HIGHLIGHT 1 Providing Reliable and Safe Housing Utilizing IoT for Quick Recovery After Disasters Toward Commercialization of a Natural Disaster Assessment Data Gathering and Analysis System

Because homes are a core element of daily life, most customers consider safe and reliable housing important. Sumitomo Forestry Group is constantly striving to enhance the safety and durability of its buildings and to provide products and services that contribute to safety and reliability for customers and society.

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes and intense rainfalls, have become more frequent in recent years, and quick response for recovery has become all the more vital.

Sumitomo Forestry is working to develop new services that utilize IoT to provide quick support to those who have encountered natural disasters.

Addressing the Issue of the Time It Takes to Assess Disaster

Japan has many earthquakes and in recent years, climate change has made natural disasters more serious with concentrated downpours, typhoons and others causing extensive and frequent damage. In monetary terms, Japan accounts for 17% of the worldwide total of damages due to natural disasters. In the 20 years until 2015, the total cost of damages was a staggering 47 trillion yen*.

Of course, the bigger the disaster, the longer the recovery efforts, and it now takes more time to assess the situation as well. For the Kumamoto earthquake that occurred in April 2016, it took about one and a half months for the government to conduct emergency safety checks of buildings aimed to prevent secondary disasters. Disaster victims expressed their anxieties, saying, “It takes too much time to get the information we need,” highlighting one of the biggest hurdles in speedy recovery efforts.

* Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters database (EM-DAT)

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Quickly Gathering Data About Damaged Homes Using Sensing Technologies

Sumitomo Forestry is responding to such issues by developing services that promote quick recovery after disasters. Since 2017, we have been conducting trials of IoT services that utilize our analysis technologies. Specifically, we are conducting trial experiments using sensors to measure, gather and analyze data of buildings to determine their condition. We place several sensors throughout a house to acquire data, such as the magnitude of an earthquake’s tremors, flooding or other conditions, and gather this data through a network to analyze. At our Tsukuba Research Institute, we combine this data with the vast amount of data about earthquake resistance of wooden houses for high-precision analysis to create a technology that is uniquely ours. To ensure our customers’ peace of mind and safety in the event of a disaster, we are working hard toward actual implementation.

These trials, which were started in the Kanto region, are now being conducted nationwide at 12 more new locations in its second year as of October 2018. We are working to build the necessary infrastructure to enable the secure gathering of data to evaluate disasters.

A sensor installed inside a wall of a house

A sensor installed inside a wall of a house

Overview of How Data Is Gathered

Overview of How Data Is Gathered

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Supporting the Speedy Recovery of Customers and Regions Affected by Disasters

With the actual implementation of these services in the future, Sumitomo Forestry will be able to provide new value in wider range of areas.

If sensors installed in homes can be used remotely to determine the level of damage, we will be able to more quickly grasp, report and respond to the situation and arrange for repairs or other work to provide our customers the support they need. As engineers would no longer have to check each and every house, it would resolve the problem of taking too much time and can even be used for areas made inaccessible after a major disaster.

In addition, by utilizing this gathered data in different ways, we can develop new services that would give more people a sense of security. For example, we could collaborate with casualty insurance companies to provide quick damage assessments necessary for insurance benefits, which would help people rebuild their lives more quickly. In addition, we could provide data to customers and local governments for emergency risk assessments that would help prevent secondary disasters. Furthermore, our data analysis results could promote development of technologies that enhance earthquake resistance and durability.

One example of how gathered data can be utilized

One example of how gathered data can be utilized

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Providing Peace of Mind and Safety to More Customers with Our Services

While we are currently continuing to gather data, to assess building damage in a wider variety of areas, we are working to gather even more data to enhance reliability. At the same time, we are putting in place better infrastructures that will allow the installment of significantly more sensors and we are simplifying installation procedures, reducing device costs and making final improvement touches in preparation for commercialization.

While there are still many unresolved issues, we are working to overcome them one by one, and eventually, we hope to apply them to non-housing structures, overseas housing, smart city plans and other possibilities. With the popularization of new added-value houses, we want to provide more customers peace of mind and safety.

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Message from the Person in Charge of Service Development

Utilizing IoT for housing is still in its early stages in Japan. In North America, sensing technology is already being employed in many different aspects. As a member of the IoT Solutions Division, I am always thinking about what value we as a housing manufacturer can provide by using IoT. With an awareness that the number of customers concerned about safety is increasing because of the frequency of natural disasters in Japan, we decided to conduct trial experiments.

First, we are developing high-functionality sensors that can monitor our customers’ homes. And to provide recovery support and give customers peace of mind in the event of a disaster, we are working to provide quick home damage assessments. Improving reliability and added value is our ongoing challenge.

Hidefumi Suzuki, Group Manager Housing and Building Technology Group, IT Solutions Department

Hidefumi Suzuki,
Group Manager
Housing and Building Technology Group, IT Solutions Department

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Collaborating to Build Affordable Housing Model Homes in Myanmar

Overseas, Sumitomo Forestry is working to sell and promote high energy saving houses and homes that help resolve other social issues.

In Myanmar, we worked with the Japan-Myanmar Association for Industry of Housing and Urban Development (JMHU; currently, the Japan International Association for the Industry of Building and Housing (JIBH)) and the Myanmar Construction Entrepreneurs Association (MCEA) to provide technical assistance and donations necessary to construct model homes of affordable houses (homes that are affordable for even low-income earners).

The model homes were built in the Mingaladon Township in the Yangon suburbs. Forty-two Japanese companies that are JMHU members donated money, housing materials, technological support or other forms of assistance. As a chairman member of JMHU, we did the basic design of the model structure, supervised construction and provided other support in an effort to help raise living standards and realize a more prosperous society in Myanmar.

Affordable Houses built in Myanmar

Affordable Houses built in Myanmar

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