A Power Network Encompassing Smart Houses and Electric Vehicle Batteries
As the term "smart house" indicates, the housing industry has made good progress in the "smart" use of electric power. Murata is a complete newcomer in this field, and we face the big challenge of developing successful business here.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry supports the "smart city" concept by providing subsidies, and major demonstration trials are now underway in four places in Japan: Yokohama, Toyota (Aichi Pref. ) , Kansai Science City (located around the borders of Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara Prefs. ) , and Kitakyushu. Toyota City is promoting the use of some 4,000 eco-friendly vehicles, including electric vehicles, with a focus on power generation, transmission and storage, where batteries in electric vehicles will also be utilized.
An electric vehicle has an operating range of just 100 km, but its battery can store the same amount of energy as is consumed every day in a home. The battery is recharged during the night. If you don't drive the car during the day, you can use the stored energy for air-conditioning and interior lighting. This gives you the choice of using your stored electricity in your home or to take a drive. I believe this is the ultimate smart energy. It is an interesting experiment that is connected with consumers' lifestyles.
Murata's Sensor and Network Technology will Make Sense
We can use consortiums to enter the housing industry. As I said earlier, the government funds only 4 projects on the "smart city" concept. By contrast, in the private sector, housing, electrical appliance, and home electronics manufacturers are leading more than 20 similar projects throughout the country. In each project, a consortium is organized by participant corporations. Murata is working to play an active part in some of these initiatives.
The Home Energy Management System (HEMS) is technology that visualizes how much energy is used, when and where it is used, and what it is used for. It can control all the appliances used in a house in an integrated manner and optimize the energy use automatically. The day will come when home electrical appliances, automobiles, and power generators will be managed in an integrated manner. I am convinced that Murata will be able to help develop the initial phase of such a system with its sensor and network technology.
Here, Murata sensors will be used to detect a range of parameters such as the movements of occupants, brightness, and temperature differences to send out corresponding signals. Such sensors will be networked for control as a system. That is where we can make the most of the traditional technologies we have developed for consumer equipment such as mobile phones. Our traditional customers in this area—electrical appliance and home electronics manufacturers—understand these technologies very well. They know just what Murata is able to do here. In fact, some of them have already asked us for specific solutions. We can begin by working on them.
The "smart city" represents a next-generation social system concept that combines multiple ideas for energy use, local transport, and lifestyles. Energy consumption in the smart city features a multifaceted approach. The "smart house," the core technology that optimally controls energy use in homes, is combined with heat and power generation to achieve efficient use of energy locally. With demonstration trials already underway in many parts of the world, this innovative concept could open up a huge market in the future. In Japan, practical tests have been conducted in 4 areas selected by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry: Yokohama, Toyota, Aichi Pref., Kansai Science City, and Kitakyushu.
Murata also takes part in the following smart city projects: