Relations with Customers

Research & Development

 A changing global environment and shifts in the world economy, including the swift growth of emerging nations, today set the scene for rapid advances in electronics application, as illustrated by self-driving cars and the Internet of Things (IoT). Adapting to such changes in the business environment, through the advancement and fusion of technologies accumulated over the years, the Alps Electric Group carries out ongoing research and development aimed at creating products with high added value that are meaningful to society.
 In R&D activities, we adhere to the basic policy, “Perfecting the art of electronics,” and we will continue creating products with new value under the 8th Mid-Term Business Plan from fiscal 2016 by stepping up our enrichment and fusion of core technologies.

Structure

Responding to Customer and Market Needs

 Development of basic and advanced technology takes place in Japan, though designs of different product varieties reflecting the needs of particular customers and markets are developed regionally. Under this format, we promote global standardization of technologies and products.
 We also actively engage in joint research with universities and research institutions around the world; development through partnerships with other companies; and development through collaborative creation between the Alps Group’s electronic components and automotive infotainment segments.

Strategy

R&D Expenditure

 The Alps Electric Group looks to achieve differentiation from other companies, and thereby establish competitive advantage, by creating new businesses and products that match market and customer needs. This is done through ongoing innovation entailing the enrichment and fusion of mechatronics, process, material and design technologies built up over the years.
 We place particular importance on developing products through shimidashi (“trickle-out” development), which involves continually adding new functionality to core technology and branching into new business areas while also taking environmental considerations into account, and technology “black-boxing” to make products harder to imitate.
 Adhering to these concepts, we carry out development of products with the potential to enrich lives in a way that is friendly both to people and to the Earth. We do this with a focus on three growth engines—enrichment of human-machine interface (HMI) technology; expansion of sensor variety; and expansion of connectivity-oriented business—and with aims to establish EHII* business and expand automotive device business.

*EHII : Energy, Healthcare, Industry, IoT

Global R&D Structure

Global R&D Structure

Alliances

 The Alps Electric Group actively pursues partnerships in a number of fields in order to speed up development by bringing in new technologies from the outside and thereby promptly deliver to customers products which address the needs of the market and society.

Embracing Open Innovation Through Formal Organization-to-Organization Cooperation

 In March 2017, Tohoku University and Alps Electric signed an organizational cooperation agreement. The agreement is one initiative under Tohoku University's model for industry-university partnership involving "vision co-creation," the objectives of which are post-earthquake reconstruction, revitalization of the local economy and new industry creation. By engaging in organization-to-organization cooperation and partnership, Tohoku University and Alps Electric are looking to both generate new businesses based on cutting-edge technologies with new-found competitiveness and develop human resources responsible for innovation that will spur sustained growth of regional industry. The aim is to help stimulate the electronic components industry and contribute to the progress of society as a whole.
 A committee has been set up to promote activities with the following functions: 1) promotion of joint research; 2) mutual exchange, including research cooperation between researchers; 3) shared use of research facilities and equipment; 4) promotion of, and mutual support for, training and human resources development; and 5) study establishment of a "Social Innovation Lab" (tentative name).

ビジョン共創型産学パートナーシップ」イメージ図

Initiatives for the Development of Future Growth Engines

Strengthening of Core Technology

 We view refinement and enrichment of original core technologies as most important for raising the competitiveness of our products. Core technologies of the Alps Electric Group include design technologies (mechanical, software, IC, RF, optical and capacitive), evaluation and simulation technologies, and material technology, as well as process technologies (precision processing, micro-printing, MEMS, precision molds and dies, and automated assembly) used in product manufacturing. By further exploring the possibilities of core technologies through “shimidashi” and fusing existing technologies with new ones, we continually create unrivaled, highly competitive products.

Areas of Focus for Core Technology Fusion

HMI

 Human-Machine Interfaces (HMI) are what link people to devices. This is an area we have pursued ever since the company’s founding. Products like TACT Switch™ and GlidePoint™ were created using extensive know-how gained through the development of a wide range of input- and output-related electronic components. Today we continue our development of new materials and original technologies like precision processing in order to realize products that are easy to use and a joy to operate.
 Our switches, TACT Switch™, potentiometers and other traditional products are based on these original technologies and found in a diverse range of electronic equipment.
 A notable trend in recent years has been the advent and evolution of touch control devices, and Alps Electric is advancing development of touch panels with curved surfaces and higher sensitivity through the application of capacitive sensing technology.

Sensoring™

 In the sensor field, we have so far developed technologies for detecting physical amounts of properties such as magnetism, geomagnetism, humidity, air pressure, force, light and electric current. By applying these technologies to develop sensors that enable detection of slight changes in signals and deliver the best type of signal feedback for the equipment, we help to meet requirements for a wide range of electronic products.
 Furthermore, we are advancing integration of such sensors into modules and systems, while also making use of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, and in doing so we are expanding application to power control and new kinds of social infrastructure, for example in the medical and healthcare domains.

Connectivity

 Connectivity is the field of realizing suitable links between devices and between data. Through many years serving the broadcasting and communication markets, Alps Electric has built up RF technologies fundamental to this domain.
 Looking ahead to the creation of a transportation society that provides safety and peace of mind, rapid advancements have recently been achieved in regard to smartphone interoperability inside vehicles and data communication between vehicles and between vehicles and roadside infrastructure.
 There is also significant need for connectivity technologies, including smartphones, for the creation of a new, energy-efficient society.
 To accommodate these market trends, we are pursuing development of RF technologies compatible with Bluetooth®, wireless LAN, LTE and other specifications.

R&D Activities for Key Markets

 The Alps Electric Group introduces the right products at the right time to automotive, smartphone, energy, healthcare and IoT markets, which are expected to grow in the future.

Automotive

FY2016 Product Development
  Examples

FY2016 Product Development Examples

Curved Surface Touch Panel

 In the automotive market, there is a rising need for vehicles that offer safety, peace of mind, and comfort and are friendly to the environment, while technological development is being pursued in regard to fully autonomous vehicles and eco-friendly electric and fuel cell cars. To respond to these trends, we are expanding our lineup of sensors used in engines and chassis as well as our devices used in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System).
 We are also extending the scope of our product development to electric shifters and other modules controlled by people inside vehicle cabins.



Energy

FY2016 Product Development
  Examples

FY2016 Product Development Examples

Liqualloy™Toroidal Coil

 For eco-friendly products, we are developing energy and resource-efficient power inductors, sensors, and communication modules, as well as modules that take advantage of the characteristics of Liqualloy™, a magnetic material jointly developed with Tohoku University, Japan. In fiscal 2016, we made progress with initiatives for establishing a business foundation in the energy market and realizing future expansion. These initiatives included the reorganization of our subsidiary companies and the conclusion of a business collaboration agreement with an overseas electric power company.



Mobile

FY2016 Product Development
  Examples

FY2016 Product Development Examples

Autofocus Actuator

 The smartphone market is expected to expand going forward. Also, there has been an emergence of exciting new trends such as the heightened interest toward the development of VR-related technologies. In light of these trends, we are developing and producing a wide array of products such as autofocus actuators for smartphone cameras as well as various kinds of switches, sensors, connectors, and touch panels.




Healthcare

FY2016 Product Development
  Examples

FY2016 Product Development Examples

Microfluidic Device

 Following the advancement of the aging society, the need for monitoring daily health conditions to prevent illness, in addition to environmental information, is becoming greater. To respond to this need, we are developing devices for healthcare equipment that leverage connectivity technologies to monitor biological information such as pulse rate and blood flow.




Internet of Things (IoT)

FY2016 Product Development
  Examples

FY2016 Product Development Examples

Environmental Sensor Module

 For the IoT market, which is expected to grow significantly in the future, we are actively pursuing proposalmaking activities in such ways as introducing examples of the various solutions we offer that utilize the IoT at exhibitions around the world.