Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Make room for Internet radios

During one of my trips to San Po Kong, near Diamond Hill, in Hong Kong, I had the pleasure of meeting Hip Shing Electronics, who were introducing the Internet radio. I remember, my good friend, Willy Cheng, asking me to meet this company, and I'm glad that I did.

Hip Shing has focused attention on producing Internet radios. One of its models is an Internet radio with WiFi. A desktop receiver picks up the Internet radio station through WiFi and streams the music over the radio.

Do note that Internet radios and DAB radios have different markets, in the sense that Internet radios can be virtually used anywhere!

During our meeting, the executive at Hip Shing was playing for me Paris Hilton’s number "Stars Are Blind, over the Internet radio, after having accessed the audio file over the office network.

There are currently over 10,000 Internet radio stations and growing. Hip Shing’s executive said that users could stream MP3/WMA files via their own network using the Internet radio. The files buffer and then play back.

The Internet radio supports MP3/WMA/Real/AAC formats. It supports all major Internet encryption and decoding formats as well. I believe, it would be just a while when these radios come with features to support video playback. And that would be great!

Hip Shing is using Receiva’s solution for the Internet radio. The WiFi solution has been sourced from Taiwan. It is 802.11a/b/g compatible, and can stream over 6,000 Internet radio stations. Drivers for speakers are sourced from the Mainland.

The Internet radio featured five preset Internet radio stations, though Hip Shing can offer up to 10 preset stations. It had 4Wx1 speaker output power and a four-line LCD. Hip Shing was scheduled to add FM capability as well during Q1-2007.

Hip Shing was also planning to launch an Internet radio adapter and a micro system. It can be connected via WiFi. The Internet radio adapter would not have a speaker. The solution for this product has been sourced from Receiva. Hip Shing was scheduled to launch this product by end of November 2006.

Another supplier in Shatin, Hong Kong, A-Team, also came up with an Internet radio. A-Team's Internet radio also uses Receiva’s solution and plays all key audio formats. It will be sold in Europe, most likely.

I would like to see some updates from readers on this segment. I don't think this product has reached India. Would be interesting to see how it develops here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

RFID, biometrics convergence -- II

Continuing from the previois blog, it's a pleasure to introduce RCG, who I met with my ex-colleague Darius in Hong Kong, late 2006. We were very impressed with RCG's capabilities. I'd like to put down here what I saw that day (and wish my friend to update me later).

Based in Hong Kong's Cyberport, RC Group (Holdings) Ltd is developing, producing and distributing state-of-the-art biometrics and RFID software through hardware and system integration. A leader in Asia Pacific region, RCG has plans for aggressive global expansion with its all-in-one biometrics and RFID applications.

RCG is offering the i4+ time and attendance system with biometric access control. It uses an ARM processor, and features high-precision fingerprint sensor and high-speed authentication processing engine. RCG developed the hardware and software for the product. It uses 13.56GHz Mi-Fare card, and supports fingerprint access and password. Current memory is 256MB, which is flexible as more RAM can be added. It supports up to 10,000 users.

RCG is offering the M29 biometric fingerprint door lock that supports 100 fingerprint enrollments. It incorporates the latest fingerprint recognition technology into the zinc-alloy doorlock. The M29 combines advanced algorithm and advanced, precise semiconductor sensor to guarantee a fast, reliable performance and good image-capturing capability.

The S903 from RCG is a biometric fingerprint access control device featuring a state-of-the-art semiconductor fingerprint sensor. It features 64MB flash memory that is expandable. It can store up to 3,000 fingerprints. RCG was scheduled to add card support by Q4-2006.

RCG's FX Guard Pro biometric access control with face-recognition technology. It has a built-in IR sensor and RFID reader is optional. It is the first facial recognition application that runs primarily on TCP/IP. It adopts RCG's ultra-fast, highly accurate facial verification engine. RCG works with a partner in Germany for facial recognition. It also offers a Mi-Fare RFID card reader or EM card. Symbol is providing RCG the RFID tags, readers and antennae.

On the RFID side, RCG is offering mobility solutions, asset management and security control, and middleware. On the mobility side, it offers inventory database control and access device, and field service solution (using Symbol’s mobile PDA with GPRS).

RCG is also offering the asset monitoring system and control solution. It uses Symbol RFID tag and program readers, uses its own middleware and provides the solution, which is essentially aimed at the SMEs. It is a partner with EPCGlobal.

RCG has been included in the list of Hong Kong’s pilot projects. It also offers middleware and does the entire RFID software for the middleware in Hong Kong. It also adopts some SOA concepts.

Commenting on the outlook for 2007, Dr. Kam Hong Shum, CTO, said that one trend would be the convergence of RFID and biometrics. Next, there would be integration of devices into ERP, HR and payroll, etc. According to him, biometrics had huge potential. For RFID, there could be more of check-and-trace solutions, ported on devices such as Wi-Fi, GPS/GPRS terminals, besides using ZigBee for location tracking.

RFID, biometrics convergence - I

This was written a little while back, when I was in Hong Kong. I am reproducing it for the benefit of readers and friends, with hopes of receiving updates regarding access control, along with biometrics and RFID.

Hong Kong's 303 Technology offers a range of products including fingerprint access control system, fingerprint attendance system, fingerprint recognition device and WebHR. These customized products find applications in offices, factories, academic and financial institutions, hospitals, and other industries.

Its VFinp is an intelligent biometric access control product that uses optical and CMOS sensors, the last one being optional. It supports multi-verification mode and allows high-speed fingerprint matching. One finger can be used to trigger off an alarm.

Suitable for time and attendance management, it has built-in 8MB memory or 2,000 fingerprint images capacity. The maximum number of event logs is 60,000. The FAR is 0.0001 percent when FRR is 1 percent. It has the TAS proprietary software built in, which has been developed and designed in Hong Kong. All coding is finished in the Shenzhen factory on the Mainland.

The company was focusing on a fingerprint scanner when I met them late 2006. It uses a multilayer PCB. 303 Technology plans to develop face-recognition technology in one to two years time. Options include proximity card module, ID card module and Mi-Fare card module, respectively. Fingerprint access will remain mainstream over the next six to 12 months.

In the non-biometric area, 303 Technology will develop a lock system for hotels. It will integrate with the hotel system for use during emergencies. The product would be launched by Q2-07. Key applications include time/attendance and access control.

It can be used in schools and libraries as well. VFinp can also be used for this application. The supplier only needs to modify software. 303 Technology is also offering the InstantPass LTP-II fingerprint and password access device. It has a bilingual LCD, and can store up to 750 fingerprint and 16,000 attendance records. It has 16 key buttons for password entry of administrator and other users.

Continues in next blog

Sunday, March 25, 2007

DAB to drive digital radio adoption

This piece on DAB radios was written late last year. Am publishing it here, and look forward to updates, comments, etc.

At present, over 40 countries support digital radio. Europe is digital radio's largest market at the moment, with greatest of deployments in the UK. As of last year (2006), there were an estimated 3 million digital radio users in the UK alone and about 4 million users globally. The success of digital radio will depend on how the world will embrace the new standard of DAB (digital audio broadcasting). Consumer adoption would also entail putting up new stations that would broadcast new content unique to digital radio.

London based RadioScape, a leader in end-to-end broadcast and receiver solutions for digital radio and mobile TV, has been expanding its operations in the Asia Pacific region over the past two years. It opened an R&D center at Hong Kong Science Park in July 2006, and introduced several new products. By setting up the R&D center, it hopes to tap China (Hong Kong and Mainland) based manufacturers of digital radio, most of whom export products to Europe.

In 2006, there were 3 million units for DAB, with about 2.4 million alone in the UK. In 2007, industry forecasts place the figure at 5 million units and 6 million units, with about 3.6 million from the UK. Scandinavian markets are growing, but largest potential markets within Europe include France and Germany. These countries have largely ignored DAB, partly due to regulatory issues. Radioscape believes that Germany would be supporting DRM.

Within 2007-08, both Germany and France would likely be switching on to digital radio. These events would see digital radio's focus shift away from the UK to the rest of Europe, and trigger the economic cycle for the digital radio market.

In the rest of the world, digital radio has been making headway in North America by satellite standards such as XM and Sirius, which have about 10 million subscribers between them.

Another standard, HD Radio, developed by Ubiquity Corp, is also there. There is no question that there will be a shakeout of standards in the future. This adds another pro to Radioscape's stance of maintaining software-based modules. It does not want a hardware design tied down to a particular standard.

I would like to see some updates regarding DAB in India, and love to meet up with companies offering DAB radios for the Indian market.