Ericsson talks Galapagos Syndrome, Unicubs and smart cities

Ericsson talks Galapagos Syndrome, Uni-Cubs and smart cities

30 OCT 2013

ERICSSON BUSINESS INNOVATION FORUM, TOKYO: The Swedish network giant has taken its annual media roadshow to ‘the world’s largest metro area’ this year but it was Honda who grabbed most interest on the opening day with a demo of its ‘Uni-Cub’ human transporter.

Under a general theme of how the ICT industry can enable new services in fast-growing cities, three issues stood out (all with varying degrees of relevance to the mobile industry):

  • Ericsson kicked things off with the results of a report claiming that ‘smartphones change cities’. The company’s ConsumerLab division surveyed smartphone users in São Paolo, Beijing, New York, London and Tokyo, asking about their interest in, and the potential development of, 18 new services relating to “important aspects of city life”. Examples of new services include social restaurant guides, a digital real-time trainer, situational shopping recommenders, mobile menus and table reservations, and same-day goods delivery. The report found that “smartphone owners who evaluated service concepts for these areas believe that in three years, market availability will be five times what it is today, turning all tested concepts into mass-market services”.
  • UNICUB4Honda’s battery-powered personal mobility device – dubbed Uni-Cub (pictured, left) – made a rare public appearance. The prototype is essentially a robotic stool controlled by the user shifting their weight in the saddle, and the unit is designed to keep you at eye-level with non chair-riding pedestrians. It’s able to handle gradients (although is primarily designed for indoor use) and has a top speed of 6km/h and a range of just under four miles. The product’s developer, Makoto Hasegawa, wouldn’t reveal whether Honda planned to commercially launch the Uni-Cub, stating only that it would depend entirely on market demand (previous market reaction to the Sinclair C5 and the Segway may not bode well).
  • Highlighting Japan’s notorious ‘Galapagos Syndrome’ was Yuichi Washida, associate professor at Graduate School of Commerce and Management, Hitotsubashi University. The phrase became common ten years ago when talking about Japanese mobile phones, which were very advanced for the time and couldn’t be used outside the country. Today, it’s used to describe the perception that Japan is becoming increasingly isolated from the outside world, especially in business. Washida blamed the cause not on marketing failures but “too modest investment” overseas and a lack of open innovation. “To overcome ‘Galapagos Syndrome’, Japanese corporates should focus on ‘local-fit’ instead of ‘Japan standardisation’,” he advised. “Even Sony suffers from Galapagos Syndrome,” he said. “Many of their products can’t be exported outside Japan.” He also urged Japan to learn from China’s experience of winning business in the western world: “Many Japanese companies don’t utilise Chinese experience in their overall strategy, this is another reason why Galapagos Syndrome occurs.”

Mobile World Live will report back from the event later this week, including speaker coverage from Facebook, NTT Docomo and KT.


Justin Springham

Justin manages the editorial content for the Mobile World Live portal and award-winning Mobile World Live TV service. In the last few years Justin has launched and grown a portfolio of premier media products, which include the Mobile World Congress...

Read more