Koichi Yagi, President of BumpRecorder Co., Ltd.
Administration and maintenance of roads usually require special vehicles designed for measuring pavement aspects including cracks, furrows and flatness. There are, however, such issues that this method can only be applied to main roads with limited frequencies due to its high costs.
The smartphone application BumpRecorder developed by BumpRecorder Co., Ltd. satisfies the needs for low-cost, quicker and handy measurement of pavement. We interviewed President Koichi Yagi.
“What triggered its developments was the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake in October 2004. Niigata is my second home, so to speak, as I spent my student days in Nagaoka City. When I left Nagoya where I lived at that time to join volunteers, no information on available routes was obtained, as the routes were cut off everywhere. Then I realized that a lack of information on roads and traffics leads to big issues once disasters take place. This was the origin of my idea for BumpRecorder.
When the Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake hit Niigata Prefecture in 2007, I headed to the destination, driving my car equipped with a pedometer modified to measure road flatness, and a GPS. My idea was I could estimate road damages by measuring where and how much my car would shake.”
Through this research, Yagi realized that bumps were larger at sites closer to the epicenter, and could obtain detailed results on sizes of actual bumps. He wanted to diffuse this technology, but the modified pedometer lacks versatility, hence not suitable for general use.
“Then appeared a revolutionary device, a smartphone. I thought it could break through a wall against wider uses if I develop application software downloadable to smartphones for measuring road bumps”.
Photo: The look of BumpRecorder installed in a smartphone. Wave charts as are demonstrated appear when it detects road bumps.
Thereafter, in February 2011 when a huge quake struck Christchurch in New Zealand, we released our Android smartphone application BumpRecorder for public use. Just after this, when the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in March, we heard a vehicle equipped with BumpRecorder measured the damages through the devastated area. It ran some 4,600 km in about 2 months after the quake.
“Since around then we started to receive inquiries from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, construction consultants, road work companies and others: ‘Is BumpRecorder usable for daily road administration and maintenance?’ At that time, I was in fact working for Toyota Motor Corporation and voluntarily developing BumpRecorder. I joined a start-up founded by 2 co-founders in October 2013 after thinking and resigned Toyota, pushed by requests from various fields.
The foundation date is October 23, the same day as the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake which was the background of the birth of BumpRecorder. The founders chose this date, keeping in mind that they would never forget their initial motivation.
What is good about BumpRecorder is its handiness to measure road bumps by just driving a car mounting a smartphone with downloaded application software installed. Another big feature is it can measure with stable precision even in a different vehicle and speed as it automatically estimates the hardness of its suspension and calculate up-and-down moves of tires.
“Reasonable fee plan is also one of the selling points. Only required is application software with no need for a special vehicle of course. Our fee plan offers a flat fee system, which is similar to fee plans of mobile phone services, employing a pay-as-you-go system. We believe our slogan “Friendly & Quality” condenses BumpRecorder’s features including handiness, reasonable fees and high measuring accuracies.
BumpRecorder Co., Ltd. also develops and offers a cloud service BumpRecorder Web. Its feature is an ability to display measured data from BumpRecorder in about 10 minutes, dramatically quicker than conventional systems which take a few days.
“In addition, users can specify the measuring period or driving direction and draw charts of mile posts or time series for each area, depending on their needs.”
Today, our customers are the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and its related bodies, local governments and commercial firms. We heard some of them are considering using BumpRecorder in their plans for road administration and maintenance schemes. In parallel, they seem to be applying similar schemes to overseas including the U.S., Europe, Korea and Indonesia.
Photo: The look of BumpRecorder Web. Bumps are differently colored by size.
Photo: BumpRecorder mounted on a car
Related products/services include Vehicle Location Services which can count the number of incoming and outgoing passengers in a parked vehicle from vibrations caused and Photo Report Services which take pictures of manholes and cracks and show them on maps.
Photo: Received the Special Award of the Tokyo Venture Technology Grand Prize in November 2015
Finally we interviewed on the advantages of locating in Kita City, Tokyo.
“Our office is in Nest Akabane, a Kita City incubation facility, and the benefits of locating here are huge. Rents are low, security is high, and meeting rooms are available. We also have a resident consultant who advises on company management and offers useful information.
Convenience is another attraction. The JR Akabane Station, 7-minute walk from Nest Akabane, allows access to either east or west of the Yamanote Line, leading to Ueno and Tokyo, or Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Shibuya. Akabane Iwabuchi Station, 3-minute walk, leads to the central Tokyo with the Nanboku Line
“In recent days, some say ‘Are you still being exhausted in Tokyo?’ particularly in the IT industry, but I think it depends on how one works rather than where. Tokyo, where densities of population and enterprises are high, offers a plenty of information and options. I believe possibilities to grab business opportunities are nonetheless high in Tokyo, should one keep keen receptivity and obtain useful information quickly.”