In this article we briefly introduce our talk about the Japanese LPWAN market that we held at the The Things Conference.
The slides will be available as a PDF file from our LinkedIn page.
According to the Corporate IT Trends Survey Report 2021 by JUAS, Japanese corporations are adapting IoT at approximately the same pace as AI. With about 25% of the interviewed companies considering the adoption of IoT, there is a good opportunity for IoT solutions and device providers. Further a report from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications shows that the usage of unlicensed LPWAN is becoming more popular.
One of the biggest drivers for the expansion of IoT is the aging and decreasing population in Japan. Which leads to an overall worker shortage but especially hits the healthcare sector. Another factor is the harsh natural environment in Japan, which requires good systems for disaster prediction and prevention. A further driver is the Japanese government which is focusing on digitalization, automation, and the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Currently, popular application fields for LoRaWAN solutions are in the areas of disaster prevention, health & safety, industrial, and smart cities. Though the fields of infrastructure and agriculture are popular in Europe they are not recommendable for new players in the Japanese market. Because the infrastructure field is already saturated, and the agricultural field would require intense sales efforts.
We introduce as a specific example the monitoring of floodgates. This solution uses our EM-ELST01 device which was also exhibited at the Wall of Fame of The Things Conference.
Along Japan’s coastlines, there are more than 10,000 manual floodgates. These are managed by the local governments. In case of typhoons or tsunamis, the government employees contact a network of local volunteers, who then close the gates. Understandably this process has a high risk of error. Therefore, we installed small LoRaWAN devices that enable the government to check if their gates are closed or open.
In general, 3G/LTE is the most popular wireless communication technology. When it comes to unlicensed wireless communication LoRaWAN is the most used. One of the reasons why LoRaWAN is not more widespread is the lack of edge devices on the Japanese market.
The reason for the limited amount of LoRaWAN devices can be firstly attributed to the not-so-common frequency AS923. But the main hurdle for most is the requirement of the Giteki certification for all integrated radio modules. Getting this certificate can be costly and takes some time. If you are wondering if your device is certified look for the logo and number highlighted in the images below.
When it comes to finding Japanese clients, large companies or government organizations might sound attractive because of their large turnovers. However, they are often slow in their decision-making. Further, they often have a conservative attitude, so it can require a lot of time and effort to convince them of your products.
A general pitfall to avoid is to offer a quality product at a too-low price. The general conception in Japanese society is that quality products are more expensive, leading to suspicion towards cheap products.
Overall, it can be challenging to enter the Japanese market as an international company as there is a strong preference for local products. This is caused by the general trust in Japanese quality, but also by the language barrier. Most employees have no confidence in their English skills and have therefore a strong preference for products/solutions that can provide Japanese tech support.
To get around the previously mentioned problem we recommend partnering with Japanese startups or small-medium sized companies. These companies are often multilingual and offer language support in Japanese and English. Further many founders and their employees originate from large companies. So, you can gain valuable network connections and recommendations.
If you like to talk more about the Japanese LPWAN market or are interested in a partnership with us please reach out to us.