Apple, IBM team with Japan Post to offer seniors in Japan health app-equipped iPads

By Aditi Pai
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Apple IBM HealthcareApple and IBM have partnered with Japanese conglomerate Japan Post Group -- building on the partnership the two tech companies announced last year --to provide Japanese senior citizens with iPads that they can use to manage their health. Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted to reporters that the rollout in Japan could lead to similar ones in other countries in the future.

Japan Post Group operates post offices, banks, and insurance companies. It has 24,000 post offices and a workforce of 400,000. If seniors or their caregivers choose, they can take advantage of one of Japan Post Groups' post office services, called Watch Over where, for a fee, the mail carriers will check in on elderly customers and then provide the elderly person's family with an update. 

In the second half of this year, customers can upgrade the service to include iPad monitoring as well.After Japan Post Group pilots the iPads and software with 1,000 seniors for six months, the company will expand the service in stages. The conglomerate eventually aims to offer the service to 4 to 5 million customers in Japan by 2020.

The iPads will come equipped with IBM-developed apps and analytics that are designed to help senior citizens manage their health and connect with their community. Although currently, Japan's 33 million senior citizens account for 25 percent of Japan's population, according to the  Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, this number is projected to grow to 40 percent over the next 40 years.

“We are joining with two of the world’s most respected leaders in technology to bring our elderly generation into the connected world, expand our businesses by deepening relationships, and discover new ways to strengthen the fabric of our society and economy,” Japan Post Group CEO Taizo Nishimuro said in a statement.

The iPads will have all of Apple's preloaded software too, like FaceTime, iCloud Photo Sharing, access to the App Store, and settings for low vision and hearing impaired users. The devices will also offer apps that IBM built specifically for elderly people: apps for medication adherence, apps for exercise and diet, and apps that provide users with access to community activities and supporting services, including grocery shopping and job matching.

“What we’re starting today draws on IBM’s long heritage of innovation at the intersection of technology, business and society,” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said in a statement. “The potential we see here -- as broad as national economics and as specific as the quality of life of individuals and their families -- is one example of the potential of mobile-led transformation anywhere in the world where issues of an aging population exist.”

The older population is also increasing in the US. Earlier this month, a report from Tractica found that the number of people using home health technologies will increase from 14.3 million worldwide in 2014 to 78.5 million by 2020. And one of the key factors driving interest in home healthcare technologies is the aging populations, an analyst said at the time.