Business

U.S. startups look to Japan's graying population

Kyodo

U.S. startups focusing on care products and services for the elderly are tapping into the graying Japanese market, where more than 35 million people are over the age of 65.

Seismic, a California-based apparel company, hopes to expand in Japan with its Powered Clothing, a body suit using robotics and sensor technology inside the garment to mimic human movements and increase strength.

The body suit is meant for all ages, but Seismic has found particular success with elderly people who enjoy sports and travel in the United States, where the population is also graying.

The number of people age 65 and older in the United States is projected to grow from 52 million in 2018 to 95 million by 2060, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

In November, Seismic partnered with Obayashi Corp. to provide its construction workers with the suits. The high-tech gear helps support various manual labor jobs that demand a lot of physical exertion.

Seismic Vice President Sarah Thomas said the company plans to release Powered Clothing in Japan by next year. Its first showroom in Japan, opened in June, will be kept open an extra month through Sept. 11 due to positive business reaction.

Powered Clothing can work for eight hours per battery charge, with prices ranging $1,000 to $5,000, according to the company.

“We are all aging,” Thomas said. “We intend to provide stability and strength to the workforce and to everyday activities for people at every age.”

Another U.S. startup firm, VSee, provides the International Space Station with a “telehealth” tool to help astronauts communicate their health to doctors on Earth.

The tool can connect to a wide range of medical devices such as pulse monitors and digital stethoscopes and can transmit clear X-ray images even under severe communication environments.

VSee aims to start doing business in Japan next April, working with doctors who respond at disaster sites, where communication with hospitals, other doctors and paramedics is necessary.

In the future, VSee hopes to explore business opportunities in the field of home care, where demand for remote health services is rising.

Other like-minded U.S. startups are MyndYou and Neurotrack Technologies Inc.

MyndYou is teaming up with Mizuho Information & Research Institute Inc. to offer artificial intelligence-based, cognitive-driven remote care to Japan’s elderly people, including those who live alone.

Working with Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., Neurotrack Technologies aims to address the growing number of Alzheimer’s disease patients in the country.

MyndYou’s monitoring app uses artificial intelligence to analyze speech and day-to-day activity patterns, while Neurotrack’s service analyzes a patient’s cognitive functions by tracking eye movements on a computer or phone. Dai-ichi Life now incorporates the service into its apps for insurance policy holders and their families to help prevent dementia and encourage early discovery of such illnesses.

“We want to continue to collaborate with overseas startup companies in order to improve the health of customers,” a Dai-ichi Life official said.