Nikkei Business Publications, also known as Nikkei BP, has recently published visual data via its xTrend platform that shows Japan’s technological trend map for 2021.
Aside from outlining tech development growth of the last year, it also highlights some of the most influential technologies that have driven modern Japanese society, potentially also reflecting global trends at large.
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Nikkei xTrend: Marketing Tool First, Technological Compass Second
Nikkei xTrend (pronounced as cross-trend), a sort of digital strategy media for (new) market creators, represents “leading-edge” strategies in marketing, be it for product development, advertisement, or founding brand new businesses. As such, it is not really a research entity, but a business tool, designed to help entrepreneurs keep their pulse on the ever-changing tech market.
So how exactly would it show us the flashiest tech in Japan?
Well, because of its theme of keeping up with modern times, it inevitably draws its research data from technological trends. In particular, its trend maps often derive data from tech market updates, and assess whether new development is worth looking out for or not. The advisor board of xTrend consist of about 50 company personnel, plus various other people tasked with drawing professional opinions from actual experts.
The two most important determining factors for xTrend is (current) economical impact, and future potential (with a specific focus on the keyword “promising”). Based on these two main criteria, scores are tallied, and the trend map is created using a combination of different information graphs.
2021: The Continued Quantum Year, Plus Electric Vehicles (EVs)
Assessment for the new trend map started around February 2021 and ended during the first few weeks of March 2021. According to the data compiling team, there were separate keywords for each category (28 tech, 29 marketing, 28 consumer). These were then separated into five assessment grades, with the resulting analysis revealing the trend map’s complete details.
So, based on all information gathered during the last year, plus the first quarter of 2021, the tech fields that made the most promising economic impact in Japan were quantum computers and electric vehicles.
Quantum computers have been making headlines even within just the last five years, with various organizations claiming the elusive title of quantum supremacy. As it is understood today, a relatively simple, but fully-functional quantum computer can easily and perfectly eclipse the computing capabilities of even the best supercomputers that we have today. For Japan in particular, quantum computing is supposedly an essential part of the so-called “Society 5.0”, a conceptualized near-future version of humanity even more digitized than we are already today. Perhaps there are no companies directly trying to commercialize the technology now. But the first one to do so will definitely strike it rich, and that is what Nikkei xTrend has assessed this year.
As for EVs, Japan has been one of the earliest adopters of pure EV-based road systems in the world. But in the face of very competitive overseas models such as the Tesla Model 3 or Porsche Taycan, the classic, cute buggy designs so popular in the country would need to be beefed up. Nissan Leaf shows good evidence of this trend, as you might have witnessed how it evolved from its first “toy car” design to the current “serious sedan” type today. This, according to Nikkei BP, will just continue snowballing economically further down the road.
Other Notable Technological Trends
As for the rest of the other technologies included in the trend mapping, the rest have their respective entries as follows:
Contactless technologies (NFC, cardless/cashless payments, etc.) – analyzed as the top economically impactful technological trend of 2021. This is a continued trend from last year, which was a direct result from the development of countermeasures against COVID-19. With the convenience of the technology overall, its exponential growth is to be expected in the next few years.
Educational Tech – another technology that resulted from COVID-19, many countries around the world, not just Japan, realized just how their educational systems are woefully unprepared for a zero contact scenario. The trend might slow down as the pandemic hits its decline, but will remain definitely important in the near future if other separate cases call for such technologies.
Carbon neutral systems – a brand new keyword added this year. Most of its points got accumulated from the rising concerns over climate change due to many erratic weather events over the last few years. While not economically impactful, it was still assessed as “promising” by the advisory board, perhaps keen on Japan’s economic recovery as the pandemic slowly goes away (before anything else hits).
Cloud computing – continues its rapid growth in our internet-centric world. Runner up for the highest combined promising plus economically impactful technology entry.
Smartphones – still remain economically impactful today in Japan, despite being considered largely normal now (people usually just refer to them as “phones” today).
Artificial Intelligence – very promising technology, but usually only applied at the academic or enterprise scale. Don’t worry Android wielders, your Nihongo Google Assistant isn’t going away.
Internet-of-Things (IoT) – strangely listed under “promising”, despite the obvious marketing trends that point towards it being economically impactful. Smart(ass) Japanese vending machines imminent.
Flying cars – the least economically impactful and most unexciting technology. Yet it somehow still passes just enough to be included. Korea and Taiwan still beat Japan in this regard, though.
One very important point to note is that these technologies are rated by their growth per trend map, and not by their total score. So, while cloud computing technologies take the general lead, it was quantum computing and EVs that had the most points added this year.