The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

Every year, thought leaders—such as tech research and advisory company Gartner Inc.—come up with lists of technologies that are flagged as great trends.

Having worked in this sector for 25 years, I am continually amazed at how Japan quietly adopts such technology. And it does so on its own terms, including, perhaps most importantly, new underlying business models.

For example, several waves of deregulation are planned for the electricity and gas sectors, starting with residential retail power sales in April 2016.

Large numbers of new entrants are lining up to penetrate this market, and the field of Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) is playing a central role.

Smart meters are being deployed broadly to facilitate consumption and billing information being shared between the grid operator and the power retailer.

At the same time, home builders and consumers are installing Home/Building Energy Management Systems (HEMS/BEMS), as well as technologies such as Google’s NEST, which connects smart devices in homes via the Internet of Things (IOT).

Thermostats, security cameras, smoke alarms, and power control devices will all be IOT devices, throwing off masses of data that clever companies will harvest, analyze, and quickly utilize to provide more innovative services and product offerings.

Which companies will reap the benefit of this big data? Only those that have innovative and visionary approaches to their ICT, ensuring that they are central to the data flows and have deployed systems which seamlessly analyze the data and automate resulting decisions or actions.

Expanding on the retail electricity example, service providers who can cheaply acquire and retain profitable customers, and accurately predict and manage their usage requirements, will be the most profitable.

What’s more, few of the new entrants will have the IT capabilities to implement this independently. This creates an amazing opportunity for the platform suppliers to facilitate the process by providing necessary tools.

A recent IOT event, hosted by PTC Inc., a leading technology solutions provider, showcased several impressive case studies of both Japanese and US companies.

Two particularly visionary enterprises were aiming to become the default platform in their respective arenas. The first, Zuora Inc., is a cloud-based billing platform optimized for subscription-based services.

As more businesses shift to recurring revenue models, they want the flexibility to experiment with these platforms on the fly.

Zuora’s customers span a variety of areas, including cloud applications, the IOT, business-to-consumer (B2C) Internet and electronic commerce models, and education.

The second company is ServiceMax, which has created a cloud platform for “best in class” mobile management of any field service operation, including maintenance of field machinery.

Beyond optimizing scheduling and processes, they are now overlaying IOT to do predictive analytics of machinery under contract.

By proactively avoiding downtime, ServiceMax’s customers can substantially increase their field service team’s efficiency and return on investment.

Both business models are examples of platforms that flexibly integrate IOT device feeds and provide analytics that facilitate customer value creation.

Neither US company has existed for very long, let alone been in Japan for long, but both bring a trending technology offering to exploit the opportunities deregulation in the electricity and gas sectors will create.

Beyond the above example of cloud-computing enabled, IOT-based big data, within the ICT Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), we have been on the cutting edge of these trends by organizing events of interest for the ACCJ membership.

Thus, over the past six months, a number of great events have been hosted by VMWare (cloud-computing), KDDI (B2C media convergence), Sprinklr and Facebook (social media), and Dark Trace (cybersecurity), among others.

Please look forward to a captivating line-up over the coming months as well, featuring IBM, Coca-Cola, as well as entrepreneur-focused events and those co-sponsored with the ACCJ Energy Committee.

We are always keen to hear from our members regarding the kind of events you would find interesting. So do bend the committee leadership’s ear with any suggestions you may have.