Apple, IBM, tout high-tech services for seniors in Japan

Apple is working with IBM to deliver iPads and high-tech services to seniors in Japan.

The two tech giants have joined forces with Japan Post Group, which provides postal, banking, and insurance services.  The initiative aims to improve the quality of life for millions of Japanese senior citizens via iPads running IBM-developed apps and analytics software.

The apps can provide reminders and alerts about medications, exercise and diet, community activities, and services such as grocery shopping. IBM’s cloud services will be used to provide security analytics, and management of the devices.

A pilot project, offered in conjunction with Japan Post Group’s Watch Over service, which checks in on seniors, will begin in the second half of the year. Long-term, Japan Post Group aims to extend the iPads and elder-specific apps to as many as 5 million customers by 2015.

“We hope that this initiative will improve the lives of seniors,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, during a joint press conference at the headquarters of IBM’s Watson supercomputer business in New York. “It helps with the caregiver as well – it helps with the whole family unit.”

Cook also cited Apple technologies such as Siri and FaceTime, which can help seniors by, respectively, reading out emails and connecting family members. To illustrate his point, the Apple CEO described the oldest known iPad user, a 107-year old woman in Santa Barbara who is a frequent FaceTime user.

The companies are confident that their technologies will have a huge impact on Japan’s aging population. More than 33 million seniors make up about 25 percent of Japan’s population, a figure expected to grow to 40 percent over the next 40 years, according to Japanese government statistics.

The specially-designed senior services could also be extended to other countries. “Today is about re-imagining life for what has been the largest generation in human history,” said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, noting that the elderly will account for 21% of the world’s population by 2050, up from 11.7 percent in 2013.

“We do believe that this is scalable around the globe,” Cook added. “This is really up Apple’s alley - to enrich peoples’ lives.”

Whereas the Japan Post Group has a vast customer footprint, Cook said that a similar service in the U.S. could potentially be offered by a number of regional companies. “I think that we could learn a lot that we could bring back to the U.S.,” he said.

The Apple CEO also made light of the company’s reported Apple Watch supply challenges during the press conference, noting that a number of people in the audience were wearing the device. “I hope for those others of you [not wearing an Apple Watch], you have one on order – I promise to deliver those as soon as possible,” he quipped.

The deal with Japan Post Group extends the software partnership that Apple and IBM announced last year, which has already spawned 22 apps across 11 industries.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers