Yes, you read it right. The i-Pot. Not i-Pod, but i-Pot. Actually the name has been in use long before the "i-Pod" came out.
The i-Pot is a simple yet cunning use of technology developed by Japanese company Zojirushi, a rice cooker and thermos manufacturer. It came about as a result of Japan's aged population increasingly living by themselves. A phenomenon called "death in solitude" is a by-product of Japanese people's general attitude of not becoming a burden on other people, including family members. Unfortunately, this can mean that people might move on to the next life without family members and even neighbors knowing all about it, and knowing about it in the most horrific way.
Incidentally, the Japanese are also quite fond of their tea, and regularly makes use of their pot to boil water for their precious beverage and for soup. This is where the novel idea from Zojirushi comes in. The i-Pot is connected to Japan's NTT DoPa network. Whenever the pot is used for brewing tea and such, information is sent to the wireless network about it. And then the people authorized to receive such notices are alerted. There would usually be a habitual pattern that will emerge, so if the pot is not used for some time, then the family member or neighbor can call and ask how things are. Nifty idea, isn't it?
The pots are on a rental basis. The hotline service costs 3,000 yen monthly (about US$30) with a one time fee of 5,000 yen (around US$45). This is available only in Japan.