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Canon Expo in Paris: a transformer aged 80 [1/2]

The Canon Expo arrived in Paris for its European stop after NYC and before Shanghai and Tokyo.

Once every 5 years

This is an ‘every 5 year’ technology event and is on quite a grand scale, expecting 13,000 visitors by invitation only. I was fortunate to be one of them. It sounded a bit like a Babel tower with so many languages being spoken, as there were many visitors from all over Europe.

The scale and power of technologies displayed was mind-boggling. But this time, as opposed to 2010, was more oriented around the practical usage of the technology whether at the consumer level, the business level, the healthcare level or the city level. These were the 4 segments Canon was interested to address. Canon is not just your competent printing and photo manufacturer. It produces incredible medical imaging devices but now also provides all the software and the consulting ability to manage and run the hospital. It is also active in the Smart City field providing video and surveillance equipment.

 

A transformer aged 80

There was an introductory keynote by Mr Fujio Mitarai, the charismatic boss of Canon who has set his goals on transforming the company again and exploiting digital transformation, to enable the company to benefit from potential growth areas.

He stressed two main elements:

  • Expand in other markets beyond Print and Photo. Targets are the Internet of Things, 3D printing and Video Security.
  • Internationalise Innovation

My dream is to reinvent a new Canon”. This is quite a bold statement to be delivered by an 80 year old man, but is very credible as Mr Mitarai has been at the helm since 1995 (with a stop between 2006 and 2012), and he has already transformed Canon in the 90s, thanks to an original mixture of American efficiency and Japanese values.

This has allowed Canon to navigate quite satisfactorily in the recent years when some well known Japanese companies have had their list of problems (to name Sony, Sharp and a few others). Revenues have been kind of flat since 2010 but margins have held up. Not everybody can claim that, in the face of Cameras being “swallowed” by Mobile phones and Printing being massively commoditized.

 

From cameras, Canon wants to expand into video surveillance thanks to its imaging abilities, but also to expand in the associated management systems, to make cities a safer place to live in. There have been acquisitions in Denmark in 2014 (software) and Sweden (Axis in 2015 with its video surveillance cameras). Canon is now the world leader of surveillance systems, claims the company.

From Printing, the goal is to expand into 3D printing. Following HP announcements, Canon plans to distribute acquired products next year before producing its own, expected 2017.

Another surprising off shoot of the powerful Canon R&D is Nanoimprint lithography. This is a technology to print very precisely layers of semi conductors wafers. Canon will use it for itself but also has big plans to provide a wide set of manufacturing companies with such technologies. This is a diversification in industrial machinery, quite a step away from its home base.

Last but not least, Canon like everybody has set its eyes on the Internet of Things. Mr Mitarai states “Canon has the best imaging devices available so Canon has the best elements to make these devices able to see and process the images”. Mr Mitarai has then created a new Concept: “the Internet of Imaging”.

On next Tuesday, discover about the Canon’s 5-year strategy.

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This article was written on 22 Oct 2015, and is filled under Event.

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