Thursday, November 24, 2011

What we expect from our leaders

I recently came across an article that started with something along these lines: for a company to attract the brightest talents and minds, and especially to keep them, it needs to go beyond cash bonuses and strive to create a culture that sees the Manager as a Coach and a Mentor. I kept reading and one figure caught my eye: one out of four Generation Y employees (people born between 1978 and 2001, that is, most of us) was planning to leave his/her current company in the following 12 months. 

Generation Y'ers supposedly consider that working with a boss that assumes and enforces the role of a facilitator for professional growth is a crucial variable when it comes to satisfaction, as it is to work in communities with shared interests and a common passion. In fact, professional development ranks three times higher with employees than cash bonuses as a reason to commit to the organization or to quit it.

I often hear "we must guarantee a nice salary package to hold employee X". Although it's true that in the beginning, and with the purpose of building a good base, financial compensation is a very important factor for keeping talent, money is not enough. There are several other reasons that employees ponder in order to stay in a company, and according to the study I mentioned, people value what can be learned and what will be taught much more than a salary package alone. In fact, similar studies estimate that 70% of resignations are due to factors related to supervisors and professional growth opportunities. A popular saying goes "people sign on with companies, but it's their bosses they quit".

Employees aspire and wish to have facilitators as leaders rather than bosses; they want to have challenges and opportunities to learn and do, to feel valued, and to see both their potential being used and its impact on the work. The central axis of each supervisor's functions should be to make his team members succeed, because a manager's success is the sum of each of his team members'. Simply put in business terms: the Manager as a Coach.  

So, those of us in charge of people: what should we do? Serve as guides, help their learning, keep a personalized relationship with every person that reports to us, give them our time, share our knowledge, listen and understand. I'm convinced that every individual has the capacity to develop and accomplish goals, and that it's a shared responsibility (employer-employee) to harvest this potential, which the employee often doesn't know how to develop or apply, or where to apply for best results.    

Personally, I'd like to add that work should always be fun. We must make sure that people enjoy their work, and that they have the feeling they're adding value to the company's accomplishments. In Smartmatic, we have a fascinating present and a fascinating future in front of us to profoundly affect societies through technology. And who wouldn't like to work for a better future?

Víctor Ramírez

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The city we could have

Is it possible to have safer cities? Cities which are easier to transit, cleaner, more competitive, in a greater balance with the environment? We are convinced it is. These days we have a wealth of knowledge which, if used in a planned and careful way, could significantly improve the quality of life for the inhabitants of any city. For us, there is no doubt about it.

You surely have seen, either on our website or the intranet, that Smartmatic is riding the wave of Smart Cities. We want to invest in this concept and we are already doing it. We know how to work with governments, especially with those from developing countries, where these developments are most needed. We also have great knowledge of advanced processes and technologies. So, if we combine these two elements, together with our capability to understand the local and particular circumstances of every place where we work, we can create sustainable solutions to local problems. This places us in a very privileged position.

Our base hypothesis is that by applying urban planning and design methodologies together with the deployment of innovative technologies, we can optimize the way a city operates and have a significant, positive impact on coexistence, mobility and ecology.
  • What would happen if every inhabitant of a city could exert a direct influence on the decisions and priorities of local governments? What if everything were so transparent that any of us could have visibility or even be able to audit the projects being executed, especially those in our neighborhood? 
  • Many of us spend a large part of our day stuck in traffic jams. What effect would fluid traffic have on a city's productivity and our quality of life? Would it be possible to create adaptable traffic control systems which could optimize both the private and public mobility of a city in real time? 
  • Every day security agencies face rising crime rates and budget constraints. Could an intelligent remote surveillance platform extend the reach and impact of our security forces? What if we could foresee the occurrence of natural disasters and their impact on our cities? How many lives could we then save? What would that be worth to us?
  • How much time would we save if many of the time-consuming errands we do today manually were instead automated through the Internet?
  • These days our cities are plagued by refuse. We are literally swimming in it. How do we get rid of it? Moreover, is there a way to profit from all the garbage we produce? What if we could produce electricity or drinkable water from it?
  • Much of the energy we generate today is wasted. How could technology help us optimize the distribution of the energy we generate?
How different would our environment be if we could do all of these things? We ask ourselves these previous questions each day, and we have many answers already. We have begun to apply many of them as a mix of technological innovation, business vision and local knowledge. Our goal is to apply innovative technologies within business models that allow for the long-term sustainability of these initiatives, while adapting it all to local circumstances. We are certain that we will be successful.

I invite you all to share with us this new Smartmatic experience.
Paul Babic

Monday, July 11, 2011

Video as digital evidence, from the camera to the courtroom

These days citizen security is one of the biggest issues worldwide, competing closely with unemployment and education.  Violence has a negative impact on social development and the traditional schemes employed to address it are based solely on police strategies, criminal justice and penal systems which underestimate the complexity of the problem at hand.  

Facing this complex reality, public security organisms have been forced to shift the focus of their concerns, from an organizational model based exclusively on law enforcement to a smart version of security management which sets priorities and cares about the cost-efficiency relation, the quality of the services provided and the efficacy of adopted policies.

Although security management is still a developing field, the new technological platforms available already offer a significant improvement in the forensic analysis capabilities for the application of justice. Just like in the medical field, remote surveillance continuously brings about new miracle cures. The benefits range from its dissuasive effect, to a preventive approach through early detection of suspicious activities and the supply of hard evidence during investigations.   

Video as evidence to certify what happened during an incident: this is the natural response to our digital environment, to the increased appraisal of information and its uses, to the development of new spaces where it is employed; to the degree of maturity reached by digital technology in terms of capture, coding, storage and transmission; to the technological advances of, among other devices, video cameras, IP networks, communications, and video management and analysis solutions that have allowed for an exponential boom of remote surveillance systems during the past 10 years.  

Video analysis is the latest application setting the trend in this sector. Video analysis, intelligent video and video content analysis are all terms that define the capability of mathematically detecting, recognizing and analysing objects and events by the means of digital video. A report by IMS Research predicted that the video analysis market would grow to USD 3.4 billion in 2010. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the IP video surveillance industry as a whole, though: according to ABI Research, the sector finds itself in a key inflection point between analog and digital technology, and could go from USD 13.5 billion in revenue in 2006 to USD 46 billion in 2013. In the United Kingdom alone, there are right now over 4.2 million cameras, one for every 14 people, and the number keeps growing.   

As per Smarmatic estimates, a multinational company that designs and deploys these technological solutions, the average person is captured on video between 8 to 10 times a day, and so is the average criminal. This explains why video evidence has become more frequent in crime scenes than any other type of forensic evidence. The capability of obtaining detailed information from video evidence has a tremendous potential for clearing up facts: it is the new raw material for investigators.      

Intelligent video studies and their applications in the security field show a very promising future, and the disciplines involved in its research and development are several. Forensic informatics is making its entrance as an auxiliary discipline of modern justice, and as a reliable defender of the truth contained in digital evidence which can contribute to the administration of justice.
Meyling Fois

Monday, June 20, 2011

My new life in Panama

Being part of a multinational company like Smartmatic can lead to several opportunities and lifestyle changes. Those of us who belong to this family have gone through several experiences, from learning new languages and knowing new cultures, to more definitive ones such as relocating abroad.

I had to move to Panama and I wanted to share with you (in a casual way, the way we do it in this blog) how I feel in this new stage with Smartmatic and in my life. These are some F.A.Q. and here are my answers.    

1) What’s the biggest difference between the offices?  
The offices change only in their architecture… although the offices in Panama have a more modern flair, with more open spaces, we’re still the same people, the work rhythm is the same, the cordial atmosphere between coworkers is the same, lots of warmth as usual. Smartmatic is Smartmatic, be it here or in China. As long as we keep the essence of being a youthful company, without neglecting our responsibilities and the respect to other people’s work, we’ll keep being successful.   

2) What do you like best about Panama so far?
I enjoy the open spaces very much; that and not having to drive my car for everything.  Among my favourite activities there’s walking along the Cinta Costera (Balboa Av.), going to Amador Cause Way to walk or ride my bike, parking my car somewhere in the Casco Histórico (the historic city center, where you have to be careful not to park on the sideways, because you’ll be getting a CITATION on the windshield if you do), walking in the narrow streets of the beautiful Casco and having a coffee on a little terrace. I love that.   

3) You have been in Smartmatic since its beginning. What’s your perception of it nowadays?
Well, I’ve seen us go from 20 employees to 500 in over 20 countries after 8 years. That sort of growth is phenomenal! Whenever I think about it I feel proud, and I still love to see the faces of those who’ve been here since the start.  The comradeship we’ve always had, and the respect and interest on each other, are things I wouldn’t trade for the world. Feeling like a family has been one of our strengths, from my perspective; it’s not a fluke that many of us have married within Smartmatic J 

Smartmatic is a company that’s been around for a while.  This globalization has been extremely positive for our growth: the fact that Smartmatic is known in several countries worldwide is priceless.  

4) How are Panamanians and Venezuelans alike?
One thing about Panama is that for us Venezuelans there is no adaptation period, since everything is so similar: the food, the lifestyle, the people… we’re very alike, we’re Latinos and we think very similarly.

5) Tell us a place in Panama you really like.  
Panama Viejo, I love it. It was the first city founded by the Spanish in Panama, in 1519. Today it’s in ruins because of a fire that took place in 1671, which forced the citizens to relocate and start building Panama City (what is today the city’s “Old Quarter”). I love seeing how Panamanians preserve their history and keep it alive by inviting us to visit these places. It’s a really lovely place.  

6) How does your family feel about your change of location?
 They’re happy even though they miss us very much. The good thing is that a Caracas-Panama flight is less than two hours, so most of our relatives have already visited.   

7) What do you miss about Venezuela?
My friends and family, el Ávila, la Gran Sabana, the weather, heheh…
Liliana Sáenz

Friday, May 27, 2011

About biometric registries and their benefits

A few days ago I was talking to our Communications Director, who told me about a meeting she had with some journalists who asked her what the benefits of a biometric registry were.

The question struck me as rather obvious, but after giving it some thought I realized that it wasn’t. It only seemed obvious to me because I belong to Smartmatic’s Identity Management unit. The truth of the matter is that the subject got stuck in my head and became the reason for writing this post.

Please let me share with you some of the reasons why biometric citizen registries are beneficial, and dare I say they are a need in these times.

I’ll start with some words about biometrics. What is it? It’s the ensemble of automated methods of analyzing certain measurable, relatively unchanging physical characteristics in humans in order to identify or authenticate individuals. Thanks to biometrics we have highly reliable methods to guarantee or improve certainty in the process of recognizing people. Therefore, biometrics  does not apply just to a particular field of work, but to a series of different services with different purposes. Since the question that started this topic had to do with its benefits, so I’ll discuss them next.

A biometric registry guarantees the exactness of its data, the security of the information, and minimizes the possibility of irregularities (fraud, identity theft) in citizen processes such as issuing identity cards, elections, immigration, etc.

It also enables projects where identity documents are issued en masse, allowing their completion in record time. A high-quality biometric registry is inclusive, since it permits the linking of the registries of all citizens regardless of their location. It’s also universal, having multiple options to accommodate people of all ages, with specific health conditions or any handicaps or limitations.

The implementation of a biometric registry cooperates toward attaining a higher degree of efficiency and transparency in public administration, allowing for quicker procedures which are also more modern, more secure, and of a better quality; making deployment processes less traumatic and providing better services to the citizens.

As we can see, the benefits of implementing a biometric registry are plenty; these are only a few. However, they all revolve around two concepts to which Smartmatic is fully committed: transparency and innovation. This is why we work harder every day, focused on giving societies around the globe modern solutions that improve our quality of life, solutions in which inclusion is guaranteed, in which the right of having an identity document is a tangible reality, leading the way to a more equitable and civilized world for everyone.
Dimas Ulacio

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Giving a boost to the new face of urban mobility

Since 2004 the city of Bogota has hosted the International Seminar on Transport Planning and since 2006 the Andean Exhibition of Traffic and Transport Technologies (better known as Andinatraffic) as well, events for the gathering of professionals on traffic planning, control and management of the Andean region, as well as suppliers of public transportation technology.

Smartmatic was present in Bogota on March 14th and 15th of this year for the third edition of Andinatraffic (2011), where the themes of the workshops and forums were the implementation of strategies for traffic control, the modernization of systems and technologies towards ITS (Intelligent Transport System) Models, the resizing of ticket points of purchase and integrated collecting systems. The high acceptance of our solution among the attendants, most of which were experts on the matter, was very satisfying.   

During Andinatraffic 2011 we had a stand in which we deployed our urban mobility solution, as well as a delegation formed by members of different departments of our company, who attended the courses.  Both at the stand and during the courses we were able to establish contacts with countries such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Brazil, whose representatives expressed interest on our solution.

As you can see, the diversity of topics addressed in these events aim to one single goal: providing adequate tools for the governments and authorities, so that they can achieve and guarantee sustainable urban mobility by improving the efficiency of public services, providing a better quality of life to their citizens. 

Smartmatic shares this goal to the fullest extent. In harmony with our mission to assume projects with a transcendental social value for citizens, we participated in Andinatraffic 2011 presenting our integral solution for public transportation, which employs cutting-edge technology and contemplates improvements on the quality of transportation services, security for passengers and workers, reliable information for statistics management, fraud control, an increase in the profits, operational optimization and tariff integration, among other benefits.

It is our wish to help build these new smart cities, where urban transportation is a fundamental axis for the functioning of modern economies, one that grants mobility to the citizens while being an ecologically friendly, affordable and inclusive public service.
Juan Garcia

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Electronic voting: a solid anchor for democracy

On February 16th, I attended the forum Elecciones ¿Del papel a la era digital? (Elections: From paper to the digital era?) in Bogota, Colombia, organized by the magazine Semana in conjunction with its partner magazine Dinero and Smartmatic. The goal was to debate the different stands on electoral automation held by important Colombian political personalities. 

A phrase by the Interior and Justice Minister Germán Vargas Lleras caught my attention and stuck in my head: “we all want electronic voting here, but when it comes the time to go for it, oh boy, are we scared!” I think this is the current reality worldwide, where the trend towards automation seems irreversible.   

I’d like to use this post to revisit the speech given by Eduardo Correia, Vice-President of Smartmatic’s Electoral Unit, at this event which was considered a big success by the panel members in attendance.   

During our Smartmatic’s kick-offs we usually hear that we’re the world’s most important election company.  When we attend events like this we realize that our expertise, our products and services, and our people have embarked us on a path to success in several markets, thus making this statement true beyond any doubt. 

Eduardo Correia offered a great presentation about the world’s three largest automated elections: India, Brazil and the Philippines. He compared each technology employed and their benefits, advantages and disadvantages. He offered very interesting figures: for instance in the Philippines, the first South East Asian country to automate its elections, the pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that 75% of the voters were “very satisfied” with the conduction, speed and credibility of the election.  These elections allowed the Filipino people to know who was elected president on Election Day for the first time in their history. This case illustrates the point that, at least partially, there is no direct dependence between the development of a country or its geography (incredibly complex in the Philippines) and the implementation of electronic voting systems.

In Brazil, although the machines don’t print a voting voucher, Eduardo highlighted the advantage of having the equipments activate through a biometric ID process of the vote, thus guaranteeing that one voter equals one vote. He also praised the minimum energy consumption of the voting equipment used in India, where the world’s largest election is held and the machines can operate with AA batteries.

Finally, I believe that one of the most valuable points of his presentation was the academic exposition of nine quality criteria developed by Smartmatic experts to gauge the level of maturity of voting systems, and their efficiency against the most frequent vulnerabilities. The criteria are: accuracy, transparency, accountability, speed, flexibility, resiliency, equality, reach, anonymity. Fortunately, we can check all of these for Smartmatic systems!

The general conclusions at the end of the Forum were that electronic voting processes have been very well executed in some countries, have had a very positive acceptance by the electorate and that automation and electronic voting are firm and irreversible tendencies for any democracy that wishes to strengthen their institutions.

“Automated voting systems originate from the idea of having the voters, and only the voters, determine the outcome of every election”. This quote by Eduardo reads easily but its true value is hard to measure: if every elected representative in every country on Earth was absolutely legitimate, political violence would be a thing of the past. This is our contribution to society, our tiny grain of sand.
Mariana Iztúriz