Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Finding a Niche in Biometrics

The CCTV and DVR scenes are getting crowded in Korea, but it is still possible to find a niche in biometrics.

By Veronica Chen, Jason Tan

Biometrics market in Korea is getting bigger three to four times a year since 1999, and the trend will continue, pointed out Jay Koo, Keico Hightech, Inc’s manager of international marketing and sales team.

The majority of apartments and hotels in Korea are using magnetic cards for access control, and they will switch to proximity and biometrics smartcards soon.

In addition, he sees a merging trend of time-and-attendance applications with biometrics features in the next two years, which will present the company opportunities to gain a larger share.

However, as the competition becomes intense, it is looking into overseas for further expansion. Its major markets include Asia, Europe, the Middle East and U.S.

Keico sees potential in South America and China. According to Koo, time-and-attendance applications enjoy major share in South America, and it aims to penetrate the market with its biometrics solutions. On the other hand, it will also prepare simple and cheaper solutions for Chinese clientele.

Claimed to have 30 percent share in the biometrics access control market in Korea, Keico is yet to satisfy with only fingerprint solutions, and might venture into iris recognition by late 2005 or early 2006.

In the case of Techsphere, a vein-pattern recognition manufacturer, 70 percent of sales revenue is from overseas.

The U.S. and Japan are the major markets, informed chief executive officer Alex Choi, who is also the chairman of Asian Biometric Forum and Korean Biometric Association.

“We sell products though our partners (distributors) in the West. Mostly they are small companies, but very capable of sophisticated technology. We need to work with such partners, because they can understand our products and offer proper services to customers.”

In terms of Asian markets, it works on project basis. “We mostly work with system integrators. For example, in Singapore, we’ve been partnering with Singapore Technologies Engineering,” added Choi.

Meanwhile, started with RFID business, IDTECK Co., Ltd. decided to go into biometrics by offering clientele one-stop shopping services and is dedicated to lead in this field.

This gives the company a sturdy positioning as RFID and biometrics business has been growing gradually over the years, said sales team manager Sky DH. Park.

In accordance with the customer’s needs and market demands, it furnishes the product line-ups with basic applications such as home security and office access control that provide simple standalone locking system, to systematic applications including intelligent building systems that support network-based controllers, he asserted.

“We extend our RFID line of products to biometrics, combination of RF/PIN plus fingerprints or face to secure the system and accomplish full range of access control system,” he informed.

To date, fingerprint solutions have enjoyed high popularity, and the company sees facial recognition will be the next big thing.

“Our face recognition product features excellent recognition and stability based on our own algorithm, and it is noticed as new product among other bioengineering products. From now on, we will do the best to approach the market with multi-modal products helpful for the expansion of bioengineering industry,” Park claimed.

To meet up with the new trend, it has released Face 006 and will unveil Face 007 next year.

These two products not only are high-level access control and intelligent building automation systems, but are also time-and-attendance solutions with corporate and banking applications.

Park added that it has 17 research-and-development staff developing all solutions from scratch till the end products, and will continue to put strong emphasis on marketing.

“Our sales volume will record 100 percent growth this year and we expect the same for 2005,” claimed Park.

The company’s business is mainly distributed among Asia (35 percent), North America (30 percent), with the rest shared by South America, the Middle East and Europe.

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