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Anne Lindner

Q & A: Povl Dalsgaard, Conax

11 October 2001

Conax is a Norwegian information security firm connected with Telenor, Norway's government-owned telecommunications company. The company focuses on pay TV systems, IP streaming, online betting and electronic payment methods. Its e-betting services include electronic user IDs, authentication of game combinations and payment, and conditional access capability--the ability to create closed betting environments in open television or IP networks. Povl Dalsgaard is the head of e-gaming for Conax.

IGN: For our readers who may not be familiar with Conax, can you explain who you are and what you do?

Povl Dalsgaard: Basically Conax is a part of Telenor, which is the Norwegian formally owned government telco. Telenor is one of the largest in Europe in broadbands; they are pretty heavy in mobiles and the rest is traditional. They are moving very strongly to become international, more and more and more, buying, acquiring, setting up and having operations in 70 or 100 countries. Conax is a unit established initially 15 years ago, with the focus on secure payments, was established as an individual company in '94 and are focusing on conditional access, streaming, payment, smart cards, and are the dominant provider of pay-per-view access in the Nordic region.

Conax has three strategic business units. One is the conditional access, one is the security in payment and one is e-gaming. With e-gaming, we have a broader look than most of the people today because we see e-gaming basically consisting as three cross-fertilizing areas. We see the gambling and betting as we know it from the casinos, from the lotteries, from the scratch notes, powerball and so on. Then we see the second segment as the content gaming, which we see a lot of people are starting to move into and are looking at what to do and how to do it, and as well for the gaming as a separate profitable entity, but as well to support the prime business, i.e. build loyalty, build awareness, get stickiness, keep people in there, get the rating up so you can get more advertising money into the content. And the last segment, which is the merging among very big companies … is to link gaming in to knowledge assimilation processing and implementation, i.e. with information technology today we are basically swamped with so many things that the quality of our uptake and our implementation is getting worse and worse as humans. There have over the last four or five years been done quite advanced experiments using gaming as kind of an interface motivator … and we believe that segment, and we have done some pretty interesting trial experiments in implementations where it worked, will grow to a very, very big segment.

IGN: What kind of experiments have you done?

PD: If you have in a highly technical environment, internal procedures, you want people who are working in this environment, like for instance oil rigs--they really don't want to read the internal procedures, they couldn't give a damn. But by linking it to gaming you get people to do it. We have done it in the recruitment of high-knowledge people in universities instead of the traditional way of recruiting, you link gaming in and you create awareness and interest. … So that's the scenario we see.

What we want to deliver is a secure--and with a big line under secure because that's mandatory--robust, scalable and customizable, complete infrastructure. And based on what we have seen around the world, we have broken down the components. We have a set of components and then we are creating very close corporation collaboration with leading players around, to provide what we think could become an industry standard.

We believe there's need to create, obviously you can hear what my background is, an industry standard to get it from the embryonic time, which I believe e-gaming is right now, into a more robust, industrialized time where we can really start to see all the opportunities and advantages. And what we are doing now is that we are linking up with players around the world; we have identified five key locations, which goes like Las Vegas, where we have had an amazing response on our ideas; Monte Carlo; Hong Kong because of the Jockey Club; London and Scandinavia as some of the potential key drivers, and most of them … are bringing in new forms of technology, if you look on payment systems, if you look on knowledge exchanges and so on. That's what we are doing full speed, and we are working on some of the global organizations because we think that implementation will have to be localized global, i.e. it needs to have a global capability but you need to implement locally. So we are building--call it a catalog--where we can go in, and if someone says 'I want to be in gaming,' we can participate, create the vision, what do you want to do, bring in the implementation plan. They can outsource the whole stuff to us, and we can operate on a number of different financial models with partners.

In addition, we are trying to create modern ways of having knowledge groups, knowledge exchanges, round tables--virtual remote--around the subject. … Because we know we are damn good at some things, but there are other things we are not good at, so we want to create a team or corporation of the best players around the world.

IGN: So your goal is to create a single type of software that every site would use?

PD: It's not a software, it's a platform, a complete infrastructure or platform, on which obviously we would create an automatic game generator and so on, but really the infrastructure, the platform, the implementation, and the operation, and then provide that to organizations, either in their organization or … in one of our partners' operations.

IGN: Where are you in that process?

PD: We have the components, we have an operations center up and running, we have identified the first 20-25 partners, we are doing the letter of understanding, and we expect to have the first things rolling out, and be able to make it more public by Jan. 1, and we are entering into the first very large scale content-bating activities. And I think we are on a good route. It seems like we are on a good route, but you never know until you have done it.

IGN: What types of companies are you partnering with?

PD: It ranges from payment companies through consulting through game providers through infrastructure providers, through, for instance, global charity organizations, global sport organizations.

IGN: Are most of the companies you're partnering with European?

PD: No, it's mixed around the world. Some Asian, some American and some European, and that's what we really want, because we believe it's not a European, it's not an Asian, it's not a U.S.-centric, but it's in nature, and to create a world-based brand, we need to get this kind of coverage.

IGN: How do you want the project to shape up in the next few years?

PD: If you add these three market segments, what the impact could be not only on the direct gaming, but on our whole way of doing knowledge services, is basically mind boggling, and I think we will see more established companies will follow, but the thing is that a lot wants to be doing everything themselves, and the speed of development of the technology invention and uptake--I don't believe there's any way one single company, even the biggest we have, can say we do everything ourselves. Some will try, but I think it will be less successful. So we want to move a little mountain and break some new territories. Wagons west, in good American style.

Q & A: Povl Dalsgaard, Conax is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner