KPMG Origins Aims to Secure Supply Chains

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — KPMG Origins, a joint Japan, China, and Australia project, is a blockchain-based track and trace platform, and its creators hope that it will revolutionize the management of supply chains.

“Today, supply chains are very complex,” Masatake Toyota, director of secure computing at KPMG Ignition Tokyo, told Akihabara News in a recent interview. “Each participant along the supply chain, which can be very long, would have at least one database. So you end up with many different databases for the whole supply chain.”

This reality can lead to a number of problems, especially when some of the data remains only in paper form and the databases are not standardized. This can easily lead to delays in information transmission, misinterpretations, and even fraud.

Supply chains for food products can also involve small-business farmers on one end, some of whom, especially in a country like Japan, may be elderly and not particularly tech savvy.

KPMG Origins offers a secure platform, based on the flexible blockchain framework Hyperledger Fabric, that allows participants in the supply chain to operate from a single source of information.

The advantages of this system are that the data along the supply chain becomes trusted and verified, that it offers realtime end-to-end information, and that control across national borders becomes seamless.

Those who employ KPMG Origins can access it through both desktop and mobile devices.

KPMG Ignition Tokyo, a company that launched last July, also offers supply chain mapping and training services to get its KPMG Origins customers up and running.

They are working on refinements such as voice control to make the product even more user friendly in future years.

KPMG Origins is only beginning to hit the markets this year, but several clients in Australia have already been engaged.

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KPMG Ignition Tokyo

Foundation: 2019

Headquarters: Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

CEO: Masayuki Chatani

Website

KPMG Ignition Tokyo was established in July 2019 with a mandate to utilize cutting-edge digital technologies to serve KPMG Global clients by building cloud-computing and blockchain platforms and solutions. Its annual income is in the range of US$30 billion.

News Timeline

2020

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Ory Laboratory

Foundation: 2012

Headquarters: Minato Ward, Tokyo

Co-Founders: Kentaro Yoshifuji and Aki Yuki

Website

Ory Laboratory aims to use technology “to help those who are somehow hindered in normal social participation to overcome such challenges.” Its annual income is undisclosed.

News Timeline

2020

July

-Avatar robot OriHime begins work at the Tokyo Osaki branch of Mos Burger for a month.

Avatar robot OriHime

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NTTe-Sports

Foundation: 2020

Headquarters: Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

President: Hiroshi Nakamura

Website

NTTe-Sports was established in January 2020 by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone East Corporation (NTT East) as an esports firm that would make use of 5G networks and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide support for e-sports tournaments. Its annual income is undetermined.

News Timeline

2020

July

-NTTe-Sports announced that its eXeField Akiba inaugural e-sports facility would be opening on August 11 within the Akihabara UDX building.

eXeField Akiba

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MHI Launches Emirates Mars Mission

MHI (Tanegashima Space Center) – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) successfully delivered the Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Amal spacecraft developed by the UAE Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) into orbit today via the H-IIA launch vehicle F42. The launch vehicle trajectory was executed as planned, and at about 57 minutes after liftoff, separation of the Amal spacecraft was confirmed.

Amal will be the first probe to provide a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere and its layers when it reaches Mars in 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE.

The H-IIA launch vehicle is Japan’s flagship launch vehicle and one of the most reliable launch vehicles in the world. Today’s launch was the 45th consecutive successful H-IIA/H-IIB launch, with an accumulative success rate of 98.0%.

Ahmad Belhoul Al-Falasi, UAE Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises and Chairman of the UAE Space Agency, said, “The successful launch of the Emirates Mars Mission Amal Probe today – the first interplanetary mission undertaken by any Arab nation – is a key milestone in UAE’s history. This mission exemplifies the ability of Emiratis to undertake ambitious missions. With this achievement, the UAE has become the youngest nation to successfully launch a mission to Mars within six years of project commencement. The success of Amal Probe is a huge leap forward for the UAE’s ambitious space program.”

Hamad Obaid Al-Mansoori, Chairman of Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, said, “The successful launch of the Emirates Mars Mission Amal Probe is an outcome of seamless collaboration and tireless efforts by all the teams involved. Together, we overcame the challenges, and in a remarkable feat of human ingenuity and dedication, achieved this milestone as per schedule. This mission embodies the UAE’s commitment to contribute to the future of humankind through scientific exploration and knowledge-sharing. As we reach for Mars to accelerate the development of space, education, science, and technology sectors, the first Arab interplanetary mission symbolizes a new era of progress for the region. ”

Naohiko Abe, Senior Vice President and Head of Integrated Defense and Space Systems at MHI, said, “I would like to express my profound appreciation to all involved in the launch campaign for their devoted support and cooperation. In particular, I greatly appreciate the continuous support and cooperation of UAE’s Space Agency and MBRSC with us over the four years since MHI received the contract in March 2016. Today’s launch is the second H-IIA launch for the UAE government, following the observation satellite, Khalifasat, launched in 2018. The Emirates Mars Mission targets to reach Mars in 2021 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE and I am proud that we launched successfully as scheduled today. I sincerely hope that the successful completion of the Mars mission by the spacecraft will bring hope and delight to people all around the world in the midst of this global crisis due to Covid-19. MHI values its relationships of trust we have built over the years with the UAE government and our customers and continues to provide launch services that flexibly address customers’ needs.”

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries

Foundation: 1884

Headquarters: Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

President and CEO: Seiji Izumisawa

Website

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is a Japanese multinational engineering, electrical equipment, and electronics company headquartered in Tokyo. MHI is one of the core companies of the Mitsubishi Group. Its annual income is in the range of US$40 billion.

News Timeline

2020

July

-H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 42 carries the Emirates Mars Mission’s (EMM) Amal spacecraft, developed by the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the United Arab Emirates, into space from the Tanegashima Space Center.

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Nissan Introduces the Ariya

Nissan (Yokohama) — Nissan today introduced the Nissan Ariya, an electric crossover SUV that lets customers travel farther while enjoying greater driving excitement, confidence and comfort, and connectivity.

With a 100% electric powertrain, the Ariya promises powerful acceleration and smooth, quiet operation. Drivers and passengers can relax and enjoy the ride thanks to autonomous driving technology, concierge-level assistance, connectivity, and a spacious, lounge-like interior. With an estimated range of up to 610 kilometers, the Ariya is perfect for daily commutes and weekend road trips alike.

CEO Makoto Uchida and Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta unveiled the Ariya to a global audience during a livestreamed event at the new Nissan Pavilion in Yokohama.

“The Nissan Ariya is a truly beautiful and remarkable car,” Gupta said. “It enables you to go further, easier and in comfort. The Ariya is designed to impress, and to express what Nissan strives for – making our customers’ lives better.”

The Nissan Ariya is scheduled to go on sale in Japan in mid-2021. It will be priced at around ¥5 million (US$46,700). The Ariya is planned to go on sale in Europe, North America, and China by the end of 2021.

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Rise of the Japan eSports Union

Akihabara News (Tokyo) — The Covid-19 pandemic may have slowed the rise of the Japan eSports Union (JeSU), but all indications are that it has not stopped it.

Indeed, even while institutional development was frozen for several months during Japan’s state of emergency, many Japanese spent more time during the soft lockdown playing video games and reconnecting with online hobbies, possibly increasing interest going forward.

JeSU was established in February 2018 through the merger of three organizations—the Japan Esports Association, the Esports Promotion Organization, and the Japan Esports Federation—in alliance with two other organizations, the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association (CESA) and the Japan Online Gaming Association (JOGA).

The initiative driving this consolidation, however, actually came from the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), which advised the disparate esports groups that they needed to unite if Japan were to make an effective application for Japanese esports involvement in the Olympics. Indeed, the united JeSU is now able to participate in the Esports Liaison Group (ELG) which is discussing the prospects for adding esports to the Olympics in future years.

Meanwhile, JeSU has been moving forward with its efforts to both expand and professionalize Japan’s esports community.

At present, JeSU has designated official representatives of their organization in 22 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, and they expect to reach 30 within a few months, after screening various local applicant bodies.

In an exclusive interview with Akihabara News, JeSU’s Director of the International Committee Akihito Furusawa, who also runs his own esports production company called RIZeST, explained that one element that makes JeSU unique among the various national esports organizations around the world is the fact that it brings together both the professional athletes’ organization with the technology firms that produce many of the popular competitive games, the holders of the IP.

Furusawa also explains that JeSU’s most important role to date has been the establishment of a licensing system for professional esports athletes. So far, more than two hundred licenses have been issued to many of Japan’s most talented esports competitors.

In fact, it was this licensing system that created the most controversy around JeSU. The initial reaction from Japan’s pre-existing community of gamers and esports athletes was one of deep suspicion. Many were worried that big companies were swooping into the field with the intent of shutting down the freedom of the gamers and taking all of the benefits for themselves. The most notable critic was the respected esports athlete Yusuke Momochi, who spoke for many when he declared that the community’s voice wasn’t being heard by JeSU and that that gamers were being disrespected.

Furusawa acknowledges that JeSU initially failed to take the time that was needed to communicate with the players’ communities. “We didn’t have enough discussion,” he concludes.

However, during the course of last year JeSU engaged in a more intensive discussion with the skeptics and reassured them that the organization’s role was not to limit anyone’s freedom, but rather to support and strengthen Japan’s esports community. By December 2019, these efforts bore fruit when leading critic Yusuke Momochi himself agreed to become a licensed player under JeSU’s system.

In the meantime, JeSU has been conducting the lower profile but important work of professionalizing its licensees, educating these often very young athletes how to conduct themselves with the media, how to pay their taxes, and basically how to behave as esports professionals.

In this context, another challenge that JeSU is still facing are difficulties with Japanese government regulation of esports, which have several aspects that obstruct its development.

The most knotty of these unresolved issues regards the prize money given to winners of esports tournaments. Large prize awards (over ¥100,000) have been deemed to violate advertising laws, and there are also questions about how players should receive their money and report it for taxation purposes. JeSU’s licensing system was intended to help resolve this matter, but it is not clear if the government authorities are entirely on board with its proposed solutions.

One area in which JeSU has enjoyed smoother sailing is the expansion and promotion of Japanese esports internationally. It has joined two groups, the International Esports Federation (IESF), established in 2008, and the much newer Global Esports Federation (GEF), established last December. In both cases, Furusawa explains, JeSU’s objective is to “maximize opportunities for Japanese players” in joining international tournaments, as well to give additional exposure for Japanese IP.

Both JeSU and the wider Japanese esports community are still in their infancy from an institutional point of view. While esports cafes have existed in Japan for about a decade, there are still very few of them. Most larger scale venues, like the multi-purpose esports facility that NTT is building in Akihabara, have yet to open.

Nevertheless, JeSU members, as well as independent outfits like JCG, PlayBrain, and Furusawa’s own RIZeST, are all gearing up to put Japanese esports on the map, both nationally and internationally.

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Honda Forms Battery Alliance with CATL

Honda (Ningde) — Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Limited (CATL) and Honda have signed an agreement to form a comprehensive strategic alliance on new energy vehicle batteries to strengthen their strategic partnership and promote the popularization of electrified vehicles. This agreement will enable the two companies to begin discussions on a broad range of areas including joint development, stable supply, and the recycling and reuse of batteries.

By bringing together the two companies’ individual technology advantages, CATL and Honda will conduct joint development on NEVs batteries and joint R&D into fundamental technologies, aiming for their future application. CATL will provide stable supply of NEV batteries to Honda, mainly for battery electric vehicles (BEVs). The first model equipped with a CATL battery is scheduled to be launched in the Chinese market in 2022. This alliance will be further expanded to the global level in the future. Moreover, battery recycling and reuse also will be a topic in further discussions between CATL and Honda.

CATL is a technology company that is committed to providing advanced battery solutions for global new energy application, with businesses covering R&D, manufacturing and sales of battery systems for new energy vehicles and energy storage systems. Honda is a mobility company with motorcycles, automobiles, life creation (power products) and aircraft businesses around the globe, and is currently accelerating its initiatives to electrify its products on a global basis. By strengthening technological cooperation and the competitive supply system, CATL and Honda will strive to realize global electrification together.

Honda has acquired approximately 1% of CATL shares through the non-public issuance of stocks, which makes Honda a leading strategic partner of CATL. This will enable Honda to secure a stable supply of batteries with excellent product and cost competitiveness. Through the non-public issuance of stocks, CATL will strengthen its battery development and further expand production capacity, etc. Based on this alliance, the two companies will strengthen initiatives to further popularize electrified vehicles and establish a long-term relationship.

Comments by Zhou Jia, President of CATL: “Honda is a key player in global electrification. Through this strategic cooperation, CATL and Honda will establish a stronger global partnership. We are working together to deliver more competitive products and solutions to global electrification, and to finally achieve a clean and pleasant style of mobility.”

Comments by Toshihiro Mibe, Senior Managing Officer, Executive in Charge of Monozukuri (Research & Development, Production, Purchasing, Quality, Parts, Service, Intellectual Property, Standardization and IT), Honda Motor Co, Ltd: “This alliance enables Honda to further strengthen its partnership with CATL. As the speed of electrification continues to increase, CATL will be a partner that will give Honda new strength, and we believe that our long-term alliance will enable Honda to further increase the competitiveness of our electrified products. Honda will continue its challenges toward offering joy and freedom of mobility and the realization of a sustainable society.”

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Sony Invests in Epic Games

Sony (Tokyo) — Sony Corporation and Epic Games, Inc. are pleased to announce that Sony has agreed to make a strategic investment of US$250 million to acquire a minority interest in Epic through a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony. The investment cements an already close relationship between the two companies and reinforces the shared mission to advance the state of the art in technology, entertainment, and socially-connected online services.

The investment allows Sony and Epic to aim to broaden their collaboration across Sony’s leading portfolio of entertainment assets and technology, and Epic’s social entertainment platform and digital ecosystem to create unique experiences for consumers and creators. The closing of the investment is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals.

“Epic’s powerful technology in areas such as graphics places them at the forefront of game engine development with Unreal Engine and other innovations. There’s no better example of this than the revolutionary entertainment experience, Fortnite. Through our investment, we will explore opportunities for further collaboration with Epic to delight and bring value to consumers and the industry at large, not only in games, but also across the rapidly evolving digital entertainment landscape,” said Kenichiro Yoshida, Chairman, President and CEO, Sony Corporation.

“Sony and Epic have both built businesses at the intersection of creativity and technology, and we share a vision of real-time 3D social experiences leading to a convergence of gaming, film, and music. Together we strive to build an even more open and accessible digital ecosystem for all consumers and content creators alike,” said Tim Sweeney, Founder and CEO of Epic.

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Itochu

Foundation: 1949

Headquarters: Kita Ward, Osaka

President and CEO: Masahiro Okafuji

Website

Itochu Corporation is one of the largest Japanese general trading companies, distinguished by not being descended one of the historical zaibatsu. It grew out of its textile business, but later expanded into many fields. Its annual income is in the range of US$45 billion.

News Timeline

2020

July

-Itochu reportedly offers about US$5.6 billion to increase its stake in the convenience store chain FamilyMart from 50.1% to 100%, which would make it a wholly-owned subsidiary of the trading company.

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JR East

Foundation: 1987

Headquarters: Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

President: Yuji Fukasawa

Website

East Japan Railway Company (JR East) is the main railway company operating in the Kanto region and is the largest railway company in the nation. It is the largest of the seven private companies created by the breakup of the state-run Japanese National Railways in 1987. Its annual income is in the range of US$30 billion.

News Timeline

2020

July

-JR East President Yuji Fukasawa declares that “we won’t return to the situation before the epidemic.” The company will be shifting its fare structure, including the possibility of changing the prices of boarding the trains depending on the time of day.

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JR Central

Foundation: 1987

Headquarters: Nagoya City, Aichi

Chairman: Koei Tsuge

Website

Central Japan Railway Company (JR Central) is the main railway company operating in the Chubu region of central Japan, and noted especially as owner and operator of the the Tokaido Shinkansen between Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station. It is one of the seven private companies created by the breakup of the state-run Japanese National Railways in 1987. Its annual income is in the range of US$15 billion.

News Timeline

2020

July

Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu officially notifies JR Central that it must stop construction of the Chuo Shinkansen maglev, part of which is to run through Shizuoka. The governor feels that environmental protection measures are insufficient.

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Telexistence

Foundation: 2017

Headquarters: Minato Ward, Tokyo

CEO: Jin Tomioka

Website

Telexistence is a Japanese firm dedicated to the design, manufacture, and operation of robots. Its annual income is undisclosed.

News Timeline

2020

July

Telexistence announces an agreement with FamilyMart to use remote-control robots to restock the shelves on convenience stores. The first tests to begin this summer with the aim of having robots in up to 20 stores by 2022.

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PlayBrain

Foundation: 2016

Headquarters: Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

CEO: Michael Sheetal

Website

PlayBrain is a company built to help brands reach gamers and game fans with esports, targeted communication, and content marketing. Its annual income is in the range of US$2 million.

News Timeline

2020

July

PlayBrain announces that it has raised US$6 million in funding to create content and manage tournaments for esports competitions in Japan. The investment is said to for growing the company’s presence and expand esports and entertainment properties.

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Mitsubishi-NTT Anode Team Up on Renewable Energy

Mitsubishi Corporation (Tokyo) — Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) and NTT Anode Energy Corporation (NTT Anode) have agreed to study collaboration in the energy sector. The agreement is part of the industrial partnership formed between MC and NTT Corporation (NTT) on December 20, 2019.

MC is engaged in a wide range of electric power businesses and is now endeavoring to extend those operations beyond power distribution. By combining renewables and other green energy sources with digital technologies, the company aims to provide customers with new, value-added solutions to balance supply and demand. Also active in energy storage, MC manufactures and sells vehicle-and-industrial-use lithium-ion batteries and promotes their reuse and further application throughout the energy sector. These initiatives are invested in the development of sustainable societies and are helping MC to both strengthen its corporate worth and realize its three-value mission.

NTT Anode was established to promote smart-energy businesses that take advantage of the NTT Group’s proprietary ICT and direct-current (DC) technologies. By maximizing the group’s synergies and optimizing use of distributed energy resources, such as storage batteries and power generation facilities driven by renewables, the company is working with its partners to develop new energy-distribution systems and invigorate industry.

The MC-NTT Anode alliance will focus on the following areas:

Renewable Energy Generation: This work will study to involve joint investment in renewable energy projects in Japan and overseas, as well as investigation into the possibility of supplying energy from those projects to NTT Group companies.

Energy Management with EVs and Storage Batteries: This work will study to involve building a microgrid platform for new, decentralized energy businesses that incorporates electric vehicles (EVs) and storage batteries, and leveraging both those businesses and the existing networks of MC and NTT Anode to investigate unique energy solutions.

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NTT

Foundation: 1952

Headquarters: Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

President: Jun Sawada

Website

The Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, commonly known as NTT, is a Japanese telecommunications company. From its establishment in 1952 until 1985, it was a state-owned enterprise. Currently, the NTT Group consists of NTT East, NTT West, NTT Communications, NTT Docomo, the latter two listed separately on the stock market. Its annual income is in the range of US$110 billion.

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NEC

Foundation: 1899

Headquarters: Minato Ward, Tokyo

President: Takashi Niino

Website

NEC Corporation is a Japanese multinational information technology and electronics company. Formerly known as the Nippon Electric Company, it provides IT network to business enterprises, communications services providers, and to government agencies. Its annual income is in the range of US$30 billion.

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Sparx Group Establishes Space Frontier Fund

Sparx Group (Tokyo) — Sparx Innovation for the Future Co., Ltd.—a subsidiary of Sparx Group Co., Ltd.—today announced that it established the Space Frontier Fund. The fund primarily aims to support human resources and technology development in space-related industries, to foster Japanese space companies that are competitive on the world stage, and to contribute to technological innovation throughout Japan.

Casting technologies that “promote the exploitation of space” as core technologies of the future, the Space Frontier Fund invests in start-ups and other organizations that boast innovative technologies in related sectors. Even as Covid-19 continues to have a significant impact on life and society, the fund helps accelerate the pace of innovation by financing companies’ and projects’ business development in technologies that will drive future growth.

The Space Frontier Fund began operations in June with its initial total capital of ¥8.2 billion (US$77 million) financed through contributions from its limited partners. By December 31, 2020, the goal is to have gathered a total of ¥15 billion (US$140) in capital through additional contributions from investors that endorse the objectives of the new fund.

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