The tablet market may be struggling, but Apple, IBM, and the country of Japan see an expanded role for the devices among an unusual demographic -- the elderly.
Japan Post Holdings, which provides postal, banking, and insurance services through three subsidiaries, Japan Post, Japan Post Bank, and Japan Post Insurance, is the third player in the initiative to improve the quality of life for Japanese senior citizens.
Built on the partnership Apple and IBM announced last year, the initiative will deliver iPads with IBM-developed apps and analytics to connect seniors with services, health care, community, and their families.
As part of the project, IBM Global Business Services has designed custom-built apps specifically for the elderly for reminders and alerts about medications, exercise, and diet, along with direct access to community activities and supporting services such as grocery shopping and job matching.
The initiative also includes cloud services of the IBM MobileFirst for iOS platform, for data integration and security, analytics, and management of millions of devices, along with systems-integration services and training for Japan Post Group employees.
Japan has more than 33 million seniors, which make up about 25% of the country’s population -- a figure that is projected to grow to 40% over the next 40 years, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare.
IBM's Research office in Tokyo has also contributed text analytics and accessibility technologies, including Japanese natural language analysis and tracking to guide seniors and help make the experience more natural.
"We are joining with two of the world's most respected leaders in technology to bring our elderly generation into the connected world, expand our businesses by deepening relationships, and discover new ways to strengthen the fabric of our society and economy," Taizo Nishimuro, CEO of Japan Post Group, said in a statement.
The announcement comes as research firm IDC reported that worldwide tablet shipments experienced a year-over-year decline for the second consecutive quarter in the first quarter of the year, falling to 47.1 million, a 5.9% decline from the same quarter a year ago.
[Apple Watch mysteries revealed? Read Apple Watch Launch: 6 Things We Know Now.]
Despite five consecutive quarters of negative annual shipment growth, Apple still leads the tablet market, shipping 12.6 million iPads in the first quarter and capturing 26.8% of the market, but falling more than 20% when compared to the first quarter of 2014.
The firm noted it expects Apple to record negative growth until the iPad portfolio is significantly refreshed, either with the expected increase in screen sizes or by introducing a dedicated version of iOS for its tablet lineup.
Samsung, which saw a 16.5% decline in shipments compared to the same period last year, held in second place, while Lenovo (5.3% share), Asus (3.8% share), and LG (3.1% share) rounded out the top five vendors.