Chief Financial Officer Yuka Tomitori
The development of the Internet of Things (IoT), in which all kinds of items are connected via the internet, creating new value, is gradually starting to change lifestyle and business. There is increasing variation in the devices that are being connected, and it is said that it will be common for things such as automobiles, lighting equipment, and smart meters that control electric power to be connected in the near future.
Among these IoT devices, one that has drawn attention in recent years are wearable items. While glasses, wristwatches, and wristbands are widespread, there have been problems, such as that the items were uncomfortable and couldn’t be worn for a long time, or that the data that can be acquired was limited because the measurement position is fixed.
What we will introduce will solve such problems dramatically, Xenoma’s wearable IoT shirt “e-skin”. We asked CFO Yuka Tomitori.
"e-skin”. The crawling sensor design is futuristic. Currently there is only the shirt, but they would like to release a bottom this year as well.
Xenoma is a venture capital company started in November of 2015 with the goal of putting into practical use the “soft electronics” developed at the ERATO Someya Bio-Harmonized Electronics Project (Research generalization: Takao Someya, Professor, University of Tokyo School of Engineering), one of the projects of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), and making a contribution to society.
The features of e-skin are its elasticity and ability to be worn for long periods of time. Currently, it can be used continuously for 4 hours on full charge.
“Soft electronics are, just as the words say, elastic sensors, and ‘e-skin’ is a shirt with 14 of these attached. In addition to measurement positions being limited for wearable devices such as eyeglasses and wristwatches, another disadvantage is that batteries must be attached one by one. Is there a way to simultaneously sense various parts of the body while having the charging happen in one place? The thing that has materialized this into a smart shape is e-skin. Communication devices such as Bluetooth or compact hubs with microcomputers are attached to the chest, from which we can send data directly to your computer or smartphone.”
While it is noteworthy that e-skin can be washed normally if the hub is removed, Tomitori says that comfort is also an advantage of e-skin.
“Since the sensors attached to the shirt do not protrude from the lining, there is no stress on the skin. Other companies have washable shirts with sensors, but by applying waterproofing it becomes more difficult to stretch, and in some cases the shirt becomes rough and cannot be worn comfortably. However, the wiring of e-skin stretches, and is completely waterproof, meaning it maintains its comfort.”
Now then, what are some applications for e-skin?
“We believe it can be developed for a variety of fields, such as application for action games in which one moves the body, for checking body movements in the field of fitness, to improve movements during sports such as running, baseball, or tennis, in the health field for things such as improving posture, or having them worn by the elderly or infants to monitor movement and detect abnormalities such as falls. Furthermore, it can be applied to advanced medical fields such as measuring changes in body temperature by attaching temperature sensors, measuring electrocardiogram, or measuring oxygen concentration in the blood, and by adding a vibration function, it can be used as navigation, for example by vibrating the right arm to proceed right.”
Although navigation functions such as maps are installed in smartphones, since one has to look at the smartphone screen there are risks, such as restricted movement, bumping into others, and falling over. Many people will know the dangers of walking with a smartphone. However, since it not necessary to look at the screen when wearing e-skin, there is an extremely high degree of freedom of movement.
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The Xenoma leaflet also introduces items such as e-skin for infants. Because they are focusing on overseas expansion, Xenoma generally makes all public data, including the official website, available in English.
Currently, e-skin aims to produce visual impact, and has developed a futuristic design of black cloth with crawling with silver sensors to show at trade shows and exhibitions.
"Actually, we can prepare all kinds of variations. For example, it can be made white to emphasize the sensation of being underwear, it can be made a little bit loose and comfortable for those who don’t like tight clothes, or it can be made light pink with white sensors for infants. In any case, we would like for e-skin to be on shelves at fast fashion shops and bought just like ordinary clothes. Currently, having a smartphone is commonplace, and I would like e-skin to spread to that same level. And we aim to eventually make e-skin a “Human-Machine Interface” equipped with diverse added value.”
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Exhibited at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 held in Las Vegas, USA, January 2017. Xenoma has received support from the “Foreign Trademark Application Expense Subsidy Project” from the Tokyo Metropolitan Intellectual Property Center, operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Small and Medium Enterprise Support Center, as well as from the “Foreign Trade Show Exhibition Grant” from the Ota City Industrial Promotion Association.
The interior of Techno Front Morigasaki, the public industrial facility where Xenoma resides.
What do you feel are the merits of being located in Tokyo?
"We have moved into the industrial facility “Techno Front Morigasaki”, which I was introduced to previously through a connection. I am pleased with a variety of aspects such as the amount of electrical power we can use, the spaciousness, and how cheap the rent is, and in addition, since there are many manufacturing companies like ours renting as tenants here, we can sometimes outsource work in areas that we cannot do ourselves. Also, it is easy to get help, as we can request cooperation not only from Techno Front Morigasaki, but from factories with skilled technology within Ota City. Since e-skin is the fruit of a variety of manufacturing skills, such as apparel, electronics, design, and machine processing, Ota City, with its diverse manufacturing companies, really is an ideal environment. If you are an entrepreneur in the city and intend to do manufacturing, Ota City is a place I can recommend. It’s stimulating, and you will feel the excitement to create new things.”
In Ota City, there is a support system for collaboration among companies, such as matching enterprises within the City, and using those systems Xenoma could search for companies to outsource to and collaborate with.
e-skin was released for sale on February 1st. They are currently targeting overseas markets centered mainly on the United States, but it likely will not be long before the product is “reverse imported” to Japan and will become a product familiar to us.
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The facility is also referred to as "Ota City Omori Minami 4-chome Factory Apartment", and many small or medium sized factories reside here as well. The layout of the hallway is spacious enough to allow for a forklift to pass.