Road sensors to collect traffic data in Thailand

Murata Manufacturing will begin a service in Thailand as early as this summer selling traffic data and other information collected from a network of wireless sensors installed along roadways.

The business represents the first in a series of forays the Japanese electronic-parts maker plans in Southeast Asia and beyond, in a bid to diversify and establish stable new revenue sources with networked services based on its technologies.

To gather information, Murata will install sensors on traffic signals and pedestrian overpasses that will shine lasers on individual lanes in order to count cars and assess traffic congestion. The sensors will transmit their measurements wirelessly, and the centrally collected data will be sold to other companies that provide traffic information to drivers via car-navigation systems and smartphones.

The Kyoto Prefecture-based company will also use the sensors to collect marketable atmospheric and climate information such as rain volume and carbon-dioxide levels. Such information may be sold to services that provide severe weather alerts, for example.

This system of wireless sensors is cheaper to operate than comparable systems built from detectors embedded in roads and connected with wires. Murata has been field-testing its system in Bangkok since 2015 and expects to receive a license to begin the service this summer. It plans to install sensors in around 500 locations in the Thai capital, and foresees a usage fee of around 1,000 yen ($8.80) per month per measurement point.

The company intends to expand the “internet of things” service into other Southeast Asian nations like Indonesia and Malaysia, aiming to generate billions of yen in annual revenue from the business within several years. It also hopes to venture into Europe and the U.S. in the future.

Murata reported group sales of roughly 1.2 trillion yen in the fiscal year ended last March, but almost all of that came from its electronic-components business, particularly shipments of parts for Apple smartphones. Now that smartphones have saturated the marketplace, the company recognizes that demand for components will decelerate and that it is time to seek out new business opportunities.

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