Apple, IBM, Japan Post Group create pilot program to bring iPad, custom health/monitoring software to the elderly

Apple, IBM, and Japan Post Group jointly announced a pilot program to bring iPads with custom software to Japan’s elderly. The short term goal is to expand the existing JPG Watch Over program (which has workers check in on elderly customers for a nominal monthly fee), giving pilot program customers iPad loaded with custom health and monitoring software. The longer term goal (say, five years out) is to expand this program to put these custom iPads in the hands of the majority of seniors in Japan.

Here’s a link to the Japan Post Group’s Wikipedia page. Japan Post Holdings operates post offices, banks, and insurance businesses in Japan. They took over the public Japan Post in 2007.

From the Apple press release:

Japan Post Group, IBM and Apple® today announced a first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at improving the quality of life for millions of Japanese senior citizens. Built on the global partnership Apple and IBM announced last year, the new initiative will deliver iPads with IBM-developed apps and analytics to connect millions of seniors with services, healthcare, community and their families.

After piloting iPads and apps custom developed for the elderly, Japan Post Group will expand the service in stages with the objective of including 4 million to 5 million customers in Japan by 2020.

Today more than 33 million seniors make up about 25 percent of Japan’s population, projected to grow to 40 percent over the next 40 years.

There is some reporting that say Apple will be giving away millions of iPads. I am not getting that from the press releases I’ve read. Instead, the sense I get that Apple is giving iPads to members of the pilot program. As the program expands, I’d guess that Japan Post will either resell iPads to its Watch Over customers, or charge a monthly fee to include an iPad with the check-in service.

This program is, in some ways, like leveraging Uber to deliver groceries. The Uber service works on its own, and if you add grocery delivery to the mix, you enhance an existing business to create a new one.

Japan Post has an army of postal workers already visiting every home in Japan. Having those workers check in on the elderly is a great idea. Adding health monitoring to the mix makes it ever better. The question that pops into my mind is one of training. Are the Watch Over workers the postal workers? If so, will all of these postal workers undergo special training to deliver/setup/monitor the iPads? If so, that’s great leverage of an existing business. If not, there’s still the leverage of a business that already knows how to organize a large team of workers and network them to reach all homes in Japan.

The press release lays out the elements included with the initiative:

  • iPad® and its intuitive built-in apps, capabilities and features including FaceTime®, Messages, Mail, Photos and iCloud® Photo Sharing, along with access to rich content in the App Store℠, iTunes Store® and iBooks Store℠. iOS 8, offering award-winning accessibility features, including settings for low vision and hearing impaired users.
  • Custom-built apps specifically for the elderly by IBM Global Business Services for reminders and alerts about medications, exercise and diet, along with direct access to community activities and supporting services such as grocery shopping and job matching.
  • Exclusive cloud services of the IBM MobileFirst for iOS platform, for data integration and security, analytics, and management of millions of devices; along with systems integration services and training for Japan Post Group employees.
  • Pioneering text analytics and accessibility technologies, many invented in IBM Research – Tokyo, including Japanese natural language analysis and tracking to guide seniors and make the experience more natural.
  • The nationwide infrastructure of Japan Post Group and its ability to cover the “last mile” to virtually every citizen of Japan. In addition to 24,000 post offices and a workforce of 400,000, Japan Post Group has existing financial relationships with nearly all of the 115 million adults in Japan.

This is an incredibly ambitious program with a potentially huge upside for the elderly in Japan and for their families as well. A remarkable effort on the part of Apple, IBM, and Japan Post Group.