billion

The Japan Times

OSAKA - Electric motor-maker Nidec Corp. said Tuesday it will acquire component-maker Omron Corp.'s automotive electronics subsidiary for ¥100 billion ($893 million), as it seeks to speed up the development of technology for autonomous and other advanced vehicles. Kyoto-headquartered Nidec will take an entire stake in Omron Automotive Electronics Co. by the end of October, as it aims to combine its strengths in motors, radar and camera-related technologies with Omron Automotive's edge in auto components for self-driving vehicles. "We want to widen our product lineup through the acquisition and enhance our competitiveness in the automobile-oriented business," as the auto industry has been shifting its focus to more electrified and self-driving vehicles, Nidec Chairman and CEO Shigenobu Nagamori told a news conference in Tokyo. Omron said it will focus more on its industrial automation and health care businesses as it found it difficult to continue hefty investments in developing auto technology on its own amid the intensifying race to make next-generation vehicles. Nidec, founded in 1973, has grown in part due to its ambitious mergers and acquisitions strategy.


Japan's Lower House OKs ban on flying drones over military sites and Olympic venues

Japan Times >> News

A bill to prohibit the flying of drones over Self-Defence Forces and U.S. military facilities in Japan, as well as venues for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, cleared the Lower House on Tuesday. The bill, aimed at guarding against terrorism, has sparked protests from the media over its potential disruption of newsgathering activities. Taking these into account, a House of Representatives panel added a supplementary provision to the legislation, requesting the government ensure press freedom and people's right to know. The ruling parties aim to enact the bill, an amendment to the existing law on drones, during the current Diet session through June. The legislation also bans drones from flying over venues for this year's Rugby World Cup.


Removal of fuel at Fukushima's melted nuclear reactor begins

Los Angeles Times

The operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant began removing fuel Monday from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 disaster, a milestone in what will be a decades-long process to decommission the facility. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said workers started removing the first of 566 used and unused fuel units stored in the pool at Unit 3. The fuel units in the pool located high up in reactor buildings are intact despite the disaster, but the pools are not enclosed, so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major earthquake similar to the one that caused the 2011 tsunami. TEPCO says the removal at Unit 3 will take two years, followed by the two other reactors, where about 1,000 fuel units remain in the storage pools. Removing fuel units from the cooling pools comes ahead of the real challenge of removing melted fuel from inside the reactors, but details of how that might be done are still largely unknown. Removing the fuel in the cooling pools was delayed more than four years by mishaps, high radiation and radioactive debris from an explosion that occurred at the time of the reactor meltdowns, underscoring the difficulties that remain.


Removal of fuel at Fukushima's melted reactor begins

Al Jazeera

The operator of the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant has begun removing fuel from a cooling pool at one of three reactors that melted down in the 2011 disaster, a milestone in the decades-long process to decommission the plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said on Monday that workers started removing the first of 566 used and unused fuel units stored in the pool at Unit 3. The fuel units in the pool located high up in reactor buildings are intact despite the disaster, but the pools are not enclosed so removing the units to safer ground is crucial to avoid disaster in case of another major quake. Tepco said the removal at Unit 3 would take two years, followed by the two other reactors. The step comes ahead of the real challenge of removing melted fuel from inside the reactors, but details of how that might be done are still largely unknown. Removing the fuel in the cooling pools was delayed five years by mishaps, high radiation and radioactive debris from an explosion that occurred at the time of the reactor meltdown, underscoring the difficulties that remain.


Japan college adopts facial recognition-based attendance system

Japan Times >> News

KOBE - The Hyogo College of Medicine has introduced a facial recognition technology-based system to check student attendance. It is the first university in Japan to use such a system, according to the institution in the city of Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture. The university expects the system to prevent students from answering the roll at classes for others who are absent and improve the work efficiency of its staff, including teachers. A total of 16 tablet devices with facial recognition functions were introduced on Friday last week, with four units -- one for teachers and three for students -- placed in each lecture room for freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. The faces of a total of some 470 students have been registered on the devices beforehand.


Russia deploys surveillance drone to Japan-claimed isles off Hokkaido, report says

The Japan Times

MOSCOW - The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed a surveillance drone to an artillery division stationed on a group of islands controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, a Russian newspaper reported Monday. The drone will be used for patrolling coastal areas and surrounding waters, as well as for rescue operations, according to the newspaper, Izvestia. The artillery unit is stationed on two of the four Russian-controlled islands off the coast of Hokkaido, known in Japan as Etorofu and Kunashiri. The Orlan-10 drone, the same type as those sent by Russia to Syria, is able to operate within a 120-kilometer radius for up to 14 hours while transmitting images from a mounted camera, the Russian paper said.


Russia deploys surveillance drone to Japan-claimed isles off Hokkaido, report says

The Japan Times

MOSCOW - The Russian Defense Ministry has deployed a surveillance drone with an artillery division to a group of islands controlled by Russia but claimed by Japan, a Russian newspaper reported on Monday. The drone will be used for patrolling coastal areas and surrounding waters, as well as for rescue operations, according to the newspaper, Izvestia. The artillery unit is stationed on two of the four Russian-controlled islands off the coast of Hokkaido, known in Japan as Etorofu and Kunashiri. The Orlan-10 drone, the same type as those sent by Russia to Syria, is able to operate within a 120-kilometer radius for up to 14 hours while transmitting images from a mounted camera, the Russian paper said.