Friday, December 21, 2012

Resource Sharing

As we embrace the coming year, our plan is to further enhance the concept of resource sharing.

In the 21st century, with more information being produced in the digital format, rather than the conventional media, storage and retrieval system, it has fundamentally changed the characteristic of the information landscape. It sparked a paradigm-shift from the ownership of information to access of resources.

Concept of Resource Sharing 
There are a lot of resources and components surrounding FingerTec hardware and software.  Instead of merely a product supplier, we should consider ourselves an information provider. And digital technology and the Internet gives us the value-added enhancement to deliver adequate information more efficiently to our resellers and customers.

How can an organization survive and flourish in an increasingly customer-oriented, distributed environment? How can we re-engineer our networked global resource sharing strategy? I believe if we can build an Information Highway without “roadblocks”, we will be able to market knowledge-based products more successfully than competitors.

But how do we efficiently share our resources with resellers? Our plan is to try to integrate our partners’ websites into ours. It is the most logical way, in the end, as they already share most of our resources and links to serve their local purpose.  If resellers must have their own websites still, instead of redesigning by copying our graphics and text, they can simply embed some of our icons to link directly to our product and support pages.

We encourage our partners to reflect our website in theirs by requesting us to include some of the local elements. We urge them to share their local activities, news and stories to enrich our monthly newsletters, and after that they can share and circulate the same consolidated newsletter to strengthen their local presence and brand awareness. For some even more localized components such as a shopping cart, we deploy Internet technology to limit the option to only viewers of their country.

Sharing the same platform
Sharing the same platform, with the local elements always taken care of is the best strategy to improve the brand value, in our opinon. Input of any local requirements, technically or culturally would help to enhance the platform with domestic care.

As for social media engine, we had once encouraged our partners to set up their own Facebook and Twitter page for the purpose of social networking. But yet as time went by, we observed very little activity and updates, their social media tools being left idle. For better resource sharing, we are now adopting a different approach: Instead of setting up their own, we will just make them one of the contributors or help them tweet and post about their local activities. And on top of that, we are even able to promote their post in our Facebook to their local market only.

We have the resources. We have the social platforms. We have expertise on social media networking, video editing, graphic designing, web designing, copywriting, web programming and technical expertise at our disposal. So why not share it with our clients?

In this new age, with cloud computing and a variety of services flying over our heads, a lot of companies no longer store their data physically in their offices; it is most probably stored out of the country into no particular fixed location, that even the CEOs have lost track of the exact location. To accommodate to this change, it needs a little tweaking of the current mindset. In the end, if you have the right to access, you already virtually own the information.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Walking Green

I walked 10 km last Saturday, 24th November. A fraction of the total 300km Green Walk from Kuantan to Kuala Lumpur, a part of the anti-Lynas campaign against the setting up of the rare-earth processing plant in Kuantan, of which the by-product Thorium is harmful to the people and the environment.

Walking by the road
Walking past bridges 
I joined them at Hutan Rimba, the second last gathering point before they reached the final destination. They started the long march since 13th November; they had been on the road for a long 11 days. The oldest participant was 71 years old. She told her companion earlier, “If I died in the middle of the road, please carry my body with you to the Parliament.” And the Parliament was the final destination where they delivered the memorandum to the authority.

The rain fell, the road was wet but the steps roared. Just like in the movie Forrest Gump, when Gump left his home to run, he was alone, and later some passerby joined him. Soon after, he gathered a larger crowd unexpectedly with him. It was the same with the ascetic leader Mr. Wong Tack; he started with a small group of 40 people. When I joined from Hutan Rimba, I strode along with a crowd of two thousand people wearing green t-shirts. Placards and banners cried out the declarations. Cars in passing honked to show their support. A few miles long, there were we, like a green snake slithering the road.

When the march arrived at Kuala Lumpur the second day, people joined in from everywhere, swamping the group with a mass of twenty thousand when they finally reached Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square).

Walking in the city
Arriving at their destination, 14 days later
The only difference between Forrest Gump and Wong Tack is, Forrest Gump started with confusion, ended with tiredness; Wong Tack began with enlightenment, ended up with a firm battle.

Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are playing a pivotal role in every campaign nowadays including this 14-day long march.  Once again, we saw photographs, texts and poems shared and spread fast, flooding Facebook with myriad of discussions and awakening thousands of Malaysians. The social media tools have been proven to be a potent weapon for the majority powerless individuals. History was made when social media brought about the rise of the people against the governments in North Africa and the Middle East countries in 2011. 

We condemn Lynas and the Malaysian government for their haste decision and the negligence of public interest, but to majority business organizations, corporate social responsibility just stops at the company level, or is only a formality to present to customers their concern about the society, or lasts until the Certification of Environmental Compliance (CEC) for their products as proof. Wealthy companies can put up a good show, but not many of them actually pour their heart into it. I definitely applaud those who do.

The Green Walk campaign changed their initial plan afterward; they refused to hand over the Memorandum to the Prime Minister, instead they demanded the premier to receive it by coming to the Independence Square on 26th November. What an excellent decision, in my opinion. The people are the boss. The Prime Minister is indeed the chief servant serving the country. As for corporations, if you have a heart, show it by going to your customers, not the reverse; and also show your heart of concern for the society by walking the talk. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Knowledge Management

“Do we have a KMS (Knowledge Management System) in our company?” asked my accountant while completing a survey form mandated by the government. When I told her that we do, she seemed surprise. “I thought we only implemented CRM (Customer Relationship Management)?” she stressed.  Nonchalantly, I challenged her, “How do you define Knowledge Management System then?”  She replied, “According to the form, KMS is a system that manages information/knowledge in organizations.” 

“That exactly defines what our system is doing now,” I told her.

When we built a website for FingerTec many years ago, we already equipped it with all the KMS features. The knowledge accumulates over the years, allowing renewals of some outdated materials, covering almost every aspect of the business; constant sharing among the staff and customers according to the level of accessibility, and it is indeed the hub for our daily operations. Our sales, technical support, brand building, admin & accounts, and R&D teams are constantly contributing their knowledge towards the system besides their daily duty whether they realize it or not.

In fact, knowledge is derived from processed information that originated from analytical data. Every organization produces knowledge, along with the products and services that they market to customers. Knowledge helps organizations to invent products or deliver services. Even in a trading company, product is a matter of transferring the goods from a supplier to a customer. Still, there must be some valuable knowledge in the supply-chain from the mere transfer process of goods. To remain competitive, it depends on how well you manage knowledge, and maintain a system that encourages renewable knowledge, and sharing of information.

Without knowledge management, the wastage of knowledge is high. For example, if a technical solution is not documented and shared, it needs to be repeated, and the answers would be most likely inconsistent the next time it’s presented.

Knowledge flow in organizations can be described using APQC’s Knowledge Flow Process that shown below. And now, since we are living in the age of digital technology, with reduce usage of papers, the knowledge flow cycle has been smoothened ever since, but in an invisible way.

Knowledge now, is easier to transfer and share.  And the knowledge sharing is always associated with informal learning.  Our website, as a digital hub, also serves as a self-service library, as a means to develop social networking, nurture new knowledge, stimulate innovation, or share tacit knowledge within and between individuals or organizations. And knowledge, in general, produces wiser individuals and organizations.

Dr. Hewig Rollett, the knowledge management guru said, the increasing complexity of both the environment in which companies operate and of their internal workings, combined with the speed demanded from them, the pressure for innovation, and the scarcity of attention as the ultimate limited resource, make knowledge central to business success today. Knowledge is now seen as a factor of production not only at par with land, labor, and capital, but surpassing them in importance.

To us, knowledge management has always been an integral part of what we do.  

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Something Larger Than Biometrics

Biometrics products have their own attractions more than the industries they really served.

That's why most of the biometrics players like to put forward their amazing hardware before you, and eager to show how fingerprint verification or face recognition machine works on you during a demonstration session. Their software easily escapes tight scrutiny with this strategy.  

The biometrics device is simply 'soulless' if you skip the software
The truth is, the real purpose of a biometrics device is basically defined and decided by its software. The biometrics device is simply 'soulless' if you skip the software.

Our customers can spot how much we emphasize on software, even though the hardware is like a natural magnetic field, pulling them in. We stress the importance of software by introducing three new applications to our software family throughout 2012. Firstly, TimeTec Cloud as a workforce management software based on cloud technology; secondly, Ingress as a new generation access control application, and thirdly, OFIS GateWay as a secure single sign on software, after years of developments to enhance our solutions.

The reason is simple, because the threshold can be varied, from cards to biometrics or to NFC (Near Field Communication) in the future; and the platform can be varied as well, from Windows to Web, or to private or public Cloud; and the medium can be varied too, from PCs to tablets or to smart phones, but the solution either serving physical or logical access control industry or time and attendance management, would remain the same almost forever.

Since we established in 2000, we always believed that there is something larger than the biometrics. Hence, Beyond Biometrics becomes our slogan, to remind us that the success of FingerTec would not be solely relied on how fast and accurate our fingerprint or face recognition algorithm is, we should go beyond the boundary to look into the industry at a larger perspective.

We should look into the industry at a larger perspective
And, our comprehension of serving the industry has different levels too, acceptance is just the entry point, satisfaction would be the next to ensure success, but we aim for the highest, which is to touch the customers, by their hearts. Can our products or solutions or services achieve that? We don’t promise, but we are working extraordinarily hard at that.

We hope you find us exceptional at the first sight, and later on in everything we do.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Humor Elements

A lot of people when they read Reader’s Digest, first page they’d turn to is Laughter the Best Medicine, followed by Life’s Like That and All In a Day’s Work. After they are done with the humors and jokes, then only they peruse other serious topics or skip them entirely.

Many of us are fond of jokes, or contents that have humor elements. Adults need laughter to release tension, children simply laugh to express their happiness. That’s why talk shows, cartoons, comics and comedies have permanent markets. Even in courting, when you can make a woman laugh, half of the battle is over.

Commercials that have humor substances usually hit the right button, customers simply like you when you make them laugh.

For consumer products, we are not short of funny commercials, or witty print ads that are quite entertaining; but when it comes to industrial products, all these humor elements suddenly disappear. You flip through any industrial product magazines, all the words you can use to describe their ads and articles would be boring, plain, dull, dreary, monotonous and lifeless.

It is the same for industrial product tradeshows. From the brochures they distribute, the posters they display, and the backdrops they overhang; the pictures shown normally would be a direct shot of products that frequently carried plain taglines or no taglines at all, followed by some contents that are nothing but educative. And they expect you to be a quick learner, to learn everything on your brief stay at their booths. The only eye-catching item in the exhibition hall would be the sexy models hired to hand out marketing materials, or roaming the hall glamorously with placards.

I always believe industrial products needed to inject more humor elements in their sales and marketing materials, in order to bring a vivid image to their already uninteresting products.

When PC Mart, one of our active partners informed us that they will move to a new retail premises soon, we proposed placing a wall ad on one side of their external wall. They agreed but insisted on one of our humorous posters, which had the magnetism to “catch the eye”, according to them.  

Here I refresh some of our marketing works that have instilled humor elements. Sometimes I even think whether we should be extending the humor element to user manuals and other materials around the products or even the products itself.  To amuse in a right way – now, that’s a challenging task!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


What is the proper word to describe the revolution of Information Technology?

A lot of people might find “digital” or “digitalization” well suited to explain the trend. I do agree, but “digitalization” is hard to be comprehended by the layman on how the 0 and 1 or bits and bytes did wonders for changing the world. I choose “integration” as the single word that clearly shows the changes.

When PCs invaded offices in the late 80s, some different types of works used to handle by different people, later consolidated to be managed by a lesser few.  For example, typist is a bygone job. Why need a typist when you can write on your own PC?  For the newspaper industry in the pro-PC era, typesetters used to typeset titles in different typefaces and font size, and contents in smaller point size, and later pass their work to designers to cut and paste with the related photos to construct full pages - but now things have changed as sub-editors took over the task of paginating a whole page.

When PCs were introduced, some workflows were fast to become redundant. The multi-tasking of PCs and transferable of data destroyed plenty of old rules and joined many related professions together. It made the used-to-be natural workflow become unnatural, and started a reformation based on the integration of jobs.

Later when the Internet connected every PC in the world to become one giant web network, the norm of integration was more apparent.  A lot of small merchants saw the opportunity and forayed online; but to succeed, they have to show how good their integration ability is. Because to open a brick and mortar store you’ll need money and some intelligence, but to open an online store, you need money with much more intelligence. The complexity to integrate the sales of tangible products in an intangible system sometimes is beyond comprehension.

When cloud-computing started becoming the megatrend, the complexity of the integration level is at all heights - customers, billing, payment, sales & marketing, technical support, products & applications, admin & control, etc., are all intertwined. The biggest challenge for the vendor is keeping the complexity behind doors, and displaying the simplicity up front. 

And finally, our TimeTec Cloud is making a debut for customers to try after we opened for resellers to register in July.  I use this single word, “integration” to conclude our three months of hardwork, and brain-straining labors. And yet we can’t expect any congratulatory flower basket delivered to our storefront; to hope for the glitches to be reduced to a very minimum is good enough.

While all integration efforts go to TimeTec Cloud, another integration task is turned on: consolidating the FingerTec USA website into FingerTec main portal, as a move to promote the effective share of online resources.

I expect further collaboration with our partners to integrate websites around the world of theirs into ours by next year. 

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Corporate Social Responsibility

“As long that you have a decent job, work hard, law-abide, you can consider yourself fulfilling a role as a good citizen,” there was this CEO trying his best to cajole newbies with his over-simplified motto when I first joined the IT company right after my graduation.

That moment my conscience shot back, “Yeah? How about those who work hard at licensed casinos or at tobacco companies? How about your cars that spit carbon monoxides and contribute to pollution everyday? How about …….?” We all have sinned; the simple mantra for life won’t get you near to any role model example.

Corporate Social Responsibility 
We often heard of the listing regulatory authority emphasizes on the importance of corporate governance and social responsibility. But, when you have the chance to look at the courses constantly offered to the directors, you would realize on how pale the contents really are.  The real purpose of these courses is to urge the directors to protect the minority shareholders’ interests, not the real public’s interests. Indeed, a lot of public listed companies have very little concern of the public, even those who made corporate governance and corporate social responsibility the ‘bible’ in their daily operations. 

The reason is simple. They’re driven by profit, by the greed of ROI. Even when the public companies have tens of thousands of shareholders, the number is still considered minority to the real public. And we have no short of examples where the interests of public companies conflict with the publics.

Take for an example the increase in electricity tariff; the share price rises for the electric power provider, the investors are happy, and they would tend to ignore the inflation and the increase in the cost of living as the after-effects. And the minority shareholders might think, “What can I do about it? Since I couldn’t beat them, it’s better that I suffer less from the side effects and join them.” And believe me, these vultures are well aware of every tactic to lobby the government to work towards their interests, to add bigger profit to their already lucrative monopoly business.

Stop Lynas, Save Malaysia
You may criticize these companies, but would your virtue be strong enough to avoid investing in their stocks that guarantee dividends? We saw the shameless shareholders posted their comments on the Facebook page of Lynas after the company been awarded the temporary license to operate their rare-earth plant that may harm the environment by emitting radioactive Thorium as by-product, despite hundreds of thousands Malaysian demonstrated and staged numerous strong protests against the operation. Where are those social responsibilities at the time of need and when the law permits (not to have one)? And we all know that laws are so easily bent in developing countries.

That is why quite some pharmaceutical companies have their clinical trials on new drugs in developing countries like Kenya, Nicaragua, Cambodia, and Mongolia, because it is much easier to find human guinea pigs, and the loosely regulatory environment in these countries avoid them from the threat of litigation if things went wrong.  

Federal Court dismisses Bukit Koman residents' appeal

When Bukit Koman Anti-Cyanide Committee in Malaysia called for a donation after they lost their legal battle against a gold mining company early this month and the Federal Court ordered them to pay RM15,000 (USD5,000) as legal cost, we donated RM10,000 to inspire more corporations to support civil society movements and underprivileged groups.

To me, charitable activities shouldn’t be just an icing on the cake.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Patent War

Patent war has become nasty nowadays. Even when it comes to your original work, you still might have a chance to infringe other people’s rights. The absurdity of the fact could be explained in this following scenario: Your product was launched for quite sometime but you didn’t file for patent application while the other company (that made the same product as you) had filed and granted the patent though the product is still under incubation. They could sue you for violating his patent, you could lose the case and compensate their losses, although technically, you’re not stealing anything from them. And, there is a possibility that they copied your idea in the first place.

Most technology startups, especially those from developing countries, have high chances of losing when engaged in intellectual property war game.  Most of them are even unaware of the magnitude of the IP right, or in the state of penny-pinching, any budget allocation for patent expenditure seems unrealistic, and would instantly be considered excessive in their plan; to be dropped without much hesitation.

Patent War
But when we look at startups in the Silicon Valley, whom are showered with all kinds of funds from angel investors and venture capitalists, and whom have enough exposure and guidance to survive and prosper in the modern warfare, who knows how to play lawyer first, inventor later. According to Bloomberg Businessweek (August 13 – 26, 2012 issue), in an article, Hiring a Mercenary for The New Patent War, a new startup, Tactus Technology, filed 20 applications before even beginning to bring their inventions to life. 

How much do you have to spend to start a patent application?  Schox Patent Group responded to Businessweek interview by saying that they charge a flat rate of US$15,000 per patent. For big corporations, this sum is peanuts, but a big sum to smaller companies.

“Decades ago a machine might have five or ten patents,” says Schox. “But today, the phone in your pocket has about 5,000.”  It seems that the patent filing is a lucrative business, but the huge incentive lies on the patent litigation war.

Patent War
On 24th August 2012, Apple won its patent lawsuit against Samsung on the infringement of its multiple patents in the US, including scrolling, zooming, navigation features, as well as icon design and appearance, which awarded the company a US$1.05 billion in settlements.  The patent war ignited by Apple is also a strategy aimed at Google to suppress the advancement of its Android powered smart phones and tablets.

The impact? The initial objective of patent rights was to protect the novelty of an invention; now it has become a double-edged sword to subdue competition and innovation to some extent. 

We are a technology company, no matter how I loath the twisted development of patent application; it is still one of the indicators to measure the technology strength of a company or a nation. As a technology company, we have to file more patent applications to protect our intellectual property. This month, we filed in a patent application for “A Time Attendance tracking method and system” for TimeTec Mobile App, and another patent on one-touch technology is to be filed next month. Here is our part done in the patenting world.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fooling Nobody

It was like a dream that had finally been realized. This night scene photograph that I picked to be used for my faculty magazine in my sophomore, is still fresh in my mind. The all-white pillars magnificently stood as the base structure of the Memorial Hall, and the dim yellow lights solemnly bathed the Statue of this great man, Mr. Abraham Lincoln, in his regal sitting position, in between two pillars inside the hall.

Lincoln Memorial at night
And now, after more than two decades, I stood yet again before the Statue of Lincoln with a better idea of its proportion, and with one of his famous quotes always lingering in me, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

Even though there are 44 Presidents since the US’s independence in 1776, the greatness of Abraham Lincoln is still distinguishingly highlighted in the State that was named after its first president, George Washington. Even the tour guide spent more time on this 16th President, showing the spot he got shot, and the hospital he was admitted in after the assassination in April 1865. What made Lincoln the greatest American president? He ended slavery, guided the country through the constitutional, military, and moral crisis – Civil War.

No man is born to be great. What makes a man great depends on what he did in his lifetime. The same for a brand, to become a great product or a great brand, you need to have something extraordinary to deserve an appraisal of greatness. And one good thing about brand, unlike human beings that have a biological lifespan, it can last long when all the factors are right.

Fooling Nobody
As a brand in the Internet era and social media technology that widespreads everything in the speed of light, the famous quote of Lincoln has to be upgraded to a more stringent level to “you fool no people at any time”. And you take no chance, because any wrongdoing can hurt your brand almost instantly.

Last two weeks, a leading Chinese newspaper in Malaysia was uncovered with plagiarism in its editorial article, and the news spread fast on Facebook. Within two weeks, readers exposed another 20 more plagiarized articles by simply using Google as their investigative tool. The newspaper demonstrated the worst kind of response by merely publishing a perfunctory apology on its Facebook fan page, but played dumb in its printed dailies, to limit the right to inform their readers, as a damage control solution. But I dare say you fool nobody in the Internet age. The virtual world and the real world coexist and are interactive, insincerity would eventually rebuke and haunt your credibility.

Wall Street Bull
To summarize my US trip, it was a pleasure to have met our FingerTec partner in New York, to exchange ideas, to better understand the local market, and to explore on how to expand the FingerTec brand in North America for the coming years.  

Overall, I had a pleasant stay in New York this summer. The weather was not too hot, especially in the breezy sunny days, wind blew with an unexpectedly soothing cool air, and walking in the vibrant metropolitan city was quite enjoyable. I even managed to visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA, the Museum of Modern Art, besides some other popular tourist spots.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Balance of Power

It takes a century for Time and Attendance system to strike a balance of power.

When punch card clocking system was introduced to record employees' attendance a long time ago and still quite many companies are using it now, the weight of power is tilted to employees. Employers almost have no knowledge whether employees themselves, or their colleagues punched the clocking records when they were late for works. But this is the limitation of punch card clocking technology, whether employers like it or not, they have to live with it.

To prevent time theft that causes employers to pay extra 'wages', they embrace biometrics time and attendance system when it becomes available without much hesitation to replace the old system.

Tug-of-war for power
And the power slides to employers this time. As employees, you lose the control instantly. Not only that you can't punch for your buddies but also you lost the grip of your own clocking records. All the clocking records stored in the biometrics terminals are transferred to a computer system managed by HR department. You have no idea whether your employers could or would manipulate your records to become time thieves themselves. But this is the automation attendance system, whether employees like it or not, they have to live with it.

Although some biometrics clocking terminals support receipt printers, where employees can print receipt as proof of their attendance time, most employers would not prefer to invest unless it is mandatory by the government like what happens in Chile.

The recipient of the power would always be the happy one, be it employer or employee. But again, this is unhealthy from the management’s point of view.

Naturally, the best solution to rectify any technological weakness is by introducing a newer technology. This time around, to strike the balance of power, replacing the Windows-based time and attendance software to a web-based or even a cloud-based system seems like a very good move, plus having clocking terminals that support web-based system.  

The nature of windows-based software is individuality, which means that the application is normally use to complete tasks assigned to the software operators. But for web-based system, collaboration supersedes individuality. The trend of personal technology provides more computing power; with the web-based solution that networks almost everybody, it encourages information sharing and interactions between two or more parties. So, why not let the employees logging in to the web server to view or print their own attendance and work schedule, or having more personal or company information to their benefits? All these would improve communication within an organization.

Web programs to be the solution for the balance of power
Our product, TimeTec Web seems to be the solution to the balance the power. And in view of the complication in setting up a web server, we launched TimeTec Cloud to simplify the deployment.

In fact, the balance of power in the workplace would create better understandings between employees and employers. For employers, they should take this technology transformation opportunity to share the obligatory information among employees, to build a better working environment and enhance the sense of belongings of employees to the company.  

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ