Japan Post enlists Apple, IBM in search for ways to help vulnerable elderly

Bloomberg, Kyodo

Japan Post Holdings Co., the state-owned financial and postal giant, is enlisting IBM’s data-analytics technology and Apple Inc.’s devices for a program to improve care for elderly people as the population ages.

Japan Post Chief Executive Officer Taizo Nishimuro made the announcement at International Business Machines Corp.’s Watson headquarters, alongside IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Japan Post wants to “bring our elderly generation into the connected world, expand our businesses by deepening relationships, and discover new ways to strengthen the fabric of our society and economy,” Nishimuro said in a statement.

Japan Post has a service in which its employees visit the elderly to check up on them on behalf of family members. The tie-up would allow it to use Apple’s devices to collect information on senior citizens that would then be analyzed by IBM’s Watson analytics technology.

Japan Post plans to expand the service from fiscal 2016 through the business tie-up with the two U.S. technology companies and by developing software to be used on Apple iPads.

IBM and Apple set aside a rivalry last July that’s about as old as the personal-computer era to develop applications for businesses. For IBM, the aim is to boost sales for mobile software and services, while demand for older offerings is tumbling. Apple is trying to stanch falling shipments for the iPad.

Japan Post will begin testing the service starting in October, when it will supply tablets to about 1,000 elderly clients. In addition to the service that checks on elderly people, the program will also support shopping and health care functions.

Businesses using its vast network of post offices are seen as a way for Japan Post to find new revenue sources as it prepares for the stock listing of itself and its banking and insurance arms later this year.

Japan Post is also using Thursday’s announcement as a springboard for visits with investors in New York, San Francisco and Washington, leading up to initial public offerings of the company’s three businesses.

Japan’s government is privatizing its biggest consumer bank by listing the holding company, banking and insurance units as three separate entities, planned for later this year.