The time has come for Hong Kong to stop looking down on the mainland as just a source of cheap labour, according to Simon Chen Zhi-lie, chairman of China's largest embedded computer systems provider, Evoc Intelligent Technology. Mr Chen said he would like Hong Kong manufacturers and businessmen to understand that his Shenzhen-based company and others like it in China were capable of competing with the best in the world. He has just opened an 'exploratory' office in Hong Kong to establish what opportunities may lie here. Evoc was established 10 years ago and specialises in computer cards, motherboards and embedded intelligent platforms (EIPs) - technology we use daily but are unaware of until it breaks down. 'Our technology is not really seen by ordinary people, but it is at the heart of many things we use every day,' said Mr Chen. 'Do you use an ATM? Our technology is inside a lot of ATM machines.' The mechanisms that read ATM cards and the keyboard, and finally the device that counts out the correct amount of money, are all EIPs. If you are using an ATM in China, you are probably using a machine with Evoc components. 'We are the fourth-largest company of this kind in the world,' Mr Chen said. Intel, Motorola and an unnamed Taiwanese rival are ahead of Evoc, but Mr Chen expects to be No3 soon. 'I think we can take the No3 position some time next year,' he said. Embedded systems have in recent years looked to the open-source community, particularly Linux, for an operating system that is small, stable and easily changed. Mr Chen said Evoc was a leader in this respect too. 'We have our own version of embedded Linux called EVOC- Linux,' he said. Although it would be possible to write in Chinese for this operating system, the company rarely communicates directly with people. 'Most of our communication is at the machine level and we do not need Chinese for that,' Mr Chen said. China has more than 12 embedded Linux systems. Last October, Evoc helped set up a non-profit group based in Shenzhen called the Embedded Intelligence Alliance to foster co-operation between the developers. As China continues to open up to the world, Evoc products are are found in an in increasing number of devices, Mr Chen said. He believes that Evoc's success (the company has 800 employees) lies in its ability to attract and retain the best people. 'But the biggest advantage I have is in the number of quality-control people I employ - 74,' he said. 'Most Chinese companies unfortunately do not spend a lot of time thinking about quality control. In my business, there is little else. What would happen if the ATM gave you the wrong amount of money? It would be terrible.' Evoc's special circuit boards and software can also be found in the telecommunications industry the military, finance, transport, video monitoring and internet security solutions. Without a high standard of quality control, the company could not keep these customers, Mr Chen said. 'People in Hong Kong are always surprised we can produce things at this level. They really should not be so surprised. In the 10 years I have been doing this, I have seen a lot of improvement in China.' Mr Chen said he had made no effort to do business internationally as many of his Chinese customers were already subcontracted to foreign companies. It was too early to say what Evoc might do in Hong Kong. 'I'm just looking around right now,' he said.