Friday, January 30, 2009

Dubai: Uprising Dream Hits The Ceiling

Burj Dubai, the tallest skyscraper in the world (computer image)

There is a prophecy saying the economic crisis will hit hard once a country built the tallest building in the world. It’s true to witness the opening of the then world’s highest Empire State Building in New York in the stumbling Great Depression in 1931.  The Petronas Twin Towers of Malaysia celebrated its world’s tallest in 1997, and the Asia Economic Crisis descended the following year without warning. The Taipei’s 101 Tower overtook Malaysia’s record, its construction was in the middle of the Dot-Com Bubble burst in 2000 that affected Taiwan which was economy heavily depended on IT industry.

Now, the same omen seemed to haunt Dubai. The Burj Dubai was shot up into the Emirates’ skyline; currently stood at 818 meter high and could be higher. The jubilant of achieving the world’s record might not been felt at all, because the people in Dubai have already been slapped hard by the sloppy economy. Due to the job-cuts, a report says averagely 5000 expatriates fled the country everyday. Some even left their unworthy loaned cars behind unreclaimed which have piled up the parking bays of the new airport.

I flew the Emirates to Dubai with just a quarter of seats taken, but full occupancy when I returned to Kuala Lumpur. Some says the situation could be worsened in the next 6 months. A furrowed taxi driver told me his passengers were reduced by 40%, the shopping malls garnered thinner crowds than the previous years.

In fact, when a bubble is blown overly too large, it’s just a matter of time to expect a burst. When ones’ earnings cannot justify their extravaganza lifestyle, the credit chunk will crush anytime.

But some Emiratis welcomes the slowdown. "This is a blessing; we need it," Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, a political science professor at United Arab Emirates University, said of the fiscal crisis in an interview. "The city needs to slow down and relax. It's good for the identity of our country.” Emiratis have fretted for years over the loss of their culture, as social norms became more a product of the newcomers than of the nationals. Now, some are pinning their desires for a cultural salvation on the global economic downturn, which they hope will give them a chance to reassert their customs and way of life.

Mr. Ali Jaffal (left) from Palestine and Dr. Riyadh from Iraq 

Mr. Maher Deiri (right) from Syria

Visitors from GCC countries at our booth

Despite the slowdown, our booth at the three-day InterSec Show still drew quite an extensive sum of visitors mainly from the Middle East and North Africa. Some FingerTec partners, direct or indirect, to name a few, like Dr. Riyadh of Al Salam Co. from Iraq; Mr Maher of New Al-Mawared Co. from Syria; Mr. Khalil of Betalink Technology from Yemen; Mr. Hazim of UltraTech from Sudan; Mr. Ali Jaffal of Jaffal Group from Palestine; Mr. Abdelhak of ADC Electronique from Algeria; Eng. Abbas M. Hussein of Larsa Trading, Mr. Tahir of Nice Technology and Mr. Tabish of The Ghazi Khoory Group from UAE; dropped by to say hello; not forgetting to mention Mr. Faisal from IPTEC and Mr Pillai and Mr. Abbas from Seven Seas in Dubai helping us at our stand.  When FingerTec gains its popularity over here, the exhibition booth is also a meeting point for our partners to meet us and share their market experiences, besides drawing in some new prospects. 

The economic downturn no doubt is taking some effects on Dubai, but the overall impact does not really spread to the other parts of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries (yet?), I still expect the market bullish for FingerTec products in this region this year.

Next year, for the same show, we’ll come again.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Privacy Vs Transparency

Do you have a habit of writing a diary? If you didn’t, it doesn’t matter; your government may already help you to write one and detailing your daily activities without your knowledge.

Big Brother is watching you
Big Brother is always Watching You and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. This is a fictitious scenario described in famous George Orwell’s futuristic novel “1984” wrote actually in 1949 telling a tale happened in 1984. In fact, the surreal becomes real when the Iron-Curtain countries slowly formed after the World War II in 1945, and their people were being closely monitored to shut the influence from the Free World.  

When the Russian Federation was established following the dissolution of Soviet Union in 1991, it ended the Cold War. Peace arrived, the world was merged again into one, and the terrifying Big Brother machinery was disintegrated. The optimists proclaimed.

The Clash of Civilizations

But Samuel P. Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008) published his thesis “The Clash of Civilizations” in 1996, offered a different perspective of the post Cold-War new world order, which predicted to be also full of conflicts and no less of wars, immediately sparked a mass discussion worldwide among intellectuals.  In general, his viewpoints unfortunately proved to be true. 

So does the supposedly dismantled Big Brother machinery. With the advancement of Information Technology, the monitoring system is evolved into a far more superior and effective than the once based on Thought Polices and espionage techniques to pry on ones’ privacy. And this time, it no longer confined to Iron-Curtain countries.

My explanation would be no match to Hollywood movies. In short, if the technologically equipped government has such an intention, they can easily strip you bare.

Government Vs People
The argument is, who should be more transparent, the government or the people?  Besides, whose privacy should be protected, the government’s or the people’s? Technology didn’t take side and it stays neutral.  If a technology was in a good hand, it brings welfare; if it was in reverse, it creates warfare, and in a larger scale.

The elected government should be responsible to their people; they have to take care of their people’s interest, they should be more transparent for accountability. In contrast, privacy should be protected for normal people, whether or not their self-interest is harmful to the society but with the punishment awaited when they’re proved wrongdoing.

Wisdom: The Key of Solutions

Just like Biometric identification technology, if you have wisdom and clear mind, you can use it to protect privacy in access control. Besides, to use it to achieve undisputable trails in time and attendance is also to promote accountability and honesty. You can’t stop the technology advancement, but you can use it in a good way.

With wisdom, privacy is not always confronted with the transparency, they can go in pair to benefit the human race. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Works like that

One day I noticed that a technical staff was taking unusual extra days and emails to resolve a problem. I sent him the following little reminder to insinuate my dissatisfaction. 

Customer:  How to solve problem A?Text Color

FingerTec: Problem A has A(1) and A(2), which one do you mean? 
(One day has gone.)

Customer: Sorry, it is supposed to be A(2). 

FingerTec: Okay. But A(2) has three options, A(2a), A(2b) and A(2c), which one do you refer to?
(Another day has passed.)

Customer (impatient): My problem is A(2b). Please hurry up, it's urgent!

FingerTec: Okay, it’s simple. You just need to turn the reader off and to restart it all over again. Have a nice day! :-)

Customer: #S*&#@$^@!*%....

Just like FingerTec slogan, one finger solves it all, the challenge for our technical supports should be one email solve it all! A good support should have an analytical mind to see a problem inside out, and to provide full solutions in a single email.   

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Friday, January 2, 2009

Undisputed Trails

"You can’t exist in this world without leaving a piece of yourself behind. There are concrete paths, like credit card receipts and appointment calendars and promises you’ve made to others. There are microscopic clues, like fingerprints, that stay invisible unless you know how to look for them. But even in the absence of any of this, there’s scent. We live in a cloud that moves with us as we check e-mail and jog and carpool. The whole time, we shed skin cells – forty thousand per minute – that rise on currents up our legs and under our chins.”

The above quote is the very first paragraph to start Jodi Picoult’s novel entitled Vanishing Acts. There is a Chinese proverb which carries the same meaning, “凡走过必定留痕”(Wherever you go, you would leave some trails).

Disputed trails
But, trails can be counterfeited which make them disputable sometimes, when authentication is based on a medium like a card or a key.

Undisputed trails
Undisputed trails. The Biometrics products try to lament. It’s good to improve security, but some say, it’s terrifying too, because when authentication needs a body part, an eyeball of a scientist might be jabbed out by a villain who wants to gain access into a control room; a familiar scene in an action or a sci-fi movie.

But for time and attendance purpose, it’s certainly exaggerated. Who would want to chop off a finger to prove he or she was not late for work?  For the deployment of biometrics in an access control system in office environment, the frightful scenario also is very unlikely to happen.  Despite of that, most of the fingerprint vendors have to deal with these preposterous questions thrown at them every now and then. Yes, these questions were from those skeptical people who are too obsessed with Hollywood movies. 

Some people are against the idea of Biometrics authentication implementation in commercial level, arguing that it violates privacy. The misconception is due to fear that their fingerprint could be reproduced to construct the undisputed trail for other usage, which might get them into big trouble. 

The pamphlet of FingerTes addresses the use of minutiae points 

But if minutiae points are taken instead of the fingerprint image, there is no way to reproduce a fingerprint for other purposes. In fact, when it comes to access control system, biometrics still is the best solution to prevent any intrusion of your privacy.
I quoted some literacy phrases to combine sense and sensibility to soften this topic, but my writing style landed me with more sense than sensibility. :-(  My writings reveal my character; it’s an undisputed trail from biometrics, too!

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ