Creating new value through collaboration and expanding activities at exhibitionsFatigue Science Laboratory Inc
Mr. Kunihiko Kuratsune, President of Fatigue Science Laboratory Inc. (center), Mr. Yoshiaki Fukuya of Panasonic Corporation (left), and Mr. Takahiko Isa of Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (right)
In order to collaborate well with other companies to create products with new value, what kind of perspective should you have for finding partners and facing development? And how should the New Value Creation Exhibition be used? We talked with Fatigue Science Laboratory which teams up with manufacturing companies to release various products based on the "Fatigue Quantification Program" developed in-house, and its partners Murata Manufacturing and Panasonic.
Fusion of manufacturing technology and academic insight
Measure the degree of "fatigue" which was previously subjective, and express it with a visible "numerical value." Based in Osaka Prefecture, the Fatigue Science Laboratory has created products that considerably contribute to the improved productivity of companies in the health and medical fields in collaboration with other companies.
Founded mainly by doctors of the Fatigue Clinical Center at the Osaka City University School of Medicine, the company focuses on the connection between fatigue/stress and the autonomic nervous activity. In collaboration with the center and RIKEN, the company developed a unique algorithm that analyzes changes in autonomic nerve activity based on heart rate data and quantifies fatigue and stress. The mechanism was approved by the government and used for reconstruction support activities after the Great East Japan Earthquake. President Kunihiko Kuratsune looked back on that time.
"From the early summer of 2011 immediately after the earthquake, we started taking measurements of Kesennuma staff at the government's request, and one problem emerged. The electrocardiographs and sphygmographs used at the time sometimes deteriorated due to weather and dry skin, requiring new measurements.''
Combining insights of the two companies to overcome the problem
The solution to this problem was to cooperate with Murata Manufacturing. Making use of Murata Manufacturing's system that simultaneously measures both heart and pulse wave data, in 2012 the two companies completed a simple fatigue and stress measurement system "VM302" (Photo 1) that is both easy to use and delivers precise data quickly. Mr. Takahiko Isa from Murata Manufacturing talked about the benefits of collaboration.
"We had the know-how to make high-precision sensors, but no foundation in medicine. Therefore, we fused our manufacturing skills with the academic insights of the Fatigue Science Laboratory. We completed an easy-to-use system that can accurately detect the condition of a measured subject while reducing the burden on them.''
The two companies will continue to polish their product through collaboration. In 2015, they commercialized the successor to the "VM302," the smartphone-compatible "VM500" (Photo 2), and in 2018 a non-medical device "MF100" (Photo 2) of the same model. They are developing sales channels by displaying at the New Value Creation Exhibition.
Collaborations of the Fatigue Science Laboratory with other companies are not limited to the above example. In the joint development of "Kimochi Scan" (Photo 3) with Panasonic Corporation, combining the Fatigue Science Laboratory's algorithm for quantifying fatigue with Panasonic's technology to estimate heart rate variability from the face skin color caught by a PC camera successfully "visualized" worker feelings (kimochi). Panasonic's Yoshiaki Fukuya talked about the collaboration process as follows.
"With our non-contact vital sensing technology, we can estimate the pulse level from the face image of the web camera installed on the PC. However, it is difficult for the company alone to complete the solution menu "visualization of feelings" based on medical knowledge. So under the supervision of the Fatigue Science Laboratory we overcame the problem by combining the knowledge of both companies.''
What does the Fatigue Science Laboratory think about these various collaborations?
"We have applied for patents jointly with Murata Manufacturing, and the Panasonic project considers compiling and analyzing fatigue-related data to visualize fatigue accumulation and productivity by day, week, and month. In collaboration with JINS Holdings Inc., we also filed a patent application for measuring fatigue through eye movements via eyeglasses. I feel that there will be great potential for collaboration in the fields of health and productivity." (Mr. Kuratsune)
By just putting the index finger of both hands on the top of the device, "VM302” can measure cardiac radio waves and pulse waves simultaneously and measure the degree of fatigue and stress.
The black model in the foreground is "MF100" and the white model in the back is "VM500." Both display the results on your smartphone simply by inserting your thumb.
Face images are captured with the front camera mounted on the Panasonic mobile PC "Let's Note," and the "Kimochi Scan" measurement screen estimates the fluctuation pattern of the pulse level.
Considering its cost effectiveness, not running an exhibit booth is not an option
The Fatigue Science Laboratory has been participating in the New Value Creation Exhibition since 2015. This is because there are large benefits to continued participation. One of them is increasing familiarity and name recognition.
“I was surprised there were so many people interested in our company right from the first exhibition. At the booth, 4 to 5 demonstration devices are installed every year to measure the stress of visitors, and sometimes dozens of people line up to try. Since the start of the exhibition, the number of homepage visits and inquiries have increased dramatically, and the exhibition has resulted in many collaborations."
The company is also collaborating with pharmaceutical companies and supplement companies that want to use their data based on medical insights for evidence in new drug and supplement development. The company has received requests from precision equipment manufacturers to build a system that measures fatigue and stress with their sensors, and many companies wish to purchase the exhibited equipment. Moreover, it is also important that the organizer actively supports collaborations.
“Exhibition fees for the New Value Creation Exhibition are relatively reasonable, and the coordinators (specialists) of SME Support Japan provide support for matching with other companies. Considering its high cost effectiveness, not participating is not an option."
Through collaboration, the company will provide original products that leverage company strengths, make good use of outside exhibitions and other venues, and widely publicize these products, exploring new collaboration opportunities. The Fatigue Science Laboratory's attitude towards these activities should be a great reference for manufacturing SMEs aiming for a breakthrough.
Coverage date September 26,2019
Fatigue Science Laboratory Inc
Subject of interview = President Kunihiko Kuratsune
Founded in 2005 with the investment of several doctors of the Fatigue Clinical Center at the Osaka City University School of Medicine. Research and development on health evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment, research, development, and distribution of medical technology and medical supplies for various fatigue based illnesses. In addition to device development in collaboration with other companies, it is strong in data evaluation and analysis, and also plans, drafts, develops, researches, acquires, maintains, and uses intellectual property rights such as patents and utility models.
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