From the birth of COCOMI™ to present and
Expanding potential of physiological measurement
Interview with the Project Leader
Mitsuhiro Sakuda, Senior coordinator of Fibers & Functional Products Production & Development Operating Department, TOYOBO CO., LTD.
A reliable leader who has been leading the COCOMI™
project from its early stage.
My favorite way to relax is taking my 3 beloved Chihuahuas for a walk.
COCOMI™ was born involving various people inside and outside of the company
The COCOMI™ project began when there was an
increased interest in wearable devices. We were conducting joint research with
Ritsumeikan University as part of a government project*. "Could TOYOBO create a
wearable device in the form of clothing?" was the starting point. At first it
was a team of around 10 "volunteer members." Now, it has been five years since
the project was initiated.
*"Bright Future for All Ages with Health Innovation by Daily Exercise" from MEXT's "Center of Innovation Program (COI STREAM)" (core base: Ritsumeikan University)
The COCOMI™ project, often called an "all-encompassing project", has 3 main sections: Laboratory, a department which researches and develops conductive paste, Textile Division, a department which turns the paste into film and puts it into wearables, and Laboratory, a department which analyzes data gathered from the wearable device. Moreover, we even had a sales team though we didn't have anything to sell. It was truly the start of product creation with no boundary between departments.
We develop COCOMI™ for not only measuring
but also utilizing the data
We have been developing a stretchable conductive paste.
We thought it would be easy to create smart clothing just by applying COCOMI™ onto a shirt. However, we immediately faced our greatest problem: how can we make it washable?
COCOMI™ has to be in direct contact with the skin to function, so it must be washable. We were at our wits' end, but now the product has evolved so it can be washed more than 100 times. These stories about hardships just never end.
COCOMI™ has been earning a reputation as a leading product in various fields such as health management and training of race horses, health management of motor racing drivers, detection of drowsiness during driving, etc. We have received high praise from customers that have clear intentions on how to utilize the physiological information acquired from COCOMI™. At first, we concentrated our attention on the sports field which we deemed as the closest to the wearable tech field. With high hopes, we made a proposal to famous sporting goods manufactures. We spoke to them, but their response was, "It's interesting, but who pays that much attention to heart rates?" and this ended as a failure. We realized that being able to measure heart rates and monitor them weren't enough. In the future, aside from our current customers, we believe the key to improvement is to capture customers who want to use high precision physiological information measurement capabilities of COCOMI™ as a service for their end users. Of course, we are also thinking of the sports field.
Don't stick with what you've learned at school,
make your "real specialty field" your weapons!
As we manufacture materials such as film and super fiber, our focus had been on materials which would suit our customers' needs and usage. However, COCOMI™ used in the smart clothing field, still doesn't have an active market. This is expected to become a new business model for our company because we are involved in all processes including material development, production, and marketing plan. I can see how and who will use smart clothing using COCOMI™, and is so challenging for a creator. Surprisingly, for the first time since I entered this company 30 years ago, I went directly to our customers and explained COCOMI™ to them. I'm having fun with all the experiences I get from this project!
I want newcomers to make use of their strong points. It doesn't matter which field of study you are from. Of course there are important things to learn through schooling, but please also improve your strong points as a person. I am looking forward to hear all your unique ideas!
The Project Team of COCOMI™
The birth story of COCOMI™
Is it possible
to make a wearable device
that you can wear like clothes?
Business Plan and Technological Design
Sakuda [Project Leader]Considering what kind of customers we want to reach with COCOMI™
OmoteThinking about what kind of fields would be able to use wearable device
Material Development and Technology Development
KwonAssessing COCOMI™ and wearable device as smart clothing; Can they detect physiological information precisely? Can they be worn comfortably?
IrieDeveloping the stretchable conductive material used for COCOMI™
COCOMI™ and wearable device for the pets
Analyzing physiological information acquired by COCOMI™
SumimotoDeveloping COCOMI™ and wearable device for the sports field
There are also around 20 other members involved in sales development.
The Voices of Project Members
Yuuta Sumimoto, Project Group, Business Support Department, TOYOBO STC CO., LTD.
In charge of developing COCOMI™ in the sports field. My favorite food is Yosuko Ramen in Osaka.
To make COCOMI™ a good partner to all athletes in the future!
After graduating from university, I went to study in the United States, and at career recruitment in 2012, I joined TOYOBO. Mostly, I'm working on design and planning. Creating the product logo for COCOMI™ is one of my jobs.
I've been interested in sports such as soccer since I was a child and I hope we could support athletes by COCOMI™ that famous sports goods manufacturers would be adopted. Right now, we cooperate with the teams of judo, ekiden (long-distance relay race), basketball and swimming in Tokai University. I am improving COCOMI™ based on the request of wearing feeling and the test data during exercise. The good performance of athletes directly involved motivates me very much. This company is a workplace with many seniors with a wealth of experiences. Although it sounds like very formal, it's an environment where one can gain knowledge that isn't found anywhere else!
Yuuichiro Omote, Development Group, Technology Development Department, TOYOBO STC CO., LTD.
In charge of Production Technology Development for COCOMI™. If I have to go to a deserted island, I will bring a novel with me.
The COCOMI™ project is still half way and if you are interested, please raise your hands for the project
Since I joined this company, I've been involved in the "dyeing process." It's the kind of technology attached to cloth products that everyone is familiar with such as antibacterial, deodorant, water repellent, water absorption, etc. Because I've struggled for 26 long years, I have knowledge in fabrics and materials, as well as production technology, and for that, I received a call from the research center, and I joined the COCOMI™ project. Smart textile is in short "a wearable electronic product". Broadly speaking, they're called smart clothing or smart textile. The ability to apply the technology cultivated in clothing smoothly is our special strength in this new genre.
COCOMI™ was initially adopted for racehorse training. I
developed a training system for racehorses using heart rate measurement by
But there were all sorts of troubles... We kept improving COCOMI™, and now it is flawless. This makes me feel relieved! I am in charge of a wide range of things from product development planning to sales planning, and there is the fun of having a project with all members participating while sometimes receiving feedback from the sales representative.
Yoko Komatsu, Comfort Engineering Center, Corporate Research Center
A Mom Researcher of COCOMI™. If I had 100 million yen, I would have as many pets as possible.
Through a woman's perspectives, I want to make COCOMI™ more usable in everyday use
This company has a culture that women play a big role. It may be because women employees used to support the spinning mills that are the foundation of TOYOBO. I joined this company in 2004, but regardless of the research lab or main office, my senior female co-workers have always seemed lively at work. The company understands the life events that serve as turning points for women, so I've actually had maternity leave twice so far. On the other hand, our younger employees seem to have fulfilling personal lives with their hobbies and such.
I had worked on evaluating the textures of cosmetics before this. As men have no real experience for cosmetics, innerwear and so on, they may make a wrong decision. In such a case, "It is my turn." Right now, COCOMI™ is focused on its capability of measuring physiological information such as heart rate, but we're not just focused on vital sign sensing. It would be nice if you could make your pets happy and measure your "blue index" easily every morning. We hope to develop the products that can use casually in everyday life.
Wichul Kwon, Comfort Engineering Center, Corporate Research Center
Leader of Basic Design & Research for COCOMI™. I love nature! My hobby is camping.
"Rather than dig a well, climb a mountain!" My strength is a research style that seeks to broaden horizons
As I received a degree in sensitivity engineering, I was admiring this company that was a leading company in this study. My speciality is in the research of "digitization of touch feeling". TOYOBO has been researching the digitization of the sense for many years and has an advantage in this field. Incorporating physiological measurements based on bio-information such as EEG/ECG, etc., we also want to reflect "comfort to wear" in TOYOBO's products. It's definitely a necessary factor in smart clothing. There are many employees hired mid-career like me and they play a big role. A dynamic culture that can be active in any career is one attraction of TOYOBO.
My motto is to guide in a friendly way! Achieving to be flexible and to communicate is essential to the COCOMI™ project. Here, we have many experienced seniors who would be capable of teaching at universities. I hope that our new employees will make good use of this environment and quickly raise their individual skills.
Michihiko Irie, Chemical Research Unit, Corporate Research Center
Developing the most important raw materials of COCOMI™. If I won the lottery, I would travel the world especially the Antarctic.
Excellent stretchability and conductivity! Creator of the innovative conductive material
Currently, while we have a trend to add value to polymer processing and sell it, I have been researching stretchable conductive pastes in the medium and long term. This is the most important item of COCOMI™. To accomplish the COCOMI™ project, each department has joined forces. Initially, due to the different culture and work style in each section, I wondered if it would really work out, but my fear was groundless. I reaffirmed the importance of internal presentation and department coordination.
In development research work, work-life balance is important. At the workplace, I always tell everyone to study hard and play hard. I look forward to the "explosive power" of our new young employees.