Monday, June 4, 2007

IRIS Eyes Smart Card Projects In US

KUALA LUMPUR, June 4 (Bernama) -- Electronic identification card and passport producer, IRIS Corporation Bhd, is eyeing key smart-card projects in the United States.To facilitate its foray into U.S., IRIS is setting up a manufacturing plant at the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)'s facility in Vermont, U.S.This follows a MoU signed between IRIS and IBM on March 28 this year.Apart from the plant, the company has also agreed to pursue strategic collaboration in developing business opportunities in trusted identity sector on a worldwide basis. This would involve the production of electronic passport inlays, chip cards and associated peripherals.IRIS managing director Datuk Tan Say Jim told Bernama in an interview recently that IRIS had allocated some US$8 million for the facility scheduled to commence operations by end of the year.He said the American facility would initially produce smart-card handheld readers for its existing clients.It latest contract came in March, when Smart Packaging Solution SAS of France offered a contract worth RM36.8 million to supply high security identification chip modules for the production of a new generation smartcards.A month before that, IRIS secured RM30.76 million contract from US-based Trijay Technologies International Corporation to supply secured mobile authentication and verification mobile terminals."We hope by having the plant there, we might be able to win some smart card related projects in the U.S.," he said.Tan said IRIS was leasing the building from IBM and would outsource the management of the manufacturing plant to IBM's personnel."We are now spending time with IBM's marketing people and hope IBM, as our partner, will be able to bring business opportunities to our facility," he said.Asked on the prospects in the trusted identity sector of the U.S., Tan said: "Huge and very interesting."IRIS is able to see the potential of this sector where most companies have failed to notice, Tan said.After the disaster of September 11, concerns have gone up on terrorism and so has the need to have the identity of the people coming into the country, he said."Now, people think that traditional paper based identity document should be metaled and better secured," he said.Tan said the authorities were looking at the use of smart card medium as the answer to better protection in national documents.IRIS which recorded a lower pre-tax profit of RM6.383 million for the year ended Dec 31, 2006 from RM7.235 million previously, has also put in e-passport tenders in several countries to bring steady revenue to the company.For 2006, its revenue fell to RM234.503 million from RM299.782 million previously.The MSC status company, under its Digital Identity Solution Division, plans to target as many countries as possible to secure e-passport tenders.Taiwan, Egypt, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and a few African countries will be issuing tenders very soon, Tan said."We hope we will be invited to participate in closed tenders as well," Tan said.So far, IRIS has secured contracts from Cambodia, Turkey, Thailand, Nigeria, Bahamas, Somalia and Maldives.

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