The biometrics industry is broad, with plenty of room for niche players focusing on specific areas like facial recognition for smartphone unlocking or fitness-tracking earbuds. But there are some major players who have managed over the years to become successful solutions providers across a diverse range of solutions and applications, and ZKTeco has been a consistent leader among these: The company’s solutions span access control, video surveillance, Point of Sale solutions, smart locks, and more.
In keeping with this theme, ZKTeco also has operations spanning across the globe. And it has been on a kind of worldwide promotional tour over the past several months, participating in major international trade shows and hosting seminars focused on particular regions.
With all this in mind, ZKTeco’s General Manager for Hong Kong, Raymond So, had some interesting things to say about the global market landscape in a recent interview with FindBiometrics President Peter O’Neill. He also offered some insights on what ZKTeco has in store – AI is going to be a major focus in the coming year – as well as industry challenges and drivers, and ZKTeco’s plans to ‘step out of its comfort zone’ in new market areas going forward.
Read the full interview with Raymond So, General Manager, ZKTeco H.K.:
Peter O’Neill, President, FindBiometrics: Has this been a good year for ZKTeco? What are some of the highlights?
Raymond So, Head of Marketing, General Manager, ZKTeco H.K.: In mid-2018, ZKTeco launched the visible light facial recognition technology, which is going to be the biggest highlight in the coming two years, as the technology combines AI and deep learning technology to bring user experience to a whole new level. Moreover, the technology is a breakthrough of the facial template capacity, enlarging the application scenario towards different industries, especially for MNCs and large enterprises.
FB: ZK is a very global player. Where are you seeing the greatest growth?
ZKTeco: 2019 will be a challenging year for the whole world, as the entire world is full of uncertainties in political and economic aspects. The conflicts between east and west should remain in the foreseeable future, and the conflicts may bring up certain implication dispute to different areas, so, we would rather stay conservative in 2019. If I must answer this question, I would say: Southeast Asia would possibly take some economic growth in the coming few years, as they may take away the role of the manufacturing center from China.
FB: Can you please review your product line up for our readers?
ZKTeco: As one of the biometric technology suppliers, ZKTeco aims to apply biometric technologies in various products and applications. Currently we are focusing on providing security and time & attendance solutions with the following nine product lines:
- Access Control
- Time and Attendance
- Video Surveillance
- Entrance Control
- Security Inspection
- Smart Lock
- Biometric Module
Other than these nine product lines, ZKTeco is also trying to extend the biometric technologies towards other applications by third party cooperation. Therefore, in late 2018, ZKTeco internally launched an AI product line, which offers SDK, EDK and API to third party partners for software and hardware integrations.
Besides hardware development, ZKTeco also is paying efforts to software development to enhance user experience and extend application. In early 2017 ZKTeco launched its first all-in-one security platform ZKBioSecurity, which contains five modules initially, and by late 2018, ZKBioSecurity launched the latest version (version: 188.8.131.52) and already contains eight modules including access control, time & attendance, hotel, parking, visitor, guard patrol, elevator and video surveillance.
In terms of our rooted business, time & attendance, ZKTeco launched its professional time & attendance software BioTime in late 2016, which has become one of the most powerful and multi-functional time & attendance software in the market, and has gained a lot of positive feedback from end-users, a certain number of MNCs are now using this software.
FB: In terms of vertical market focus, where are you concentrating on now? Is healthcare, for example, on your radar?
ZKTeco: In terms of vertical markets, ZKTeco is now aiming to become a smart city instrument provider, as we are currently doing well in time & attendance and access control industries and famous in providing biometric solutions. Certainly, these are the key elements of smart city contribution. With the technological trend the public is getting more used to biometric technologies, we believe that we have a very clear advantage and we have the courage to embrace this chance.
FB: The biometrics industry is expanding very rapidly today. What are some of the challenges we as an industry are facing?
ZKTeco: As long as we are in a free market, there will always be challenges. In my personal perspective, challenges are in following the areas:
1. Policy Risks:
Privacy is always the biggest challenge of biometric solutions, as a civilian we fully understand the reasons of the public criticizing biometric technology against personal privacy. As a biometric provider, we are also trying our best to avoid any intrusive action against anyone’s privacy. However, sometimes it is very hard to gain end users’ trust, especially within conservative organizations. In our survey, more than 50 percent of end users still prefer RFID card solutions merely to avoid offending their countries’ privacy laws, as some of the countries’ privacy laws have remained since the last century, which certainly fail to keep up with today’s technology trends and are preventing end users to use a better solution.
As we all know, biometrics are now becoming one of the most shining stars of the technology industry, numbers of huge players have shown their interest to join this market, which are bringing the competition to a new level. Imagine that, in the past, the biggest player in the biometric industry only made 500 – 600 million per annual, and now we need to take against multi-billion corporate intrusions. Of course, on the bright side, we hope these big players will help to expand the market, meanwhile, we also have to be very careful not being kicked out by these big corporates.
As I have mentioned above, we are quite pessimistic about the economy in 2019 and 2020, we are afraid that the conservative atmosphere in the west will end up in a coming economic crisis.
FB: What are you seeing as the main drivers of our industry today…security, convenience, privacy…?
ZKTeco: In my point of view, in the past 5 years, smartphones and mobile devices are the biggest drivers of the biometric industry. In today’s view, that is an amazing marketing campaign to promote biometric technology. Frankly speaking, the public is holding a very different perception of biometric technology recently as they find it less offensive and intrusive, so we would see that the next step should be the smart city application, improving efficiency for cities by applying biometric technology to enhance information accuracy and quality.
FB: What can we expect to see next from ZK?
ZKTeco: From the past to the future, ZKTeco always concentrates on biometric technology, aiming to deploy biometric technologies to different solutions. In the future, ZKTeco will step out of our comfort zone and try to extend our influence to smart city and smart retail solutions.
In 2019, ZKTeco will increase our global footprint; we will open up a new manufacturing base in Atlantic City in the U.S. and a new software R&D center in India to provide more localized and faster response services.