The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (経済産業省) yesterday (Sept 28, 2016) announced the trial of a system they are calling おもてなしプラットフォーム / Omotenashi Platform, whereby biometric technology will be used to confirm a person’s identity through their fingerprints. Omotenashi Platform will be rolled out for use by overseas visitors to Japan, with reports saying that the system will also do away with the need for cash to make payments while shopping, and visiting attractions/facilities like onsen. The trial of Omotenashi Platform will be carried out over October in the Kanto, Kansai, and Kyushu regions.
In order to make use of the system, it looks like Japan’s overseas visitors will need, at some point, to register their fingerprints (or palm prints) along with their passport and credit card details. Once this is done though, they will then have access to a wholly smoother shopping, dining, and checking-in experience.
For the Kanto region, tourist hotspots like Hakone and Yugawara in Kanagawa Prefecture are have been targeted, with this fingerprint tech being readied for some 100 stores, restaurants, lodgings and onsen.
In Osaka, some kind of smartphone / palm print combination will mean visitors/customers to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan and its adjoining shopping malls need only hold out their hands to make financial payments.
The same platform will also manage visitors’ full names, addresses etc and has the potential to be used to conduct analysis of consumer trends. Given the nature of this kind of personal information The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has highlighted the need for appropriate rules to be in place.
Speculation maybe, but it’s likely that ‘Omotenashi Platform’ has been born out of the mad scramble for pieces of the ‘inbound’ market as Japan builds up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (Hand’s up who’s likely to be beyond bored of that number/noun combo long before the first set of fireworks are triggered?).
Omotenashi is an interesting word here. Very basically, it translates to ‘hospitality’. It’s arguably more nuanced than this, but such a translation will suffice for now.
Under the umbrella of this hospitality, one could see ‘Omotenashi Platform’ as what it is being shown to be; a smoother, more convenient way to pay, check into a hotel, and establish an identity (not in the ‘identity crisis’, ‘Who am ?’ sense) among, other things. It certainly seems to be a solution to the irritating dilemma that faces most travellers; Do I pocket my passport at all times? How much cash is it safe to carry? Is it safe to leave things in my room, or should I employ a money belt and stuff a few notes into my sock?! Anyone who’s roughed it on the backpacking scene will likely see the benefits of ‘Omotenashi Platform’ in this regard.
As with all things however, there’s room for the sceptic. Omotenashi makes things smoother? Yeah, smoother for market forces to take my money! But let’s be honest, be it cold hard cash, bits of plastic, or a fingerprint checkin’ device, the retention of one’s own money largely comes down to self discipline (in the face of so much opposition / persuasion).
Whilst the handing over of personal information will raise an alarm for many (others have long since been resigned to it), it’s surely the ability of ‘Omotenashi Platform’ to track our spending trends and our movements that rings far more sinister. This is the marketing equivalent of spying, really.
As ‘tech’ advances and Tokyo 2020 gets closer we’ll surely see more innovations like this enter our lives’ (Remember when we posted about ‘Face Pass’?) requiring us to draw ever more on that self discipline.
In the right hands, ‘Omotenashi Platform’ sounds like a convenient bit of kit. In the wrong ones, it will likely end up in another load of credit card debt to add to the pile.
Which pair of hands are you?
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産経ニュース (Sankei News)