Japan Post looks to branch into digital map business

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A sign for the Japan Post Group

Japan Post Group plans to jump into the digital map business, making use of its postal delivery networks.

By collecting firsthand information through its delivery networks, the company aims to create maps equivalent in quality to Google Maps, produced by U.S. tech giant Google Inc.

Japan Post hopes to nurture a new line of business and revenue source as demand for postal services inevitably dwindles.

However, questions exist over whether the company can properly manage the information it obtains.

Japan Post is considering forming a partnership with GeoTechnologies Inc., a leading Tokyo-based company that makes digital maps for car navigation systems, sources said. GeoTechnologies was founded by Pioneer Corp. and later became independent.

Digital maps of urban areas are said to be updated once a year, while those of regional areas once every few years.

With about 24,000 post offices and about 100,000 delivery personnel working across the country, Japan Post plans to make use of its delivery services to reflect the latest information on digital maps.

Specifically, the company will collect information about roads, buildings and the like via delivery personnel, as well as with cameras attached to delivery motorbikes, and reflect the data on digital maps whenever necessary.

Japan Post is considering creating 3D maps using photos of roads and buildings taken by delivery drones that it plans to put into commercial use in as early as 2023, in addition to data obtained by a satellite company that it has invested in.

Japan Post will use the digital maps to streamline operations as well as for administrative and public services. The company also plans to sell them. In addition, it is considering putting them to use on the metaverse, a next-generation virtual world on the internet in which people are pinning great hope for business opportunities.

Info management crucial

The use of information obtained through the postal service in businesses other than mail delivery services is prohibited by the Postal Law.

Japan Post will make a final decision on how to respond to this matter by taking into account a conclusion to be made by a panel of experts at the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry that is discussing how relevant data should be used.

In the past, a postmaster inappropriately used individuals’ information obtained through Japan Post for services outside the postal service, including political activities.

Harsh comments concerning data management were made at a meeting of the expert panel in late January, with lawyer Masakazu Masujima saying: “Trust, which serves as a prerequisite for data utilization, has been lost. [Japan Post] needs to rebuild its corporate governance first.”