11 Leading Portuguese Businesses for Innovation
Eleven businesses in Portugal that stood out for their innovation in 2010. They range from biometric systems to digital cards, water bottles and surveillance systems; there is certainly no shortage of ingenious ideas.
Anyone entering or leaving Venezuela through the international airport in Caracas can now pass through a sophisticated electronic passport reading system. This innovation saves time, money, resources and was designed by a Portuguese company: Vision Box. This company that specialises in biometric solutions has become an international success and was therefore chosen by the Portuguese newspaper Diário Económico as a leading example for innovation in 2010.
Along with Vision Box, ten other businesses were selected. These outstanding companies all have something in common: they are innovative and inventive, they have the potential to take their products abroad and they have ideas that will affect the lives of millions of people. There was no shortage of candidates among leading Portuguese companies but eleven have been chosen and the work of these companies will continue to be acknowledged here.
Cardmobili provides mobile applications that allow clients to replace a series of cards such as those for associates, client cards and loyalty cards with digital cards on their mobile phone. The aim is to simplify the use of the cards and make it easier to access discount vouchers, coupons, points and other advantages offered in loyalty schemes.
The company won Best Projection after representing Portugal in the international Vodafone Mobile Clicks 2010 competition. The company, directed by Helena Leite, was awarded with the public award at the GSM Barcelona during the largest mobile phone technology fair. They are currently looking for researchers and risk capital to meet an investment of between four and five million Euros.
'Farming Extreme Manager'
João Oliveira never thought that his addiction to Farmville would make his fortune. After 25 years of working in IT engineering he developed the 'Farming Extreme Manager' application that automatically carries out the daily tasks in the virtual management farm game, Farmville. It became a success immediately after being launched on 1st September 2009. Within 18 months over 500 thousand users had downloaded the programme that currently costs $9.99 (around 7€) although the launch price was $4.99. However, it was not an easy ride. Zynga, the creator of Farmville threatened to prosecute him stating that the application contradicts the concept of the game.
In addition to founding the Automation Labs company, João Oliveira developed Cityville Manager which follows the same model as Farmville and is also available on Facebook.
"Mala Segura - Safe Suitcases"
To resolve, or at least drastically reduce the problem of lost suitcases at airports, a consortium of Portuguese companies developed technology that is able to track the location of luggage.
The project was developed by ANA-Aeroportos de Portugal (the Portuguese Airport Authority), SETSA-Sociedade de Engenharia e Transformação (the Engineering and Sales Company of the IBEROMOLDES Group), Critical Software, Inov-lnesc Inovação and PIEP (the Product Innovation Engineering Programme). The project uses RFID technology (Radio Frequency Identification), WSN (wireless network sensors) and GPS/GSM (communication and positioning systems) to track luggage on a global level in closed and open spaces. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is currently testing this project that should then be implemented on a global level.
NDrive company produces software for GPS equipment and has already launched the 11th version of their offer. They are now considering the introduction of targeted advertising (such as promotional campaigns in certain shops) allowing them to reduce the cost of the product or even make it free. The technology, led by João Neto, also signed an exclusivity contract with the mapping company NavTech and launched a software version for the Palm with the web OS (by HP) operating system. The new 11th version offers new functions that include location sharing on Facebook or Foursquare, for example, and weather forecasts and traffic information. This software is in the Windows Mobile operating system by Microsoft, Symbian by Nokia, Android by Google, iOS by Apple and Bada by Samsung.
OON Recycling Solutions
Mário Silva found his “goldmine” while working at McCann Erickson Portugal as the director of strategies and marketing. When working with the Sovena group (Oliveira da Serra olive oils), the million dollar question came to him: how can we re-use cooking oil so that it will not contaminate water?
The president of Oon Solution explains, “I began thinking about the old oil lamps that used oil. And then I thought: if it works for lamps it must work for candles”. The Portuguese company developed a machine similar to an express coffee machine that makes scented candles at home. Last year the Portuguese company, responsible for “the world’s first solution for domestic recycling”, launched the machine that incorporates a simple design inspired by Apple to make scented candles with from cooking oil.
Vision Box is a leading example for the internationalisation of national technology. The company that is based in Oeiras develops integrated biometric solutions. The electronic passport and the new citizen’s card are their best known products. Last year they installed electronic passport readers in the international Airport Simón Bolivar de Maiquetla in the north of Caracas. In Portugal the system is known as Rapid and it is a border control system that uses biometrics for identity authentication and it is currently the company’s most internationally promising product.
The consumer may not have noticed the difference, but the new Vitalis and Caramulo bottled water bottles are now helping Unicer save 250 tonnes of PET plastic.
Logoplaste and Unicer have been partners for 13 years and gram by gram they have reduced the weight in plastic used in bottled water bottles. With the new bottle each unit is two grams lighter. This may seem insignificant but it has made it the lightest bottle on the Portuguese market. The project for the new bottle was developed over two and a half years and required an investment of one million Euros to implement. Unicer invested 500 thousand Euros to alter the filling lines of three Vitalis and Caramulo factories and Logoplaste spent 450 thousand Euros on transforming the plastic moulds for the new bottles.
In July last year the clothes and accessories brand launched their online shop. Salsa began by focusing on e-commerce in Portugal but quickly moved on to European markets. According to Filipe Vila Nova it will soon be possible to purchase Salsa products in countries outside of the EU and the aim is to launch a virtual shop that is accessible all over the world. The group invests 23 million in innovation each year and the result is an online shop with support services such as instant Chat where the customer can ask questions in real time. Furthermore, they can access the personal shopping service “Made for You”.
EDP (Energias de Portugal - one of Europe’s major electricity operators)
Project Inovcity is part of Inovgrid and began last year in the city of Évora just two years after being announced by the EDP. In 2010 the EDP aimed to install 31 thousand smart meters and 16 electric car smart recharging points. This is part of a pioneering programme to promote smart grids involving the EDP, Efacec, Contar, Lógica, Janz and INESC Porto. The programme will allow clients to play a more active role in managing their daily levels of consumption with the aim of reducing the final electricity bill with new tariffs and services. The use of the so-called “power boxes” have reduced energy consumption by between 10% and 20%.
In July 2010 Brisa began introducing a new pay/operating system, the Via Manual Semi-automática that concluded in December 2010 with the installation of 249 systems on 304 roads. The Via Manual is a semi-automatic toll system controlled by the driver. The system includes all of the conventional payment methods such as credit or debit card, coins, notes and Via Verde. The whole process is monitored by remote surveillance cameras. The system that was developed in Portugal brought together companies from all over Portugal. Furthermore, Brisa has begun to install smart cameras that can identify unusual situations (such as a pedestrian crossing a motorway or a car driving in zigzags). A new “smart vision system”, that should be introduced this year, can detect anomalies in traffic flow on motorways, such as vehicles driving in the wrong direction.
The “videocall” service is a solution developed by the Portuguese company Byside that has already worked with Santander Totta in other services such as “click2call”.
The main difference between video calling and Skype or MSN Messenger is that the image of the operator is available on the screen of the PC of the client without the operator seeing the client. In addition, the voice call is made from the bank to the client’s mobile phone free of charge. For Joaquim Calça e Pina, the director of Direct Channels at Santander Totta, the system “has advantages on various levels: it overcomes the difficulties in the PC voice configuration, the client does not have to use a microphone and the call remains active even if the client looses the bandwidth needed for the video call”.
Económico.pt, 17th April 2011