Japanese cell-phone giant plans emissions-tracking network

The largest Japanese cell-phone company, NTT DOCOMO, unveiled plans to piggyback an emissions-tracking network on top of its existing large network of cell-phone towers. This is a very, very smart move. Why? It points the way to both accessing a new economic opportunity for DOCOMO and addressing a key fast-growing market and leveraging existing assets that are hard to replicate -- those tall towers and cell sites, located in dense urban areas and near industrial parks.

The network will launch on December 21 with environmental sensors in 300 locations near Tokyo and the bordering Shizuoka Prefecture. Should the trial run succeed, the network will expand to 2,500 locations around Japan by early 2011, with future possibilities for expansion into a 9,000 location ecogrid. The network will initially offer information on pollen levels in the air and will later offer data on carbon dioxide, ultraviolet rays, and other air-quality or atmospheric conditions.