Riding the smartchip wave


My-MSMy-MS’ wafer technology is said to be highly optimised to improve performance and reliability. Picture shows a semiconductor wafer under microscope light with test probes contacting the surface.

Semiconductors are usually synonymous with giant multinationals such as Intel, Infineon and chipmakers from China.

But one Malaysian company has managed to make its mark on the very competitive semiconductor industry with its focus on security on silicon and new technologies.

The future looks bright for Malaysia Microelectronic Solutions Sdn Bhd (My-MS).

New management

Established in 2000, My-MS is Malaysia’s first semiconductor company. However, the company failed to find its footing and posted RM47 million in losses before a new management took over from Mimos Bhd three years ago.

Armed with a turnaround plan, Malaysia Microelectronic, which is 80% owned by DRB-Hicom Bhd, built up its business, becoming the only bumiputra-owned smartchip maker and one of five global smartchip certified suppliers for Visa and Mastercard.

An IS9001:2008 and a Multimedia Super Corridor-status firm, My-MS, developed the 1Malaysia smartchip for the MyKad.

In June, My-MS become Malaysia’s and Asia’s first implementer of iBeacon, which is a new technology owned by Apple.

Huge potential 

ShafiqMy-MS chief executive officer Shafiq Akmal Ismail (pic) said the future potential for the firm is huge because, with the exception of Malaysia which has completely migrated to smartchips, globally, most credit, identity and security cards still use magnetic strips. This has led to fraud cases with multi-million dollar losses.

“In the United States, almost half of the cards still use the magnetic strip. In Malaysia, insurance and medical cards are still without the smartchips. So there is huge potential for the firm,” Shafiq told Business Circle.

Bolstering business abroad

Shafiq said the sky is the limit for My-MS as it is working with a Brazilian company to roll out the country’s first smart identification card this year.

“In Europe, we are working with Sagem in Belgium to supply smartchips, with total orders of four million units.

“As far as growth is concerned, the firm is in a good position as a big majority of the world’s credit, identification and other card users still use the magnetic strips,” said Shafiq.

Riding on the iBeacon

Developed by American technology and communications giant Apple, iBeacon is an indoor proximity system that uses small wall-mounted devices that transmit signals via Bluetooth Low Energy wireless technology (or Bluetooth Smart) to iOS devices.

The technology enables a smart phone or other device to perform actions, such as mobile payments, when in close proximity to an iBeacon.

Shafiq said iBeacon, which was first introduced at the US Super Bowl in February via mobile ads, has received good response stateside.

Over here, My-MS is expected to implement the project at a fast food chain operator and a local bank this year.

This will augur well for us as iBeacon is also due to be implemented at Halal Square, is an online platform that provides information on the halal status of restaurants in 57 countries via downloadable apps.

Shafiq said the company will not rest on its laurels and will continue to bolster research and development activities such as its 0.18 micron smartchip, for which intellectual property, hardware and operating systems is 100% owned by the company and developed by its engineers.

Future plans

Shafiq said My-MS, which is now profitable, will continue to make forays ahead but it isn’t targeting big markets like the US as it does not want to compete head on with giants like Infineon and Chinese integrated circuit companies.

Instead, he said the company, which exports to 17 countries through commissioned factories and manufacturing partners in Taiwan and in Kulim, Kedah, is eyeing the European and South American markets for growth.

Last year, it earned RM20 in revenue, 97% of which came from foreign markets with a distribution of 70 million chips.

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