Our Nails: The tiny, ever-present IoT platforms of the future
The project is currently in development, with the goal of commercialization by the end of 2017. What kind of expectations do you have for this project?
Nakazaki: The nail decoration market is worth 200 billion yen, but there isn’t a single company you could say dominates the market. I believe it’s possible, however, that this “open nail” project could serve as the catalyst for a radical shift in that market structure. It may not seem like it at first, but the set-up for this project is really very innovative. It’s possible, for example, for this project to even leap out into the overseas market, considering how highly esteemed Japanese nail art skills and technologies are abroad.
Chigira: We all feel that this project has the potential to change the industry. The nail decoration market in North America is worth 580 billion yen, and in China it’s estimated to be around 600 billion yen. If you factor in the people of other Asian countries, who tend to have a high affinity for Japanese culture and fashion, you can really see the potential. Working with michi and armed with their knowledge of the overseas markets, we’re also confident in our ability to cater to foreign tourists. But let’s not forget this whole other demographic—men! This thing that we’re developing should be easy for men to use as well.
Nakazaki: Yes, men will want in on this concept as well. There’s something about applying a manicure or getting gel nails—something about the act of painting with a little brush—that seems feminine. But false nails are fitted on, installed, which is something that is familiar to men as well. If you think about the possibility of engraining IC chips into them, turning them into IoT devices of sorts, the idea of promoting this item to men does not seem as far-fetched.
Teraoka: These nails could also be useful to teenagers, who can put them on afterschool, and people like nurses, whose jobs prevent them from having their nails done on a regular basis. At least then they’re off from work, they can have fun with their nails.
Nakamura: There are so many elements to a woman’s fashion—hairstyle, accessories, clothing, makeup… But your nails are the only one of these things you can see without looking into a mirror. When my nails are neat and pretty, it’s mood-brightening. It gives me more energy to get through the day, because I’m proud of the way I look. We’re very excited about this element in particular—how these nails can provide this little burst of energy for women.
Chigira: Exactly. Working women and mothers don’t have much spare time. As the government encourages women to participate in the workforce, it’s important to remind these women, who are often saddled with both old and new expectations, that they don’t have to give up on small pleasures. We hope that the open nail project adds an extra bit of joy to the everyday lives of these working women and mothers.
And as Ms. Nakamura mentioned earlier, nails are a very visible part of the body. They’re always in front of you. When you consider the fact that most of what business is today is about grabbing people’s attention—the smartphone is a prime example of this—you can see the potential that’s inherent in false nails. For instance, a set of false nails with LCD displays on their surfaces. False nails are a fashion item, sure, but we want to think of them in the long-term as IoT platforms as well, one that delivers information straight onto your fingertips—literally.
Teraoka: When we consider engraining IC chips into the nails, this IoT dream suddenly seems a whole lot more realistic. The fact that we’re an electronics manufacturer would really give us the edge in this case. I mean, this is a field where we can really unleash our potential.
Nakazaki: And going even further—what about having technology in the false nails that senses your health condition through your nails? We live in a society obsessed with health, and the condition of your nails really does say a lot about your health.
Ideas bloom, one after another, as they discuss the project. The unconventional and exciting concept behind the “open nail” project must have been born, too, from a lively discussion like this one.