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Helping customers secure mobile information

Blu5's mobile security solutions are like Lego pieces that their customers can build according to their specific needs.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 - 05:50

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Mr Chia and Mr Rossini decided to band together and started Blu5 in 2007. Their goal was to work on a solution for companies and governments seeking to secure their information on mobile environments.

MANY smartphone users do not bother all that much about security on their phones - downloading games and typing their passwords to their bank accounts without a second thought. With many of these phones connected to the Internet almost constantly, these mini computers are giant flashing targets for hackers.

The situation is even more dire for governments and large corporations which have to protect communication and information in a mobile environment. This was a gap that Singapore-based Blu5 View identified early on, said its business development director Melvern Chia.

To plug the gap, Mr Chia and his friend Paolo Rossini, formerly the managing director and chief executive of the information security arm of Telecom Italia Group, Telsy, decided to band together and started Blu5 in 2007. Their goal: Work on a solution for companies and governments seeking to secure their information on mobile environments.

"We knew there was a market space to fill, a demand for something that was not actually there," said Mr Chia. "Our leitmotif since the start was to deliver something which was not available yet. Because of this and because of our market approach, we like to describe Blu5 as 'Not the Usual Company'."

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CHANGING TOOLS

Their approach is not an easy one. Most security companies have standard solutions to information security, for instance certain protocols that help prevent access. The problem with this approach said Mr Chia is that the hackers have the same access to these solutions.

"The same things are taught to everyone in schools. So both the hackers and those who are trying to protect are essentially playing the same game," he said. Instead of constantly trying to outwit the other using the same set of tools, Blu5's approach is to simply change the tools altogether.

The company develops custom-made solutions that help system integrators and developers create a level of security for their systems and applications. Mr Chia likens this company's services and products to a Lego-set - the customer gets to build a security system that fits his needs exactly.

"Products or platforms must be modular, customisable and 'hackable' - this means that the client is in full control," he said, noting that the open source environment has helped engender this form of development. The company not only develops software for its clients but also hardware. It can create a chip or a USB token or even a microSD card to match the requirements of the client, he said.

The company, however, had a very slow start, by Mr Chia's own admission.The first few years were marked by having to invest considerably in the research and development of its products. Revenues were also low, at less than US$100,000 a year.

The turning point came in 2012, when the company secured a few projects for the products it had started to create. And then the firm took off. In the 12 months to end-May 2015, sales at the company more than doubled to about US$14.2 million.

The company was awarded the Turnover Growth Excellence Award in the recent S1000 awards for its huge improvement in sales.

SEEKING SUSTAINABLE GROWTH

But such growth is unsustainable and the company is seeking to grow at a more moderate pace while still exploring new markets and sectors. "In the future, we may see a further growth within the 10 per cent to 15 per cent range of increases a year, while we work to approach new regions and market segments," he said. The company itself is a bit of a startup - small, light on assets, tech-heavy and global in focus.

To keep things light and mobile, it has a dispersed set of teams working to create new products. It has a group of skilled engineers it employs in Europe while it manufactures in Taiwan. The company's headquarters is in Singapore.

"Business is best done in Singapore, as well as intellectual property consolidation and all key strategic matters," explained Mr Chia. "For electronics manufacturing, we need to leverage on a specific cluster that is not in Singapore. That's why we chose Taiwan."

Most of all, Mr Chia said the company believes in innovation. "Innovation is key. If you are small, you must be different to survive and grow. You must bring an innovative proposition, both for products and for marketing. We try to minimise all other costs to allow ourselves to continuously invest."

Almost 50 per cent of the company's profits is reinvested and most of it goes back into research and development. As for its plans for the future, the firm is now focused on bringing its solutions to more sectors and in different markets. South-east Asia remains a key market for the company although it is also looking to expand in Europe.

It is also looking at expanding into new sectors altogether: One area that the company is eyeing is in fintech, or financial technology. "Most app developers there create nice looking apps that have nearly no security. And people are supposed to type in their passwords into these apps," he said.

Another big area is the Internet of Things, things or objects that can be controlled through a virtual connection. For instance, air-conditioners that can be turned on via a mobile app by the home-owner while he is on the drive home.

Said Mr Chia: "We are eagerly working in this direction, to deliver security platforms and ready to be seamlessly integrated into the solutions used by these industries."

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