Health monitoring is a hot topic in many sectors, from healthcare to manufacturing to athletics. How could Mitsufuji leverage its existing products to enter a new market and capitalize on this trend?
Mitsufuji used IBM® Maximo® Worker Insights with Watson IoT Platform to build a solution that captures, analyzes and tracks users’ heart rate, location and other health-critical data in real time via a range of innovative wearable products.
Empowersclients to keep people safe with real-time monitoring of fatigue and stress levels
Harnessesa software-as-a-service solution that enables global scalability and client support
3x fastertime-to-market by accelerating development and enabling rapid prototyping
Business challenge story
Weaving a new business model
Many of today’s most admired companies have built their reputation on their ability to pivot their business when the right opportunity arises. It takes both courage and agility to make fundamental changes to your business model; if your company is already successful in one line of business, entering a new market can seem like a high-risk strategy. Yet this willingness to take a new direction and think outside the box is a hallmark of truly transformative organizations.
Mitsufuji Corporation is a fine example. Originally founded in 1956, the company has long been a leader in the Japanese textiles industry. In the 1990s, the company’s research and development team created AGposs, a silver-metalized fiber that found an immediate application in antibacterial textiles used to manufacture socks and other odor-free garments.
AGposs has another interesting property: its silver content makes it highly electrically conductive. As the market for wearable technologies began to take off in the 2010s, Mitsufuji realized that AGposs represented a huge opportunity to enter the growing smartwear industry.
Combining its deep knowledge of textile manufacturing with new expertise in hardware and software design, the company has developed an end-to-end solution called “hamon”. The hamon solution uses garments woven from AGposs to collect biometric data from the wearer’s body, and capture it in a tiny wearable device. The device transmits the data first to the wearer’s smartphone, and then to an analytics system in the cloud, which generates useful insight on the wearer’s health, stress level, location, and other relevant data.
Mr. Ayumu Mitera, CEO of Mitsufuji, comments: “We developed the hamon solution quickly, and began working with a number of organizations in different industries to prove that the concept worked. We collaborated with athletes from Japan’s professional basketball, rugby and boxing organizations, as well as healthcare professionals and leading industrial companies to identify use cases. In each instance, the clients were excited by the potential benefits.”
Mitsufuji realized that the solution would potentially need to support thousands of users, both in Japan and worldwide.
Ms. Rina Tokunaga, Corporate Sales at Mitsufuji, explains: “One of our clients in the automotive industry has more than 100 manufacturing sites around the world. If they decided to roll out hamon to all their workers, we would need a cloud service that could scale globally. With our existing back-end technologies, that was not possible, so we decided to look for a partner to help us truly harness the Internet of Things.”
Mr. Mitera comments: “We were impressed with the capabilities of IBM Maximo Worker Insights for safety monitoring, and with IBM’s strong reputation in this area. At the same time, we saw that IBM Watson IoT Platform could not only solve our scalability problem, but also provide new functionality and help to accelerate development. When we work with new clients, we often start with a phase of rapid prototyping—so the faster our development cycles are, the sooner we can deliver value.”
Before Mitsufuji started working with IBM, the company had considered building its own IoT solution for locating and connecting users via GPS.
Ms. Tokunaga says: “Developing a GPS capability in-house would have been a challenging project, and we expected the development to take about a year. One of the biggest advantages of IBM Watson IoT Platform is that it supports GPS out of the box, so we were able to avoid all the time, effort and investment of building this feature ourselves.”
In fact, Mitsufuji was able to migrate its entire back-end systems architecture to IBM Watson IoT Platform and IBM Maximo Worker Insights in less than four months.
“Moving to the IBM solutions helped us get our GPS features to market three times faster than if we had developed them alone,” says Ms. Tokunaga. “In general, we believe that our speed of development will be dramatically improved by taking full advantage of the features of both IBM Maximo Worker Insights and IBM Watson IoT Platform.”
Keeping users safe and healthy
With the IBM solutions in place, Mitsufuji is now well-positioned to help its clients expand their use of hamon and safeguard the health of many more users—both in Japan and worldwide.
For automotive and heavy industrial clients, hamon will help to protect employees who are working in tough conditions. Heat stress can be a particular problem, especially during hot weather and when workers are engaged in tasks such as welding or working with furnaces. The hamon solution uses IBM Maximo Worker Insights to monitor employees’ heart rates and calculates metrics such as the RR interval – the time between peaks in the heartbeat. Supervisors can observe the metrics in a dashboard and observe signs of stress or tiredness—enabling them to intervene quickly if a worker becomes too fatigued and needs to take a break.
“Heat stress is a very important issue in the automotive industry in Japan,” explains Ms. Tokunaga. “If employees work too hard and don’t take enough breaks, they can end up in hospital with heatstroke. IBM Maximo Worker Insights delivers the real-time insight that our clients need to ensure the safety of their workers.”
A second use case for the solution is to help healthcare workers monitor the condition of vulnerable patients—especially elderly people who may have heart-related health problems. By using hamon to track these patients’ heart rates in real time, healthcare organizations can instantly alert medical staff when any irregularities are detected.
Finally, Mitsufuji has been working with a range of sportspeople, including a world champion boxer, professional basketball players, and both national and university rugby teams, to provide greater insight into physical and mental conditioning. By closely monitoring athletes during practice, hamon can help coaches understand when they are training too hard, and adjust their schedules to reduce the risk of injury.
Mr. Mitera concludes: “We are excited to continue working with both IBM and our clients to develop the hamon solution further. We see IBM as a valuable member of our team, not only providing powerful Internet of Things technologies, but also helping us identify new market opportunities around the world.”
Mitsufuji Corporation is the manufacturer of AGposs, a unique silver-metalized fiber with both antibacterial and conductive properties. The company’s Hamon smartwear solution combines AGposs garments with wearable devices to help Mitsufuji’s clients monitor the health of their employees and customers in real time. Current clients include some of the world’s leading automotive companies, several of Japan’s top professional athletes and sports teams, and major healthcare organizations.
Take the next step
IBM is an established leader in the Internet of Things with more than 6,000 client engagements in 170 countries, a growing ecosystem of over 1,400 partners and more 750 IoT patents which together help to draw actionable insight from billions of connected devices, sensors and systems around the world. For more information on IBM Watson IoT, please visit ibm.com/iot.
View more client stories or learn more about IBM Watson IoT