PANASONIC PARTNERS WITH INDIE STARTUPS TO DRIVE INNOVATION

After 100 years in the consumer tech business, Panasonic is going back to its roots through coinnovations with startups who maintain creative independence

“How are we evolving further for the next 100 hundred years?” asks Anne Guennewig, General Manager Corporate Communications at Panasonic, as the Japanese technology pioneer celebrates a century of signature CE innovation. “Coinnovation and cooperation are so important for our business,” she adds, referring to a new policy of “creating innovation potential” through partnerships with independent Japanese startups.

One example of what Guennewig calls a “speedboat startup” who in recent years have received funding from Panasonic but who continue to develop their own distinct brand, is Tokyo-based Shiftall.

One of the 20 startups invited to showcase their wares at the Japan Pavilion at IFA Next, Shiftall epitomises the possibilities of coinnovation with, among other products, its DrinkShift IoT fridge that never runs out of beer.

INFUSING THE LATEST IOT TECHNOLOGY WITH JAPAN’S WELL- RECOGNISED PRODUCT DESIGN HERITAGE

As Takuma Iwasa, Shiftall founder and CEO, told IFA International, the company is “infusing the latest IoT technology with Japan’s well-recognised product design heritage.” This fusion of latest software capability and cool styling is evidenced by the stylish DrinkShift bar fridge customised for your lounge and which restocks itself via IoT tech – and a cloud ful lment service – that tracks your drinking habits.

Such a quirky innovation is unlikely to have got off the ground had Iwasa stayed in his former job with the Panasonic Group. While the legacy brand was still focused on a lagging TV market that it once dominated, the Shifthall founder went out on his own to pursue possibilities in the burgeoning new world of IoT.

A couple of years ago, Iwasa approached Panasonic CTO Yoshiyuki Miyabi about a potential collaboration. The technology giant was just beginning its push into startup coinnovation, and decided to acquire half of its former employee’s company. Nonetheless, Shiftall maintains complete entrepreneurial independence.

In an effort to also self-fund innovations and promote the product among the targeted demographic, Shiftall crowd-funded its Wear Space device that was also on display at the Japan Pavilion. A wearable device designed to aid concentration by limiting sight and hearing senses via noise-cancelling technology and a partition that controls your field of view, Wear Space already won a Red Dot design award when it was being developed in 2017. Designed in coordination with the Future Life Factory, Wear Space typifies the human-machine interfaces being created by so- called J-Startups for a world where cyberspace and physical space is becoming highly integrated.

Panasonic followed a similar route at IFA through its presentation of products for “lifestyles of the near future” that employ sensing and data analysis technologies to monitor and respond to our daily life routines. At the Panasonic booth, for example, the Future Area showcased a variety of next-generation, wellbeing- enhancing care products such as the Grow head care device that identi es the condition of hair, and improves the blood ow on the scalp using infrared rays.

Like the Wear Space designed for digital nomads working in open or co-working offices, or workers finding it ever more important to create personal space where they can focus, these devices are ultimately designed to improve daily lives through their seamless simplicity.


Photo: Takuma Iwasa, Shiftall founder, and CEO