Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Change: The Only Constant

Mr. Loo, the owner of LKF Tech Services, who came to collect his order of FingerTec products from our office last Wednesday bumped into me and told me he knew me for almost 20 years, even though our very first FingerTec model AC601 was only launched 9 years ago. FingerTec is definitely NOT the link. He explained that back then he was a sales person selling EasyData brand PC to Password Computer (M) Sdn Bhd, the first IT company which I had joined.

“No wonder you look familiar,” I said. We later relishing the days when the first IBM compatible PC, XT 8088 and later AT 80286 were still able to provide 30% profit margin for resellers; we sighed at the fact that the existing PC had long been a commodity market, regardless of the efforts, sellers could only get to squeeze a ‘nano-profit’, a term that Stan Shih, Founder of Acer used to quote.

IBM XT 8088 PC

That’s the ruthless fact of fast changing IT industry. Dare to take a short break; you would be swept away to nowhere instantly. Products become obsolete in no time, some brands demised in history only after a short glory.

Let’s take a look at mobile phone industry as an example. It started from a bulky ‘tumbler’ design to a sleek gadget; from black & white to color screen; from single telecommunication function to multi-purpose; from a dummy device to smart phone; from diversified to a converging technology. By the end of 2006, there were 2.68 billion mobile phone subscribers, outnumbered 1.27 billion fixed-line telephone subscribers by more than two folds. Fixed line spent more than a century to reach the figure, but mobile phone only took less than two decades, with significant generation change in technology every few years.

Water tumbler?

When Internet technology arrived in the mid 1990s, the changes were more tremendous and thorough. IT development had produced hundreds of thousands of millionaires, but many of them later striped bare when they failed to cope with the technology turnaround. We witness the rise and fall happened much faster here than in any other industries.

When I first started PUC Founder in 1995, project-based Electronic Publishing System for newspapers market was still our core business. The business declined sharply due to the newspaper industry itself had to struggle against the trend of online publishing.

With our ongoing efforts to pursue Change, FingerTec fingerprint products currently outpaced electronic publishing system as main contributor to our revenue, brought us much prosperous presence and future; just like Mr. Loo, from a sales person, he has prospered to have his own business, now with a project in hand to install over 60 units of FingerTec R2 & TA100 models in multiple sites for a public listed company.

We believe in Change, the only constant determination to bring us to a brighter future.
And our determination leads us to face recognition technology, The Next Big Thing. Before we unveil the state-of-the-art products by yearend, grab some ideas about our combination of 2D & 3D Face Recognition Algorithm from the Technology White Paper.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Privacy Issue, Again

It all started after a staff from a furniture installer was dismissed. He filed a complaint to the authority, saying his dismissal was the result of his refusal to enroll his fingerprint for time and attendance.

The news was fast-spread by the Hong Kong media on 14 July after Privacy Commissioner Roderick Woo Bun issued a statement to the press and commented, “Fingerprints are sensitive personal data, given their uniqueness and unchangeable nature, employers should carry out a serious and cautious assessment before collecting such data.”

The news came just two weeks after the successful launching of FingerTec model R2i and Q2i in Hong Kong; I can imagine the frustration of Founder Hong Kong’s staff when the news hit the media. What a pity!

Launching of model Q2i, Elvis Law is second from the left

I wish I was there at the launching

The following two weeks, they’re in full combatant mode. Phones kept ringing. “One project that needs 20 units is put on hold,” a reseller informed. “Do you have less intrusive solution besides fingerprint?” another inquired. Journalists called for clarifications from Elvis Law, now a reputable fingerprint solution figure in Hong Kong, a ‘title’ that I used to tease him.

“The most shocking call was from a high-ranking officer from Criminal Investigation Section,” Elvis told me during my trip to Hong Kong last week. Indeed, what this person was asking for is some support documents about minutiae points in fingerprint technology, which prevent reforming original fingerprint for a crime purpose, and he plans to use the fact to fight the Privacy Commissioner on his exaggerated statement.

“Hmmm, ‘buddy punching’ to cheat employers is also a crime, according to the officer,” he cracked into a triumphant smile.

When something bad happened, the good sometimes follows. To curb ‘buddy-punching’, some initially was unaware that employers have started to explore the idea. Sales has increased for FingerTec Mifare card models where fingerprint is stored in individual card but not in the system, escaped the accusation of inappropriate collecting of personal data.
And, the issue has sparked some debates over the Internet and newspapers. It seemed the pros beat the cons. The most distinctive critic is that the lawmaker is always lagging behind in technology advancement.

The truth is; so far there is no reported case of any commercial-based fingerprints being reused in crimes. Do you hear any? The technology intelligently prohibits it from happening. J In commercial fingerprint algorithm, once the fingerprint template is produced, it’s no way to turn it around.

The technology has changed the world, reshaped the way we live and think and act. To me, no worry, the laggards shall follow, one day.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ