Other Gadgets

Where R&D never sleeps

Preeti Mehra | Updated on July 02, 2014


Seiko Epson has been churning out products way ahead of their time with constant innovation

The reception area of a company does not usually reflect its R&D. But enter Seiko Epson Corporation’s offices in Nagano, Japan and the visitor gets a sense of the technology the company believes in and likes to wear on its sleeve. “These products on display chronicle our past and tell you what we are all about,” company executives point out.

The group of visiting journalists take in the Quartz Astron 35SQ, the world’s first quartz watch manufactured 45 years ago in 1969. The first watch to use the six-digit liquid crystal display to indicate time is also on display — which is from 1973 — and is called the Seiko Quartz LC V.F.A. 06 LC.

Over the years Epson has developed a range of products that have landed in the consumer’s lap, while others have had industrial and institutional uses. But there is a thread that binds all these products — the belief that one invention leads to the other. This engineering major has, according to industry analysts, built its technology portfolio “brick by brick, each technological innovation taking off from the last invention.”

Its sensing technology products include GPS wrist watches that recognise all 39 of the world’s time zones, wristable GPS monitors for runners and sports enthusiasts, accurate wrist pulse monitors for the health conscious, motion tracers for golfers and of course smart glasses that are competing with others in features, weight and size.

The wrist pulse monitors too are in competition mode, especially Pulsense which were launched in the US this summer. They are designed to monitor your heart rate, number of calories burnt, activity levels and sleep patterns. Based on bio-sensors and internal accelerometer technology patented by the company, Pulsense comes in two models: PS-100 and the PS-500. While the former is like a LED bracelet, the latter allows you to read the data while continuing an activity.

According to the company, the bio-sensors enable consumers to measure their heartbeat by the quantity of light reflected from red blood cells and uses personal information to determine how much calorie the person burns. The Pulsense models compete with similar products in the market, Fitbit and Basis.

Advanced GPS monitors for runners are also in the process of being launched in the Japanese market in three models — Runsense SF-310, SF-510 and SF-710. To be worn on the wrist, they measure speed, distance, heart rate, pace, lap time and calorie burning rate, and have wireless connectivity with smart devices. In this category, Epson has huge competition from big names such as Nike, Garmin, Timex and New Balance.

In the sports category, Epson has the M- Tracer MT- 500 for golf enthusiasts. It helps golfers improve their performance by providing a physical reference to the game. The user can measure his or her golf swing and receive feedback on how to improve the game.

Projector technology too has developed step by step. The 3LCD technology that powers projectors used for offices, education and homes had its origins in 1977 when Epson started to develop the active-matrix LCD chips. In 1982 it introduced the TV watch and later shifted to polysilicon TFT systems, that ironed out picture quality and size issues. In 1984, the company commercialised the world’s first pocket-sized colour TV, the ET-10. In 1989 Epson used 3 LCD technology for its first brand projector and since then High Temperature Polysilicon (HTPS) has been the key component of 3LCD projectors.

Ask employees at Epson and they will tell you that R&D is the heart of their organisation. Consumers, for instance have been experiencing Epson products with diverse uses.

As the company looks ahead in 2014, it envisages a brave new world where more consumer-friendly products with high adaptability hit the market. As many at Epson put it, here R&D never sleeps.

Published on July 02, 2014

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