What inspired you?
Indeed the first thing that journalists always ask me , is how a Greek engineer came up with this concept.
I can say that it is a proof that serendipity rules. I was attending the Mobile World Congress in 2009 in Barcelona. At that time, I was being hosted at the Gemalto booth (www.gemalto.com) – presenting prototyping work on SIM development and talking to business visitors. In one of the discussions I had, the successful launch of the 2nd generation of LG’s Islamic phones came up (eg check this http://www.lg.com/tn_en/mobile-phones/lg-GD335 ).
At that time LG was very successful with these; sold tens of millions that year, retailing around 250 USD. I was impressed with the concept; I got interested in this type of product and started checking it out. The next few months I realized that I could pack most of the functions of an islamic phone inside a SIM card, to turn any casual feature phone into an islamic phone simply through the swap of its SIM card. A lot of GSM feature phones are in use in Asia and Africa, due to their low prices, long battery lives and ease of use. Also, there are places where the networks have not been upgraded to 3G, which can support a functional smartphone with islamic apps; and in most places prepaid connections and high churn rates exist + lots of dual SIM phones in Asia. I always wanted to design a really affordable product, that great numbers of people could use and appreciate in their lives.
A SIM is cheap, so this type of product-offering could be used as a utility gadget by mobile networks, to attract those users that could not really afford an islamic phone or smartphone, but would find it convenient (eg think of Ramadan time) to introduce islamic features in their existing GSM phones.
The concept prototype was submitted to SIMagine, a development and business plan contest
event run by SIMAlliance (www.simalliance.org) in 2010. The Islamic SIM project got a Best mobile app award that year, which subsequently led to contacts to SIM manufacturers who eventually provided resources to build the first network connected samples for market evaluation. Right now I am working closely with Bluefish Technologies. I think they are No 5 in the world in SIM manufacturing.
This SIM basically offers on plain-vanilla feature phones what you get on an Islamic phone/smartphone, minus the Quoran text. (We get a dial-a-Quoran voice recital instead with the SIM…)
As you know Islamic praying is a complex practice. Executed 5times/day- and times change from day to day (based on location, date, islamic jurisprudence).
Featurewise, this SIM helps the users track the Mecca direction when navigating unfamiliar space, delivers ringtone calls-to-prayer generated by the SIM card, redirects incoming calls during muslim prayer time (thus cellphones need not be deactivated inside Mosques…). It also provides Arabic calendar converters and other handy little utils. Moreover, think of places where Muslims are minority, like India. Their phone can ring anytime during their prayer session, since the other people can not keep track of the Islamic praying practice. With this SIM no lost calls and no disturbance by incoming calls during a prayer session any more.
Why only for muslims?
Similar offerings for other religions are under preparation.
How does it work?
It is basically embedded software that ‘sits’ on top of the SIM Card operating system
that makes it all possible. Functionality wise you get access to these services through
your SIM menu.
Who is on your team?
The first prototype I designed it alone. To turn it into a product I hired
a small group of Greek engineers and was provided support engineers from LogosSolvo
(www.logossolvo.com) which belongs to the same holding group as Bluefish Technologies
(www.bluefish.com) which helps market the product.
Who are your partners-say telcos on board?
Cannot publicly disclose at the moment.
What is the market like?
Practically every Muslim person that owns a smartphone has an Islamic app installed. This is
not the case for users of feature and cheap low-end phones.
Markets in Asia and Africa are dominated by feature phones. In Africa only 14% are smartphones
and in Asia less than 25%. Around 1billion feature phones are used by Muslims and have
the potential to be transformed into Islamic handsets, through the swap of the SIM.
Also markets are dominated by prepaid connections and high price-sensitivity.
Plus many dual sim phones out there. We try to launch the service, to help MNOs attract
more subscribers to their networks, reduce churn rates and keep the users that
cannot afford a smartphone+data plan loyal to the network, giving more value and technological edge than
Privately funded so far.