TT-387 -- Paper-thin batteries, ebiz news from Japan

General Edition Sunday, August 13, 2006 Issue No. 387

+++ INDEX
- What's new
- Services lineup
- News
- Candidate roundup
- Upcoming events
- News credits

Logistics: The So-Fast Corporation========Why Choose the So-Fast Corporation?

Failed logistics is a frequent reason why foreign import/retail companies in Japan eventually pull out. In the start-up phase, management is focused on just getting the business up and running, and so it is tempting to abdicate the logistics to a large trading or transportation firm. But the reality is that the convenience is soon replaced by frustration -- as any change request, any problem resolution takes forever and becomes "too hard to do".

Now, So-Fast Corporation offers its "Start Logistics Package" which includes:
1. A reasonable and set price,
2. Simple distribution, and
3. Quick, customer-oriented service to satisfy end-users

One customer that did switch is Guthy-Renker, featured alongside So-Fast in the Spring 2005 issue of J@pan Inc, www.japaninc.com/article.php?articleID=1429.

Guthy-Renker is one of Japan's largest TV marketing companies. If logistics are a key part of your success in Japan - get connected with So-Fast.
Email: info@so-fast.co.jp
http://www.so-fast.co.jp/en/index.html

+++ WHAT'S NEW

With its great public transport system, Japan is one of the world's truly personally mobile cultures. There are portable gadgets of all kinds, not least of which include cell phones and music players. Have you ever wondered just how many batteries are needed annually to feed this mobility? We decided to check, and apparently Japanese consumers own more than 100m cell phones and 200m+ personal entertainment and information devices. As a result, they consume about 4.6bn batteries worth JPY700bn (US$5.98bn) yearly, of which about 78% are primary (disposable) batteries.

Thus any breakthrough in making batteries better or cheaper is big news to consumers and electronics makers alike.

In our latest (Summer) issue of the Japan Inc. magazine, we are featuring a Tokyo-based venture company called Ion Technology which has created a true paper-thin battery (not a capacitor). This amazing product can be printed on to paper, card, and plastic media, applied as a paste-and-foil combination, much the same as ink and plastic coatings are printed today.

The availability of a small, cheap printed battery, when combined with integrated CPUs, sensors, and e-paper makes possible a whole range of new ubiquitous devices. Think smart bandaids with healing displays, audible due-by date warnings on food packages, talking alien registration forms, e-paper free newspapers, supermarket RFID tags with onboard transmitters, credit cards with onboard CPUs, and lots else besides.

Ion Technology's breakthrough has been in the development of an activated, solid electrolyte made of natural minerals which can be printed between a pair of graphite and aluminum plate electrodes. Although the content of the electrolyte is a patent-pending trade secret, lab testing and now trial runs of sample product are proving that that the formulation not only works, it produces about 4-10 times the energy density for a given volume than other "paper-thin" batteries. As added benefits, Ion Technology says that their disposable batteries are environmentally friendly and only cost about 50% of conventional cells to produce.

If you're technical, then these specs might be interesting:
* Ultra-thin version, measuring just 0.2mm in height, provides 3.5 volts at 400uA/hr per 4cm2
* 0.6mm version, suitable for credit cards, offers triple the output -- i.e., no loss of capacity when stacked
* 1mm version, suitable for prepaid cards, can supply 14 volts output, enough to power an onboard display and data transmitter
* As a comparison, current paper-thin batteries of 0.6mm profile offer just 1.5 volt output and 30uA/hr of power

As you can imagine, with energy specifications like these, coupled with the low manufacturing costs, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese consumer electronics manufacturers are lining up to deal with Ion Technology. After producing lab prototypes late last year (2005), the company quickly moved to funding and received its first round in February 2006.

But money alone is not enough according to Ion Tech's paranoid CEO. His primary concern is that as he gains a higher profile, he will be targeted by some of the heavyweights in the industry. He expects patent and, PR challenges from companies claiming paper-thin products but who have not yet cracked the energy density riddle. For this reason, Ion Technology is actively courting foreign manufacturers and partners to produce licenced products and conduct further product developement.

The CEO of Ion Technology is 48-year old Nobuyuki Tabata.
He is a graduate of the prestigious Hitotsubashi University and is a qualified accountant with an inventive streak. An interesting guy, Tabata has seen the highs and lows of running one's own business. The low point was when in his early 30's he had a water purification company shut down by an impatient vendor and their bank. This buried him in debt and took 10 years to work off.

Hardly humbled, however, Tabata is still very much the entrepreneur. Ever since he was a kid, he has been obsessed with the study of rocks, derivative minerals, and their properties. Although he won't say which one, in 2003 while working in his lab, he recalls that he "just happened" upon a mineral which produces a weak form of electricity naturally. Sensing that this scientific anomaly could be commercialized, he set about isolating the active material and processing it into a purpose-made ceramic. Two years later, he has successfully achieved this goal and is using the resulting active material in Ion Technologies'
batteries.

As mentioned, Tabata himself is an interesting person. He told us that much of his knowledge is gained from text books that he pores over every night. To stay ahead of the curve, he tries to read 500 books a year! Of course, doing this and holding down a job at the same time would normally be impossible. But several years ago Tabata discovered an obscure title in Japanese which purports to help readers survive on just 3 hours sleep a night. The idea of gaining an extra 5 hours study time a day excited him and he embarked on the program. It worked and he reckons that he now gets by on just 3-5 hours sleep a night and yet can still function effectively during the daytime in the office.

Subscribers can find the full Ion Technology article at:
http://www.japaninc.com/contents.php?issueID=73
Contact naomi.shirogane@japaninc.com for subscription enquiries.

Lastly, a short notice that we will be taking our annual summer holiday break next weekend. Terrie's Take will be back on August 27th. Have a good one.

...The Information Janitors/

+++ SERVICES LINE-UP

Contact sales@japaninc.com if you want your company here.

* Advertise with Japan Inc newsletters. JIN and Terrie's Take cost just 2 yen per person to reach 54,000 people. Great for last minute offers and event advertising.
sales@japaninc.com.

* Get a low-cost office in Tokyo, at the Venture Gas Station incubator. Just JPY80,000/month, in Minami-Aoyama. Spaces closing fast -- enquire now.
mami.minagawa@lincmedia.co.jp

* J@pan Inc. magazine is quarterly. Subscriptions are just JPY3,600 a year. Sign up at
http://www.japaninc.com/mag/subs.html

* Find new bilingual sales staff -- a specialty for DaiJob.com,
andrew.peters@daijob.com Ph: 03-3499-3040

+++ NEWS

- Mind-controlled wheelchairs
- Number portability to cost about JPY5,000
- Lonely man makes 37,760 calls
- English-language education up
- Labor shortage worsening

-> Mind-controlled wheelchairs

Straight out of the pages of a science fiction novel, researchers at Tokyo's University of Electro-Communications have announced that they have developed a prototype wheelchair that responds to brain wave patterns. Intended for quadraplegics, the system involves a head cap fitted with 13 sensors to monitor the wearer's brain waves. The system is first trained by the user, and over time can be made to work with about 80% accuracy. (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Aug 10, 2006) the first time since records started in 1968, Japan's death rate exceeded her birth rate.

According to the Internal Affairs ministry, 1,072,281 people died through fiscal year 2005, while only 1,065,533 babies were born.

As a result, the number of Japanese (not including foreigners) fell 3,505 from the year before.

People aged 65 or older now account for 20.3% of the population.

(Source: TT commentary from hindu.com, Aug 5, 2006).

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20060810DA0J8101.htm

->Number portability to cost about JPY5,000

KDDI has become the first cell phone operator to publish its fee schedule for customers wanting to switch carriers but wanting to keep their number. This comes in response to the number portability law due to take effect on October 24th. KDDI said it will charge a JPY2,100 termination fee, and for those moving to KDDI from another carrier, the standard sign-up fee of JPY2,835. Since NTT DoCoMo and Softbank Mobile are expected to announce similar rates, this means that for most people wanting to switch carriers, the switch will cost them about JPY5,000 in termination and new sign-up fees. (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Aug 10, 2006)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20060809D09JFA11.htm

->Lonely man makes 37,760 calls

A 44-year old salary man in Hiroshima has admitted making 37,760 silent calls to NTT directory assistance operators in the 5 months between March and July this year, because he was lonely. He said that after making a complaint call in March he was so taken by the kind, polite response he received, he became hooked and couldn't resist listening to female operators up to 905 times a day. ***Ed: And you think YOU need to get a life?!** (Source: TT commentary from reuters.co.uk, Aug 10, 2006)

http://tinyurl.com/h3hn7

->English-language education up

While speaking English may not be the nation's strong suit, study of it is still big business. The overall foreign-language education sector in Japan was apparently worth JPY640bn (US$5.5bn) in FY2005, according to data from the Yano Research Institute. YRI also said that English conversation classes for children accounted for JPY94.6bn (US$822m), and classes for adults were worth JPY265bn (US$2.3bn). In addition to English, adult language schools are now commonly teaching Chinese, Korean, and French too.
(Source: TT commentary from guardian.co.uk, Aug 11, 2006)

http://education.guardian.co.uk/tefl/story/0,,1837535,00.html

-> Labor shortage worsening

After the tribulations of the last 15 years, we never thought we'd see the day, but a recent survey by the Nikkei has found that 39.8% of CEOs say that they are having problems finding sufficient staff. Of those surveyed, 9% said they think the labor shortage is getting substantially worse, 30.8% said they currently are short of staff, and only 6% said that there is excess labor. It appears that the biggest shortages are for sales and marketing staff, followed by factory workers. ***Ed: At least the manufacturing sector shortage could addressed by strategic increases in registered foreign workers in Japan. We think it is only a matter of time before visa volumes start to
increase.** (Source: TT commentary from nikkei.co.jp, Aug 7, 2006)

http://www.nni.nikkei.co.jp/AC/TNKS/Nni20060807D07HH007.htm

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources are now removing their articles after just a few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we apologize for the inconvenience.

Charity Event -- Tyler Foundation

The Tyler Foundation for Childhood Cancer presents: Sports Extravaganza 2006, September 29 - October 1. Cricket and rugby celebrities from the UK, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand will come to Tokyo for 3 days of sport, fun and fundraising! Sports Dinner at the Grand Hyatt, Golf Day and Celebrity Cricket match. All proceeds benefit children with cancer in Japan. Shine On!
www.tylershineon.org

For more information on the Sports Extravaganza 2006, please see:
www.tylershineon.org/index.php/events/sports_extravaganza

+++ CANDIDATE ROUND UP
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DaiJob, Inc's executive placement team, Daijob Consulting
-----------------------------------------------
DaiJob has great candidates. Contact Andrew Peters at
andrew.peters@daijob.com, or Ph: 03-3499-3040 for details.

-> HR Generalist
Female, Early 30s, Native Japanese, Intermediate English

Experience:

* Over 1yr in HR, recruitment and training of new grads & experienced staff
* Over 5yrs of stores management, managing up to 30 staff (hiring, training, daily operation supervision)
* New hire orientation, e-learning & mentoring systems
* Strength in service industry, strong interpersonal skills

*Looking for JPY5M. Available 1 month's notice.

--------------------------------------------

-> Writer/Editor/Translator
Male, 35, Native Japanese, Fluent English

Experience:

* Writer/Editor of user's manuals for digital peripherals
* Translation from E-J and J-E
* Worked on localization and internationalization projects
* Recently obtained Securities and Financial Planning certifications to expand industry knowledge

* Looking for JPY5M. Available 1 month notice.

----------------------------------------------

-> System Engineer
Male, early 30's, Native Japanese, Business English

Experience:

* Four years system engineer at ISP/SI company
* Strength in internet security, network, anti-virus sw
* Built various servers, networks for product testing
* Strong Knowledge of Unix, Linux, Solaris, Windows
* Monitoring & finding solutions on Windows servers, Unix servers, routers and L3 switches
* CCNA 640-607J and LPIC Level 1 101J, 102J holder

   Technologies:

* OS: Unix, Solaris, Red Hat Linux, Linux, SuSE, Apple OS9, Windows 2000-2003 Server/XP pro/ME/2000/98/NT4.0
* Software: IIS, Apache, MS Exchange, Squid, Sendmail, Qpop
* Database Software: Lotus Notes, Remedy, Access
* Management Systems: HP Openview, SNMPc, Netkids, Dell IT Assistant, Compaq Insight Manager, HP Insight Manager, Unicenter TNG, Veritus Open Manage, Veritus Backup Exe, Global Array Manager, Visio, ISMS
* Programming: HTML, SQL

* Looking for JPY5.5M. Available immediately.

--------------------------------------------

DaiJob has great candidates. Contact Andrew Peters at
andrew.peters@daijob.com, or Ph: 03-3499-3040 for details.

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

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Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo - September 12th

Speaker: Alex Serge Vieux, Publisher, CEO of Red Herring "Building great companies in the face of adversity"

Mr. Vieux has kindly offered to fly out from California to speak at EA-Tokyo's September seminar. He will be drawing on his extensive expertise as a high-tech journalist, entrepreneur, professor, and advisor to the French government. Mr. Vieux is currently responsible for steering the growth of the organization and guiding the publication's vision.

Date/Time: September 12th 7:00 pm
Location: City Club of Tokyo - Maple Room (Canadian Embassy)
Language: English

Website:http://www.ea-tokyo.com
Email: info@ea-tokyo.com

IT events announcements are priced at JPY50,000 per week.
For more information, contact sales@japaninc.com

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+++ ABOUT US
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