Environment : Creation of Circular Economy Business

eco ideas

Creation of Circular Economy Business

In our drive to promote the efficient use of resources and to maximize customer value, we are working to create businesses based on a circular economy model. Our first business model is our "sharing service." The service consists of bicycle parking areas; three were created inside Tsunashima SST*1 and at Hiyoshi Station. On top of this, 30 IoT-linked electrically-assisted bicycles with power-saving smart lock have been made available to residents of the town, employees at commercial facilities, and the neighborhood in a trial project to study how to operate and manage an IoT-linked electrically-assisted bicycle service. During this trial period, we are gathering and analyzing data, including users' needs for bicycles, areas of movement, and travel distances, to create an optimum management system for this bicycle service. We also provided IoT-linked electrically-assisted bicycles in the shared bicycle station in TENKUU no MORIZONO MIYOSHI MIRAITO, a large, newly developed residential area in Miyoshi City, Aichi Prefecture, marketed by Toyota Housing Corporation of the Prime Life Technologies Group.*2 This was our first time to supply IoTlinked electrically-assisted bicycles and we plan to expand sales in the future.

IoT-linked electrically-assisted bicycles and smart lock

Moreover, as a model for "products as a service," we have implemented a scheme to provide display cases with refrigerators/freezers, combined with a refurbishment service for those refrigerators and freezers:

Instead of selling refrigeration equipment to supermarkets, convenience stores or other food retailers, the service offers "food refrigeration" as a value. The refurbishment scheme focuses on inspecting and repairing display cases that have been used at retail chain stores for reuse at other retail stores. These services are expected to reduce maintenance and energy costs, and at the same time it will facilitate cheaper, low-budget store renovations by making business management more efficient.

In addition, we have also started a rental "VIXELLTM" cool box to realize the safe and secure transportation of pharmaceuticals as another model of cooling value provision. The requirements at the sites of pharmaceuticals transportation include strict temperature control, tracking management and work efficiency. To achieve these requirements, we developed the "VIXELLTM" cool box, on which our patented seamless, integrally molded Vacuum Insulated Case (VIC) is used as the key insulating layer*4. The issue for general insulating boxes that have an insulating layer formed by bonding flat vacuum insulating panels together is the leakage of cold air. On "VIXELLTM", the highly insulating structure suppresses this leakage and a temperature of -75°C ± 15°C can be maintained for up to a maximum of 18 days. On some insulating boxes, it is necessary to change the ice packs and the outer box for each temperature setting range. However, with "VIXELLTM", the outer box is shared and it is possible to respond to the various temperature ranges of -75°C ± 15°C, -20°C and below, 2°C - 8°C, and 15°C - 25°C by simply changing the "Heat storage unit" that is made up of a storage box and heat storage agent. Also, the VIC is equipped with a wireless vacuum sensor unit that uses contactless power supply technology. As the vacuum state of the VIC is read by simply placing the box on a dedicated test unit, the user can check the insulation performance before the use, which provides a sense of security to the user. As other characteristic, the VIXELL shows excellency in radio wave transmissions. When sensors for the temperature and GPS, etc., are placed inside the VIXELL box, the conditions inside the box can be monitored without opening the box. From now on, we will aim to create new value and further secure safety and security in pharmaceuticals transportation by making full use of the insulation technology, molding technology and IoT technology that we have cultivated in the development of household appliances such as refrigerators.

VIXELL and application for the test

Another IoT-based service that we offer is the Akari E Support*3 service, a lighting leasing service for corporate customers.

By paying a monthly fee, customers can enjoy the LED lighting of their choice, as well as additional services such as repairs, without owning the lighting. The monthly fee includes the long-term leasing fee for the LED lighting, repairs to maintain lighting performance, general insurance for movable properties, and energy-saving certificates, thereby reducing the costs for maintenance and energy.

Another example is the offer for an optional service for Panasonic laptop users called Battery Life Cycle NAVI.*4 The service is designed to prolong the life and increase the value of our products. Through this service, the full-charge battery capacity is automatically monitored and when the capacity deteriorates beyond a specific criterion, a notice is displayed on the laptop screen. The customer can then apply for a new battery, which is sent to them at no extra charge. This enables users to continue enjoying the extended operational hours of a new battery while maintaining their long-used and familiar PC.

In addition, we are also promoting the following activities based on a circular economy concept. One example is building renovation: A building that we had used as a showroom and for other purposes for nearly 20 years was renovated through a joint effort with our partners. It has been transformed into a business and commercial complex named TENNOZ Rim*5 which includes a co-working space, studio, laboratory, lounge and cafe. We consider renovation projects enabling more effective use of existing structures with additional performance features to be better than activities related to new buildings, as a circular economy business. We started a food subscription service demonstration*6 in the cafe in the TENNOZ Rim building. Customers can subscribe to a fixed-rate food service that includes a reusable cup made of resin with a high cellulose fiber content, and they can order one item of food or drink per day served in the reusable cup they bring to the cafe. This service contributes to the reduction of disposable plastic food containers. The project also helps attract people to the Tennozu area, which is recently promoting itself as a center of culture and arts, and contributes to building a circular economy by disseminating eco-conscious containers and reducing plastic waste. We are also promoting the Revalue Project to create new value from factory waste in the form of totally new products through creative design. To date, waste from manufacturing processes for clothes irons, rice cookers and kitchen systems has been used to produce bookends, lighting equipment, tables and other furniture items in creative collaboration with our business partners. The Revalue Project won the Good Design Award 2020 (Business motel category). We plan to develop further projects of that kind and create new value through broader co-creation.

Co-working space in TENNOZ Rim
Products created through the revalue project

Through these activities, we are working to create businesses based on a circular economy. Likewise, we are making progress in transitioning existing businesses into more circular businesses. To achieve this, existing businesses are analysed to identify circular economy potential as indicated in the Green Plan 2021 and based on analysis methods developed in fiscal 2020.

*1 A next-generation sustainable smart town that was built in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture, in March 2018. It is being managed by the Tsunashima SST Council organized by Panasonic and 10 other companies in various industrial fields to engage in innovative, eco-friendly activities and to create new services through collaboration among urban community developers, residents and local governments. (http://tsunashimasst.com/EN/)
*2 See https://news.panasonic.com/jp/press/data/2020/10/jn201014-3/jn201014-3.html
*3 See https://www2.panasonic.biz/ls/lease/lighting-e-support/
*4 See https://panasonic.biz/cns/pc/letsnote/and_connect/battery.html
*5 See https://www.tennoz-rim.tokyo/
*6 See https://news.panasonic.com/jp/press/data/2020/09/jn200910-1/jn200910-1.html