Prism Holdings, which develops secure SIM card, bill payment and cryptographic technology, is one company which has apparently cleared this hurdle.
The group has a strong presence in SA and an established and expanding footprint across Africa and South-East Asia.
In case you`re wracking your brain right now at the mere mention of Prism, it has most recently been in the news for some kudos.
In October, Prism was named the 2005 winner of the Department of Trade and Industry`s Support Programme for Industrial Innovation (SPII) Award for innovation, as a result of its developments in SIM technology for the global GSM market.
Prism received the award for the development of its uSIMetrix operating system (OS); a next-generation SIM product designed for use in third-generation (3G) mobile networks. The product provides support for 3G advanced data and mobile commerce applications. uSIMetrix follows Prism`s successful aSIMetrix product range, widely adopted internationally for use in 2G m-commerce initiatives.
Although designed for use in 3G handsets, uSIMetrix is completely versatile as it supports seamless roaming between 2G and 3G networks and can be used in 2G handsets and smartphones.
Then, in November, it was awarded joint first place in the Technology Top 100 Awards` category of Leader in Research and Development, alongside Anglo American.
Prism`s entry focused on its advances in the development of a cryptographic platform on which multiple applications can be built.
The Incognito TSM410 (transaction security module) is a cryptographic security device that offers high-performance, high-security services used in electronic funds transfer (EFT) switches and other top-end transaction processing arenas.
"For us to produce revenue that is sustainable, intellectual property is critical," indicates Alvin Els, CEO of Prism Holdings. Over 85% of the company`s 2005 revenue was generated through the sale of technologies, solutions and services incorporating own IP.
In 2005, Prism spent R32 million (2004: R31 million) on continued R&D, which amounts to 11% of revenue (2004: 12%).
The expenditure was focused on chip card developments in the areas of 3G, SIM browsers and USIM, continued certification and enhancement for the Prism outdoor payment terminal (OPT), development of EuroPay MasterCard and Visa type (EMV) approved payment software, and ongoing development of payment solutions.
"Innovations have to be relevant commercially, but products will only make money for us if they make sense to our customers," he adds. To ensure that its R&D engineers aren`t isolated from customers, the ultimate users of the product, Prism ensures that they engage in customer interaction during the development process. The group also encourages cross-pollination among research teams.
Els indicates that more than two thirds of Prism`s technology staff are development professionals. Each of Prism`s four business units chip and wireless unit, the EasyPay services arm, the transactional security division, and payment solutions unit - have a dedicated R&D team.
"About 65% of our R&D expenditure is on people," notes Els.
As for Prism`s external focus, Africa accounted for just over 70% of its R300-million revenue in the last financial year, and will continue to receive the lion`s share of its attention this year.
SA, Nigeria, and, to a lesser extent, Egypt, will be the key markets in this regard, says Els, noting that it will also continue to focus on the South American and South-East Asian markets.
Earlier this year, for example, it won an order through Nasdaq-listed Radiant System to supply Malaysia`s Exxon-Mobil with R30-million worth of OPTs for installation at its unattended petrol pumps. Rollout is currently taking place in phases, with over 300 of the 800 terminals already supplied.
"Although we can`t claim that the awards we`ve received for our technologies have resulted in any real commercial benefit, we do appreciate being acknowledged by our peers, and our engineers, especially, feel acknowledged and appreciated," concludes Els.
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