Small and medium-sized enterprises are taking their made-in-Singapore innovations around the world. This week, 39-year-old Dr Queck Cham Kiong from Infini Square speaks about its breathalyser and smartphone app that can help drinkers measure their blood alcohol levels and also book taxis and hotels.
Q Describe your company.
A Infini Square is a start-up that commenced operations in June last year. We focus on developing hardware for Internet of Things - that is, physical objects that can exchange data through the Internet.
Creating Oopsy, a breathalyser that works with a smartphone, is the firm's first foray into this field.
Q How did you get started?
A My co-founder and I started with an initial capital of $50,000 as a grant from the National Research Foundation.
When we were discussing what our first product should be, we quickly narrowed our options down to smartphone breathalysers as we agreed that it would make a wonderful product.
It was also during that time that we came across a research paper that showed the feasibility of allowing data transfer over the smartphone's audio port.
And that was like the final piece to the puzzle - we could make Oopsy work. It took us nine months to create the first prototype.
Q How does the product work?
A Using Oopsy is easy. The user simply connects it to the smartphone via the audio jack, launches the application, breathes into the breathalyser and the estimated blood alcohol concentration will be shown on the mobile app.
It can be used with iOS and Android smartphones.
The difference between Oopsy and a conventional breathalyser is that Oopsy works with a smartphone. There are many useful features in the app - for example, users can book nearby hotels, call a cab or book an Uber taxi so that they can reach their destination safely if they have been drinking.
Q What were you doing before you started Infini Square?
A I was a principal engineer and product manager at ST Electronics for more than 10 years and was happy with the working environment.
But I decided to leave and start my own business because I questioned whether I should continue doing what I was comfortable with or push myself further and take up new challenges.
It was a tough decision, but eventually I chose the latter. It has been a whole new experience for me.
Q How did people react when you told them you were going to start your own business?
A My spouse has been very supportive and that is all that matters. In fact, it was her support that further strengthened my resolve to start the business.
My parents, too, are supportive.
Generally, friends showed mixed reactions at my decision, offering various opinions. I know they meant well, but too many opinions complicate matters.
Q What sort of challenges did you face along the way?
A The biggest challenge we faced was to bring in the right resources to start creating Oopsy on a tight budget. We had to set our priorities right so that we could achieve the product we set out to create.
Q Design-wise, what were your biggest concerns?
A We believe in product design being driven by both practicality and aesthetics.
A lot of thought was put into designing it from the perspective of users, from the way they carry the device, connect it to the smartphone and breathe into it.
We built it in such a way that when Oopsy is connected to the smartphone, it does not require additional support to stay upright.
Winning the SG Mark Gold Award is a testament to our commitment to design.
Q Any plans to take your product overseas?
A Singapore will be one of our markets but unfortunately I feel that it is too small.
So going overseas is still our main target.
We hope to break into "drinker nations" like the United States, Australia, Japan and Korea as the markets there are bigger.
Q What are your targets for this year?
A The immediate plan is to bring Oopsy into mass production.
To do that we will need to raise funds. We intend to run a crowdfunding campaign in the near future and to attract investment into this company. We hope to raise about $500,000 to $1 million within this year and also to have our maiden order for Oopsy.
Q What are your plans for the company?
A All I can say for now is that we already have some ideas for our next product.
But that will happen only after we start selling Oopsy, because we have to make sure it is successful.
Q If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would have done differently?
A Hindsight is 20/20. If I could do it all over again, I would have eliminated issues that were previously unforeseen so that Oopsy could have been developed under six months, and pushed to the market earlier.
Nevertheless, in terms of our design principle and approach, I would not have done it differently.