2015 VOL.70 NO.6

  Special Reports

Smart Technologies for Home Appliances toward Attainment of Comfortable Lifestyles

Current and Future Trends in Evolving Consumer Electronic Products
YASUKI Seijiro

Toshiba's Approach to Smart Appliances Offering Exceptional User Experiences
KONDA Kazunobu / KOJIMA Kenji
Technologies are continually introduced to improve the key functions of home appliances, such as the viewing of contents in the case of TVs, food storage in the case of refrigerators, laundry functions in the case of washer-dryers, suction force in the case of cleaners, and so on. With the progress of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in recent years, a shift has occurred toward smart home appliances incorporating network functions.
In order to provide customers with comfortable lifestyles, Toshiba is making efforts to develop smart appliances making full use of the latest network and cloud computing technologies. Our aim is not only to supply products with high functionality, but also to provide exceptional user experiences.

Spoken Dialogue Technology Allowing Viewers to Efficiently Search for Desired Contents in Recorded TV Programs
MUKAIDE Takanobu / KAWAMURA Akinori / IZAWA Hidehito
The REGZA series liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs equipped with the "time-shift machine" function, which can simultaneously record and temporarily store programs shown on multiple channels without the need for scheduling in advance, offer a new TV viewing style that frees viewers from concern about missing desired programs. In order to allow viewers to easily access contents that they wish to see, functions enabling them to precisely and efficiently search for contents of interest in recorded programs are required.
Toshiba has developed two new functions for this purpose: the "Zanmai Smart Access" function, which allows viewers to rapidly find desired contents; and the "Zanmai Smart Access Voice" function, which provides enhanced usability by applying a spoken dialogue technology. We have released the REGZA Z10X series 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) LCD TVs incorporating these functions.

Unified Processing of TV Programs Recorded on Multiple Devices by "time-shift link" Function
KITO Toshiyuki / IRIE Yuji / YOSHIDA Osamu
An increasing number of viewers record large volumes of TV programs on multiple recording devices in the home. However, it is sometimes difficult for such viewers to find a particular program among those recorded on their various devices. Although the "time-shift machine" function, which can simultaneously record and temporarily store the programs shown on multiple channels without the need for scheduling in advance, has been developed, so far only a limited number of high-grade TVs and recording devices incorporate this function.
With this as a background, Toshiba has developed the "time-shift link" function, a technology that realizes the unified processing of past TV programs recorded on multiple recording devices and allows viewers to see their favorite contents without consideration of the stored location, and applied it to the REGZA Z10X/J10X series TVs. The time-shift link function also makes the time-shift machine function available to TVs without it, via the network.

Creation of New Services Provided by Smart Appliances in Cooperation with TVs and Tablets
SAITO Keiji / HIRAYAMA Noriyuki
The Toshiba Group launched the FEMINITY home information technology (IT) service in 2002. Since then, we have been developing network appliances equipped with a communication module and providing "FEMINITY Club" services for end-users aimed at disseminating home energy management systems (HEMS) and enhancing the convenience and comfort of people's lives.
To further improve usability, we have been releasing new smart appliances connecting to the "Home Appliance Concierge" cloud service since 2013. These smart appliances are compliant with the ECHONET Lite(†) specification, a standard interface for HEMS recommended by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and offer new services that effectively utilize various features in cooperation with a TV or tablet as a controller.

Smart Robot Cleaner Realizing Expansion of "Home Appliance Concierge" Service
FURUTA Kazuhiro / MARUTANI Yuki / ABE Koichi
The Toshiba Group has been promoting the expansion of the "Home Appliance Concierge" service, which provides users with a more convenient and comfortable life by connecting smart appliances such as refrigerators, drum type washer-dryers, and air conditioners to a cloud server via the Internet. This service supports users' daily lives through a variety of functions, including a function that checks the interior of the refrigerator, a function that notifies the user if the filter of the washer-dryer becomes clogged, and a function that monitors room air temperature and controls the air-conditioning system, when they are away from home.
We have now developed the VC-RCX1 smart robot cleaner as a new addition to our smart appliance lineup. Taking advantage of the fact that a cleaner is the only type of home appliance that moves around the house, the VC-RCX1 offers a monitoring function that allows users to check the condition of their rooms on a smartphone display by means of a built-in camera that captures panoramic images at the turning positions in a room, as well as functions that facilitate remote operation and confirmation of the operating status by smartphone.

Remote Access Control System for Smart Appliances
ESAKA Naoki / AJITOMI Daisuke
The connection of various smart products called Internet of Things (IoT) devices via the Internet makes it possible to offer users new value. Accompanying the expansion of such IoT devices, including smart appliances, a technology for the real-time monitoring and control of these devices anywhere and anytime has become essential.
In response to these circumstances, Toshiba has developed a real-time remote access control system to efficiently handle a large number of IoT devices based on its know-how cultivated through the development of smart appliances. This technology, which realizes a communication network system to relay data between smart appliances in the home and user devices outside the home, offers scalability to meet the needs of systems ranging from small to large in scale without transmission delay time, and ensures the connectivity and safety of bidirectional communication using a standard protocol.


  Feature Articles

Technology to Evaluate Color Rendering Properties of LED Lighting Based on Color Preferences
IMAI Yoshie / KOTANI Tomoko / FUCHIDA Takayoshi
Various products focused on high-level color reproduction capability, including televisions, digital cameras, and printing devices, are characterized by their color appearance. Human-centric design that is positively evaluated by users is an essential element of this color appearance. Particularly in the lighting field, in which the introduction of light-emitting diode (LED) systems with high design flexibility is expanding, there is a need for technologies to evaluate users' color preferences in addition to the conventional technologies to evaluate the fidelity of reproduction of objects' colors.
Toshiba has developed a technology to evaluate the color rendering properties of LED lighting based on color preferences. We have conducted subjective evaluation experiments using daily foods as sample objects under the condition of LED lighting with various spectral power distributions, and verified that the color preference depends on the saturation and luminance of objects' colors. As a result, we have derived an evaluation index that has a high correlation with color preferences, which is expected to contribute to the design of the color appearance of LED lighting.

Technology to Accurately Estimate Skin Pigmentation from Skin Images without Dependence on Illumination
MORIUCHI Yusuke / MITA Takeshi / KANEKO Toshimitsu
Skin care cosmetics and devices for home use to prevent skin problems such as stains and freckles caused by localized increases in melanin pigment have been attracting attention in recent years. In order to accurately evaluate skin condition, a technology for the quantitative estimation of skin pigmentation from face image data is needed. However, as estimations using image data captured by digital cameras are affected by changes in illumination, conventional technologies require prior knowledge of or constraints on the illumination environment.
To solve this issue, Toshiba has developed a technology that realizes quantitative estimation of skin pigmentation with high accuracy using a standard red-green-blue (RGB) camera without limitations from the illumination environment, by focusing on local areas of skin images. This technology makes it possible to examine pigmentation under any type of illumination even in the home, eliminating the need to visit a cosmetics counter for this purpose.

Application of Voice Tweet SNS to Manufacturing Sites
CHINO Tetsuro / UENO Koji / MIYAMORI Shoko
In 2014, Toshiba developed and released a voice tweet social networking service (SNS) for home medical care services to facilitate smooth communication among multiple healthcare professionals and caregivers working at different locations. Technologies for the voice tweet SNS have also been applied to maintenance work for machinery, such as elevators.
To further expand the availability of the voice tweet SNS, we are now improving the performance of the system toward its application to manufacturing sites. From the results of experiments conducted in conjunction with operations at one of our manufacturing sites, we have confirmed that the voice tweet SNS is effective in enhancing mutual awareness of process status among workers in charge of various manufacturing processes and cooperation with relevant departments such as design and maintenance departments, as well as various manufacturing-related operations including on-site safety patrols and record-keeping. We have also developed a prototype auxiliary human interface (HI) device for mounting on helmets to solve issues that arise at manufacturing sites such as extremely high background noise and requirements for hands-free and eyes-free operations, and confirmed its effectiveness.

Electrical Equipment for New Gauge Changeable Train Test Models
MORI Manato / TAKAO Yoshihiro / KANAMITSU Shuhei
The Tokaido Shinkansen Line connecting Tokyo and Shin-Osaka marked its 50th anniversary in 2014, and the construction of new Shinkansen lines is still continuing toward further expansion and diversification of Japan's railway transportation network. The Hokuriku Shinkansen started operation between Nagano and Kanazawa in March 2015, and test runs have been conducted between Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto and Shin-Aomori stations on the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line. In addition, the Kyushu Shinkansen Line between Takeo-Onsen and Nagasaki is under construction taking the application of gauge changeable trains into consideration.
Toshiba was involved in the manufacturing of the first-generation gauge changeable train, which was completed in 1998, as an electrical systems supplier, and has subsequently been participating in the development of electrical equipment for new gauge changeable train test models aimed at the practical realization of a new type of Shinkansen train. As part of these efforts, we have delivered main circuit system equipment, auxiliary power supply system equipment, information control system equipment, and safety control system equipment.

Molecular Bonding Technology Creating Innovative Manufacturing Processes and High-Value-Added Products
HAPPOYA Akihiko / SUZUKI Daigo / LIN Fongru / MORI Kunio
Bonding technologies are one of the most important fundamental technologies for product manufacturing in various fields. In the process of manufacturing printed circuit boards (PCBs), the interface bonding force between the conductor and insulator of a PCB is obtained by traditional adhesion mechanisms such as the anchor effect resulting from surface roughness, the presence of intermolecular forces, hydrogen bonds, and so on. Although the interface bonding force becomes stronger with increasing surface roughness, higher surface roughness leads to both increased transmission loss in the high-frequency range due to the skin effect and limitations on the fabrication of fine patterns.
To resolve these issues, Toshiba has developed a molecular bonding technology that forms a layer of molecules on the surface of the adherends and provides a smooth surface with strong joining force for the manufacturing of structures composed of different materials. We have applied this technology to the process of direct copper plating on a polyimide film with a smooth surface in order to manufacture flexible printed circuits (FPCs) with high performance and low cost, and have been launching products equipped with these FPCs.

Charge and Discharge Control Technologies for 2-in-1 Notebook PCs Equipped with Second Battery Pack in Keyboard Dock
YATO Shinsuke / HORIE Yutaka / TSUTSUI Tomonori
In the notebook PC market, 2-in-1 notebook PCs, which allow users to switch between PC and tablet modes according to the desired application by detaching the display unit from the keyboard dock, have come into widespread use in recent years. In order to prolong the operating time, a second battery pack is required in the keyboard dock in addition to the main battery pack in the tablet. Furthermore, battery charge and discharge control technologies including battery selection control are necessary for the realization of longer battery life; for example, a technology that maintains the charge of the main battery in the tablet by prioritizing the discharge of power from the second battery pack when the device is used in notebook PC mode.
Toshiba has developed the following charge and discharge control technologies for 2-in-1 notebook PCs equipped with a second battery pack: a simultaneous charging technology to reduce the charging time, a technology for switching the route of the battery discharge current to improve usability, and power-saving technologies to realize long battery life. We have applied these technologies to the dynabook R82, our latest 2-in-1 Ultrabook(†) PC.

LED Lighting Fixtures for Theater and Studio Lighting Systems with High Light Intensity and Low Power Consumption
ONO Takayuki / TOKUHARA Naoto / HANYUDA Yumi
The dissemination of lighting fixtures equipped with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has recently been expanding in general lighting fields. However, halogen lamps, a type of incandescent lamp, are still the mainstream in theater and studio lighting systems due to their high light intensity of 1 kW class, which is necessary for performance spaces such as medium- and large-scale TV studios. Demand is increasing for LED lighting fixtures with high light intensity and low power consumption to replace these halogen lamps, which have high power requirements.
Toshiba Lighting & Technology Corporation has now developed LED spotlights for theater and studio lighting systems that provide a light intensity equivalent to that of conventional 1 kW-class halogen spotlights while maintaining a high color rendering index, uniform light distribution, and quiet operation. These LED spotlights achieve a power consumption of only 237 W, approximately 76% lower than that of conventional halogen spotlights.


  Frontiers of  Research & Development

Technology to Track Multiple Persons with Capability to Handle Temporary Occlusions

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