Japanese and Singaporean devs battle over gamified crowdsourced telco maintenance app

You read that right – it's a bit like Pokémon Go, but for telephone poles

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) – which manages infrastructure including the Fukushima nuclear power plant – is reportedly involved in an IP dispute over an app that gamifies the crowdsourced identification of faulty power poles.

Earlier this month, TEPCO launched "PicTrée - Grid Grab: Capture the Current-" which was developed in partnership with Singapore-based Web3 entertainment biz Digital Entertainment Asset (DEA) and a Singapore-based joint venture called Greenway Grid Global.

The makers refer to the free app as an "Inspect-to-earn team battle game" and compared it to Pokémon Go – as it "encourages players to get outside and explore their communities by foot."

PicTrée encourages users to upload images of ageing public infrastructure belonging to TEPCO. Snapping utility poles, steel towers, manholes and handholes can see players rewarded with Amazon gift certificates and PlayMining's proprietary DEAPcoin ($DEP) token.

The game was designed to mitigate a labor shortage of utility pole inspectors, explained a DEA press release.

Japan is currently facing a shortage of workers due in part to the nation's ageing population. In addition to capping overtime to protect its residents, the country has explored creative ways to extract labor with a limited workforce.

"We call this new business model 'Gamified Work' and are actively working on applying it to a wide variety of industries through several exciting partnerships in development," explained DEA founder Kozo Yamada in late March.

But while PicTrée's developers were chuffed with their crowdsourced pole inspection app, a Japanese nonprofit known as Whole Earth Foundation (WEF) reportedly was not.

WEF reckons PicTrée is eerily similar to its own app – called Tekkon – in both content and function, according to local media.

Tekkon was released in 2022 and reportedly has been used in partnership with other power providers. Its past urban adventures and other events have resulted in participation numbers in the hundreds. Not quite Pokémon Go numbers, but a faulty power pole is less fun than a Pikachu.

"The foundation of every country is its infrastructure, which is not always maintained well. In many countries, the central/local government has no way to fix infrastructure in a timely manner as they don't have enough resources," asserted WEF on Tekkon's website.

"We can help. Earn cryptocurrency by reviewing the pictures of infrastructure, which will help fix your country."

The two apps not only have the same goal and reward system – they also both include a "utility pole challenge."

According to Japanese media, WEF is considering filing a lawsuit against TEPCO and others. Meanwhile the municipal government of Maebashi – a city in which PicTrée was to hold a several month-long demonstration test of the app – has withdrawn involvement. ®

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