WHEN Jimmy Tok's house got burgled in 1995, despite a functioning alarm system in place, he was furious and resolved that it should never happen again.
The alarm was triggered but the neighbours were not bothered (about it). I was only gone for two hours. Back in those days, the alarm system had no dialler or communicator, it could not call me, Tok says.
Unable to find a system in the market then that would protect his home the way he wanted to, Tok teamed up with business associate Cheong Kok Yai to make one.
They formed PC Sentry Sdn Bhd and came up with the first release of Sentinel Pro, a home alarm system that has the feature to call pre-programmed phone numbers to alert any invasion.
With Cheong's expertise in electronics and Tok's in digital technology and computers, the duo have over the years added more features to Sentinel Pro, developing it into a fully-integrated smart home system with security alarm, automation and close circuit TV (CCTV) surveillance system.
The system, now at its tenth release and renamed Secure Smith, is touted as comparable, if not better than the imported ones.
Tok believes Secure Smith is one of the few integrated systems in the market.
Giving an example of integration, he says: Someone breaks in, triggering the alarm and it calls pre-programmed numbers. The system turns on the lights and the CCTV starts recording, and the siren goes off. The system could also churn out comprehensive reporting on exactly when calls were made, lights were turned on, etc.
And because of the integration, we only need one phone line for remote access, Tok says.
In order to make the house intelligent, the system has to be integrated and devices need to be able to talk to each other. And the system has to be able to control everything remotely, short of actually putting the chicken into the microwave oven. We haven't reached that level of technology advancement yet, he adds, laughing.
However, the system does automate a lot of things that make life so much easier, such turning devices on and off at pre-programmed time; calling ahead to turn on the air-conditioner on/off a hot/cold day and allowing working parents to keep a tab on the maid and the children at home anytime via CCTV by remote access.
Secure Smith, with its ability to control up to 4,000 devices per control panel, is also suitable for, and has been deployed in commercial and industrial environments.
Unlike most home automation systems in the market, Secure Smith is 100 per cent homegrown, purpose-built with the local environment in mind from the start, such as the different power cycle, the line noise problem and the frequent thunderstorms in Malaysia.
Tok says: We have a digital system to compensate for all the false triggers caused by events such as thunderstorms or a passing lorry, which has sensitivity settings of 2,000 variations. Our customers really like that.
Tok, a hands-on technical man who wants everything to work perfectly with as little fuss as possible, is not someone that compromises the safety of his home.
Recalling the development of the system, Tok says: It's good to have the system call me when there's a break it. But then again, if I don't get a call, does that mean my house is safe?
The system may have just been disabled. So in the second release of Sentinel Pro, for that peace of mind, we incorporated the 'call back to home' feature.
While vacationing in Phuket a few months after the second release, Tok called the system to check on his home and was told there had been a break-in attempt.
The system told me there was an intruder but I couldn't see what was happening. So upon my return, we started designing the system to enable the user to view the house anywhere in the world via a PC or laptop, Tok says.
I was happy with the system until much later when I tried dialling while on another vacation. I couldn't see anything because it was dark! So upon my return, we started designing a system to control the lighting remotely, he says.
Today, the company positions itself as a one-stop information and communication technology (ICT) solution provider.
Tok points out: When we started PC Sentry in 1995, it was just two of us in a small office. It was hard work. Slowly, we gained the confidence of customers, our business stabilised and we got in more technicians, adding that the company now has 28 staff.
Besides Secure Smith, PC Sentry has also developed other products such as BiZen E@cess, BiZen point of sales (POS), BiZen payroll and BiZen video surveillance.
Tok says PC Sentry had not really marketed Sentinel Pro because the product was in its infancy and the market was not ready for home automation. Now that smart home is gaining popularity and developers are advertising smart home schemes in their properties, PC Sentry is ready for the battle to win the local home automation market.
The company is making inroads with a number of housing developers wanting to incorporate Secure Smith into their township projects.
It has also been engaged by local manufacturers to incorporate its technology into their products to make them smart home ready.
It has completed a prototype for a local TV manufacturer for a system that enables the programming of Secure Smith via the TV, instead of the computer. The system is pending mass production.
PC Sentry has also sent the Secure Smith system board to interested parties in China, Indonesia and Singapore for testing and is optimistic of getting its first overseas orders next quarter.
The success of PC Sentry in developing such high-tech product on modest budget had attracted the attention of bigger companies. It had so far received four offers to be bought over, but is not keen on any of the offers.
I believe we can get better offers. They didn't exactly offer to take over the company; they offer to buy us out. I don't like that. The future is there for us and I also don't want to dismiss my loyal colleagues, Tok explains.
He says PC Sentry also aims to be listed in the Mesdaq market of the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange towards the third quarter of 2004.JIMMY Tok has never had a formal education in computers. He reveals: I started college but never finished it because I ventured into business and started Compustore Enterprise, a computer servicing company in 1992.
Tok believes in passion and says while formal education helps, it does not guarantee success in one's chosen profession.
Passion, he says, puts one on a lifelong journey of gaining knowledge and motivates oneself to greater achievement.
And passion Tok has in abundance.
He has been nuts about computers and technology since his primary school days. Tok admits to have been so impressed by technology that he had destroyed many radio sets and electronic devices in his youth.
He says: I'm a very curious person. I like to get hold of new devices, dismantle them and hopefully try to put them back!
Tok currently has 11 computers at home. The computers are my toys. I like to network them and make them communicate with the rest of the devices in the house, he says.
He also enjoys fiddling around with audio-visual systems, and spends time modifying his three cars.
New cars have computer boxes. I'm trying electronic controller unit programming. I would like us to come up with a simple chip solution to control the cars, allowing the driver to either save fuel or upgrade the performance of the cars. By the way, despite some claims, you cannot have both, he says.
Tok likes to travel but regrets that he has not much time for it these days. He keeps abreast with the electronics world by attending fairs and reading technology magazines on gadgets, to see how he can position his products to work with new gadgets.
He says: We're developing the system to enable remote access via hand-held computers regardless of the platform it runs and also the ability to transmit streaming video, fax and digital answering machine into the system.
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