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June 14, 2021

Got A Business Idea? In Japan, If You're A Honda Employee, They'll Help Make It Come True

Got an interesting idea for a product not yet in the market? In Japan, if you’re an employee at Honda, they’ll actually help make your product, and business dream, come true.

The program is called Ignition and it was originally initiated in 2017 by Honda R&D, Honda’s research and development subsidiary. Today though, they’ve expanded the scope of Ignition to cover the entire Honda Motor Company. It’s eligible to all Honda employees regardless of their length of employment and assigned divisions.

Since it began, Ignition has received many applications with new business ideas, and several proposals that have a high degree of compatibility with Honda business are already being pursued at Honda with an eye toward commercialization.

In the meantime, proposals that could deliver “value to society” were pursued through a startup business venture with Honda not taking on more than 20 percent share to ensure independence. They’ve also gone so far to collaborate with a venture capital firm so that the proposers have access to advice and support during the evaluation process.

The first product from Honda’s Ignition is Ashirase, Inc. which has developed an in-shoe navigation system to support visually-impaired people.

The Ashirase system consists of a smartphone app and a three-dimensional vibration device including a motion sensor, which is attached inside the shoe.

Based on the route set with the app, the device vibrates to provide navigation. When the user should go straight, the vibrator positioned on the front part of the foot vibrates, and when the user is approaching a right or left turn, the vibrator on the right or left side vibrates to notify the user. The navigation provided by Ashirase enables intuitive understanding of the route, and therefore the user does not have to be constantly mindful of the direction. Not only can they walk more safely, but they can also free up their hands which they may need to hold on to other things like their cane, for example.

Ashirase is the brainchild of Wataru Chino who now serves as the Representative Director. He recalls a family member which suffered an accident that motivated him to come up with a mobility system for the visually impaired.

In Japan, the number of people with visual impairment including low vision was estimated to be 1.64 million as of 2007, and the number is forecast to increase to nearly 2 million by 2030.

Visually impaired people constantly check their safety and route to the destination when they walk alone. However, as they are required to use all remaining senses to acquire information to compensate for their limited sight, it is somewhat inevitable that they will be unable to pay thorough attention and face functional issues such as “getting lost” or “falling into unsafe situations.”

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