IoT Products Attract Public Attention amid the Pandemic in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The front door of this house in Tokyo is equipped with a smart lock that can be easily opened with a smartphone.

The novel coronavirus outbreak has brought people’s attention to consumer products that function in the realm of the internet of things (IoT), or the networking of everyday devices via the internet.

Among these products, smart locks and high-function LED bulbs, which can be operated with smartphones, are convenient, hygienic and said to be capable of preventing crimes.

When buying a detached house last year, a 33-year-old Tokyo company employee had a smart lock installed at the front door, which can be opened and closed with smartphone. The lock, named Ninja Lock M, is a product of Tokyo-based Linough Inc.

On a recent holiday, he arrived at his home with his 34-year-old wife, daughter, 4, and son, 2, carrying a lot of shopping bags. To unlock the door, he simply held up his smartphone to the lock.

“This is really convenient for us because we have small children and have to do a lot of shopping,” the man said with a smile.

Actually, the user can enter the house by just touching the door handle with no need to insert and turn a key.

The man also said, “I’m grateful for this system as when I come home with our small children, I don’t want to touch things at home as much as possible to prevent the novel coronavirus infections.”

The system automatically locks the door when it closes, so the user does not have to worry about whether the door has been locked when being away from home.

A Linough Inc. official said that the system sells well as people are becoming more and more interested in contactless devices.

A company employee in Osaka Prefecture, 34, started using Philips Hue, a high-performance LED bulb by Signify Japan in Tokyo, in all the rooms of his house.

The bulb changes brightness, color tone and so on in response to commands from speakers equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) or smartphones.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A woman operates the IoT lighting equipment by her voice commands as her both hands being occupied with her child.

The man lives with his 34-year-old wife and their son, 1. When he comes home, he talks to the speaker. “Turn on the light,” and then the light turns on in response.

“I can wash my hands at the wash basin near the front door without having to touch the light switch,” he said happily. For security purposes, he sometimes sets a timer so that the light automatically turns on, he said.

According to Signify Japan, the sales of high-performance LED bulbs from April to July increased about 1.7 times from the same period last year. “This product is popular not only because it’s the contactless type, but also it can change the color tone by simply giving a command by voice,” said an employee in charge.

This product is received well by people who started teleworking recently amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, as users can change the lighting color: to pale blue when the user wakes up to enhance the power of concentration, and to orange for relaxation before falling asleep, the employee in charge said.

Panasonic Homes Co. has received orders for 147 rental housing buildings with IoT equipment, including an air conditioner that can be remotely controlled with smartphones.

Rental houses equipped with IoT devices are popular and often rented faster than ordinary rental houses, a company official said.

Yoichi Ikemoto, editor-in-chief of Suumo, which is Recruit Co.’s real estate and housing information website, said: “When purchasing IoT equipment, you should make sure that your smartphone and other devices are compatible. You should also check in advance whether information on timer setting and other matters do not leak from the devices you use.”