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NatureInterface > No.07 > P064-065 [Japanese]

NI Human Interview -- Yoshiharu Sato

NI Human Interview

Yamatake Corporation


(President & CEO of Yamatake Corporation)

A world that is easier both on people and the environment

ITAO: I heard that 95 years have passed since the foundation of your company.

SATO: Yes. I am proud of our company°«s history of almost 100 years. The founder, Takehiko Yamaguchi, named the company °∆YAMATAKE°« after his name. In the early days, we manufactured western-style nails and imported machine tool equipment. Later, we began to deal with technologies to control temperature, pressure and flow. In those days, working at oil refineries or steel factories was still dangerous, so °»relieving workers from drudgery°… was one of our important missions. Then, as we developed a wide range of businesses from building systems, industrial systems to control products, our mission was to save energy and resources. Our corporate philosophy since 1978, °»Savemation°… is an integration of °»automation°… and °»saving°…. In 1996 we established °»Realizing a world that is easier on both people and the environment°… as our corporate vision. In the same year, our factories in Fujisawa and Shonan obtained the International Standard Organization (ISO) 14001 certification. Last year was our 95th anniversary, and under the theme of °»comfortable service°… and °»comfort for people°… we launched an attempt to remove anxiety that elderly people may have about mental and physical health.

ITAO: Your company covers a wide range of fields, such as energy-control technology, nursing care and emergency dispatch service.

SATO: We would like to apply our sensing and remote technologies, not only to buildings or facilities, but also to humans. For example, we established the Safety Service Center in 1987, which provides such services as medical emergency dispatch, health management support, and mental health care. We have more than 30,000 members at present and we continuously introduce new technologies such as a wrist-worn device to monitor the user°«s health and alert the Center in case of emergency, and a tracking system for elderly persons who tend to wander off.

ITAO: In addition to looking after physical health, mental health care is likely to become more important.

SATO: I agree with you. For that purpose, we have a customer helpline in the Safety Service Center, where we answer various kinds of questions about health as well as relationships and stress. Many people make phone calls to us.

Challenge Toward Environmental Solutions

ITAO: You have been engaged in environment business for many years. What do you specifically do?

SATO: The very first environment business was monitoring. For example, in a factory we monitor the areas and hours we use the most energy. Then we analyze the data and make out an improvement plan or measure for more efficient use of energy. We also point out any unusually high consumption of energy at certain hours and find leakage of water. Sensing technology is also very important here.

ITAO: It sounds just like you make a diagnosis! It is probably the same as having a medical examination and getting a prescription.

SATO: Sure. We have to provide solutions that support our customers°« businesses. For example, as different people feel indoor temperature in different ways, it is difficult to achieve ideal indoor temperature and energy saving at the same time.

ITAO: I think that if cool air is distributed to only the areas where people stay, one big air-conditioner should be enough and a lot of energy can be saved. Spot cooling would be effective if certain areas can be monitored, and only the areas with people should be air-conditioned. For this purpose, wearable computers showing locations of people will be needed.

SATO: I see. We also provide central air-conditioning systems for houses through our °»Home comfort business°…. Air-conditioning is the most important factor in the comfort of homes, but it consumes too much energy. As you mentioned, if the air being circulated is clean, only one air-conditioner is needed. So we have proposed a central duct system that collects the air and circulates it after being filtered and well conditioned. As to the CO2 that cannot be removed by filters, a CO2 sensor is used to tell the minimum amount of air needed from the outside. And the temperature of just that air is adjusted through the heat exchanger. The running cost is significantly decreased this way. You can find airtight and well-insulated model houses installed with our air-conditioning systems in Fujisawa and Kobe. But using individual air-conditioning systems is still common. So the issue now is how to change people°«s sense of values toward the environment, especially those who are going to have their own house.

ITAO: There are not many chances to actually feel °»environmental problems°…, and people are still reluctant to pay for environmental conservation.

SATO: Sure. After the Kyoto protocol was adopted, we have proposed our total energy management system to nearly 3,000 factories, but owners are quite reluctant to pay for this system, which does not have an immediate effect.

ITAO: It seems that some guidelines or government°«s suggestions are needed. The Japanese government supports solar-panel systems and garbage-processing machines, but the degree of the government°«s participation in environmental problems is still not enough.

SATO: Keeping a balance between doing business and solving environmental problems is also very important and this is one of our objectives.

ITAO: I think that your company°«s research and development of micro-machining technology, such as a wireless temperature sensor on a spherical semiconductor, is a very useful and promising technology for solving environmental problems.

SATO: This sensor is smaller than a Jintan pill. We hope to apply this technology to environmental sensing through partnerships with universities and organizations, as well as participation in public projects.

ITAO: The possibilities are unlimited. Thank you for coming today.

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