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Korea Update (Part I): Driving Innovative Technologies and Services
a&s International 2010/5/25

Despite the global recession, Korean manufacturers continue to innovate. Delivering competitive products with advanced functions, slick designs and affordable prices is the common goal.

Despite the global recession, Korean manufacturers continue to innovate. Delivering competitive products with advanced functions, slick designs and affordable prices is the common goal.

Camera manufacturers are studiously developing reliable HD and megapixel network cameras. DVR manufacturers are providing H.264 models that support larger channel counts with D1 resolution and HDMI streaming. Hybrid and NVR solutions are also on many vendors' R&D road maps. Intelligent functions can be seen in more edge devices and DVRs, and software offerings are becoming more user-friendly with GUIs and powerful features. In terms of environmental friendliness, video door phones and IR illuminators are on their way to be more energy-efficient.

While most of the companies are moving toward IP-based technologies, advances and investments in developing more scalable analog solutions still press ahead. With more Korean companies looking to increase efforts in branding, service improvements will be a key part of their corporate strategies.

<The following 10 Korean companies are presented in alphabetical order.>

Founded in 1999, Camtron has been supplying quality cameras for more than 10 years. Camtron products range from 600- and 690-TVL cameras to megapixel network cameras and DNR/WDR cameras.

A 20-percent revenue decline was seen in 2009, due to the global slowdown; sales from Asia and Latin America increased noticeably. Banking on technology developments and emerging markets, the company expects a 15-percent revenue increase in 2010, targeting Europe, America and certain developing regions.

Strategy and Core Competence
Camera customizations are the company's key strength. "Our experienced R&D team allows us to provide tailor-made cameras to more than 100 companies," said Julie Bang, Assistant Manager.

ONVIF-compliant megapixel cameras and servers, cameras with video analytics such as face detection, HD cameras with HDMI/HD-SDI output and wireless CDMA transmission solutions are the company's main launches in 2010.

"Technology differentiates us. While we don't compete on prices by reducing features, we make our solutions more affordable by outsourcing parts and sourcing components in greater quantities," Bang said.

Future Outlook
Competing with multinationals is no small feat for an SMB with limited resources. Bang trusts, however, that Camtron will continue to stay ahead by developing multipurpose products with differentiating features.

Founded in 1976, Kocom started its overseas business in 1980. Its key offerings include home automation, video door phone and video surveillance solutions. Today, Kocom exports to more than 100 countries. Europe, South America, Japan, India, Malaysia and Thailand are its fastest growing markets. Most of Kocom's sales are generated from its own branded products, constituting 15- to 20-percent growth in 2009. With growing needs from the residential and retail sectors, Kocom is expecting another 20 percent in 2010.

Strategy and Core Competence
Kocom targets different market segments with different products. Features not needed by targeted customers are left out to keep prices competitive. "For example, tracking is offered in solutions for European and US airports, whereas in India, only image recording is required," said Chun-Ho Ko, Manager.

Software engineering is in Kocom's core, with its user-friendly GUIs and features. "Kocom is not just a manufacturer but a service provider," Ko stressed. Green solutions, such as LEDs for home systems, that consume less power are the company's latest focus.

Future Outlook
Aiming to be one of the top 10 in the industry within two to three years, Kocom ensures quality by developing everything in-house. More than 50 percent of the human resources are dedicated to R&D. "We are working on even better software, easier than smartphone interfaces," Ko said.

Spun off from Filtech Corporation in 2007, MicroDigital started its exports immediately, with Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East being its major markets.

About 90 percent of MicroDigital's revenue is generated from its own branded products. Its latest products include DVRs with HDMI and VGA I/O transmission, 16-, 25- and 36-channel NVRs with real-time streaming, and CCD 1.3-megapixel cameras. A 30-percent sales growth rate is expected for 2010.

Strategy and Core Competence
Encoding and decoding are the company's core technology. "We reduce image noise with software computations and hardware designs, and are able to offer supreme image quality with advanced features not seen elsewhere," said Jung-Soo Han, General Director.

About 30 percent of the company's resources are dedicated to R&D, with an additional 5 percent added each year. "Quality control is important to us. Apart from the chipsets, our systems are developed and manufactured in-house," Han said.

For its offerings to strike a good balance between cost and performance, the company is willing to sacrifice profits rather than making quality or functionality compromises. This year, MicroDigital plans to open a branch in Amsterdam for localized sales and services.

Future Outlook
"We will continue our analog technology developments; however, developing IP-based technology takes top priority." More storage solutions and 2-, 3- and 5-megapixel cameras will be introduced in stages.

Paragontech has focused on developing infared illuminators by utilizing its own technology since 2004. The technology has acquired a good reputation domestically and overseas, including countries in Americas, Middle East and Europe.

Paragontech participated in various security-related exhibitions abroad. Paragontech attracted great attention with its long range IR and whie light illuminator. The company's strong illumination is suitable for demanding installations, including coastal, marine and border projects.

Strategy and Core Competence
"Paragontech has developed a hybrid IR illuminator by using its state-of-the-art semiconductor technology," said Sung-Soo Lee, CEO. "Unlike conventional illuminators, it has an LED chip guaranteed for 10 years with a semipermanent life span and can easily dissipate heat." The illuminator's high heat resistance and adequate radiant intensity enable the overall system to maintain stable operation.

Future Outlook
Paragonetech will continue its product and technology developments to cater varying needs. With confidence, the company plans for aggressive domestic and overseas market expansions. "We look to enter other market segments and enhance our competitiveness with further R&D investments," Lee said.

Pinetron, founded in 1999, is a specialized DVR developer. The company maintained 10-percent growth in 2009 and is expecting a 30-percent growth rate in 2010.

With the Americas being its major OEM market, Pinetron sells its own branded products to Russia, Europe and South Africa.

Strategy and Core Competence
Technology and quality are Pinetron's top priorities. "Quality assurance and software reliability are vital to us," said Michael Byun, Sales Manager. "To maintain our image, we thoroughly test our hardware and software offerings in-house to ensure they are completely bug-free."

Keeping up with the latest, Pinetron's new DVRs have aesthetic design and can connect remotely to most smartphones, including Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian and Android. The company leverages market research to strike the perfect balance between price and performance when developing new products. "We need to know what price points are meeting customers' needs, so we can offer them the most cost-effective solutions," Byun said.

Future Outlook
Business expansion is not without challenges. "With lower-cost Chinese products improving in quality, we are facing fierce competition. On the other hand, with our affordable prices, better designs, advanced software and overall reliability, we are confident in our offerings' differentiation and positioning," Byun said. IP-based developments, such as in mobile surveillance and wireless transmission, are also underway.

Founded in 1998, Rifatron has been supplying innovative video surveillance solutions.

Europe, the Middle East, the U.S. and Asia are its major markets with Spain, Iran, Morocco and Libya growing the fastest. By providing a wide range of products, Rifatron was able to maintain a 40-percent growth rate in 2009. This year, the company expects the same.

Strategy and Core Competence
"We offer good picture quality at a competitive price, with efficient compression technology," said Wooyoung Jang, Overseas Sales Manager. "With strict quality control and cost-cutting efforts, we develop everything in-house."

Its 4-, 8- and 16-channel stand-alone H.264 DVRs with D1 resolution and HDMI streaming on all channels are prominent in 2010. To stay competitive and cost-effective to buyers, Rifatron always offers high-end software features and tries to contain hardware production costs.

Future Outlook
"DVRs are still highly demanded. Rifatron will continue to work on video quality, transmission capability and processing speed," Jang said. The company also has plans to offer hybrid DVRs in the near future.

RTS Digital
Founded in 1998, RTS Digital started its export business immediately.
With a background in semiconductor and machine vision, RTS provides quality video servers with storage, DVRs, network cameras and management software with intelligent features like tracking and face detection. Currently, the U.S. and Europe are its major markets, and banks, airports, casinos and corporate offices are its major clients. The company enjoyed 10-percent sales growth in 2009 and is expecting growth of more than 20 percent in 2010.

Strategy and Core Competence
Armed with strong R&D know-how, RTS produces reliable systems with high-quality images. "Codec technology is our key strength," said Andy Bang, Marketing and Sales Manager. "Our strong software development team designs systems with next-to-none system downtime." Good customer services are another key. "We offer great technical and after-sales support to our customers. After an overseas order is placed, delivery is guaranteed within 48 hours," Bang said. "Our rapport with various partners prevents us from sacrificing functionality to lower prices."

Future Outlook
For management software solutions, improved system stability and software features are crucial. "With efficient design and manufacturing processes, production cost can be lowered to maintain our competitiveness." The U.S. will continue to be the company's focus for IP-based technology in 2010. India, China and Indonesia will also be its targets.

Tibet System
Founded in 1998, Tibet System moved from high-speed printing technology to DVR developments in 2000. With Europe being its largest OEM market, the company's own brand mainly sells to the U.S. Positioned as a tech-centric company, Tibet today devotes about 50 percent of the employees to R&D efforts. Despite the global economic crisis, the company enjoyed a 70-percent growth rate in 2009, while expecting 100-percent growth in 2010.

Strategy and Core Competence
H.264 and MPEG-4 embedded DVRs, with a Linux-based operating system, that stream a mixture of real-time D1, half D1 and CIF video are Tibet's forte. The company also offers PC-based DVRs, NVRs and management software with intelligent functions. Compact and aesthetic designs with competitive prices are noticeable in Tibet's products, said Chaewon Yeo, Assistant Manager of Overseas Sales. Good customer services and advanced technologies are the company's additional strength. "We offer door-to-door technical support in Korea and for large overseas companies," Yeo said. "With innovation, great quality and after-sales services, we are confident in maintaining our position."

Future Outlook
Tibet will continue to strengthen its DVR technology and develop IP-based surveillance systems. Management software and intelligent motion detection, alarm notification and remote monitoring will be further developed as well. "Our motto is to offer high-end quality at a lower price. Japan is our next target."

T.O.M. Technology
Founded in 2000, T.O.M. Technology majors in OEM business, with the U.S. being its largest market. The company saw a slight decrease in sales in 2009. Pushing forward network technology advances and user-friendly solutions, it is expecting 8-percent growth in 2010. Coming from a storage background, Tomtech's major offerings include a full line of stand-alone and PC-based H.264 DVRs, with intuitive GUIs to meet various needs.

Strategy and Core Competence
H.264 products, including network DVRs, that allow for real-time viewing by Web browsers and 3G smartphones have Tomtech's attention right now. Web applications such as twitter and Google map are available, making penetration into the consumer market easier.

"Performance may be associated with a bigger price tag, but it doesn't guarantee better sales," said Leslie Park, GM of Sales. "In a competitive market, lower prices are a winning factor if quality and functions are similar." To explore the larger consumer market, Tomtech has added remote monitoring and other Web services to its 4-channel DVRs.

Future Outlook
"Although it is very difficult to meet various network and customization requirements, it is a task that we don't shy away from," Park said.

The company aims to increase market share with more advanced technology. "We are incorporating customer suggestions and concepts into our products."

Founded in 2004, Xrplus started its export business in 2007. The company supplies video surveillance solutions to more than 50 countries. Despite the downturn, Xrplus enjoyed a 40-percent sales increase in 2009, with Europe being its main market. In the U.S., 300-percent sales growth was seen compared to 2008. With new features in its recently launched DVRs, the company expects another 100-percent growth in 2010.

Strategy and Core Competence
User-friendly features are evident. "Our solutions are not only suitable for professional security personnel; users without any IT background can also operate the system with ease," said Sarah Nam, Team Leader of Overseas Business. In 2010, Xrplus is offering 4-, 8- and 16-channel H.264 DVRs with simultaneous live-view and playback functions, 3G surveillance, and D1 and 4CIF dual streaming and access authorization.

Growing needs for lower prices have been felt. "While we're targeting high-end markets, we also want to make our products affordable to some mid-end segments," Nam said.

Future Outlook
The company listens to its customers before deciding R&D directions. "Although pricing matters, we don't want to sacrifice the powerful features in our DVRs. We will keep good relationships with our customers and fulfill every one of their requirements. Customer satisfaction is our only concern," Nam said.

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