Representative director/CEO Teppei Sakano of Allm Inc. sat down with Warner Music Japan’s Takehito Masui to elaborate on the novel solution they are working on together that may become key in welcoming audiences safely back to live shows and events.
Takehito Masui (Warner Music Japan): The entertainment industry was placed on hold due to COVID-19 and still hasn’t regained its former momentum. When I was thinking about what could be done to overcome this difficulty, it occurred to me that some kind of solution might emerge from collaborating with someone who is using the new solutions they’ve created for the healthcare industry to save other businesses as well. First off, could you describe what your company does?
Teppei Sakano (Allm Inc.): We mainly provide information and communication technology (ICT) service through our communication app for medical professionals called “Join,” our solution for total community healthcare system called “Team,” and our support app for life-saving and healthcare called “MySOS.”
“Join” is an app that enables medical professionals to understand patients’ conditions and consult smoothly with other physicians. Currently, the top cause of death globally is ischemic heart disease and the second is cerebral apoplexy (stroke). Together, about 16 million people die every year from these causes. In both cases, people die because their blood vessels either burst or become clogged, but in the latter case, they could be saved by removing the clog. Presumably, about one third of all those who died from these causes could have been saved. So if doctors could correctly diagnose and treat such conditions, at least two million people can reliably be saved.
We developed this app after realizing that. “Join” has received third-party certification as a class II medical device in Japan under the PMD Act (Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Act) and is the first medical device software of its kind to be covered by health insurance. It’s currently being used in 22 countries outside of Japan.
Masui: It’s being used to support the fight against COVID-19 now, right?
Sakano: The novel coronavirus that spread throughout the world in 2020 was a virus that no doctor had ever seen before. So we shared a collection of COVID-19-related pneumonia chest CT images through the “Join” platform.
The pandemic caused a shortage of healthcare workers, so the digital transformation of medical workplaces proceeded greatly last year. This app is linked to AI services around the world as well, so the technology was used to analyze CT images of patients who might be infected. The app was used by doctors in various countries to communicate with each other and played a role in advancing their knowledge about this new virus.
“Team” is also being used to monitor COVID-19 patients who are recuperating at home. Information such as their vitals data and current condition can be shared by medical institutions, public health centers, care facilities, emergency response and DMAT teams to swiftly pinpoint patients whose symptoms could turn severe. We’ll continue to update it to encompass the monitoring of patients with the new strains and the progress of vaccinations in the future.
Masui: Could you elaborate a bit on “MySOS” as well?
Sakano: We originally developed it as an app that locates nearby AED units in an emergency and also keeps track of people’s medical information such as medication history and examination results, so that they can quickly receive support in case of sudden illness. We’re cooperating with a group company that runs a PCR testing facility to enable the app to notify results and also link it to vaccination efforts as well.
Masui: Last year we worked on “MyPass,” a new disease prevention solution based on “MySOS” geared towards the reopening of large-scale events with audiences.
Sakano: Yes. The way “MyPass” works is that antibody testing kits are sent to those who buy tickets to a show, and they’re asked to download “MySOS.” Then they’re asked to monitor their own health for 10 days and the information is analyzed through AI. From these results, those who are free from the possibility of being COVID-19 positive are allowed in and those who could be infected are asked to be tested at the venue.
It goes without saying that testing everyone who comes is the safest method, but testing costs money. So testing only those who might have the virus allows promoters to continue socioeconomic activities while also enforcing disease prevention measures.
Masui: In September 2020, we worked in partnership with Pia’s facial recognition ticketing system and conducted a demonstration experiment at the artTNZ fair.
Sakano: We took a survey after the experiment and asked participants, “Would it become easier to attend events if such measures are taken?” and 76% answered yes; 90% of those who were asked also said yes to “Do you think this method should be incorporated into events in the future?”
We’re working on this solution as a way to implement disease prevention measures while allowing economic activities to continue, as part of AMED’s (Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development) research and development initiative. Various data are being gathered nationwide towards the realization of the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games with an audience.
Masui: What issues did the experiment bring to light?
Sakano: One practical problem is cost. Everything is currently being paid for by the government as part of its ongoing research, but the cost to incorporate this solution is a problem to be solved in the future.
Masui: The PCR testing kits and manpower needed on the day of the event aren’t free, of course.
Sakano: While schedules for sporting events are usually fixed throughout the year, music events have to be planned from scratch six months, a year ahead of time, right? But nobody in this world can predict what the pandemic will look like six months from now. So the decision tends to lean towards, “If there’s a possibility that the virus is still spreading further, then let’s cancel or postpone.”
Masui: Large-scale events are generally still being placed on hold.
Sakano: I think events, seen as businesses, are extremely economically efficient. When people go to shows, they use public transportation to get to the venue, they eat meals near the venue, and if they live far away, they’ll stay at a hotel and maybe go sightseeing the next day. So by holding the event, many other types of businesses benefit as well.
Masui: Trying to balance disease prevention measures while allowing economic activities to continue is a high-priority issue for every country in the world right now.
Sakano: Countries that can issue bonds accumulated the most debt in history last year. I’m pretty sure that a similar amount will accumulate this year as well. Japan is one such country and accumulated the most debt through bond issuance in the postwar period. If the same thing happens again this year, the debt that the Japanese people will have to shoulder will be enormous. If we must incur such a debt, then it might as well be made efficiently.
Masui: Like you said earlier, events are connected to various other types of businesses. Many such connections are currently not functioning right now. If this new solution can be utilized effectively, I think the entertainment industry can move forward in a positive way together with other industries. We’ve been testing “MyPass” with sporting events, and are planning on testing it with music concerts within the year.
Sakano: Industries including tourism, transportation, and restaurants are doing what they can separately in terms of disease prevention, but the ultimate goal is the same for everyone.
Masui: Right. So if those separate measures are dots, then by connecting them they become lines, then planes. By making that happen, I’m sure the situation will take a turn for the better. Music concerts are different in structure from sporting events, so there are issues still to be resolved, but I hope we can continue trying to find a way to restart mass gathering events one step at a time.