Kavli IPMU staff commended at 2018 Business Transformation Awards for their smart tech

December 20, 2018
Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU)

For their effort in helping new international researchers and visitors navigate their way to the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics (Kavli IPMU) on their own, a team of Kavli IPMU administrative staff lead by Project Specialist Rieko Tamura has been recognized by this year's University of Tokyo Business Transformation Awards.

These awards are given out every year to recognize administrative staff and individual departments that have made a significant contribution to reforming the university.

Tamura's team received this year's Special Prize for their work in developing and running a smartphone app, which provides step by step information in English about how to take public transport from the international airport, how to find and ride the free shuttle bus to Kashiwa campus from the train station, and maps that show where individual researcher offices are.

"Researchers wanted this, and from experience I also knew the administrative staff wanted something to be improved. That was the motivation behind developing this smart tech and app development. The challenges and new things we've learned in making this app will stay with us for a long time. Thank you so much to Asial and we're very happy to receive this award," said Tamura.

Work on the app began after Kavli IPMU received the President's Award at the same business transformation awards in 2017. Several team members used the reward funds to take a class in app development. These classes had been organized by Asial, a company set up by University of Tokyo graduates. Using their new knowledge, the team set to work on creating a Kavli IPMU app that would help relieve staff and researchers from explaining how to use public transport or how to find their way around the Kavli IPMU to every new researcher or visitor to Japan.

Until recently, helpful advice and tips were only available on the Kavli IPMU website, but the team noticed that nearly every new researcher coming through the Kavli IPMU doors had a smartphone. Using this advantage, the team set about designing an app that would not only help new researchers and visitors find their way around, it was also serve all existing researchers by becoming an information hub on seminars of the day, who was visiting that day, and where to find certain administrative staff members.

Though the team has been commended for their work on the Kavli IPMU, they have already gone a step further by making an app for Open Campus Kashiwa in October 2018, where members of the public could download to find information on all Kavli IPMU-related activities during the two-day event.

"I was completely new to app development, so I was nervous about whether we could make something really useful, but it turned out better than I had imagined. We'll keep improving what we have, and welcome any comments or ideas from people," said Satoko Inoshita.

An award ceremony was held at Yasuda Auditorium in the University of Tokyo's Hongo Campus on December 19, where they received a certificate from University of Tokyo Executive Vice President Tomoka Satomi.

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