NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News NoCamels.com is the leading news website on Israeli innovations. We cover all the latest innovation in the fields of technology, health, environment and lifestyle.2015-05-25T07:28:36Z http://nocamels.com/feed/atom/WordPress Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[A Look Inside The Booming Startup Nation: Is Everyone Getting A Piece Of The Pie?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38055 2015-05-25T07:28:36Z 2015-05-25T05:14:43Z

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For Israel’s startup scene, 2014 was in many ways the year of the golden egg, with exits and IPOs totaling $15 billion, a new record for the Startup Nation. And it looks like 2015 is shaping up pretty well too, with Israeli startups raising $994 million from VCs in the first quarter of this year only. Experts expect heightened investment activity during the remainder of the year as well, with 2015 potentially surpassing the booming 2014.

     SEE ALSO: Exit Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For $860 Million In First Four Weeks Of 2015

But with all the money pouring into Israeli startups by VCs, investments funds, large tech corporations and private investors, the question many Israelis ask themselves is: Who really benefits from the thriving high tech scene? NoCamels spoke to experts and analyzed workforce, salary and tax data, which reveal that while high tech accounted for a third of Israel’s economic growth in 2014, the tech revolution has skipped the majority of Israelis.

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Google Tel Aviv’s office

Eight percent of the Israeli workforce is in high tech

While Israel rightly enjoys the aura of the Startup Nation – with more startups per capita than anywhere in the world, only 8.2 percent of its workforce is actually employed by technology companies, including such giants as Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and Google, which have offices and R&D centers in the Holy Land.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), 283,000 Israelis currently work in the high tech sector, with the nation’s workforce totaling roughly 3.45 million people. On average, high tech workers – who are typically highly skilled and educated in the field of computer science – earn nearly twice as much as the rest of the country’s workforce. While the average Israeli worker earns $2,400 a month, according to the CBS, high tech employees make $4,700 a month on average.

Women and minorities are underrepresented  

So, who makes up the exclusive 8 percent? Mostly young men, official numbers reveal. Women comprise only 35 percent of Israel’s workforce in high tech, with men holding 65 percent of the tech jobs, CBS says.

     SEE ALSO: International Women’s Day: Are Women Equal In The Startup Nation?

And it’s not all men who rule high in the high-tech scene, but mostly younger men; older men (and women) have a hard time maintaining a lifelong career in this industry. It’s no secret that startups look for young engineers and developers who are willing to work the long hours and often under extreme pressure. While ageism is illegal discrimination just as much as discrimination against women is, many employees in their 50s (men and women) have told the Israeli media it is difficult to maintain a career in high tech.

Men and women in Israeli high tech

Manpower shortage pushes recruiters to think outside the box

Minorities are also severely underrepresented in the industry: while their portion in the general population is nearly 21 percent, non-Jews comprise only 2 percent of the tech workforce, according to Tsofen, an organization promoting the integration of Israel’s Arab citizens into its high tech industry.

Ziv Mandel, CEO of the John Bryce Hi-Tech Training and Assimilation Division at Matrix, a leading IT company, explains that the high tech industry has traditionally recruited Israeli Defense Forces veterans who served in technological units such as the famous 8200 unit. Since the state of Israel doesn’t typically enlist Arab citizens in the army, the high tech scene “has become an exclusive club for Israelis who served in the military,” he tells NoCamels.

But openness towards minorities seems to slowly be growing in some parts of the industry. Indeed, over the past couple of years, recruiters have started turning to minorities (some more than others), including ultra-Orthodox Jews (who don’t typically serve in the military) because of a shortage in high tech talent. In addition, “minorities have become more aware of the benefits of working in the high tech industry, and many more enroll into college in order to study computer science and related fields,” Mandel says. “They’re gradually entering the high tech workforce and the trend is expected to continue.”

Haredi Jews

Silicon Wadi beats Silicon Valley

Still, Israel’s portion of high tech workers is higher than that of European countries and even Silicon Valley in the US. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, less than 5 percent of California’s workforce is employed in high tech; the rate is even lower when looking at US national numbers.

However, it’s important to remember that much of the European economy and California’s economy have not traditionally relied on high tech as much as Israel; rather, it has focused on the automotive, agriculture, aerospace, defense, chemicals, biotechnology and food industries.

Startup employees

Tax from ‘exits’ is mostly paid abroad  

Another beef many Israelis have with the high tech world is that the millions of dollars in investments that have been poured into the Startup Nation over the years – most recently spent on Israeli startups by Amazon and Dropbox – aren’t reaching the wider Israeli population.

Firstly, all foreign investors – as large as Amazon and as small as angel investors – typically pay taxes in their home countries, even if they invest through an Israeli VC, says accountant Ofer Sela, Technology Partner at KPMG, an accounting firm. Israeli founders of startup companies hold up to one-third of the shares (the rest is held by VCs and foreign investors), and so when they sell their company the portion of the tax due in Israel is relatively small.

Sela explains that typically, shares of Israeli startups are divided in the following manner: 10-30 percent of the shares are held by the Israeli founders; 10-15 percent of the company is held by the employees (usually through stock options); and the rest of the shares (about 60 percent) are held by foreign investors (through an Israeli VC or a foreign one). So, the “native” Israeli shares total 20-40 percent.

How much tax is then levied? Israel’s tax authorities typically deduct 20-30 percent of the Israeli earnings. For example, if a company is sold for $100 million, the Israeli group (founders and employees) get up to $40 million. The tax deduction in this case is up to $12 million – which translates into 12 percent of the total acquisition price.

taxes, bookkeeping

No more tax havens? Israel succeeds in collecting tax on intellectual property 

But recently the tide has started to turn. It happened when mobile navigation app Waze sold to Google for $1.3 billion, including tax, in June 2013 (one of the largest exits in recent years). Google paid roughly $357 million to the Israeli taxman – $147 million for the acquisition of the company and another $220 million for its intellectual property. In sum, on roughly $1 million Google spent on buying Waze, it paid 36 percent in taxes.

Google’s case is different because many companies before Google took the IP offshore, to tax havens, in order to avoid paying tax in Israel. If Google had done that, its tax rate would have been slashed to 14 percent ($147 million). In terms of taxation, the Google-Waze deal was a milestone in Israel’s exit history, and tax authorities hope the trend will continue, so that wider parts of the Israeli public can reap some of the benefits of the booming high tech scene.

Waze

All in all, Israel’s tax policy, which generally encourages foreign investment is “good policy,” Sela says. Koby Simana, CEO of the IVC Research Center, agrees. “There would be virtually no high tech in Israel if it weren’t for foreign investment,” he tells NoCamels. “We regularly host delegations from all over the world, and they’re all amazed that in this small country there are 290 foreign research and development centers.”

Simana concludes that “the wonder that is Israeli high tech literally saves our economy. If it disappears one day, we will have a big problem, which is why we need to carefully keep nourishing this amazing industry.”

Photos: Waze, Gilad Avidan, WeWork, Google Israel, US Embassy Tel Aviv

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The Israeli Startups That Made It Onto Gartner’s Industry-Defining ‘Cool Vendors’ List]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38538 2015-05-21T09:13:35Z 2015-05-21T09:01:41Z

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Out of 350 companies selected by leading American IT research firm Gartner as “Cool Vendors” in 2015, 18 of the industry-defining companies are Israeli. Historically, Gartner’s list has been a prediction of the future success stories of some of the industry’s most promising startup companies, like Israeli mobile navigation app Waze that sold to Google for $1.3 billion two years ago.

This year, the Israeli companies that made the cut are producing novel technologies, mainly in the Internet of Things (IoT) space. These technologies could potentially be used in every IoT product, from a wearable band that will tell you where the lines are shorter in amusement parks, to a robot that partakes in your surgery, a drone that will deliver your pizza, or a mobile app that tracks your exercise routine.

“We have identified the cool, innovative startup companies that currently operate in Israel,” Gartner’s Chief Researcher Daryl Plummer said at a briefing yesterday in Herzlyia. Plummer flew into Israel especially to recognize the ‘coolest’ Israeli startups of the 350 companies globally selected this year.

     SEE ALSOIsraeli Startups Raise Impressive $994 Million In First Quarter Of 2015

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An example of Telesofia’s MedTech solution.

What does it take to be ‘cool’?

At the conference, entitled “What does it take to be cool? The next innovation frontier,” Plummer – who’s considered a “cloud computing guru” – stressed that Gartner “doesn’t pick companies in stealth mode,” but rather startups that are already marketing their solutions. On the other hand, giants such as IBM cannot be on the Cool Vendor list because they’re well established. “A cool vendor deals with the up-and-coming trends that will drive our world in the next 10 years,” Plummer explained.

18 Israeli companies were recognized yesterday as Cool Vendors; NoCamels profiles five of the coolest.

Glide

Video-messaging startup Glide Talk allows users to send video messages over the cloud, so that the videos they record, send and receive don’t take up space on their device. The company’s popular live video messenger has attracted more than 15 million users since its launch for smartphones.

Glide recently closed a $20 million investment round, bringing total investment in the company to $28.5 million. Following the funding round, the company has reached a $100 million valuation.

     SEE ALSO: Glide’s ‘Video-Walkie-Talkie’ Aims To Replace Texting

Managed by Chief Executive Ari Roisman, the company has tailored its technology for use in smartwatches, namely the Apple Watch. So now, its novel, cloud-based video streaming technology also enables quality videos to be sent and received instantly – straight to your wrist. Glide was founded by Roisman, Jonathan Caras and Adam Korbl in 2012 and is based in Jerusalem.

CyActive

The latest example of how Gartner has been able to forecast promising startups is CyActive, which was acquired by PayPal for $60 million in March, shortly after the Cool Vendors list had shaped up, according to Plummer. CyActive’s claim to fame is its ability to offer proactive detection of future malware before it has ever seen the light of day, using a unique cybersecurity algorithm based on biology. Based in Beer Sheva, the company was founded in 2003 by CEO Liran Tancman and CTO Shlomi Boutnaru.

Wibbitz

Wibbitz has developed a technology that can automatically turn any text article into a short video. Founded by Zohar Dayan, a graduate of the Zell Entrepreneurship Program at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Wibbitz is supported by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing’s venture capital firm Horizons Ventures. The company has raised $2.4 million since its inception in 2012.

ICS²

ICS² (or ICS2/ICS squared) is one of the first cyber-security companies focusing on protecting the control systems of power, oil, gas and petrochemical plants. Founded in 2013 by Gil Kroyzer, the company provides a technology that learns the normal behavior of an industrial process. Deviations are reported for immediate response and analysis.

“Companies like Israeli ICS² are training machines to recognize patterns humans cannot possibly recognize,” Plummer said. “Machines don’t lie, you have to believe them.” He further commented that machines and robots will take over the world – “it’s not science fiction.” Plummer actually supports this trend, which includes self-driving cars. “I worry more about human drivers; they’re involved in more accidents”.

Telesofia Medical

Telesofia Medical is one of the ‘youngest’ startups to enter the list, having raised a scant $1 million since it was founded in 2013 by a team of medical doctors and internet experts. Led by CEO Dr. Rami Cohen, Telesofia allows healthcare providers to automatically generate personalized educational videos for patients. The videos are tailored to the specific patient and are available on smart devices without requiring its users to download an external application.

Other Israeli Cool Vendors this year include: Xpolog, Infinidat, Applitools, CyberX, Illusive Networks, Nativeflow, Safe-T, OpenLegacy, Own Backup, Particular Software, Startoscale, ThetaRay and TrapX Security.

Photos: Courtesy

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[This Smart Pen Lets You Answer Calls And Send Texts Without Ever Looking At Your Phone]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38470 2015-05-20T09:56:53Z 2015-05-20T08:00:22Z

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That pen you carry around in your pocket can be really useful, if you have a piece of paper handy or like scratching out notes on your hand. It’s about to get a whole lot more useful with the introduction of Phree, a smart mobile input pen that allows you to dial and answer calls, send text messages and doodle on any virtual surface. Engineered and designed by the Israeli team at OTM Technologies, Phree has surpassed its $100,000 Kickstarter funding goal with 39 days still to go. Currently, the smart pen has already raised a cool $295,085 from over 100,000 backers. phreegif

The Phree virtual input device allows you to write on any surface, automatically communicating the text and/or numbers into your smartphone, computer, smartwatch or television. Write on a tabletop, notepad, chair arm or the back of your hand (without feeling a tinge of guilt about ink poisoning) and watch it instantly appear on a screen connected via Bluetooth. Not only does the Phree pen allow you to write out numbers and letters, it can identify handwriting patterns, recognize emojis, notice a number of different languages and it works as a Bluetooth headset for when your hand gets tired and you’re ready to do some talking. Furthermore, Phree is compatible with all of the major productivity apps like Office, OneNote, EverNote, Acrobat, Google Handwriting Keyboard, and Viber.

     SEE ALSO: This Tiny Robot Is Actually A Printer That You Carry In Your Pocket

phreewriting

The technology behind Phree is just as impressive as its abilities, and its slick design. The Israeli engineers behind OTM Technologies developed a patented tool called Optical Translation Measurement (OTM) that is able to precisely track hand movements using a 3D laser interferometer sensor that translates motion into figures relative to any physical surface. There is a delicate sensor at the tip of the pen that not only detects what you are writing no matter the surface – it is sensitive enough to determine your handwriting patterns and even has the potential to be used as a biometric identification tool!

Phree was designed by OTM’s Chief Designer Elisha Tal to be a user-friendly addition to the run of the mill stylus. The pen has a small screen that allows users to receive calls and even read texts, which they can then respond to immediately using the pen. In addition, they can select which application they want to input and even tell the time. The screen on the body of the pen is what really makes it stand out against other smart pen competitors like the Livescribe series, but it may also be the clunckiest and least attractive part of the pen.

     SEE ALSO: Record-Breaking Kickstarter Project Will Put Light-Emitting Plants Into Your Home

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Literally write anywhere

Having already raised its $100,000 funding goal, Phree is no longer available for pre-sale and is currently sold for $189, including a case, in an Early Bird deal. The pens come in four colors: black, graphite, silver and gold, each with the same OLED touch display.

The Phree pen may indeed be a “freeing” tool for those who are just too lazy to get their phone out to answer a text, but we have to admit that seeing someone blindly write on a surface without a clue as to what they are writing seems like a recipe for an awkward encounter.

Photos: Kickstarter

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Andrey Kastelmacher, NoCamels <![CDATA[Medasense’s Pain Assessment Monitor Among Winners Of Prestigious Startup Competition]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38482 2015-05-19T14:31:44Z 2015-05-19T13:11:19Z

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Understanding pain is still a major challenge for millions of doctors and patients around the world: How severe is a patient’s pain? Can the level of pain tell the physician something about the patient’s condition?

An Israeli biomed startup called Medasense has developed a technology that mathematically measures pain in order to give doctors the best assessments. And that’s why last week, the company was announced as one of two winners of the startup competition at the Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI) Biomed Conference.

     SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv University Study: Triathletes Feel Pain Differently Than The Rest Of Us

Founded in 2008 by Galit Zuckerman, Medasense’s innovative technology assesses changes in a patient’s level of pain. The company’s flagship product is a non-invasive pain monitoring device that can help clinicians achieve better patient outcomes by accurately adjusting treatment.

medasense

“Managing pain remains a major challenge”

Everyone knows that the sensation of pain is completely subjective, and doctors mostly rely on patients’ self-reports. “Pain is now widely considered the fifth vital sign, yet managing pain, especially in the surgical setting, remains a major challenge,” Medasense’s board member Dr. Daniel Sessler said in a statement. “Physicians currently rely on patients’ subjective assessments, or use their own judgment when patients cannot describe their pain. Medasense offers a new approach.”

The new approach involves developing an algorithm that mathematically measures pain. “Some people under anaesthesia remain awake yet paralyzed, not being able to communicate their pain”, Zuckerman tells NoCamels. That’s why it’s important to translate pain into numbers.

How does it work? The pain monitor is a sensor-woven sleeve worn on a patient’s finger, which takes blood pressure, pulse, sweat, temperature and movement readings, using statistical tools to give an objective pain reading. According to the company, the device is expected to receive approval from the EU in the coming months, which would pave the way to marketing elsewhere in the world. So far, Medasense has raised $5 million in private rounds.

Seven years of research 

Galit Zuckerman

Galit Zuckerman, Founder and CEO of Medasense Biometrics

Medasense has spent seven years researching, analyzing data and designing its algorithms before achieving validation for a pain pattern based on data. The company has teamed up with pain management expert Dr. Elon Eisenberg of the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa. “The collaborations we’ve made with doctors and researchers are invaluable,” Zuckerman says.

     SEE ALSO: Music For Medicine: How Musicians Are Easing The Pain Of Patients

Zuckerman’s computer science and electronics experience, combined with a period spent in the Israeli Chief Scientist’s startup accelerator, gave Medasense the tools necessary to build its pain monitor. Zuckerman says Medasense’s technology doesn’t stop here, with plans to make the monitor more patient-friendly: “We are planning new devices that would plug directly into your smartphone.”

Medasense Biometrics was one of two startup companies winning the startup competition at the IATI Biomed conference last week; Quiet Therapeutics, which develops a nanoparticle-based drug delivery system, was the other winner.

Photos and video courtesy of Medasense Biometrics

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Baidu Invests Millions In Israeli Content Recommendation Platform ‘Taboola’]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38489 2015-05-19T11:30:00Z 2015-05-19T11:30:00Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

For its third direct investment in Israeli technology – and its second in a month – Chinese internet giant Baidu has chosen Taboola, one of Israel’s biggest Internet exports and one of the best-known Israeli brands in the web world.

Baidu invested a sum it referred to as “millions” in the tech firm, saying that the new partnership “brings together two cutting-edge technology companies that are re-defining the ‘search’ and ‘discovery’ categories across the world’s biggest markets. Together, Taboola and Baidu plan to bring discovery to the Chinese market, where mobile is the number one way people go online.”

     SEE ALSO: With Strong Tech Ties, Is Israel’s China’s New Best Friend?

“Though our roots are in China, Baidu actively seeks out innovative technology companies abroad to partner and invest with,” said Peter Fang, senior director of Corporate Development at Baidu. “Taboola’s remarkable vision and growth over the past few years captured the admiration of our executive team, and we’re very excited about the potential of the discovery market worldwide.”

taboola-example

An example of Taboola’s content recommendation tools

Taboola is best-known for its “you may also be interested in” meme, which is ever-present on innumerable web content pages. The system is used to drive traffic from one site to another, or to keep readers on a site by offering them more of what they came for. Using advanced intelligence techniques based on hundreds of metrics – how long a reader stays on a site, how many times they visit one, which ads they linger on when viewing a site (e.g., how quickly they close pop-up windows), where they are located, and more – Taboola determines what content will be most interesting to a reader, and presents links that, site owners hope, will garner more clicks for a site or a network.

Taboola and another Israeli firm called Outbrain dominate the industry (officially known as “content discovery”), and the algorithms they have developed, as well as their vast experience, make them very attractive to investors for their ability to keep content perusers’ attention longer. Long rumored to be considering an IPO, Outbrain recently appointed former AVG Chief Technology Officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak as its CTO, a move analysts said was part of Outbrain’s preparation of an official big-name management layer that would make an IPO more palatable to investors.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Taboola

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Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The Top Israeli Mobile Apps Revolutionizing Parking]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38365 2015-05-21T06:33:56Z 2015-05-18T13:15:30Z

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Sick and tired of the parking woes in congested cities? Despair not, as a slew of new Israeli mobile apps have risen from tech-geek dens to quickly locate available curbside parking spots – and the fastest way for you to snatch them.

Similar to Israeli app Waze (bought by Google in 2013), which calculates the fastest route for drivers to get from point A to point B, several new mobile apps will help you navigate to the nearest available parking spot, using the wisdom of the crowds. Along with park-and-pay pioneers Pango and CelloPark, up-and-coming Israeli startups such as Anagog, Polly, ParkLife and Parko are changing the way we park our cars. Using different methods, algorithms and platforms, these companies seek to help their users locate and pay for those often elusive spots, saving time, gasoline and money while doing so. NoCamels profiles six of the hottest parking apps developed in Israel.

     SEE ALSO: Social Navigation – A New Approach to Driving

Tight parking spot

Anagog

Founded in 2014, Anagog provides directions to free parking spots and parking lots using parking data retrieved from cellphone users, in a similar crowd-sourcing method used by Waze. Anagog’s mobile app, called EasyPark, collects data on individual parking behavior, which it then saves for future reference. Anagog also provides push notifications on vacated parking spots.

In the course of roughly one year, Anagog has been able to recruit 100,000 users in Israel and 500,000 users worldwide and the company has so far raised $1 million. One of the major selling points of the software is its remarkable power consumption – 0.1 percent per hour. Another benefit of Anagog is that it provides both two and three dimensional map views, to allow users to select a parking lot near their desired location. All they then need to do is follow the voice-controlled, turn-by-turn navigation to their parking spot.

Parko

Parko is an Israeli crowd-sourced parking guide, which seeks to make parking simpler for its users. Founded in 2011, Parko collects data on road closures, traffic patterns, days of the week, weather, and even local events that may affect parking. It then relays the necessary information to its users.

     SEE ALSO: Can New App ‘Parko’ Forever Solve Urban Jungle Parking Nightmare?

The app – currently available in France – provides directions to available parking spots, with real-time updates from other users. It also shows soon-to-be-vacated-spots (based on parking meters and other data), including curb parking, which helps its users stay up-to-date on available parking spots. This app also reminds its users where they parked and offers a number of coupons and prizes to its users for sharing parking spots with others.

In two rounds of funding thus far, Parko has raised $1 million.

ParkLife

Another promising Israeli company is ParkLife, which also runs on the platform of “minimizing parking search time and costs, both for the curb and off-street parking,” according to the company. ParkLife uses a unique algorithm to collect data and self-learn, trying to provide the most optimal routes to parking spots.

In the case no curb parking is available, the app guides its users to a nearby parking lot, then provides walking directions to their destination. ParkLife highlights the route that will maximize chances of finding a parking spot near the desired location. Within the app’s map, there are both red and blue paths, with blue indicating a high probability of finding a spot and red, a low chance. In addition, the app tells users which curbs are permissible to park by, versus those where parking is prohibited. Orange paths indicate a parking lot, making for a simple and efficient color-coded system.

Polly 

Polly The Parking Fairy” is a new free App that aims to eliminate the frustration associated with finding a parking spot in the big city, saving time, money and decreasing pollution on the way. Launched this year, “Polly” emulates driver behavior and guarantees a parking space – whether in a lot or on the street – within 11 minutes of cruising. According to the company, it also increases the chance of finding cheap, on-street parking by 75 percent.

Polly comes into action as drivers approach their destination, displaying a personalized map and turn-by-turn navigation directions through nearby streets with the greatest chance of finding on-street parking. The route is based on statistical information about streets with the highest parking turnover. The app uses data compiled during months of fieldwork mapping all city parking spots. At this time, Polly is available in Tel Aviv, Israel, with plans to expand to the US and Europe.

Pango

One of the most popular parking apps is Pango, a pioneer in this filed, which was founded in 2005. The app offers the convenience of cashless paying for curbside parking – without the need to use parking meters. It’s available for Android, iOS, and BlackBerry users in 60 cities in the US and Israel.

This app also reminds its users when their time is running out, allowing them to buy more time, acting as a virtual parking meter at the touch of your fingertips. Pango’s most recent round of funding garnered $6.5 million last year.

CelloPark

A similar park-and-pay smartphone service is also offered by an Israel company called CelloPark, which along with Pango, pioneered cashless paying for parking. CelloPark allows drivers to pay for parking through the use of their personal mobile phone in metered, on-street parking areas. It charges on a minute-by-minute service, which means the driver doesn’t need to pay for a whole hour.

With the variety of parking apps available today, it seems that Israeli startups could soon take this promising market and international need by storm. In such a lucrative industry valued at $50 billion in Western Europe alone, the reasons are obvious. A simpler, more efficient means of parking within inner cities not only saves time and money, it also helps to keep the environment cleaner by saving gas!

cars parked in San Francisco

Photos and videos: JaseMan, Anagog, ParkLife, Polly

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Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Viral Content Startup PlayBuzz Vies For Social Media Stardom]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38312 2015-05-20T06:51:49Z 2015-05-17T14:04:39Z

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Constant distraction online has become inevitable as viral quizzes, humorous lists, trivia, polls, and other time-killing items overwhelm Facebook feeds around the world. They may ask you to find out “What is it about you that turns people on most?” or “Which 80s Hair-Metal Band Should You Be In?”.

As the most shared site on Facebook, topping the Huffington Post and surpassing the likes of BuzzFeed and UpWorthy, PlayBuzz is certainly stirring up a “buzz”. With well over well over 80 million unique visitors on the site in March alone and 58 million unique views within the first three months of launching, it seems that the site has cracked the code for viral content. So how did the site manage to cause such a stir so quickly? Shaul Olmert, founder of PlayBuzz (and son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert) tells NoCamels how the idea of PlayBuzz came about.

playbuzzgraph

The PlayBuzz platform provides publishers, bloggers, and individuals with a free way to enhance their brand or business by creating more engagement and virality. Using “ready-made” playful content templates designed by the PlayBuzz team, individuals can develop and connect with their audience through game-like experiences.

“I’ve always been focused on gaming in some aspect throughout my career,“ Olmert explains. “At Nickelodeon, I worked with a site called AddictingGames where we turned news stories into viral games like ‘Naughty Governor’ or ‘Hero on the Hudson’. Through experiences like that, I learned how gaming can really be applied to any piece of content and people will start to interact with it instead of being passive consumers.”

PlayBuzz relies on users to generate content

PlayBuzz is an open network for the creation and free distribution of playful content. Visitors to the site are able to create their very own lists, polls, and quizzes using the toolset provided. They can then share or embed the resulting content on to various websites and social media networks, namely Facebook. Often compared to the popular content website BuzzFeed (and similar in its name), PlayBuzz is unique because it relies on users and independent publishers to generate content, while most of BuzzFeed’s content, is generated in-house.

     SEE ALSO: Study Decodes Viral Online Content, Finds ‘Memes’ Act Just Like Genes

“BuzzFeed established themselves as a leading media company by sticking to their own editorial voice,” says Olmert. “Our platform is content-agnostic, and can be used by various publishers and brands to create content on any topic or in any style. Our focus is on the toolset, theirs is on content production.”

shaulolmert

PlayBuzz CEO and Founder Shaul Olmert

Founded in 2012 by Olmert and Tom Pachys and launched just one year later, the startup has already raised nearly $19.8 million dollars in funding from key players like Carmel Ventures, Saban Capital Group, The Time, Rutledge and Oded Vardi.

As the company continues to develop, its current focus remains exclusively on growth and distribution, not monetization. And, thus far, ad-supported content on PlayBuzz has been able to keep the company profitable. The five thousands publishers who use the network, like MTV, AOL, Yahoo and Market Watch, are able to gain further traction for their content, and to up their brand awareness. According to Olmert, “Their success is our pride.”

Currently, PlayBuzz remains a nimble company comprised of 60 employees and growing, but the publishing toolsets that they are building are reaching millions of people across the globe. “As we continue to create more game-like experiences for our publishers, and bring on more partners, we will likely need to expand our development, marketing and business development teams,” says Olmert. For now, “We will continue to hone these tools and the ready-made gaming experiences that we’re providing for publishers, and as the market evolves, we’ll iterate on these.”

The king of Facebook shares, but not for long

While the future looks bright for PlayBuzz, much of its success is dependent upon social media giant, Facebook, which continues its process of eliminating some of the promotional material littering our newsfeeds. One Facebook user survey revealed that roughly 500,000 users report that promotional posts and low-quality ads mired their experience. The news feed algorithm designed by Facebook aims to show people what they want to see, and while some welcome being bombarded with brain-numbing quizzes throughout the day, others find this kind of content to be low-grade and distracting. Even though most pages were not heavily affected by the change in Facebook policy, one has to wonder whether PlayBuzz has felt the impact. While the content on the site is manually curated from the hundreds of content items created by the PlayBuzz community, it’s still a wonder that quizzes such as “What is your Mermaid Personality?” or “Which Hollywood Chris Would You Date?” wind up on the site’s front page.

     SEE ALSO: Using DNA Nanotechnology, Israeli Scientists Develop The Future Of Flexible Display Screens

playbuzzscreenshot

As technology continues to evolve, and trends continue to shift, Olmert believes that the site will be able to stay relevant and that new playful content will continue to emerge. “We continuously focus on developing new content formats for publishers to use in order to drive users’ interest and engagement in new ways,” he explains. “We hope to become a go-to resource for all publishers that are looking for deeper user engagement and social experiences.” However, Playbuzz will need to keep its competitive edge and leverage its accessibility, potentially beyond social networks, to draw in more users and create a lasting “buzz” on the Internet.

Photos: PlayBuzz/ DLD

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[SMS-Based Therapy Talkspace, Already Popular In NYC, Raises $9.5 Million]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38406 2015-05-19T12:07:11Z 2015-05-14T09:20:42Z

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So long couch, hello cellphone. Instead of undergoing psychotherapy, some people find it easier and more discreet to text-message their therapist. Enter Talkspace, a provider of online and SMS counseling, which this week raised $9.5 million, an impressive amount for a company outside investors’ usual areas of interest.

     SEE ALSO: Israelis Create Therapy ‘Bubbles’ In The Heart Of New York City With ‘Talkspace’

It seems that financiers like the idea of tech-era therapy: Spark Capital, SoftBank, Metamorphic Ventures and TheTime were all behind the latest funding round. That brings investment in Talkspace, founded in 2012, to a total of $13 million.

“Since mental illness affects one out of four people every year, access to proper mental health care should be made available for everyone,” Alex Finkelstein, General Partner at Spark Capital, said in a statement.

All-you-can-talk plans for $12 a week

Founded by Israelis Roni and Oren Frank, Talkspace offers affordable plans similar, if you will, to those offered by mobile phone operators: $49 per week for “unlimited messaging therapy” if you pay on a weekly basis, or $12 a week if you commit to one year. Talkspace doesn’t accept traditional medical insurance, and therapy is provided by licensed counselors, who typically hold a master’s degree. It was recently reported that IBM provides Talkspace with a technology that matches therapists to patients.

In comparison to Talkspace therapists, a one-hour session with a licensed clinical psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) in their clinic costs $20-$30 in copayment for insured patients; the uninsured typically pay $100-$150 per session.

     SEE ALSO: Turn That Frown Upside-down: Weizmann Researchers Make Major Breakthrough In Depression Detection and Treatment

Roni and Oren Frank

Roni and Oren Frank

Citing shame and stigma as barriers to getting psychotherapy, Talkspace has so far been able to attract 100,000 American patients suffering from depression, anxiety, stress and PTSD. “Mental illness is a worldwide epidemic and that’s the problem we’re here to solve,” Roni Frank, co-founder and Head of Clinical Services at Talkspace, said in a statement. “By removing the barriers to entry for millions of people, we’re making it easy for people to be proactive about their mental health.”

Eliminating the stigma still associated with therapy

Talkspace also provides couples therapy via its web and mobile platforms, eliminating “the powerful stigma that is still associated with therapy” through anonymity, according to the company. In addition, its members don’t need to wait for an appointment or go through a reimbursement process, and they can request to change therapists at any time, free of charge.

To market its service last November, Talkspace installed a #PopUpTherapy installation on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, where passersby were able to pop into a therapy “bubble” to receive a quick, free 15-minute consultation with a therapist, and find out about the startup’s psychology solutions for the modern age.

talkspace

Over the past couple of years, a number of online therapy services have popped up, like Blah Therapy, 7 Cups of Tea. But for some, the idea of texting their therapist is unsettling, impersonal and aloof, so this type of remote therapy is obviously not for everyone. Since success rates of Talkspace cases are not available, it remains to be seen whether patients report positive experiences after undergoing SMS therapy.

Photos and video courtesy of Talkspace

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Dyana So, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Design: Delicate ‘Studio Ve’ Clocks Show It’s Time For A Change In Perspective]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38230 2015-05-13T16:24:51Z 2015-05-13T16:23:05Z

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As Albert Einstein once said, “Time is relative.”

Studio Ve, a design studio founded by Shay Carmon and Ben Klinger, has embraced the idea that people see time differently and designed four differently beautiful wall clocks – Manifold, Lithe, Perspective and K Clock – that challenge the traditional “twelve prong” design of your average clock. As time runs its natural course, these clocks unfold, quiver, and shape-shift throughout the day, making it hard to ignore their presence, changing the way we think about time with each passing minute.

Clocks that reflect the times

Each Studio Ve clock has a personality of its own, narrowing our attention to a unique property about time. Whether it’s the mesmerizing way time repeats itself every time the Manifold Clock completes a rotation of its colorful fan, or the way the long, light hands of Lithe Clock reminds us how delicate and fleeting time can be, Studio Ve breathes new life into a commonplace object we often take for granted.

Manifold_Clock_1

“Although art clocks are harder to read, you can get used to them and read them easily.” Klinger tells NoCamels. “People always email us a couple of months after they buy it [and] they say ‘Wow, what a cool object’, ‘How does it work?’, and ‘I really like the concept’. It really changes the way they see and think about clocks.”

A big hit with the crowds

Consumers buy Studio Ve’s clocks for their unique, aesthetic appeal as well as for the designer’s vision that stands behind them. This became evident back in 2010 when 800 online orders were placed for the Manifold Clock and Studio Ve only had about 100 made to sell during the winter holiday shopping season. Despite receiving some customer complaints over improper packaging and shipping damage, Studio Ve learned an important lesson: “the concept was really good but the quality wasn’t.” Klinger explained. “We spent a year redesigning everything – using a better box, using better material. It took us a long, long time.”

     SEE ALSO: Artists Preserve Old Tel Aviv With Striking Graffiti Furniture

Getting back to the drawing board has certainly paid off as all four of Studio Ve’s clock designs became instant hits on crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, with the artistic team quickly achieving their funding goals. Now, due to popular demand, Studio Ve is currently working on new designs to add to their collection.

Perspective-Clocks-by-Studio-Ve

Perspective Clocks

Making the world a more interesting place

Studio Ve is all about making art functional, and not about transforming something functional (like a clock) into art. This aligns well with most of Studio Ve’s consumers – a global mix that mainly consists of Americans, Australians, and Germans, but also Egyptians and residents of the United Arab Emirates – who are attracted to the thought and engineering that goes into Studio Ve’s clocks.

“We don’t want to make the world a better place. We want to make it more interesting”, the Studio Ve motto goes. In their eyes, there are too many people obsessed with making a difference in the world and with making a name for themselves, which makes the guys at Studio Ve want to reflect a counter-attitude. “The one thing we want is to make people think,” Klinger says, “To enjoy the things we create, and to make it fun!”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Designer Uses Seaweed To Create Cool Lamps

Embracing the new world around them, Studio Ve is now one of the only design firms in Israel to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment for their clocks.

On the internet, designers of every skill level can be found, and while Studio Ve compares themselves to other clock designers like LEFF Amsterdam, they admit they are still long ways away from being at eye-level with this firm’s quality of operations. But they are getting there. Clocks aren’t the only thing that Studio Ve puts out; they also make stylish two-legged tables, bookends, shelves, bookmarks and even a funky looking rocking chair.

Customer approval is a springboard for improvement

Despite outsourcing their white clock molds in China, Studio Ve is proud to say that all of the other parts on their clocks uphold the labels on their packaging: ‘Designed in Tel Aviv, Made in Israel’.

Recently, the prolific art products chain store, MoMA, picked up the five clocks in Studio Ve’s Perspective series for retail, supplementing Studio Ve’s website, the Uncommon Goods catalogue, and the Israeli retail chain store Soho, as additional locations consumers can go to purchase Studio Ve’s clocks.

According to Studio Ve, personal living spaces like bedrooms and living rooms are the most popular locations for their clock, as many consumers enjoy referring to them not only for the time, but also as a source of inspiration.

Photos: Studio Ve

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[International Hummus Map Tells You Where To Get Your Next Hummus Fix]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38387 2015-05-13T13:25:03Z 2015-05-13T13:25:03Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Fans of hummus, the Middle Eastern chickpea-based dip, as well as fans of Israeli tech, have something to celebrate Wednesday when “International Hummus Day” is held around the world.

Don’t bother looking up the day on a calendar, though. Hummus Day is an invention of Israeli start-up entrepreneur Ben Lang, CEO of MapMe.com. To celebrate the day, the site has produced an international hummus map, showing exactly where fans can get their hummus fix in Israel, the US, Canada, the UK, and even India. “We opened up the map on Monday night, and in the space of less than 24 hours we got over 20,000 hits,” said Lang. “Hummus is clearly an international favorite.”

intlhummusmap

That it was an Israeli entrepreneur – albeit an immigrant from the US – who came up with the map is a testimony to both the popularity of the dish in Israel and to the technological prowess of Israelis. Lang, now 21, immigrated to Israel when he was 18, and recently completed a stint in the IDF. Before joining the army, he developed MappedInIsrael, a site that displays a map of the thousands of start-ups throughout the country. More than just a map, though, the site provides contact information for companies, who can list their open jobs on the site as well. The jobs, said Lang, are “real” ones – since they are posted by the companies – and the site is free to use.

     SEE ALSO: Israelis Are World’s Ninth Healthiest Eaters

So successful was MappedInIsrael that Lang and several partners decided to take the tech he developed to build the site for a mapping platform, called MapMe.com. The platform is still in beta, but has proven extremely popular with all sorts of people. “We have over 100 maps in 30 countries showing where people can find vegan restaurants, bitcoin cash machines, Ukraine start-ups, and many more. We’ve gotten hundreds of applications for access, and in the coming months we expect to be able to open the platform for all users.”

The maps themselves are built by community members interested in the topic – for example, vegan restaurant patrons in New York City would add locations to the map – under the curation of a community member. “We don’t manage the maps; we just provide the platform,” said Lang.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Jaliker/ Screenshot

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Cyber Terrorism Has Grave Psychological Impact On Victims, New Study Finds]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38204 2015-05-13T07:36:56Z 2015-05-12T15:56:23Z

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Though it’s only “in a computer,” a new study from Israel finds that cyber terrorism actually has a distinct psychological impact on individuals. The University of Haifa study found that exposure to cyber-attacks causes significant stress and aggressive behavior, alongside calls for protection and retaliation. “There are, more importantly, grave physiological effects upon a person’s mind and body,” says the lead investigator, Prof. Daphna Canetti of her important findings on the effects of cyber terrorism.

The downside of the Internet age

In our modern society, nearly every system is part of a cyber-network: critical water and electrical facilities, banking networks, political institutions, and no small part of national security and military infrastructures. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the public are complacent and, until they are themselves exposed to a personal cyber-attack, see cyber terrorism as nothing more than an inconvenience that disrupts their computer services, Facebook or Gmail accounts or, in the worst case, steals a credit card number. According to the researchers, most civilians do not see a cyber-attack as one which can paralyze essential services for long periods of time or put people’s lives or health in danger.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Hacker Saves Gmail From ‘Killer’ Security Flaw

It is enough to remember the 2008 cyber-attacks in Estonia and Georgia or the Stuxnet worm that devastated Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, to understand that cyber terrorism can bring chaos and widespread harm. In their current simulation-based study, Canetti and her team of researchers provide the first glimpse of how cyber terrorism affects the psychological and physiological well-being of its victims.

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Undermining your personal security on the Internet

In their study, dozens of test subjects were asked to sit in front of a computer and answer a series of random questions. As they filled out the questionnaire, their computer was “hacked” by the “hacktivist” group Anonymous without the test subjects realizing that the attack was part of the experiment. Suddenly, the frightening mask of Anonymous appeared with a warning that the site would crash and sensitive personal data would be publicized to the world at large. After a few more moments, a split Skype screen captured the computer showing a hooded, masked figure typing an unseen message on one side and a live feed of the test subject/victim on the other. Finally, in the third stage of the experiment, the test subjects received a private text message on their personal cell phones: “You’ve been hacked,” and “Anonymous has acquired your contact list.” Immediately before and after the cyber-attacks, respondents gave the researchers a saliva sample to test the level of the hormone Cortisol, a well-known physiological indicator of stress.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Hacker Game Could Beat Russian Web Criminals Who Stole 1.2 Billion Usernames

The results of the experiment were striking and pointed to a significant increase in psychological and physiological stress among those who experienced the simulated cyber-attack by Anonymous. The same subjects also described how their sense of personal security was undermined and how they worried about future cyber-attacks far more than the control group who did not experience the simulated attacks. “It is important to see how individuals who had previously waved off the threat of cyber terrorism were now significantly more attuned to the danger,” says Prof. Canetti.

anonymoushackersmoke

The researchers further explained that cyber terrorism is easy for terrorists to exploit at any time or place since all they need is a computer and not a sophisticated organization to plan and execute conventional terrorist attacks. A few terrorists with computers can work hundreds of kilometers away from their target to disable critical infrastructures and bring substantial suffering to civilians.

Similar goals as conventional terrorism

In other studies, currently underway, researchers Canetti, Gross and Waismel-Manor, show how victims of cyber terrorism experience elevated levels of fear and anxiety even when they are not harmed physically themselves. It was also not surprising to learn that victims of cyber terrorism demand vigorous state action/retaliation to protect them from cyber terrorism whether by attacking the terrorist with cyber weapons or by using planes or missiles to destroy the terrorists’ servers, cables, computers and other cyber facilities.

“The primary goal of terrorist organizations is not to cause their victims physical harm but to sow fear and trepidation in the heart of the civilian population. Our study,” explain Canetti, Gross and Waismel-Manor, “shows how a cyber-attack by terrorists can achieve the same goal as conventional terrorism and if the state does not take action against cyber terrorists, civilians will suffer significant harm.

Photos: Erik Heitfield / Stian Eikeland/ Brian Klug

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Kyla Blumenfeld, NoCamels <![CDATA[Sing-along Like Nobody’s Watching With Karaoke App Yokee]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38190 2015-05-13T14:26:23Z 2015-05-11T13:38:17Z

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In Japanese, the word ‘karaoke’ literally means “empty orchestra,” which may be the most accurate description of the interactive sing-along activity that entertains the masses. But until now, in order to enjoy an evening of karaoke, you had to head out to a crowded karaoke bar or befriend someone with a home karaoke machine.

That was until the arrival of Yokee, a karaoke application that allows users to have an entirely private karaoke experience on their smartphone. Founded in 2013, by Gil Selka and Ariel Yaloz, the application has an impressive 30 million users who have come to appreciate the opportunity to partake in their very own “empty orchestra”.

yokee app

A trendy and versatile library of songs

Yokee presents its users with an extensive library of licensed songs from US publishers in some twenty languages, as well as access to YouTube’s database of sing-along videos. Everything from classical opera to pop, rock and country genres are represented on the platform so that users can really test out their range. Yokee simultaneously records and saves a song, so that your harmonies don’t go to waste.

The big one-up for Yokee over other more traditional karaoke platforms is that you can record your sing-along sessions and send them to your friends. The downside is that this fun feature doesn’t come free of charge. Users are required to purchase what are called “save credits” that enable them to save their favorite recordings. The premium subscription goes for $2.99 weekly or $7.99 monthly for unlimited song saving and sharing on social networks.

     SEE ALSO: Karaoke Gets Creative With Fusic’s Music Video Platform

“We understand what the karaoke niche requires and for our users that’s singing in our app every day,” says Yokee CEO Yaloz. That’s why Yokee integrates YouTube sing-along videos (it’s the only karaoke app to do so) as well as features that harmonize and correct the pitch using ‘reverb’ and ‘echo’ options. In addition, there is a built-in chorus that provides a set of back-up vocals to help hit the high notes.

yokeescreenshot2

When a recorded song becomes a viral music clip

Yokee’s approach to karaoke of the smartphone era isn’t just limited to their app, “Our plans for Yokee are to make a real music clip for our users while they are recording,” says Selka of the company’s goals. The app soon hopes to incorporate video recordings of the user singing, with an option to add various effects and filters to spruce up the video, creating an instant, music clip for them to share with the world.

Yokee’s prime investors are 2B Angels, an Israeli incubator that works with startups like GamEffective, RooJoom, Zooz, and Cimagine. “Gil and Ariel have so much experience and we definitely view them as one of the best mobile teams in Israel”, says Arale Cohen, CEO of 2B Angels, of the Yokee team.

     SEE ALSO: Startup Groovideo Edits Group Videos Into Simple Films

Though Yokee has tough competition from similar karaoke apps, it’s really their YouTube APIs that keep them at the top of their game. “Some of the major players are Smule, Star Maker, and Red Karokee, which are all really successful, but we remain active competitors thanks to our catalogue size, which is larger than on other apps that present a pre-selected number of tracks,” Yaloz says.

With over $370 million in annual karaoke revenue in the United States alone, the market is a hot one to crack, but the abundance of options will require Yokee to disrupt existing technology to remain on top. Viral karaoke videos are one way to do this, another is through their Piano app, allowing users to play along with an accompanied singer. Whatever the approach may be, with 50 million downloads and counting, Yokee may well be on its way to becoming the king of smartphone karaoke.

Photos: Yokee

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Researchers Decode Genetic Mystery Behind Schizophrenia]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38223 2015-05-11T13:11:15Z 2015-05-11T13:11:15Z

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Studies on identical twins have long shown how schizophrenia has a strong genetic component. But when researchers look for genes associated with the disease, they are confronted with a profound muddle – hundreds of genes appear to be involved, but upon closer inspection each only confers a slightly higher than normal risk of developing the disease. In other words, researchers don’t know which of these genes is the real culprit.

Recent findings arising from a unique collaboration between researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Shalvata Mental Health Center in Israel suggest a way out of this genetic mire. In their study, the researchers gave first proof to the idea that calcium regulation plays a central role in schizophrenia – which could lead to much better diagnostics.

Decoding a complex genome

Disease-encoding genes that might account for schizophrenia or other diseases are generally identified in so-called genome-wide association studies. The idea is to compare the genes of thousands of people – patients as well as healthy people – and search for tiny differences of just one or two “letters” in the genetic sequences that make up the genes. If certain variations appear more frequently in those with a disease such as schizophrenia than in the healthy population, one can start asking whether the change in that particular letter is connected to the disease.

     SEE ALSO: Schizophrenia Can Be Detected Through Tissue Samples From The Nose, Research Shows

But with hundreds of possible genetic candidates, the data dissolve into “noise.” There is little way to tell if the switched letter is an alternate spelling or punctuation, or whether it will be like substituting “pear” for “peach” in a recipe – a slight but possibly significant alteration to the final dish.

schitzophrenia

‘Filtering’ genes to understand their function

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Prof. Eytan Domany and Dr. Libi Hertzberg

Unraveling this mystery presented a compelling challenge to Dr. Libi Hertzberg, who is no stranger to challenges. Hertzberg was a master’s student under Prof. Eytan Domany and together they teamed up with Prof. Vahram Haroutunian of Mount Sinai Hospital in the US, who has a unique database of information gleaned from post-mortem brains that have been donated to his lab, including those from schizophrenia patients. From these, he can test the levels of the messenger molecules – mRNA – that are produced from the various genes. In other words, scientists can use these data to understand how the genetic information translates into action in various brain cells.

Now the team had two very different sets of information – genes identified in the broad, genome-wide studies and the mRNA levels from the brain database – giving them a sort of “filter” that enabled them to identify the genetic sequences whose slight misspelling was not only associated with the disease but also exhibited interesting patterns of expression in the brain.

     SEE ALSO: Research Discovers New Ways Of Treating Schizophrenia

The team then began to analyze their narrowed-down list of genes: The approach Domany has developed over the years looks for the actions of groups of genes, rather than searching for the effects of a single gene, and this strategy worked well for the schizophrenia data. Using algorithms he and his team have developed to first identify paired correlations and from these, clusters, they ultimately identified a collection of around 19 genes that clearly stood out from the noise.

Calcium channels are key

Yet the question remained: What does this group of genes do? That question is far from simple: there are hundreds of ways that these genes could interact and thousands of possible effects of their actions. Further computational analysis of the data revealed that the cluster of genes they had identified is associated with the functioning of the cells’ calcium channels. Nerve cells rely on these channels in their membranes to regulate the uptake of calcium ions, which excite the cells to action. Additional tests using information from the genome-wide studies and databases of protein interaction analyses supported their results.

Hertzberg says that these findings give strong backing to the idea that calcium regulation plays a central role in schizophrenia, and adds that the genetic interactions they have revealed might present useful targets for drugs. Domany points out that the next step is to understand exactly how the regulation of calcium signaling goes awry in the disease – a step that will require much more research. But the scientists are hopeful that their results, in addition to pointing to a fruitful approach to understanding how genes contribute to neuropsychological disease might, in the future, lead to both better diagnostics and possible treatments for schizophrenia.

Photos: Giuila Cappelli

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[The Ultimate Maternal Sacrifice? Spider Feeds Itself To Offspring]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38333 2015-05-11T12:06:13Z 2015-05-10T14:05:56Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Israeli scientists may have discovered new evidence that some mothers feed their children to a fault.

Female Stegodyphus lineatus, a spider found in southern Israel and other semi-arid habitats around the Mediterranean, has recently been observed engaging in matriphagy, where a mother feeds herself to her young shortly after they have hatched.

spider

Mor Salomon of the Israel Cohen Institute for Biological Control, a government research institute in Yehud-Monosson, near Tel Aviv, discovered the phenomenon with colleagues from the Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University of the Negev while observing the spiders in bushes near dried-up riverbeds in the Negev Desert.

     SEE ALSO: Ben Gurion Researchers Find Scorpions To Be Master Architects

Although matriphagy was first discovered by German arachnologist Ernst Kullmann in the 1970s, Salomon’s research identified groundbreaking new clues that shed light on the mechanism behind the phenomenon.

While inside the web, the mother spider builds a silk disc containing 70 to 80 eggs. Meanwhile, her intestines begin to dissolve. Once the young spiders hatch, the mother punctures the disc, letting the spiderlings emerge from their lair. “[At this time] a liquid has already accumulated in her gut, allowing her to start regurgitating to her young,” Salomon told Fox News. “While she regurgitates, the process in her intestine intensifies and the liquid formed probably travels back through her intestinal tube to her mouth where she secretes it for her young.”

The young spiders then do their best to collect as much of their mother’s liquefied insides as they can, taking several hours to eat 96 percent of their mother’s mass, leaving the spider’s heart untouched.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here

Photos: Wikimedia Commons/JoaquinPortela,

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Amazing Moms: Mother Who Invented Harness To Allow Disabled Kids To Walk Tells Of International Success]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38316 2015-05-11T12:01:43Z 2015-05-10T10:19:15Z

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Mother’s Day is a good time to reflect on the amazing lengths some moms go to to ensure the well being of their children. One such “supermom” is Debby Elnatan, a former Israeli stay-at-home mom who became a press sensation when she invented the “Upsee”, a harness that allowed her young disabled son, and other handicapped children around the world, to walk in tandem with their parents.

When we first wrote about the Upsee harness a little over a year ago, the device was just gaining worldwide attention. A year later, NoCamels speaks to the inventor of the Upsee to hear about how her life-changing device is reaching more children and parents around the world.

A low-tech device with high impact

Debby came up with the idea for the harness, which allows handicapped children and parents to walk in unison, when she found out that her son Rotem had cerebral palsy and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Armed only with a mother’s love and a relentless drive to make her son’s life as normal as possible, Debby spent years creating the Upsee.

debbyelnatan

Debby Elnatan, inventor of the Upsee harness

The special harness is fastened on to the guiding adult at the waist, enabling them to pull the child up to a standing position using another harness attached to the child’s shoulders and legs. Then, the child and adult fasten the shoe bindings which help the two take steps in unison.

upsee-invention3What Debby didn’t expect was that her invention would become such an overnight success. “On the day we started selling the Upsee,” she tells NoCamels, “parents all over the world were waiting on the phone to order it. There were about 1,300 orders placed within the first 24 hours and 2,000 orders placed within the first 48 hours.” Since the international launch, which was conducted by British medical equipment manufacturer Leckey, over 6,000 Upsee harnesses have been sold in over 120 countries around the world.

     SEE ALSO: Mom Of Disabled Son Creates Harness That Allows Him And Other Children To Walk For The First Time

Just the ability to stand tall, says Debby, has not only helped children emotionally; there are already reports of positive physical effects stemming from use of the harness. “We’ve gotten amazing reports of the therapeutic value. There was one child who had his hip operation cancelled because through the opportunity to stand and walk, his hip joint was normalized. Other children have seen improvement in their walking abilities and head control, because finally they have something to see and a way to hold their weight.”

The best part of their kids’ day

“Parents upload pictures of their kids using the harness in ways that I never imagined,” says Debby of the wave of positive responses she has received, “They send in pictures of their kids in the harness while they are fishing, washing cars and even skateboarding. We are always interacting with our customers through the amazing photos and videos they share of their child wearing the harness.”

     SEE ALSO: First Touch-Free ‘Sesame’ Smartphone Allows Disabled To Control Phones With A Nod

Access to the harness is now easier than before, with an elaborate website that allows parents and caregivers around the world to purchase the harness, accessories that go along with it, and to interact with other parents to get pointers on how to best use the harness. Being able to reach out to a larger audience, Debby has worked hard to develop an expansive line of products built around the Upsee.

But the most popular section of the website may be the heartwarming stories of children with disabilities enjoying every minute of life with their Firefly devices. Debby tells me of one Israeli mother who sent her a picture of her child in the Upsee harness that included the message, “My boy cries bitterly when I have to take him out of the Upsee.”

upseeharness

‘The most famous mother in the world’

Despite the viral success (there were 500,000 shares on the first pictures of the Upsee on The Daily Mail’s Facebook), Debby admits that there are still some challenges in getting her products to the children who need them most. “The company is setting up distributors where online sales aren’t working. And now Leckey’s contacting therapists and caregivers to give them more information on the line of products.”

Currently, the Upsee has been approved by the Food & Drug Administration in the United States, as well as medical device authorities in Israel and Sweden. However, in her home country of Israel, Debby admits she felt for a long time, “like a shoemaker going barefoot,” until the Upsee was picked up by Chemitech in Israel, where it is now available for sale.

In addition to wide-spread international press and support from organizations like AIPAC and the European Union, Debby tells me that she has been selected as a winner of the International Patient Innovation Awards, an annual honor bestowed by a panel of Nobel Prize winners (including Technion professor Aaron Ciechanover) for innovations created by patients and their caregivers.

Debby believes that the success of the past year, which led one radio station in Italy to declare her “the most famous mother in the world,” is only the beginning. “I have been working like crazy to ride this wave of success and to launch the rest of my line of equipment. So much of today’s equipment supports children vertically, but much of it is disabling in some form. The approach is to be behind your child, but to make them feel like they are the mover – it’s an approach, not just a product.”

Photos: Firefly

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli X-ray Tech Can Tell You Exact Ripeness, Calories In The Fruit You’re Eating]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38234 2015-05-07T08:14:55Z 2015-05-08T08:06:39Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

To survive in business today, industry expert Menashe Tamir says, fruit exporters have to know their product inside out. And if their business relates to avocados, apples, or dates, a new system by Eshet Eilon, the company he runs, can help them.

Using a sort of high-tech “X-ray” called spectral imaging, Eshet Eilon’s machines report on nutrition information, ripeness, quality, and even when – or whether – a piece of fruit will get ripe.

esheteilon

“Our sorting machines check everything there is to know about fruit — how much sugar, protein, or carbohydrates are in fruit, how ripe it is, whether there are any diseases or fungi, and other information that until now exporters could only guess at,” said Tamir. “Ours is the first fast sorting machine that can check every single piece of fruit that goes into a shipment, ensuring that buyers know what they are getting, and that the fruit shipments don’t get sent back because they aren’t up to standards.”

     SEE ALSO: Hebrew University Student Invents World’s First Bacteria-Free Food Packaging

In today’s market, one piece of fruit can kill a sale worth tens of thousands of dollars.

“One of the biggest problems for date exporters is an internal fungus called Aspergillus niger, a black mold that forms on the inside of a date,” said Tamir. “There is no way a farmer or exporter could know if a date is contaminated. Obviously they can’t open up each date to find out, so they usually take some samples from a shipment to determine the quality. With our system, they can check every date as it passes through the sorting machine, and an alarm will sound when a bad date passes through. Thus, farmers and exporters can be confident that customers won’t send back shipments because they won’t find contaminated fruit.”

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: John/ Times of Israel

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli-American Chef Alon Shaya Wins Top US Culinary Honor]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38299 2015-05-07T14:17:48Z 2015-05-07T14:12:10Z

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Israeli-born chef and owner of the popular New Orleans restaurant Domenica, Alon Shaya was named the “Best Chef in the southern region” of the US by the James Beard Foundation. Shaya was named the best chef in the southern region this year after being nominated for the award – commonly known in the culinary world as “The Oscars of Food” – for three consecutive years.

     SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv’s Pastel Brasserie Is Voted World’s Most Beautiful Restaurant

Domenica-dining

Shaya, who is a former Tel Avivian, attended the Culinary Institute of America and founded Domenica, a highly-popular rustic Italian restaurant located inside New Orleans’ Roosevelt Hotel, together with culinary personality and TV chef John Besh in 2009. Domenica is often featured as the “Best Hotel Restaurant” by Gambit Weekly and Shaya has been named “Chef of the Year” by Eater New Orleans and New Orleans Magazine. Recently, Besh and Shaya opened up Pizza Domenica, a more casual take on their popular restaurant, and very recently, Shaya opened up his own contemporary Israeli restaurant fittingly named “Shaya”.

     SEE ALSO: A Foodie Feat: ‘Saveur’ Magazine Votes Tel Aviv ‘Outstanding Culinary Destination’

According to the restaurant’s website, Shaya spent over a year traveling to Italy to learn the ins and outs of Italian cuisine, though he admits that Israeli food also has a strong influence on his cooking, “spending most of his time in the kitchen with his mother and grandmother.” At Domenica, Shaya serves up Italian dishes with an Israeli twist, like roasted cauliflower with sea salt and whipped feta and red snapper with parsnips, breadcrumbs and dates.

domenicafood

Though the James Beard award is the height of culinary honors, bestowed annually on America’s best chefs at an extravagant black-tie event, other Israeli chefs are turning eyes and stomachs internationally. Just last week The Veuve Clicquot GQ Food and Drink Awards named the Israeli restaurant Palomar as the best in Britain. Located in the hip Soho district of London, Palomar is an international take on Jerusalem’s popular Machne Yehuda restaurant led by Chefs Assaf Granit, Yossi Elad and Uri Navon. Located in the heart of Jerusalem’s open-air market, Machne Yehuda prides itself on eclectically fresh Israeli-Arab cuisine and a spirited, colorful atmosphere.

domenicapizzaPhotos: Will Blunt/ New Orleans/ Facebook

 

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Sky News Employs Israeli Tech LiveU For Live Election Day Coverage]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38287 2015-05-07T08:36:14Z 2015-05-07T08:36:14Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

The UK’s most exciting election in recent years deserves its most exciting election coverage ever, said John Ryley, director of Sky News. To ensure that its coverage is exciting, the broadcaster will be employing technology made by Israel’s LiveU, by now a veteran of many an election contest, as well as the go-to firm for broadcasters of top international sporting events, like the Olympics, the World Cup, and many more.

As the returns come in from all corners of the United Kingdom on May 7, Sky News will be posting staff at over 270 locations across England, Scotland, and Wales. Instead of dispatching 270 plus professional camera crews with terrestrial and satellite broadcast equipment – a very expensive proposition – Sky will use LiveU’s small form-factor solutions, which use cell networks to beam broadcast-quality images across the world.

ukelectionspolling

LiveU, headquartered in the Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Saba and with a US office in Hackensack, New Jersey, has been around since 2006, and is still the only company offering a remote uplink solution for broadcast-quality video without requiring a satellite or wired Internet connection. The company has hundreds of clients in about 60 countries around the world — among them Major League Baseball, the NBA, and NFL. The BBC, for example, has used LiveU devices for major events, such as the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011, the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and over 30 organizations used it last year to broadcast the 2014 World Cup.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Election: Meet The Top 5 Israeli Apps Revolutionizing Civic Engagement

LiveU’s transmission solution consists of up to 14 cellular (3G/4G — LTE/WiMAX) modems over multiple carriers, as well as multiple LAN and even BGAN satellite connections (as backup). The solution works with any camera, and the modems aggregate all data connections simultaneously to achieve high bandwidth and smooth transmission, even as cellular bandwidth space may be restricted because of heavy usage. Even though some of the connections from some of the carriers might suffer from fluctuations and slowdowns when there is heavy traffic in the network, LiveU’s software will compensate for that slowdown by drawing on other resources to keep the uplink going at the best possible quality, according to the company.

Until LiveU developed this solution (and even now) most broadcasters relied on satellite uplink to deliver broadcasts. But satellite broadcasts require a line of sight connection to the satellite — making it impractical for broadcasting from indoors, under bridges, inside caves, or even in very cloudy weather.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Researchers Regenerate Heart Cells In What Could Be A Huge Breakthrough For Heart Disease Treatments]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38076 2015-05-06T14:22:23Z 2015-05-06T14:22:23Z

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Heart attacks are one of the most common and deadly human ailments, with a cardiovascular event striking once every 34 seconds in the United States. Yet few know that following a heart attack, a good portion of the heart muscles remain damaged, leaving patients at risk for future heart failure and other serious cardiovascular diseases. And despite the brevity of most cardiovascular events, human heart cells rarely regenerate (unlike blood, hair and skin cells), which led researchers at the Weizmann  Institute in Israel to question whether heart cells can be programmed to reverse damage in the heart.

Prof. Eldad Tzahor and Dr. Gabriele D’Uva succeeded in both understanding why heart cells don’t regenerate and in repairing damaged heart muscles in mice. These insights may be key in formulating a treatment for heart conditions related to and following heart attacks, that is if the researchers succeed in regenerating heart cells in human subjects as well.

heart attack

Animals can do it, so why can’t we?

Using his knowledge of embryonic development, particularly as it pertains to the heart, Tzahor set out to understand why humans are naturally unable to regenerate their own heart cells. Animals, like salamanders and zebrafish, are able to regenerate heart cells, and though they don’t usually live through heart attacks (if they have any) their hearts are able to naturally recuperate from minor cardiovascular events.

     SEE ALSO: One Heart Sometimes Beats As Two Dozen: New Study Could Improve Heart Disease Treatment

“There are various theories why the human heart cannot do that,” study co-author Prof. Richard Harvey told The Guardian, “one being that our more sophisticated immune system has come at a cost.”

Tzahor and D’Uva studied how a protein central to heart development, ERBB2, and a growth factor called Neuregulin 1 (NRG1) work together in heart generation in mice. ERBB2 is what is known in biology as a “specialized receptor,” or a protein that transmits external messages into a cell, and it partners with NRG1 to get its message across to the cell. The team observed that heart muscle cells called cardiomyocytes can be regenerated in newborn mice, but just seven days later, the mice no longer generated new cardiomyocytes.

ERBB2: The missing link

Through the process of elimination, the team discovered that the reason newborn mice were able to regenerate heart cells, while seven-day-old mice were not was due to the amount of ERBB2 present on the cellular membranes. Isolating the responsible factor, they created mice that didn’t have any ERBB2, and therefore a very small number of cardiomyocytes, only to find that their heart cells were too thin and that they could not reproduce essential cardiomyocytes. When they reintroduced ERBB2 into the adult mice, they found that there was an overabundance of heart cells created, resulting in a giant heart leaving little room for blood to enter.

These findings led the research team to pose the following hypothesis: If ERRB2 could be activated for a short period in an adult who suffered a heart attack it may be possible to regenerate heart cells and reverse muscular damage. Surprisingly, the team saw positive results in adult mice that had experienced an induced heart attack, experiencing complete heart regeneration within several weeks.

heartcellregeneration

Heart cells regenerated

“The results were amazing,” Tzahor said in a press release. “As opposed to extensive scarring in the control hearts, the ERBB2-expressing hearts had completely returned to their previous state.”

     SEE ALSO: Three Cups Of Coffee Per Day Protects From Heart Disease

Live imaging and molecular studies revealed the fascinating way that this happens: The cardiomyocytes revert to an earlier form, something between their embryonic to adult cellular state, allowing them to divide and differentiate themselves into new heart cells. The research team made a huge breakthrough in potential heart damage treatments by discovering that a metered dosage of the ERBB2 protein could actively promote cellular regeneration in the heart by reverting cells back to their embryonic state.

Tzahor and his team will continue researching the effects of introducing ERBB2 into existing heart disease treatments (which include injections of NRG1), but the results remain preliminary. “Much more research will be required to see if this principle could be applied to the human heart, but our findings are proof that it may be possible,” he says.

Prof. Eldad Tzahor’s research is supported by the Louis and Fannie Tolz Collaborative Research Project; the European Research Council; and the estate of Jack Gitlitz.

Photos: Ammmy Garcia/ Glitterina DotCom/ Weizmann

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[The Top Israeli Apps Taking Over Apple Watch]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38169 2015-05-06T12:39:05Z 2015-05-06T12:22:34Z

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There are mixed reports and speculations on how many units have been sold since Apple Watch launched last month – some as high as 3 million units – but Apple has so far stayed mum on the topic. CEO Tim Cook commented only on the impressive number of apps available on Apple’s slick new wearable tech piece – 3,500 and counting.

But there’s one fact nobody argues about: Many of the first apps featured on the Apple Watch (which starts at $349) – from dating to musical education apps – were developed and designed by Israeli startup companies. NoCamels profiles five of the hottest Israeli apps that are already ticking on Apple Watches around the globe.

Apple WatchesWatchMe88

WatchMe88 helps you find your perfect match using the Apple Watch. With just one tap of your Apple Watch, you could be tapping on the shoulder of Mr. or Ms. Right. The app allows users to inform individuals around them that they are open to meeting new people with a subtle pulsating glow on the watch. Even those who are not using WatchMe88 will know that the user is interested in being approached.

     SEE ALSO: Looking For That Special Someone? Click Here?

The app has an invisible mode as well, which will only glow when more than one user has the WatchMe88 app and both users have chosen the same status. When they match, the smartwatches will glow simultaneously, alerting the users that they are available and interested in meeting new people. According to the company, which was founded by Yoav Elgrichi and Kineret Karin, the app aims to “leverage the power of Apple’s new wearable to enable people to find a match in public, bridging the gap between the online and offline dating worlds.”

Glide

Glide allows you to send and receive free video messages to chat with friends and family via smartphones. Now its novel, cloud-based video streaming technology also enables quality videos to be sent and received instantly – straight to your wrist. Founded in 2012, Glide is the brainchild of Ari Roisman, Jonathan Caras and Adam Korbl. The company’s popular live video messenger has attracted more than 15 million users since its launch for smartphones.

     SEE ALSO: Glide’s ‘Video-Walkie-Talkie’ Aims To Replace Texting

Now, it has ventured into the Apple Watch. “We are very bullish on the Apple Watch and believe that live video messaging from your wrist will rapidly become the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and family on the go,” Roisman said in a statement “By combining Glide with the Apple Watch, we are ushering in a new era of digital communication that will largely replace text messaging.” He added that the new app “delivers a more natural experience on these devices’ tiny screens than typing.”

Glide

Metronome

The protagonist of the critically acclaimed film “Whiplash” could have avoided many of the “not my tempo” shouts from his teacher if only he had JoyTunes’ Metronome. The app, now available for Apple Watch, is an everyday music learning tool that helps players (from beginners to experts) practice and play. It allows you to change the tempo of a song and match the BPM (beats per minute) of your choosing by just tapping to a beat while wearing the Apple watch.

Additionally, the metronome displays the “tempo marking” that matches the BPM (e.g. Allegro, Andante, etc.). Starting and controlling the app is as simple as raising your wrist – everything syncs with the smartwatch in real time. JoyTunes, which was established in 2010 by Yuval Kaminka and Roey Izkovsky, has released several apps that have been downloaded by more than 3 million users over the past couple of years. Users play 1 million songs, on average, on its apps each week.

24me

24me’s smart personal assistant application gives you access to your calendar, to-do lists and personal accounts at the comfort of your wrist. 24me’s iPhone application, which was voted among the best apps of 2014 in Apple’s App Store, allows its users to better organize their tasks, calendar dates and accounts in one user-friendly planning app. And although Apple has touted its new smartwatch as a revolutionary fitness gadget, apps like 24me that allow you to gift friends and pay your bills on the go are helping make the Apple Watch a handy financial tool, too.

24me on Apple Watch

TL;DR
One of the hottest debates surrounding the Apple Watch is how email should be handled on this tiny interface. TL;DR Email, an app created for quickly going through your inbox, adapts for use on the new smartwatch. TL;DR presents short excerpts of emails, estimated reading time, short reply options and even image galleries of attachments. TL;DR (which stands for “too long; didn’t read”) enables users to reply, using either pre-created replies, ‘thumbs-up,’ dictating text, or recording a voice reply.

On the Apple Watch, users can use TL;DR’s email client and read their emails conveniently without taking their phones out of their pockets. “TL;DR is built for people who prefer their emails short and clear, which makes it also ideal for the Apple Watch,” TL;DR founder Ami Ben David said in a statement.

Photos and videos: Apple, WatchMe88, Glide, 24me, JoTunes, TL;DR

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Head of Microsoft’s Accelerators On The ‘Scale-up Nation’ And His Pick Of 5 Hot Israeli Startups]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38240 2015-05-10T13:46:34Z 2015-05-05T15:44:13Z

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A few years ago, when it was just a small startup, Israeli mobile navigation company Waze held a modest booth at Microsoft’s ThinkNext startup expo. Soon after, in 2013, the company was sold to Google for a whopping $1.3 billion. Microsoft’s annual startup showcase has long hosted some of the most promising Israeli startups – those that VCs and international companies should be eyeing.

“We’ve exposed significant startups such as Waze,” Tzahi ‘Zack’ Weisfeld, head of Microsoft Ventures Accelerators, told NoCamels during a press briefing today in Tel Aviv. “StoreDot (which develops a speedy battery charger) has also been doing well since it showcased in last year’s ThinkNext. We always keep our finger on the pulse.”

     SEE ALSO: Exit Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For $860 Million In First Four Weeks Of 2015

Waze

Software giant Microsoft – which has an R&D center in Israel and has cooperated with 1,000 local startup companies – is holding ThinkNext in Tel Aviv today; this year, 35 startups are presenting their innovations to delegations from global companies. Much like these global conglomerates, Microsoft is looking for novel technologies to either acquire, incorporate in its own products, or simply invest in – mostly through Microsoft Ventures.

Microsoft Ventures operates accelerators in Berlin, London, Beijing and Paris, to name a few, in addition to its Israeli incubator, which opened two years ago in Herzliya. “Everyone raised their eyebrows when Microsoft Ventures opened in Israel,” Weisfeld says. “The world had enough accelerators. Now, it turns out our model works. We have the leading incubation programs in China and in India. Worldwide, 300 companies have graduated from our program and 17 of them made ‘exits.'”

“Israel has an amazing opportunity”

Weisfeld believes Israel is now turning from Startup Nation to Scaleup Nation. So what if there are only a handful of high-tech companies as large as network security company Check Point? “Scale is not just about size; it’s about impact and number of users served,” Weisfeld says. “Look at Whatsapp, a small company with 25 engineers that serves millions of people and was sold for billions of dollars.”

He adds that “we’re looking for companies that can become great. Israel has an amazing opportunity – many companies will get to that big scale stage, they’re all around us.”

     SEE ALSO: From Startup Nation To Scale-Up Nation, Israel Reached New Heights In 2014

Tel Aviv: Skyline (night)

On average, startups in Microsoft Ventures Accelerators raise $2.5 million after they graduate from the program – whether or not Microsoft Ventures directly invests in them. But ThinkNext is not limited to startups in Microsoft’s accelerators. Of the 35 companies presenting, Weisfeld (who “doesn’t like the notion of a favorite child”) mentions several promising ones (and emphasizes ThinkNext only presents technologies “we can demo”):

ThirdEye

ThirdEye has been developing a multi-spectral computer vision system. Its device allows you to operate your drone with a pre-defined route and look for suspicious objects. Then, you can decide whether you want an extra automatic inspection or an immediate notification to the handler, who now can control numerous drones single-handedly.

RideOn

RideOn makes sophisticated augmented reality solutions for outdoor sports, including ski goggles which house a see-through display that projects hands-free AR features for interaction, navigation and fun on to the mountain around the user.

MST

MST‘s AutoLap is an image-guided laparoscope positioning system for laparoscopic surgery. Powered by image analysis software, it enables precise laparoscope positioning without reliance on laparoscope-holding assistants.

Von Bismark

As pioneers of the physical web, Von Bismark will soon launch an ecommerce store – The Mall – for the Xbox One. Users will be able to browse, try on and buy their favorite clothing from their favorite brands.

Dove-E

DOV-E has developed a technology enabling mobile connectivity using audio. DOV-E’s main applications are mobile payments and promotions. DOV-E provides connectivity between any mobile device to any speaker.

Photos and videos: Stephen Brashear/Getty Images for Microsoft, RideOn, Waze/Google, Gilad Avidan

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Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[SodaStream Launches Slick Cocktail Shaker To Prep Cosmos At The Push Of A Button]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38128 2015-05-04T11:56:35Z 2015-05-04T11:56:35Z

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A slick new electronic cocktail shaker will soon make throwing cocktail parties much easier: Israeli company SodaStream, known for its carbonated drink-making machines, is launching a new alcoholic beverage maker called SodaStream MIX.

     SEE ALSO: Is This The Reason Why Diet Soda Drinkers Are Often Overweight?

Designed by renowned Swiss designer Yves Béhar, who has worked with General Electric, Prada and Samsung – SodaStream MIX has a slick touch screen that allows you to whip up almost any popular alcoholic drink. After selecting a type of alcohol (gin, vodka, etc.), you choose a recipe from SodaStream’s “cloud” via a mobile application. Then, you add your favorite flavor and your MIX will carbonate it. Three minutes later and Voila!, your Whiskey Sour is ready to be sipped.

Cocktail bar: A surprising new use for IoT
How does it work? Well, the MIX device is connected to the cloud where it stores recipes on how to make the perfect vodka cranberry and Apple Martini. Users can browse various recipes and add them to the device, which makes MIX a part of the much-hyped Internet of Things movement. The company plans to expand its beverage offerings based on community input from the app and could even allow users to create their own recipes to share with others.

MIX is a decisive step into a new market for SodaStream, whose sales have dwindled by almost 24 percent last year to $126 million. Following a tough couple of years starting with a Soda Stream campaign that featured Scarlett Johansson and which led pro-Palestinian groups to call for boycotts of SodaStream, the company seems to be looking to reinvent its branding with this slick new product.

Cocktails

A new, bubbly world of alchemy

While SodaStream’s soft drinks used to market its products to families, MIX represents SodaStream’s desire to target a new demographic: adults. “MIX opens the door for a new category of beverages, with a connected kitchen appliance unlike anything in existence,” Béhar said in a statement. “The machine puts innovation in your hands, and lets you share your creations with the world. Because, in the end, who wants a gin and tonic when there is new alchemy opening new tasty worlds?”

     SEE ALSO: Living It Up In Downtown Tel Aviv: 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Beer Mugs Discovered In Israel

SodaStream recently unveiled MIX in Milan, but it has yet to release an exact launch date or price. In any case, MIX could very well prove to be a smart move for a company hoping to attract a more mature population. Cheers!

SodaStream MIX

Photos and videos: SodaStream MIX, Alpha du centaure

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Shai Agassi’s ‘Better Place’ Is Given Second Chance With Battery Tech Stations In China]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38206 2015-05-04T11:12:25Z 2015-05-04T11:12:25Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

It never took off the way CEO Shai Agassi – and the many Israeli government and business officials who supported it – thought it would, but the technology designed for now-defunct Better Place’s battery swapping program for electric cars will finally have its day in the sun.

Ziv Av Engineering (ZAE), one of Israel’s largest high-tech products development firms, will design and supply battery switching stations for electrically powered vehicles in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China. ZAE has signed a cooperation agreement with Chinese company Bustil (BYD), which holds the franchise for charging and switching batteries on electric vehicles in the city.

     SEE ALSO: China Partners With Better Place On Electric Vehicle Center

While electric vehicle use is being promoted by countries around the world, the battery-switching system – in which drivers would “refuel” their vehicles at a service station by swapping a spent battery for a fresh one, instead of plugging vehicles into a wall to recharge batteries – was tried in only a few places, most prominently in Israel and Denmark, with Israeli firm Better Place the main proponent of the technology.

battery moving into place

Better Place declared bankruptcy at the end of May 2013, about a year and a half after it began selling cars. The reasons for the bankruptcy surrounded the company’s failure to sell enough cars to make further roll-outs of the battery-switching stations economically viable; as a start-up, Better Place had a voracious capital appetite, burning through nearly a billion dollars but selling barely 1,500 vehicles. As the rosy predictions of the company failed to materialize – CEO Shai Agassi said that half the cars sold in Israel would be electric-powered by 2016 – investors backed off, and the company was struck a fatal blow about a month before declaring bankruptcy when its vehicle manufacturing partner, Renault, sad that it was pulling out of the deal to supply electric vehicles powered by battery-switching technology, and instead moving toward the standard home plug-in technology.

What failed to catch on in Israel – or anywhere else – could have a second life in China. Thousands of electric buses operate in Nanjing, a city of eight million, and the city has been seeking ways to cut down on the time and effort needed to recharge the vehicles.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Ziv Av Engineering

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[With Strong Tech Ties, Is Israel China’s New Best Friend?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37152 2015-05-03T13:20:08Z 2015-05-03T13:15:25Z

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China and Israel established diplomatic relations a mere 20 years ago, but the countries are steadily drawing closer over a common vision – expanding the innovation economy. Israel and China already have in excess of $10 billion in trade since the start of 2015, with China recently asking Israel to join the Asia Infrastructure bank as a founding member, suggesting that Israel may become a major economic ally.

The last year has seen a real surge in investment funds and private investors coming to Israel from the Land of the Dragon, in part due to the easy access to the Middle Eastern country’s markets and the riveting can-do attitude of local entrepreneurs that the Chinese say they can identify with.

The upside of the Silicon Wadi

It is Israel’s open, innovative and risk-taking approach to tech that initially attracted notable Chinese billionaire Li Ka-Shing to invest in ten Israeli companies, including Waze, in 2012 alone. Through his fund Horzions Ventures, Li set the stage for tech relations with Israel, showing his country’s business elite that it was financially sound and even necessary for the future of the Chinese economy to invest in emerging technologies.

According to Gigi Levi, one Israel’s top angel investors, China may even “look up” to Israel for its Startup Nation title. “Israel is a small nation that has managed to become a high-tech superpower,” he tells NoCamels, “This is something that is very appealing to the Chinese business person.”

netanyahuchina

“I think that the Israeli ecosystem offers unique opportunities because it is in a more competitive position than ever before, and due to the relative feeling that it’s easy to work with Israeli companies,” Levy asserts. In fact, Levy believes that because Americans themselves view Chinese investment as a risky endeavor (American investment in China decreased significantly between 2013-2014), Chinese investors are more inclined to turn towards Israeli startups as an outlet for their own funds.

     SEE ALSO: Li Ka-Sing: How The Chinese Billionaire Became The Startup Nation’s Biggest Supporter

Omri Shamir, CEO and co-founder of Startup East, an accelerator and microfund that focuses on Asian markets, thinks that Chinese interest in Israel has a lot to do with the size of the ecosystem, which is 46 percent smaller than the US market. “I think that if you compare Israel to Silicon Valley, Asian investors and companies see Israeli startups as more accessible. Israel has a small local market, which leads Israeli startups to seek out new markets all the time.”

China: a global market waiting to be disrupted

With China’s Internet industry continuously on the rise and its increasing privatization (despite a history of heavy government-regulation), foreign Internet companies are eager to enter the market and reap the benefits. According to assessments made by the China Internet Network Information Center, in the world’s most populous country, 86 percent of the population uses mobile phones, which accounts for a whopping 649 million people.

chinamobilephone

Because mobile and Internet is used en masse in China, Chinese Internet giants like Baidu and Alibaba have a lot of cash to invest in innovative business solutions that will keep them on top of their game. Often, these solutions are found in Israel. Shortly after Alibaba’s IPO in September, the company announced that it would invest an unspecified amount in Visualead, the Israeli startup that creates “designer” QR codes. Baidu followed suit with an investment in Israeli startup Pixellot and recently led a $5 million investment round in Israeli music education startup Tonara. Showing that the Chinese don’t just invest in tech, Bright Food acquired Israel’s agricultural produce company Tnuva for $1 billion, a deal that was almost first-of-its-kind for China, and a big stepping stone for a homegrown Israeli company looking to expand its market.

Shamir says that while the Chinese look to Israel for disruptive, cutting-edge technology, the relationship doesn’t just go one way. According to him, it’s not just about Chinese investment in Israeli companies, but equally about establishing Israeli startups in China. “Israeli companies also see important opportunities in the East, and the meeting point of these two approaches is what produces such a successful partnership.”

Cementing ties with local business

But Zvi Shlago of Synergy Funds, an investment initiative to establish Israeli businesses in China, seems less ebullient about Israeli attempts to gain a foothold in one of the world’s most challenging, and until recently, impenetrable markets. “Israeli companies struggle to develop themselves within China. They struggle to understand the Chinese market, and then there is still often opposition to cooperation and investment from the Chinese side. These two factors have limited the degree of cooperation and the business potential up until this point.”

Environment News: Israeli Venture Helps People Go Green And Get Green By Going Solar

Israel’s cleantech solutions are particularly popular in China.

Despite the fact that Chinese investors are increasingly interested in Israeli agritech, biotech, IT and cleantech solutions (Tsing Capital managing partner Don Ye recently stated, “Cleantech is probably the most important segment in cooperation between Israel and China”), Israeli startups often still struggle to establish a foothold in China. Shlago believes this is due to a plain “lack of history” between the two nations and aspects of the Chinese system that cause Western countries, namely the United States and Europe, to avoid establishing local businesses.

Another big issue facing any technology company entering China is Intellectual Property; China has a long history of openly disregarding patents and other IP certifications, a trend that both Shlago and Shamir believe is on the decline: “There are a lot of Israeli companies that are afraid of IP when it comes to Chinese companies, though the Chinese government, courts and companies themselves have made a number of efforts in the last two to three years to control this issue and to decrease IP crime,” says Shamir.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Technology To Bring Internet To Rural China

Startup East and Synergy Fund hope to mend some of the differences in the business culture by giving startups a local base. For Synergy it means establishing a Chinese subsidiary so that Israeli companies can begin growing within China, as opposed to places like the United States. According to Shlago, “The effect of this is that in one or two years, there will be a strategic body of Israeli companies in China that have developed there and will see continued investment. For Israelis, they have local management in China that can take care of any professional issues, and for Chinese, the company is a now a local source of pride.” Shlago in particular believes that by bringing Israeli tech to China, and not just Chinese investors to Israel, Israel can cement its place in a growing market that will soon be subject to intense international competition.

China’s “failure” taboo

With Chinese admiration for Israel’s Startup Nation  at its peak, the question remains why China has not yet fostered a real innovation economy of its own. Shamir thinks that the hesitancy to adopt a startup culture has a lot to do with the very formal business culture in Asia, “Until now, there was little or no need for innovation in these countries because the big focus for the older generation was to get a good job in a big company. The notion of startups and innovating only began to take off four to five years ago when a lot of countries realized that you need a creative economy to shake up conglomerates and to keep the business environment alive.”

changzhou

The first Israeli business accelerator in China is located in Changzhou.

In addition, Shamir believes the concept of “failure” is still highly problematic in Asian countries, as opposed to the risk-taking Israeli mindset. “The idea of failure is surrounded by big taboo,” says Shamir. Gigi Levy, in turn, believes this is what makes the Israeli “chutzpah” so attractive to “new-age” Chinese companies like Alibaba and Baidu.

Academic and political cooperation

With the increasing economic cooperation between the two countries, other sectors are following suit. Indeed, China is launching an increasing number of partnerships with Israeli universities, like Tel Aviv University and Tsinghua University’s $300 million joint research center; as well as a $130 million donation to the Technion – Israel’s Institute of Technology, and a program devoted entirely to teaching the Israeli business culture at Beijing University.

Politicians are also hastening the pace of visits to cement economic ties, with former Israeli Economy Minister Naftaly Bennett recently visiting China to launch the Israeli Business Center in Shanghai, an initiative that goes hand-in-hand with the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation, a three-year action plan to strengthen innovation cooperation.

Though China still has a long way to go until it competes with Israel and the United States for a top spot on the Global Innovation Index, Shamir believes that it’s only a matter of time, “As the younger generation becomes global and strives to be different, it will be easier to foster an innovation economy.” When it comes down to it, a country the size of New Jersey may actually have more to teach the world’s largest country about the secrets of fostering an innovation economy than the US herself.

Photos: alexoxela

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[How Israeli Life-Saving Tech Is Leading Rescue Efforts In Nepal]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38155 2015-05-04T13:02:33Z 2015-04-30T11:04:13Z

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Five days after one of history’s most devastating earthquakes hit Nepal, countries near and far are pouring in funds and personnel to address the state of emergency. Leading the pack in terms of medical and rescue personnel on the ground is Israel, with an aid convoy of 260 personnel, including about forty doctors. While this isn’t the first time that Israel has stepped in to following a major international weather event, the Israeli team is using innovative and ingenious technology to rescue more people from the areas of destruction and to provide first-class medical care to those who need it most.

Israelis set up state-of-the-art field hospital

Mere hours after the 7.8 scale earthquake rumbled Nepal, Israeli rescue teams were already prepping their gear for the flight to Kathmandu. The aid convoy organized by Israel is the largest ever sent by the Israeli Defense Forces overseas, and according to a CNN report, it has the most personnel on the ground of any other country. Constructing one of the largest field hospitals in Kathmandu with the ability to treat up to 200 patients a day, the Israeli station is also one of the most technologically advanced in the disaster zone.

cnnnepalinfographic“The team brought the most recent technology possible,” says IDF Medical Corps doctor Lt. Col. Asi Hempel. “The field hospital will be equipped with everything: x-rays, operating rooms that will work 24/7, laboratories and more.”

The Israeli field hospital has also set up a novel system to provide each patient with their own digital medical file, “Each patient who arrives at the field hospital is greeted by a medical assistant who takes his picture and gives him a unique barcode,” Lt. Col. Hempel explained in a statement. “This barcode is scanned at every station the patient goes through, allowing the doctor to access any and all medical information and treatments the patient receives. This system allows us to ensure that no station in the hospital is overwhelmed with patients. Quality treatment is priority,” he continued.

     SEE ALSO: 10 Israeli Companies At The Cutting-Edge Of Life Saving Tech

The Israeli medical teams plan to treat hundreds if not thousands of patients at their state-of-the-art field hospital, but Israeli medical innovations in Nepal don’t stop there. The IDF medical crew brought what is considered a breakthrough medical technology called powered plasma to the hospital, an Israeli invention that allows for infinite supplies of blood that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. The field hospital staff just needs to add water to activate the plasma.

Making good use of Israeli live-saving tech

Aside from the advanced field hospital, Israeli medical and emergency response apps and technologies are going to good use in Nepal. One particular smartphone application called NowForce Life Compass is being used as a major communications platform between the central rescue command in Israel and the field commanders on the ground.

Bringing new life into the world in Kathmandu

Bringing new life into the world in Kathmandu

“All of the response teams have a NowForce application on their phones, providing them with full situation awareness in the palm of their hand,” NowForce CEO Assaf Shafran tells NoCamels. “The application allows for coordination between what the command center sees at home in Israel and what the field commanders are doing on the ground. In addition, field commanders are able to update personal safety components all the time and they are able to tag certain locations where they see that additional attention is needed and to identify dangerous areas.”

NowForce’s technology is based on satellites, so despite the widespread damage to communications infrastructure, including Internet access, field commanders are able to map-out potential rescue sites – invaluable on-the-ground information that will be used by Israeli units to carry out targeted rescue missions.

     SEE ALSO: After Thousands Of Years Of Stitching, Israelis Invent New Wound-Closure Method

Emergency Bandage, colloquially known in the American military as the “Israeli bandage”, is another medical technology being used to stop and control bleeding in serious hemorrhagic wounds. The bandage was invented by Israeli military medic Bernard Bar-Natan in the 1980s and was applied by NATO troops in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as by the US military in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The bandage is now a mainstay for many emergency responders, and was used to save the life of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords following a head-shot wound in 2011.

israeliaidnepal

The Israeli-invented Viber messaging service is also being used to save lives according to the Economic Times, allowing users to make calls from Nepal free of charge in the two days following the earthquake. The service allows those who need to, and have Internet access, to make calls to mobile and land-line numbers.

Other Israeli tech coming to the rescue includes the PocketBVM, or emergency masks and breathing devices that can be used to prevent shortage of breath in the wounded until they receive medical care. Though it wasn’t applied in the Nepal earthquake, in other international disasters Israeli-created platform eVigilio has been used to send out mass alerts to millions of people regarding imminent natural disasters and security threats. Another piece of Israeli life-saving tech that could be used to locate the hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals still trapped under the rubble is the Technion’s “Snake Robot”. The flexible and easily maneuverable robot can reach the locations that are too dangerous or hidden for rescue workers to reach, currently a very serious challenge for rescue workers in crowded areas of Kathmandu.

Though Israel certainly has the most active and innovative rescue team currently on the scene in Nepal (the CNN survey doesn’t include India), the Startup Nation has donated minor to no relief funds, while bigger countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have donated $10 million and $5 million, respectively. However, based on the breadth of Israeli involvement in past aid missions to disaster zones in Japan, Haiti and the Philippines, and with Nepalese and other foreign aid workers referring the wounded to the advanced Israeli field hospital, it seems that the international community may owe Israel a hearty pat on the back.

Photos: MFA

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Betty Ilovici, NoCamels <![CDATA[Slide GoPro’s ‘Buddy’ CAMpanion Onto Your Smartphone To Capture Amazing Pics]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38009 2015-04-29T17:33:16Z 2015-04-29T17:33:16Z

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We’ve all stumbled upon thrilling pictures our friends captured on top of mountains during their last exotic getaway. Some of these pictures were snapped using the GoPro camera, which is designed for extreme activities. But those of you who have tried to photograph more ordinary, everyday moments have probably discovered that the tiny interface of the GoPro limits them. A successful Israeli Kickstarter campaign for CAMpanion could potentially take the GoPro experience to a whole new level. Using CAMpanion, the GoPro camera simply slides onto your mobile device, turning the GoPro-smartphone combo into a point-and-shoot camera.

     SEE ALSO: Lightbox, The World’s Smallest Social Camera, Is Giving GoPro A Run For Its Money

According to CAMpanion, the accessory builds on and improves the features of the GoPro camera. “The vision of CAMpanion is to take specialized devices and introduce them to new markets,” CAMpanion’s director of marketing David Itzkowitz tells NoCamels. “We want to turn GoPro into an everyday camera.”

It seems the crowds cheer for the concept: CAMpanion’s Kickstarter campaign has surpassed its initial goal of $28,000, raising over $60,000 in just a couple of weeks.

Campanion

Beyond scuba-diving and surfing 

CAMpanion aims to bring the extraordinary functionality of the GoPro camera to everyday settings beyond surfing and scuba-diving. To do this, the company decided to enlist the help of its target markets on Kickstarter. With the help of this crowd-funding platform, CAMpanion is now on an accelerated production schedule and at a reasonable price of $35.

     SEE ALSO: Zano’s Micro-Drone Follows You To Capture HD Selfies From The Sky

To date, other GoPro accessories have mostly been aimed at the camera’s use in extreme settings. Developed by videographer Amos Friedlin, photographer Sarah Rose and skier David Itzkowitz, CAMpanion allows users to enjoy the GoPro in any setting. Users can review shots on their smartphone screens, use the GoPro in dim lighting with the smartphone’s flashlight, and take action photos and videos, among other features – all with the help of CAMpanion.

While there are competing GoPro “buddies” on the market, such as micro-drones, they are mostly designed for extreme sports uses. In contrast, CAMpanion is designed to make GoPro’s amazing features accessible in everyday use, company officials stress. They expect the product, which is available for sale on the company’s website, to ship in 2-3 weeks. Campaign backers that purchased the 3D printable CAMpanion (yes, they will print the product themselves!) can have the CAMpanion in their hands even sooner.

Still, it remains to be seen if CAMpanion will indeed become a standard accessory for GoPro users, as its founders hope. In the meantime, this gizmo lets photographers in every setting to vividly capture defining moments on camera.

Photos and video: CAMPanion

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Justin Jalil, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Strati, The World’s First 3D-Printed Car, Printed With The Help Of Israeli Engineers]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38116 2015-04-28T15:37:51Z 2015-04-28T15:37:51Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

The Israeli office of Autodesk Inc. has been collaborating with Massivit, an Israeli startup company, to 3D print elements of a car, the Strati. They have been working on a 3D model of the “Strati” – a car created and developed by Local Motors.

The collaboration will be displayed Monday during the main event of EcoMotion, a gathering of Smart Transportation innovators that will take place at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv. Parts of the printed car will be introduced for the first time in Israel.

Autodesk developed “Spark,” a complete, open and free platform for 3D printing that will connect digital information to 3D printers in a new way. It provided Massivit with support on the software aspect in order to print the 3D model of the Strati.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Industry Leaders Partner To 3D Print Titanium Airplane Parts

Autodesk believes the 3D Printing revolution will transform industries, drastically reducing waste and the cost of assembly.

stratiprinting

Eitan Tsarfati, the head of Autodesk’s 3D printing platform, told Israel’s Channel 10 that the Spark platform will provide the building blocks for innovation that product designers, hardware manufacturers, software developers and materials companies can use to push the boundaries of 3D printing technology. “3D Printing of an entire car consists of multiple materials, like the one developed by Local Motors,” Tsarfati told Channel 10 TV on Thursday.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Startups Raise Impressive $994 Million In First Quarter Of 2015]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38100 2015-04-28T13:26:14Z 2015-04-28T13:21:00Z

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According to a report released today by IVC Research Center, 166 Israeli startup companies raised a whopping $994 million from venture capital firms in the first quarter of 2015, the second-best result in the last decade. Even more telling, this figure was 48 percent higher than the $673 million raised by 160 companies in the first quarter of 2014.

However, it is still 10 percent below the record high $1.1 billion invested in 184 companies in the fourth quarter of 2014.

     SEE ALSO: Exit Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For $860 Million In First Four Weeks Of 2015

The average company financing round averaged at $6 million, equal to the previous quarter’s average, but well above the $4.2 million average raised in the first quarter of 2014. The IVC report also shows that in the first quarter of 2015, 91 VC-backed deals accounted for $832 million – 84 percent of the total capital invested. The average VC-backed deal peaked at $9.1 million, compared to $7.7 million and $6.1 million in the fourth and first quarter of last year, respectively.

Q1 capital raising

And the figures show foreign investment is still leading, proving how high up on international investors’ lists Israeli startups have become. Indeed, the vast majority of investment in Israeli startups is foreign: Israeli venture capital firms invested only $180 million in local startups and high-tech companies, or 18 percent of all investments, in the first quarter this year.

Best-ever quarter for Israeli internet startups 

The research also shows Internet companies are still leading the pack in terms of deal flow: The sector experienced its best quarter ever with $343 million raised by 44 companies, a 35 percent slice of the funding pie. The life sciences and software sectors followed, accounting for 22 percent and 19 percent of total capital raised, respectively.

“The increase in high-tech capital raising is not coincidental, but directly reflects the trend toward growth company investments and higher valuations of mid- and late-stage companies,” Koby Simana, CEO of IVC Research Center, said in a statement.

     SEE ALSO: From Startup Nation To Scale-Up Nation, Israel Reached New Heights In 2014

He further commented that “up to a year ago, we were accustomed to seeing average financing rounds of $3 million to $4 million in the internet sector. In recent quarters though, we’ve been observing a distinct rise in the average internet financing round. This trend is even more evident among growth-stage internet companies for which the average deal jumped from $6 million about a year ago to $16.3 million in the first quarter of 2015.”

Internet

Partly responsible for the high investments in the first quarter of 2015 were content marketing startup Taboola, which raised $117 million in February; and mobile app search company Quixey, which raised $60 million in a funding round led by Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba. But IVC’s analysis shows that “those were not unique events,”Koby Simana. “They fit in well with the activity surrounding the internet sector and the rise in the number of early-stage investments. These parallel trends mostly feed each other as the increase in growth-stage internet companies attracts more entrepreneurs and investors into the sector.”

Simana predicts that these success stories “will drive the volume of growth deals as well as contribute to increase seed-stage investments, which up until last quarter, were on the decline.”

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Betty Ilovici, NoCamels <![CDATA[How Israeli Desalination Technology Is Helping Solve California’s Devastating Drought]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37884 2015-04-28T15:34:31Z 2015-04-27T12:01:44Z

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Four years of devastating droughts in California have pushed cities and counties in the Golden State to seriously consider turning to the one drinking source that is not depleting anytime soon – seawater. With the Pacific Ocean abutting their shores, water desalination may be the much-needed solution for Californians. But desalination has its disadvantages, the chief ones being the high costs and the potential environmental damage.

To address these challenges, California is turning to the world leader in cutting edge desalination technology – Israel. A $1 billion desalination project is already underway in San Diego County – which will be the largest seawater desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere – and Israeli engineers have been called in for their expertise.

     SEE ALSO: TaKaDu’s Water-Saving Technology Saves Australia Millions Of Dollars

Currently under construction in Carlsbad, 35 miles north of San Diego, the plant could potentially provide Californians with 54 million gallons of water a day. The plant is using technology Israelis have been using for years, reverse-osmosis, which involves forcing seawater through a film with tiny holes that allow only water molecules to pass through, while the larger salt molecules cannot.

San Diego area

“A complete game changer for desalination in the US”

2014 was California’s third driest year in 119 years and according to the US Geological Survey; it was also the warmest year in recorded history, leading California to declare a drought state of emergency last year. Earlier this month, another frightening figure was published: The California Department of Water Resources measured the statewide water content of Sierra snowpack (which provides about one-third of the water used by California’s cities and farms) at 5 percent, the lowest level since 1950. In response, the governor recently announced mandatory State-wide water cutbacks.

Despite this, the Golden State has only a handful of small desalination plants. But with the help of Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE Technologies), the $1 billion desalination plant San Diego is due to become reality next year. According to IDE – which is also working on desalination projects in China, India and Australia – the Carlsbad project is a “complete game changer for desalination in the US.” This project is expected to provide clean water to 300,000 people and generate roughly $50 million annually for the regional economy. “The plant overcame significant practical, regulatory and economic hurdles to deliver a cost-effective and environmentally friendly water supply,” IDE said.

Critics of the reverse-osmosis technology have claimed that it is too costly and requires too much energy, making it environmentally damaging. But IDE Technologies says its production costs are among the world’s lowest and that it can provide an average family’s water needs for roughly $300-$500 a year. Israel’s largest desalination plant, for example, sells desalinated water to the Israeli government for about 60 cents per cubic meter, which is lower than traditional water purification methods. Using highly efficient pumps, the plant also consumes less energy than similar desalination stations around the globe.

Carlsbad desalination project

Necessity is the mother of invention

Israel, a land that is two-thirds arid, has long been forced to come up with creative ways to conserve, recycle and desalinate water. The country has become a leader in the field of water preservation, coming up with industry-changing technologies such as drip irrigation in 1964. In fact, the serious attention Israel has paid to its water supplies means that the country now has a water surplus – a first in its history. About 40 percent of Israel’s tap water is desalinated sea water – a figure expected to reach 50 percent by 2016 – and so is a large part of the water for agriculture.

And with an estimated 1.8 billion people around the globe who don’t have adequate access to clean water, desalination technologies developed in Israel are in high demand.

     SEE ALSO: Green 2000 Teaches Agricultural Techniques To Nigeria, Sudan

Sorek desalination plant

Israelis quench the thirst of Marshall Islands residents  

In the Marshall Islands, for example, an island country located near the equator in the Pacific Ocean with a serious shortage in drinking water, Israeli company GAL Water Technologies has introduced a one-of-its-kind emergency water purification vehicle, called the GalMobile. According to the company, the main challenge when large scale natural disasters or terrorist attack strike, is lack of fresh clean water in the first 72 hours. The GalMobile is then highly efficient as a self-contained automatic vehicle that can connect to any possible water source – like rivers, lakes, oceans, brackish water and wells – and produce drinking water at WHO water standards.

For the past two decades, GAL has also provided water treatment technologies on a humanitarian basis to African nations.

GAL's desalination vehicle

But despite its past achievements, Israeli desalination technology will largely be measured on the success in San Diego. If that reverse osmosis plant achieves its goals, we can expect to see many more Israeli engineers educating the world about the benefits of water desalination.

Israel's Negev Desert

Photos: IDE Technologies, GAL Water TechnologiesGodot13Stefan LinsIsrael_photo_gallery

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[GPS App Waze Announces New Alerts On Kidnappings, Hit-And-Runs]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38059 2015-04-26T13:29:16Z 2015-04-26T13:29:16Z

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The popular Israeli-made navigation app Waze owned by Google now has life-saving potential – if you live in Los Angeles, that is. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Waze have embarked on a data-sharing partnership that will provide real-time alerts to Waze users on kidnappings, hit-and-run accidents and other incidents in the City of Angels, with the hope that users will report anything they witness in relation to such incidents.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Use Waze Data To Make Roads Safer

In addition to informing the public of more serious events, the city will also introduce crowdsourced information regarding film sets and city-wide events that could lead to road closures. The city hopes that Waze will eventually be connected to its 311 hotline, allowing users to report road maintenance issues, street light repairs and other potential safety hazards. According to reports in the LA Times, the data will be scraped of information that could reveal users’ identities.

wazescreenshot2

“This is going to be updated in real-time, every two minutes, giving motorists the information they need to…get home for dinner in time,” Garcetti said of the municipal move to make Waze a part of its official Amber Alert policy. The app has about 1.3 million users in the city, infamous for having the worst traffic jams in the United States.

     SEE ALSO:  Reached Their Destination: Waze Acquired By Google For Over $1B

The announcement of the partnership comes just four months after LAPD Chief Charlie Beck sent a letter to Google, Waze’s parent company, claiming that the application endangered police officers because it is used to reveal their location. At the time, Beck reportedly referenced the shooting of two New York police officers that was carried out using location information collected on Waze. However, in light of the recent agreement, Beck seemed confident that progress had been made in safe usage of the application, “The Los Angeles Police Department is going to work with Google and Waze to provide more information so that they’re able to help the monitoring public make their way through this difficult city,” he said in a statement.

Waze was founded in 2007 by Uri Levine, Amir Shinar and Ehud Shabtai and was acquired by Google for almost $1 billion in 2013.

Photos: Waze

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Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[‘3D Print’ Your Own Personalized Foods With ‘The Genie’!]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37917 2015-04-29T10:35:33Z 2015-04-25T15:21:07Z

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Have you ever had a sudden craving for a particular treat without any way to get it? Or perhaps a cake that could be ready in just one minute, with no preparation necessary? A new kind of food processing machine, called the Genie –  inspired by Star Trek’s sci-fi “replicator” which was used to make instant meals on the show – has brought this once futuristic concept out of television and into reality. Now, personalized foods can be made with the press of a button, giving everyone the choice of their own meal – when they want it.

     SEE ALSO: SXSW: Israeli ‘Fooducate’ Wins App Competition

Following a night of seemingly endless work and a hungry staff at White Innovation, an Israeli company that engineers products for other businesses, founders Doron Marco and Ayelet Carasso found themselves sitting around their office table with empty stomachs, tired of ordering out or preparing their own food night after night. After about 90 minutes of brainstorming and discussing among their eight staffers, the inspiration behind the Genie was born. “At first, the product was for ourselves, but other companies loved it,” Marco tells NoCamels.

The Genie food processor

And so, last year, Marco and Carasso Launched the Genie with their own small investment. This uniquely shaped kitchen appliance of sorts includes both the capsules and the machine that prints ingredients into edible foods.

“Investors tend to look at it from the ROI (return on investment) perspective, but we are looking to make a real change. We are looking at how to get the Genie in every house, we want people to have all these new options,” Marco says.

Carasso adds: “Think about a family that eats the same food: one may need more sugar or vitamins, while the other may not. There is no option to do this today, outside of cooking individual meals for everyone, but now the Genie gives you that choice.”


the genie couscous

The food capsules are designed to maintain a long shelf life of up to five years, with no preservatives used. According to Marco, “30 percent of food bought in the US is thrown away. We are trying to eliminate it,” stressing his environmentally friendly approach.

     SEE ALSO: 3D Print Your Own Homemade Superfood With Israeli Tech ‘Green Onyx’

The Genie will initially be marketed to businesses, and then the company will consider marketing to households, with an estimated price tag of $1,000. “At most, we are looking at one year until we enter the private sector”, Carasso told NoCamels.

According to the company’s founders, they have already seen a great deal of interest and are in the mass production stage for their business clientèle. So far, the company has received thousands of orders from Israel, the US and Greece.

The Genie - muffins

Couscous and muffins in less than one minute

Each capsule is designed for a single serving and ranges anywhere from couscous to cake, to muffins and many others. The meals are available in both medium- and large-sized portions. So far, the Genie has options such as gluten-free and vegetarian.

“Obesity is another issue; every nutritionist will tell you that you need to eat several small meals throughout the day but not many can do it,” Carasso and Marco say. “Here, it is possible and will happen, in less than one minute.”

The Genie - couscous “3D” food printers, such as the Genie and its competitors Foodini and the Green Onyx, allow the consumer to individually add in supplements and vitamins to their liking. The Genie also features an interactive smart technology that evolves and adapts, based on personal eating habits.

Genie founders contend that other products lag behind the Genie in preparation time. Also, many food printing machines require a subscription to meal planning services at an additional cost, while the Genie offers single-portion capsules. “Our aim with the Genie is for the consumers to get used to our smaller portions, rather than giving in to the demand of the mass market,” Marco stresses. Carasso went on to explain the company’s interest in creating healthy meals, not just “processed junk.”

Photos: The GenieScott Spaeth

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Earth Day 2015: Israeli Tech Can Predict El Niño Events With Up To 75 Percent Accuracy]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37977 2015-04-22T08:54:00Z 2015-04-22T09:47:15Z

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From California mudslides, to Australian droughts, to empty fishing nets off the South American coast, El Niño is a catastrophic worldwide weather phenomenon that emerges every few years, leaving devastation in its wake. While meteorologists have up until now had only limited ability to predict when the next such event will occur, a research team made up of Israeli and German scientists recently discovered a way to predict El Niño’s events – with high of accuracy – a full year in advance.

“There are over fifty climate models that have been used to try to predict El Niño events, but they provide warning at relatively low accuracy, and only about six months ahead of time,” says Prof. Shlomo Havlin, of Bar Ilan University. “In our new approach, which uses climate network analysis to reveal the evolution of network links in the Pacific Ocean, we were able to double the advance warning time to one year, while providing a predictive accuracy of an unprecedented 75 percent.”

lightningbolt

Seeing the bigger picture

According to Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a co-author of the study, the researchers’ predictive model benefits from seeing the bigger picture while focusing on one specific factor: temperature. “Large-scale warming events occur when temperature changes build up over time and affect one another,” he says. “It is like an orchestra of 200 musicians playing together. If the different regions in the Pacific are rather playing their own tunes, like soloists, no El Niño develops. On the other hand, when there’s a ‘harmony’ building up – a harmony which collapses when the El Niño event finally arrives – this serves as a warning, and a very accurate one at that.”

       SEE ALSO: Meteo-Logic Promises New-Generation Weather Forecasting

Prof. Armin Bunde, who contributed to the study, describes how the team detected data strongly predictive for a 2014 El Niño event already in September 2013 – a prediction that was later proven to be correct.

“Predictions by other, much bigger models wobbled up and down and as late as November 2014 gave a likelihood of only 58 percent that an El Niño will arrive,” Bunde recalls. “In contrast, the new and early forecast was stable over the whole period before the event and provided a significantly higher probability of 75 percent.” Bunde points out that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only recently declared El Niño’s arrival – the event started last year, but it has to last for some time to be officially recognized. Japan’s weather bureau saw the conditions fulfilled in December last year.

winterscene

Applying a multi-facted approach

As Prof. Havlin explains, the researchers’ predictive method combines mathematics, physics – and history. “We used weather data dating back to 1980, examining temperature changes in sites throughout the Pacific, and characterizing the network-based interactions between these individual sites,” he says. “Correlating this temperature data with the weather events occurring during this time period, we were able to positively identify the network characteristics that were present – at least 75 percent of the time – when an El Niño event broke out the following year.”

     SEE ALSO: What’s With The Crazy Weather On Uranus And Neptune?

The next step for the scientists was to put their model to work, and accurately predict the onset of an El Niño event in the future. The researchers’ success was the basis for their recent publication.

“Our results indicate that this new predictive method is more accurate and reliable than other models,” Havlin says. “This is something very important for societies wishing to plan ahead, and minimize El Niño’s devastating effects.”

The scientists’ findings were recently published in an article entitled “Very Early Warning of Next El Niño” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Prof. Shlomo Havlin is a former President of the Israel Physical Society and a faculty member in Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Physics. Prof. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber co-authored the study and is director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Prof. Armin Bunde is a theoretical physicist at Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen (JLU) in Germany, who led the study together with Havlin and Schellnhuber.

Photos: Matt Granz Photography/ Steev Selby/ Stein Liland

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Earth Day 2015: Tel Aviv Zookeeper Captures Hilarious Footage Of Animals Drinking]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37958 2015-04-22T08:46:23Z 2015-04-22T08:37:43Z

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If one phrase were to capture the nature of viral videos of late, it would be “Animals do the darndest things.” From cats attacking bananas to the unlikely friendships between pets, raising animal awareness on the Internet has never been more popular.

A zookeeper at the Zoological Center in Tel Aviv, Israel is joining the viral craze with a hilarious video documenting the different ways that animals drink water. Elad Hershkowitz captured the unique footage by placing a GoPro camera at the bottom of animals’ water troughs to get a closer look at how giraffes, lions, rhinos and lemurs relieve their parched pallets – providing us with an entertaining way to celebrate Earth Day!

lemur drinking

A lemur lapping it up

Carnivores and herbivores differ in their drinking styles

Filming a total of 30 hours of footage, Hershkowitz got the idea for the video spontaneously, “I had the idea whilst walking around the enclosures and I saw the zebras drinking,” he tells Daily Mail. “It made me curious to see what was going on below so I decided to check how the rest of the animals drink.”

rhinodrinking

Can you guess which animal this is?

 

In analyzing his footage, Hershkowitz discovered that every animal has its own unique drinking style. “There is a massive difference in how each animal drinks. Carnivores, like lions, drink a lot like domesticated cats and dogs. Herbivores like the rhinos and zebras suck up the water with their lips,” he says. Hershkowitz also noted that the animals were suspicious regarding the object that had been placed at the bottom of their water troughs, with many of them sticking in a hoof or paw to check the status of the water before gulping it up.

     SEE ALSO: Wildlife Photographer Ofer Levy Wins International Acclaim With Awe-Inspiring Images Of Birds

zebrasdrinking

Though Hershkowitz is surrounded by and observes hundreds of animals each day, the hilarious and highly education visual insight into their drinking habits was a whole new experience, “Capturing this footage was really special. It offers a completely unique perspective to anything I’ve ever seen before.”

Photos: Screenshots

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Industry Leaders Partner To 3D Print Titanium Airplane Parts]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38032 2015-04-21T14:51:29Z 2015-04-21T14:45:55Z

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Israel is making further strides in the ever-popular and continuously growing 3D printing sector. A new initiative funded by the Office of the Chief Scientist hopes that the first titanium airplane parts will be 3D printed by the end of 2015.

Chief Scientist Avi Hasson told TheMarker newspaper: “3D printing is making its first strides into the manufacturing process. This is a fascinating field and it is possible that these developments will significantly contribute to the nature of manufacturing processes and products in the future. It is important for Israel to enter the field of 3D printing and it is particularly challenging to begin with materials that need to uphold quality measures and strict strength requirements, as is the case in the aerospace industry.”

printingmetal

Making the most of the printers we’ve got

The collaboration effort, called ‘Atid’, is headed by the international defense technology company Elbit Systems’ subsidiary Cyclone, which will work to develop generic technologies that will act as the format for 3D-printed aerospace parts. The collaborators will not actually develop the 3D printers that will be used to print the titanium parts, and instead will try to make the most of existing models of 3D printers to create complex airplane parts.

     SEE ALSO: First Of Its Kind In Israel: 3D Metal Printer Gets To Work At Technion

In addition to Cyclone, the Israel Aviation Industry, Israel Military Industries, Orbit, Algat, Kass and Admar as well as researchers at academic institutions throughout Israel will participate in Atid, an initiative supported monetarily by the OSC’s Magnet Committee.

If all goes as planned, by the end of this year you may be able to construct a safe, titanium-clad airplane from the comfort of your living room.

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Tamar Pileggi, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Fish Skin-Inspired Armor Is The Latest Innovation In Bullet-Proof Tech]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37937 2015-04-21T12:40:02Z 2015-04-21T12:40:02Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

Israeli scientists have recently developed an innovative new material able to withstand bullets and knife attacks that could revolutionize body armor technology.

Inspired by the scaly skin of fish, researchers from the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology designed a hybrid double-layered material that provides protection against penetration while preserving flexibility.

yellowfish

“The secret behind this material is in the combination and design of hard scales above with soft, flexible tissue below,” lead researcher Assistant Professor Stephan Rudykh told American Technion Society — a university-affiliated website — last month.

     SEE ALSO: Something Fishy: Research Discovers Why Fish May Be Nearing Extinction

While strength and flexibility are generally competing properties, Rudykh said that his team found that by varying the angle in which the scales are arranged, it was possible to increase their resistance to penetration by up to 40 times, while the flexibility of the material only decreased by 5 times.

stephanrudykh

Researchers used a 3D printer to create the hard, outer surface out of acrylic-based plastic scales positioned at varying angles between 10 and 45 degrees. Afterwards, the outer layer was attached over a softer material, meant to mimic the flexibility of skin. Rudykh hopes that by using 3D printing, body armor made from the material could be customized for body type or fined-tuned for different scenarios. In addition to making bulletproof clothing for the military, the material could be used to protect space-walking astronauts from radiation and micro-meteors.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Chris Favero/ Mike Hartz/ Technion Israel Institute of Technology

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Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Learning To Kick Addictions In Your Sleep With Exposure To Smelly Odors]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37827 2015-04-20T16:12:33Z 2015-04-20T16:12:32Z

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We spend about one-third of our lives asleep, so it’s no wonder that for centuries we have been searching for ways to learn while we slumber. Now a new study from the Weizmann Institute in Israel suggests that certain kinds of mental conditioning applied during sleep may induce us to change our behavior; information that could be vital in helping individuals kick bad habits.

Researchers Prof. Noam Sobel and Dr. Anat Arzi found that when they exposed subjects to a tone followed by an odor, subjects would soon exhibit the same response to the tone as they would to the odor, suggesting that in the case of smelling, the sleeping brain acts similar to when it is awake.

Pairing bad smells with bad habits

Building off research from 2012 Sobel and Arzi found that associative conditioning – a type of learning in which the brain is trained to subconsciously associate one stimulus with another – could occur during sleep by using an odor as the unconditioned stimulus.

     SEE ALSO: Study: The Weight You Gain When Quitting Smoking May Actually Be Muscle

Encouraged by their previous results and eager to put their research to good use, the team’s most recent study was designed to determine whether smells would be able to influence smokers’ habits. To test this theory, the researchers exposed the sleeping smokers to pairs of smells – cigarettes paired with the smell of rotten eggs or fish – then asking them to record how many cigarettes they smoked the following week. The results revealed that following conditioning during sleep, the smokers reduced their cigarette intake by about thirty percent.

Stop-Smoking

Evidence that scent is our connection to the outside world as we sleep

While most research has largely discredited traditional “sleep learning” as we know it, Sobel and Arzi suggest that olfactory conditioning looks promising.  This is especially true for addiction research, since the brain’s reward center, which is involved in addictive behaviors such as smoking, is closely interconnected with the regions that process smell. These regions, they say, not only remain active when we sleep, but may even enhance the information we absorb during our slumber.

     SEE ALSO: Want To Quit Smoking? Omega 3 Supplements May Be The Answer

To prove this theory, the researchers focused on cigarette smoking, a behavior that can be easily quantified. Sixty-six volunteers who wanted to quit smoking participated in the study. They were asked to fill out questionnaires about their smoking habits, and then those in the sleep group got to doze off in a special sleep lab where they were closely monitored. During certain stages of the sleep cycle, subjects were exposed to the paired smells – cigarettes and foul odors – one right after the other, repeatedly throughout the night. Interestingly, the subjects were unable to recall the orders when they woke up, but reported smoking less over the course of the next week, while those who were exposed to the paired smells in an awake state did not reduce their nicotine intake.

Specifically, the researchers noted that the best results occurred during stage 2, or non-REM sleep, when dreaming is very rare and brain activity very high, supporting earlier findings that suggested that we forget most of what happens in our dreams. Conditioning that occurs during the “memory-consolidation” stage, however, may stick.

Arzi explains, “We have no yet invented a way to quit smoking as you sleep.  That will require a different kind of study altogether. What we have shown is that conditioning can take place during sleep, and this conditioning can lead to real behavioral changes. Our sense of smell may be an entryway to our sleeping brain that may, in the future, help us to change addictive or harmful behavior.”

Photos: Examined Existence

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Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Cannabis Cure: Marijuana May One Day Be A Cure For Cancer, Israeli Study Shows]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37970 2015-04-20T08:28:34Z 2015-04-20T08:14:00Z

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Recently, the conversation about marijuana has shifted from “bashing” weed as a recreational drug to praising its miracle qualities when used for medicinal purposes. The scientific community feels more confident than ever before prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for life-threatening diseases, like cancer, and other ailments that cause chronic pain. Despite the boost in confidence, marijuana  has rarely been cited as an actual cure for these ailments, until now.

A preliminary study conducted by Israeli scientists found that cannabis may help slow the growth of certain cancerous tumors, namely brain and breast cancer tumors, and may even eradicate them completely. The study, conducted by Dr. David Meiri and his team at the Technion – Israel’s Institute of Technology over the last year, focused on the healing properties of the plant, with hopes that it may one day be used as a cancer cure.

     SEE ALSO: Meet The ‘Designer’ Strains Of Marijuana Bred In Israel To Treat A Wide Range Of Illnesses

“There is a large body of scientific data which indicates that cannabinoids specifically inhibit cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death,” Meiri explained to Haaretz. “In addition to active cannabinoids, cannabis plants also contain a multitude of other therapeutic agents, such as terpenoids and flavonoids that are usually present in small quantities, but can have beneficial therapeutic effects, especially as synergistic compounds to cannabinoids.”

marijuanasunshine

A growing industry

The project at the Technion is part of a joint research agreement with Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, an American pharmaceutical company that specializes in the development and commercialization of cannabis products ranging from drugs and therapies to food supplements. Cannabics’ flagship product, which is still patent pending, is Cannabics SR—a capsule designed specifically for cancer patients as a palliative care treatment. Drug companies in the past have shied away from investing heavily in producing and patenting marijuana products, namely due to the fact that it is a controlled substance, but also because it’s difficult to patent products from a natural plant, let alone all of its different strands and permutations. Cannabics SR is an example of the changing sentiments in the pharmaceutical industry regarding  cannabis products and their future importance.

While preparing for their launch in the US and EU, the company plans to start another project at the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa soon, which will study the effect of cannabis capsules on typical symptoms, like a loss of appetite and weight loss, in cancer patients.

marijuanabuds

High hopes

While Dr. Meiri notes it is too early to draw definitive conclusions, he and his colleagues have seen some intriguing results. For example, they recently managed to target brain cancer cells, forcing them to “commit suicide” (a phenomenon called apoptosis) and have seen comparable results with breast cancer cells. Cancer cells are notorious for being able to evade the various mechanisms of cell death, which makes this an important finding. The goal now is to find more types of cancer cells that cannabis can “kill off” in the same way.

     SEE ALSO: World’s First Precision Medical Marijuana Inhaler Hopes To Remove The Stigma Of Smoking The Green Stuff

“Many businesspeople deal with and say things about cannabis. It seems some of them are overdoing it. I think it is now the turn of science to put things in order and find out how it helps, who it helps and exactly how it does so,” Meiri says.

Scientists continue to conduct studies using an estimated 50 different varieties of cannabis produced in Israel, measuring its effects on 200 different types of cancer cells. The promising results could be a major breakthrough in future cancer prevention, and bode well for cannabis’s positive stigma in the scientific and medical communities, though the study is still in its very early stages.

Photos: Marijuana Business Association/ Camille/ BoQunabo

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Nano-Sized ‘Bullet’ Invented In Israel Used To Treat The Deadliest Cancers]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37946 2015-04-19T13:38:13Z 2015-04-19T13:32:48Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

The worst form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), is considered largely incurable by doctors. Victims generally die within a year and a half of being diagnosed with the tumors. It’s such a devastating disease that the National Academy of Sciences calls it “the Terminator.” But an innovative nanotech-based “end-run” around cancer cells by Tel Aviv University researchers could provide doctors with a new way to treat – or even cure – GBM and other malignant killer cancers.

The technique, developed by Prof. Dan Peer of TAU’s Department of Department of Cell Research and Immunology and Scientific Director of TAU’s Center for NanoMedicine, has proven itself in the past: It’s based on the “cancer bullet” system Peer and other TAU researchers developed that delivers chemotherapy directly to cancer cells, using bioadhesive liposomes (BALs), consisting of regular liposomes reduced to nano-sized particles that attach themselves to the cancerous cells. Peer and Prof. Rimona Margalit, with whom he developed the method, have published several studies showing its effectiveness.

danpeer

That research was done on ovarian cancer tumors, and it proved to be effective – but that wasn’t the case when it came to GBM, which is far less responsive to chemotherapy. Prof. Zvi R. Cohen, Director of the Neurosurgical Oncology Unit and Vice Chair at the Neurosurgical Department at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer Hospital in central Israel, contacted Peer to discuss whether anything could be done for individuals suffering from the aggressive and fatal form of brain cancer.

     SEE ALSO: Cancer Breakthrough: Israeli Researchers Discover Cancer Suppressing Proteins

“I was approached by a neurosurgeon insistent on finding a solution, any solution, to a desperate situation,” said Peer. “Their patients were dying on them, fast, and they had virtually no weapons in their arsenal. Prof. Zvi Cohen heard about my earlier nanoscale research and suggested using it as a basis for a novel mechanism with which to treat gliomas,” the cancers that originate in glial cells in the spine or brain, of which GBM is the most devastating.

Cohen had acted as the primary investigator in several glioma clinical trials over the last decade, in which new treatments were delivered surgically into gliomas or into the surrounding tissues following tumor removal.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: U.S. Navy/ I-CORE

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Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Using DNA Nanotechnology, Israeli Scientists Develop The Future Of Flexible Display Screens]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37869 2015-04-19T10:13:01Z 2015-04-19T10:13:01Z

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Imagine an electronic screen that looks and feels like paper that could connect to your smartphone. You can shift your longer readings and video viewing to this bendable screen, then roll it up and throw it in your bag when you arrive at your subway stop. This may sound like sci-fi, but Israeli researchers have actually found a way to develop such thin, flexible screens you can use on the go.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Gauzy Raises $4M To Turn Any Glass Surface Into A Screen

A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that a novel DNA nanotechnology could produce a structure that can be used to produce ultra-thin, flexible screens. The research team’s building blocks are three molecules they’ve synthesized, which later self-assembled into ordered structures. Essentially, the team has built the molecular backbone of a super-slim, bendable digital display. In the field of bio-nanotechnology, scientists utilize these molecular building blocks to develop cutting-edge technologies with properties not available for inorganic materials such as plastic and metal.

DNA

This could provide a solution to roughly 2 billion smartphone users who may not want the content they view to be confined to a pocket-sized screen. That’s because currently the size of smartphone screens makes it particularly hard to read more than a few hundred words at a time or watch videos without feeling like you’re on the tilt-a-whirl at Six Flags.

The number of people using mobile devices to view media is on the rise. According to Pew Research Center, 68 percent of smartphone owners use their phone occasionally to follow breaking news stories, and 33 percent do it frequently. Moreover, YouTube reports that 50 percent of its 4 billion video views per month are watched on a mobile device.

     SEE ALSO: CES 2015: The Best Of Israeli Tech

The structures formed by the researchers were found to emit light in every color, as opposed to other fluorescent materials that shine only in one specific color. Moreover, light emission was observed in response to electric voltage — which makes this technology a perfect candidate for display screens.

The TAU researchers, who recently published their findings in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology, are currently building a prototype of the screen and are in talks with major consumer electronics companies regarding the technology, which they’ve patented. “Our material is light, organic and environmentally friendly,” TAU’s Prof. Ehud Gazit said in a statement. “It is flexible, and its single layer emits the same range of light that requires several layers today.” Moreover, fewer layers are better for consumers, he says: “By using only one layer, you can minimize production costs dramatically, which will lead to lower prices.”

lg g flex

Back to the good old newspaper display? 

It’s important to mention that this technology is still in its early stages and a price tag for these screens remains unknown. What is clear, however, is that the desire to consume content on portable, large screens isn’t going away and consumer preferences are trending more and more toward bigger screens.

Ironically, people seem to be drawn back to the old newspaper display – thin, flexible, and capable of being rolled up; now, all of these features are turning digital.

Regardless of flexibility, the tendency to enlarge mobile screens was already evident last year. It is widely believed that sales of Apple and Samsung (500 million smartphone in 2014) were buoyed by their newest smartphone iterations which boast larger screens than past versions. Apple especially took note of this trend, releasing the iPhone 6 (4.7 inch screen) and iPhone 6 Plus (5.5 inches) simultaneously.

While this particular segment of the technology industry is changing daily, at this rate, you’ll be reading NoCamels on a bendy-screen sooner than you might think!

newspaper

Photos and video: LGU.S. Army RDECOM

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Times of Israel Staff <![CDATA[Consuming Dates And Pomegranates Each Day Can Keep Heart Problems Away]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37906 2015-04-16T13:05:13Z 2015-04-17T08:04:51Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

An Israeli study has linked regular consumption of pomegranate juice and dates to heart attack prevention.

Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have found that half a glass of juice a day, along with three dates, can bring about a significant reduction in therosclerosis — the accumulation of fatty cells in arteries which can cause heart attacks and strokes.

pomegranatesdatesrecipe

According to the study published recently in British scientific journal Food & Function, the scientists tested the effects of the fruits on mice as well as on arterial cells grown in the laboratory. They found that, used regularly, the combination of antioxidants contained within pomegranates and dates could lower cholesterol in the arteries by 28 percent.

     SEE ALSO: Study Shows Pomegranate Reduces Cholesterol And Prevents Heart Disease

The researchers said the combination of the different types of antioxidants contained within the two fruits gave the best results in their tests for fighting arterial blockage.

Professor Michael Aviram, who headed the research, noted that the highest concentration of antioxidants is actually contained in the date’s pits. He suggested grinding them up for consumption as well.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

Photos: Pomegranate juice and dates/ Recipe

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Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Virus Found in Sewage Can Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria, Study Shows]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37768 2015-04-16T13:23:52Z 2015-04-16T13:10:32Z

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Every year, drug-resistant bacteria kill 50,000 people in Europe and the US, and hundreds of thousands more around the world. But an Israeli research team has come up with the most surprising way to fight these bacteria – by infecting them with tiny viruses found in the Jerusalem sewer.

While over the past decades, medicine has advanced tremendously, it still has to tackle an increase in drug-resistant bacteria. That is, bacteria that has grown immune to antibiotics and mutated into pathogens that are much harder to treat.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Say Technique Can Neutralize Anti-Biotic Resistant Bacteria

Staphylococcus aureau bacteria

According to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, an academic group dedicated to tackling drug-resistant infections globally, if these infections are not properly addressed, they could cause up to 10 million deaths per year and cost up to $100 trillion by 2050.

But a research team from the Institute of Dental Sciences at the Hebrew University recently proposed a way to fight one of these tricky illnesses. Led by Dr. Ronen Hazan and Dr. Nurit Beyth, the researchers focused on ways to kill one such pathogen known as Enteroccus Faecalis.

The E. Faecalis pathogen is a mutation of a bacterium that inhabits gastrointestinal tracts in humans, and can cause a wide range of diseases such as endocarditis (potentially fatal heart infections), bacterermia (harmful bacteria in the bloodstream), urinary tract infections, meningitis, post-treatment root canal infections, and more.

dentist

While root canal infections may seem like the least of your worries on that list, roughly 20-33 percent of all root canal work entails infections that contain the E. Faecalis pathogen. This is mainly due to the presence of a “sticky” bacterial cluster called biofilm, which is associated with root canal treatment and makes it hard to target the E. Faecalis.

So, how can the medical community better target these dangerous pathogens in biofilm? Typically through a relatively new technique called “phage therapy”, where instead of antibiotics, Bacteriophages (essentially viruses that infect bacteria) are used to infect a pathogen and eventually kill it.

Oddly enough, it turns out that a specific phage, called EFDG1, which was retrieved from sewage effluents in a Jerusalem waste facility tested extremely well in killing E. Faecalis after root canal infections.

sewage cover

The research team conducted a number of experiments testing the efficacy of EFDG1 against E. Faecalis cells in biofilm (its most robust form). In all cases, EFDG1 was found to be highly effective against various forms of E. Faecalis regardless of their antibiotic resistance profile.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Researcher Discovers Protein That Could Replace Conventional Antibiotics And Kill Bacteria

This means that EFDG1 could effectively eradicate severe infection risks for roughly 33 percent of all root canal patients – definitely a good reason to smile!

Smiling Young Woman Drinking

Photos: NIAID

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Times of Israel Staff <![CDATA[Study Finds Getting Pregnant Has The Same Effect As Injecting A Youth Serum!]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37894 2015-04-16T09:36:43Z 2015-04-16T09:36:43Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

In addition to the joys of nausea, weight gain and fluctuating hormones, expecting mothers can now add “feeling younger and healthier” to the list of benefits that come with being pregnant.

According to a new Israeli study, pregnancy can have a “rejuvenating effect” on women and could slow down the aging process, especially in older women.

The pregnant woman in summer on grass

According to an article published in the scientific journal Fertility and Sterility cited by The Telegraph, medical researchers at Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem studied the effects of livers transplants in pregnant and non-pregnant mice, finding that in 96 percent of the older, pregnant rodents, the liver had regenerated within two days. This was compared with 82% of young, non-pregnant mice and 46% of older, non-pregnant one.

     SEE ALSO: Viral Infection During Pregnancy Can Trigger Diabetes In Babies, Study Finds

The study also found that the pregnancy protected the mice from tissue damage around the heart, which is part of the human aging process, and that pregnant mothers got an injection of “youth serum” from the babies they were carrying.

“As we age, it is more difficult for our tissue to regenerate itself,” the study found.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

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Daniel Asper, NoCamels <![CDATA[Worlds Colliding: New Israeli Study Solves Mystery Of Moon’s Origins]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37829 2015-04-15T14:09:51Z 2015-04-15T12:55:13Z

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For decades, scientists have been trying to understand how and when the moon was formed. Until now, the dominant theory has been that the moon was created roughly 4.5 billion years ago from the debris that came off the earth’s surface after it had collided with another small planet. This was the prevailing theory because most of the moon’s geological makeup is similar to Earth’s composition. Surprisingly, what makes the earth and the moon almost identical is actually the planet that collided with Earth called Theia, a groundbreaking study shows.

     SEE ALSO: Are We Alone In The Universe? Research Says Chances Of Advanced Alien Life Are Slim

The study, conducted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, suggests that the moon was formed out of the remnants of a small planet called Theia (“the impactor”), which hit Earth during a celestial collision. And, since Theia and Earth “grew up” in the same environment, they share many of the same materials.

moonlight

The research, which is based on complex computer simulations of such collisions, was recently published in the scientific journal Nature. It was conducted by Alessandra Mastrobuono-Battisti and Hagai Perets of the Technion, along with Sean Raymond of the University of Bordeaux. “It turns out that an impactor is not similar to any other random body in the solar system. The Earth and Theia appear to have shared much more similar environments during their growth than just any two unrelated bodies,” explains Mastrobuono-Battisti. “In other words, Theia and Earth were formed in the same region, and have therefore collected similar material. These similar living environments also led them eventually to collide; and the material ejected mostly from Theia, ultimately formed the moon.”

Technion study casts a long shadow on previous theories 

Over the past 30 years – and while astrophysicists have been grappling with the formation of the moon – the accepted theory has been the “giant impact hypothesis” (also known as the Big Splash or The Theia Impact), whereby the moon was formed out of the debris left over from an indirect collision between the earth and an astronomical body the size of Mars called Theia approximately 4.5 billion years ago.

     SEE ALSO: What’s With The Crazy Weather On Uranus And Neptune?

Now, the revolutionary Technion study casts a long shadow on the “giant impact” model, showing that a greater percentage of these “impactors” actually matched Earth’s composition. “Our results reconcile what has been perceived as a contradiction between the process whereby moons are formed (from matter from the impacting body) and the similarity between Earth and the moon,” Mastrobuono-Battisti said in a statement. Perets adds: “The earth and the moon might not be twins born of the same body, but they did grow up together in the same neighborhood.”

So, it looks like the age-old mystery of the moon, which has fascinated humankind since the earliest days of history, has been solved; now, children won’t have to ask their parents whether the moon is made of cheese!

Swiss cheese

Photos: NASATechnion, AudreyNational Cancer Institute

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Jordana Wolf and Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[A Year On, SCiO Is On Its Way To Revolutionizing Our Interaction With The Physical World]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37816 2015-04-15T07:34:16Z 2015-04-14T12:29:57Z

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A year ago, Tel Aviv-based company Consumer Physics shattered all expectations with the launch of its cutting edge pocket spectrometer named SCiO.

A USB-sized device that can read and analyze the molecular composition of any physical object, SCiO raised $2.8 million on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, well surpassing its initial request for a measly $200,000. “We didn’t expect such a huge and wonderful result,” Dror Sharon, cofounder of Consumer Physics, which is behing SCiO, tells NoCamels, “Frankly we didn’t know what to expect. We thought this product would appeal to the geeks of the world but it seems there are many more people that this product resonates with.”

Now as the device is set to be shipped to its initial backers this summer, Sharon conveys the company’s goal of creating what could be called an encyclopedia of the physical world, “Every day we Google the things we want to know, but we can’t Google the physical stuff around us.  SCiO’s goal in this endeavor is to enable as many users to create what will eventually become a large database of elements from the physical world.”

scioapple

Delivering on their promise

For those readers without a degree in physics, SCiO is basically a tiny spectrometer, a device that measures the intensity of physical elements. These readings can then be classified into more useful molecular information about the object in front of you, like for example the number of calories, sugar, carbohydrates, proteins in your meal; or the freshness of your apple; or the water levels of your plant.

“This device makes it simple to find out exactly what you are eating or what you’re about to buy. It’ll be as easy as taking a photo, uploading it to your smartphone and sharing it with your friends,” says Sharon of potential real-world applications for his product that syncs with an available Apple and Android app that keeps track of what users scan.

     SEE ALSO: SCiO: This Unbelievable Device Will Change The Way We Interact With The World

Ask any scientist or science fiction fan and they will tell you that making a mini spectrometer is an impressive feat, which is why the team at Consumer Physics remains focused on delivering their promise, shipping out the initial versions of the SCiO spectrometer ordered over Kickstarter this summer.

scio-kickstarter

According to Sharon, there aren’t any new features in the works as of yet and instead the funds raised in the Kickstarter campaign are being used to redesign a more robust product that can be manufactured in high volumes. In addition, Consumer Physics will come out with a protective cover to safeguard the optical sensor used to scan items.

You can already get your hands on SCiO

Dror

Dror Sharon, CHO, Consumer Physics

One of the downsides that wildly successful crowdfunding campaigns often face after funding is that of course, they must deliver, and in the case of SCiO, in big numbers. Sharon reports that this stage peeling off (relatively) without a hitch, which means that Consumer Physics is probably doing a good job of figuring out how to properly divide their crowd-derived funds between production, shipping, and development. However, it’s worth noting that CrunchBase and other sources report that Consumer Physics had about $4 million in funding even before its campaign on Kickstarter, That initial funding had come from equity crowfunding firm OurCrowd; from Dov Moran, the inventor of the flash drive; from Khosla Ventures and others. And then in August, just a couple of months after the Kickstarter campaign closed, Consumer Physics raised an additional $10.5 million in venture capital that is a further boost in getting their product out on time.

Part of the product’s success is due to its seamless and intuitive user experience.  Training takes just three seconds: pair SCiO to your phone, point it towards an object, and press the button. Moments later, SCiO can analyze the chemical makeup of any physical object, send the data up to the cloud and send its assessment right back to you.

“We want to deliver a magical experience that people find useful,” says Sharon. “If it doesn’t help solve problems, make life easier or bring value and joy into their lives than it wont matter.”

     SEE ALSO: After Thousands Of Years Of Stitching, Israelis Invent New Wound Closure Method

Now SCiO, priced at $249.00, and its developer and education kits are available for pre-orders on the company’s website, a quick turn-over time for a gadget that has only been around for a year. With well over 13,000 SCiOs ordered so far, design work and software development are still being finalized to ensure an excellent customer experience. “We are doing everything that we can to debunk the system and product. To launch without any bugs is rare, but we will do as much as humanly possible to fix every bug and every issue that arises with the technology,” Sharon contends.

Just pair, point, and press

The founders of SCiO have essentially made an entire realm of complex knowledge, i.e. molecular biology, available to the masses. Currently it only has one rival in the field, a Canadian company called TellSpec that uses similar spectrometer technology to scan the chemical composition of food, but that’s where the similarities end.

Sharon explains that SCiO is really about the endless possibilities of life under a spectrometer. “We are not focused on a specific application, rather we are enabling other developers to create unique ways to use this technology.” Eventually the company hopes to adorn every smartphone with a miniaturized version of SCiO so that users can readily scan items and add to the growing database of molecular knowledge.

Photos: Courtesy

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Cancer Breakthrough: Israeli Researchers Discover Cancer Suppressing Proteins]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37830 2015-04-14T09:05:38Z 2015-04-14T09:05:38Z

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This article was first published on The Times of Israel and was re-posted with permission.

A team of Israeli researchers at the Technion has discovered two proteins that can suppress cancer and control the cells’ growth and development.

The study was conducted in the laboratory of Prof. Aaron Ciechanover, an Israeli Nobel-prize winner in chemistry, and led by Dr. Yelena Kravtsova-Ivantsiv. The team included research students and physicians from the Rambam, Carmel and Hadassah Medical Centers.

chechanover

Nobel laureate Aaron Chechanover

In a paper published in the journal Cell last week, the researchers showed how the proteins could repress cancerous tissues and detailed how a high concentration of a protein called KPC1 and another called p50 in the tissue can protect it from cancerous tumors.

     SEE ALSO: To Stop Cancer From Spreading, Shoot The Messenger

The research also detailed how the ubiquitin process — a cell system responsible for breaking down damaged proteins that can harm cells and tissues and co-discovered by Ciechanover, for which he won the Nobel — has a role in the mechanism.

The study was done on human tumors grown in mice, and samples of human tumors.

To continue reading this article on the TOI site, click here.

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Andrey Kastelmacher, NoCamels <![CDATA[Vast Solar Roof Makes Israeli Knesset World’s Greenest Parliament]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37784 2015-04-16T13:45:38Z 2015-04-13T10:18:50Z

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The Israeli parliament, or Knesset, is about to become the “greenest” parliament in the world thanks to the recent installation of a vast solar farm on the roof of the Knesset building in Jerusalem.

The recently unveiled 4,650-square-meter solar field consists of 1,406 photovoltaic panels, which will provide 450 kilowatts of energy. Along with additional energy-saving initiatives that were launched in 2014, the project is expected to reduce the Knesset’s energy consumption by a third by the end of 2015.

     SEE ALSO: Meet Seven Israeli Alternative-Energy Companies With Solutions To Fuel The Future

Knesset - solar roof

The new solar farm – which will absorb an abundance of sunlight thanks to Israel’s warm climate – is expected to generate most of the building’s electricity, including power for heating and air conditioning. “We are very proud to turn the Knesset into the greenest parliament in the world,” Knesset Director-General Ronen Plot said in a statement. The Knesset’s newest solar panel installation will make the German Bundestag the second-greenest parliament in the world.

The solar panel installation is part of a larger project called “Green Knesset”. The goal of this multi-year project is to convert the Knesset into a legislative branch that is guided in its conduct by the concept of sustainability. It consists of 13 initiatives focusing on saving water and energy. The Knesset will invest $1.75 million in these initiatives, and the average return from saving energy and water is estimated at $500,000 a year within five years.

     SEE ALSO: How Going Solar Can Earn You Some Extra Income

From their eco-friendly, sustainable house of representatives, the newly elected members of the Israeli parliament can now set an example for the rest of the country. The Green Knesset project includes the digitization of documents, switching to LED lamps, using fewer power-guzzling appliances, and more. “It is a true revolution,” Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said in a statement.

The Knesset joins a host of other organizations that are in part or wholly self-sufficient in terms of energy, such as Walmart and Ikea. These corporations not only enjoy the economic benefits of going “green,” but they also improve their public image. Says Edelstein: “This saving of energy has far-reaching environmental implications, not only in the direct economic sense, but also in the sense that it will dramatically reduce the harm caused to the environment.”

Walmart California

Photos and video: Knesset, Walmart 

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Personal Assistant App 24me Among First To Be Featured On Apple Watch]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37797 2015-04-12T14:03:18Z 2015-04-12T14:03:18Z

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Since the newest addition to the Apple family, the Apple Smart Watch, was announced by company CEO Tim Cook in September, gadget geeks and fans around the world have patiently waited for this week to arrive. Now available for pre-ordering on the Apple website, the Apple Watch is (in Apple’s words) “an incredibly accurate timepiece, an intimate and immediate communication device and groundbreaking health and fitness companion.” The square smartwatch that tells you everything from the time, to the weather, and allows you to answer calls is also “highly customizable” according to the company, with one of the first apps available on the smartwatch being the Israel- created personal organizer 24me.

applewatchcover

Ready for use after the Apple Watch general release on April 24th, 24me’s smart personal assistant application will give you access to your calendar, to-do lists and personal accounts at the comfort of your wrist. The Android and Apple application, which was voted among the best apps of 2014 in Apple’s IStore, allows its users to better organize their tasks, calendar dates and accounts in one user-friendly planning app. And although Apple has touted the watch as a revolutionary fitness gadget, apps like 24me that allow you to gift friends and pay your bills on the go are helping make the Apple Watch a handy financial tool too.

     SEE ALSO: Meet The Israelis Behind The Wildly Successful ‘Pebble Time’ Smartwatch

24me

24me isn’t the only source of Israeli pride being made available for the Apple Watch. Israeli-created email app TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) will release an Apple Watch version of its shortened email application, as well the momentarily viral messaging app Yo!, and Glide, a video messaging app with over 10 million US users. It seems that the latter two apps may have timed the release of their shortened messaging platforms for the release of Apple’s first piece of wearable technology. That said more complex applications like 24me, which allow users to carry out a number of different tasks in one application, had to change the appearance and function of their app in time for the Apple Watch release.

Looking forward, those apps that are able to take the simplified format of the Apple Watch and run with it will be then smartwatch victors, which is good news for 24me’s early app release amidst a plethora of efficiency and organization app choices. Most tech specs suggest that the bulk of the 20 Apple Watch models will sell out in the pre-order phase, meaning there won’t be many watches available for purchase in-store on April 24th, unless you plan on buying the 18-karat gold watch worth $10,000-$17,000.

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[To Stop Cancer From Spreading: Shoot The Messenger]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37647 2015-04-09T12:58:55Z 2015-04-09T08:30:03Z

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Humans need to communicate with each other in order to get things done – at work and at home. But so do the cells inside our bodies, which transmit messages from their outer walls to their inner nucleus. These messages prompt them to take immediate action. Now, it turns out that if cancerous cells don’t receive certain messages, the spread of cancer throughout the body can be halted. How? Israeli researchers have come up with a method of shutting off the overflow of information that creates cancerous mutations.

The average living cell must transmit a constant stream of messages quickly and efficiently from its outer walls to the inner nucleus, where most of the day-to-day “decisions” are made. But this rapid, long-distance communication system leaves itself open to mutations that can give rise to a “spam attack” that promotes cancer. Weizmann Institute scientists have identified a potential drug molecule that stops only cancerous cells (not healthy ones) from getting their “mail.”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Create ‘Trojan Horse’ Of Chemotherapy

Weizmann Institute’s Prof. Rony Seger and his team have proposed a new method of shutting off the overflow of information before it can get to the nucleus. Their method could be used to treat a number of different cancers, especially several that develop resistance to current treatments, and it might possibly induce fewer side effects than those treatments do. These findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

stop spam sign

“Spamming” the cell with “messages” leads to disastrous results 

There are 15 different pathways for transferring the cell’s main internal messaging (membrane-to-nucleus communication). Seger has identified a number of the proteins involved in these pathways, especially in one particular pathway, called the MAPK/ERK cascade, which is involved in cancer. Dysregulation of this pathway shows up in 85 percent of all cancer types. Following certain mutations, the message sent to the cell becomes “spam.” It gets sent over and over, flooding the nucleus’ “inbox.” The response to this “spam attack” can be disastrous; in the case of such messages as those to grow or divide, the result may be cancerous.

     SEE ALSO: New Israeli Cancer Vaccine Triggers Response In 90% Of Cancer Types

A crucial step in this pathway takes place when a molecule called ERK undergoes a transformation that enables it to pass through the membrane surrounding the nucleus. Seger has revelaed an entire, complex process that must occur for ERK to get its message across. Seger realized that an effective nuclear “spam filter” on the ERK pathway would involve blocking just this step, thus preventing specific ERK “messages” from getting into the nucleus. His team then designed a variety of small molecules to enter the cell and block the transfer of ERK molecules into the cell’s nucleus. Working with Dr. Michal Besser of the Sheba Medical Center, they grew cells from different cancers in culture and then added the different molecules to see which of them would best target ERK.
Leukemia

“The cancer disappeared within days and did not return”

The team identified one potential drug molecule that performed well, even causing many of the cancer cells to die. Seger says that the cancer cells become “addicted” to the constant flow of ERK signals, so adding a filter that cuts this signal off causes them to die. Importantly, this molecule did not affect normal cells, suggesting that it mainly targets the cancer process and therefore might have fewer side effects than the present chemotherapy drugs.While testing the treatment on lab mice, “the cancers disappeared within days and did not return,” Seger says.In addition, the fact that the molecules do not destroy the ERK but only stop it from entering the nucleus may be good news for healthy cells: The ERK can still send a “delivery receipt” back up the relay to the receptors, so they don’t try to resend the message. According to Seger, the method of designing small molecules that can get inside cells and stop certain messages before they become “spam” might be useful in treating other diseases in addition to cancer.

One of the cancers that the molecule eradicated in the experiments was melanoma, an often fatal cancer with few available treatments. The drugs currently used for melanoma usually work for a while and then the cancer becomes resistant to them. Seger envisions the new molecule being added to the drug regimen in rotation with others, so that resistance cannot develop. Says Seger: “All in all, the molecule was completely effective in eliminating a dozen of the cancers the team tested, and many others showed a decline, if not complete destruction, of the cancer cells.”

Photos: Dr. Richard Lee/National Cancer Institute

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Living It Up In Downtown Tel Aviv: 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Beer Mugs Discovered In Israel]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37729 2015-04-08T17:39:38Z 2015-04-08T11:16:15Z

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Contemporary Tel Aviv is known for its vibrant nightlife, which offers dozens of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. But a recent excavation mission shows that “the city that never sleeps” was already a party city in 3,000 BC!

     SEE ALSO: Oldest Human Skull Outside Of Africa Discovered In Israel

Evidence indicating the presence of an ancient Egyptian population from more than 5,000 years ago is being exposed these days in a site in Downtown Tel Aviv, where the Israel Antiquities Authority is salvaging artifacts prior to the construction of office buildings by a local company. Fragments of ancient pottery vessels used to prepare beer were discovered during these excavations.

A bowl dating to the Early Bronze Age (3500 BC)

“We found 17 pits in the excavations, which were used to store agricultural produce in the Early Bronze Age,” Israel Antiquities Authority’s Diego Barkan said in a statement. “Among the hundreds of pottery shreds that characterize the local culture, a number of fragments of large ceramic basins were discovered that were made in an Egyptian tradition and were used to prepare beer.”

Ancient brewery indicates that the Egyptian Empire stretched all the way to Tel Aviv

Beer was the national drink of Egypt in ancient times, and it was a basic commodity like bread. Beer was consumed by the entire population, regardless of age, gender or status. It was made from a mixture of barley and water that was partially baked and then left to ferment in the sun. Various fruit concentrates were added to this mixture in order to flavor the beer. The mixture was filtered in special vessels and was ready for use. Excavations conducted in the Nile Delta uncovered breweries that indicate beer was already being produced in the mid-fourth millennium BC.

     SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv Researchers Reveal Why Thriving Civilizations Perished 3,200 Years Ago In The Levant

In addition to the beer mugs and relics from what appears to be an ancient brewery, a bronze dagger and flint tools dating 6,000 years ago to the Chalcolithic period (the Copper Age) were also found at the site.

An ancient Egyptian artifact

According to Barkan, the vessels found in Downtown Tel Aviv were manufactured using organic materials in order to strengthen them, a method not customary in the local pottery industry. Vessels such as these were found in other Early Bronze Egyptian settlements.

“On the basis of previously conducted excavations in the region, we knew there is an Early Bronze Age site here, but this excavation is the first evidence we have of an Egyptian occupation in the center of Tel Aviv at that time,” Barkan says. “This is also the northernmost evidence we have of an Egyptian presence in the Early Bronze Age. Until now, we were only aware of an Egyptian presence in the Israeli Negev Desert… The northernmost point of Egyptian occupation was in Azor, just south of Tel Aviv.”

He jokingly adds that the Egyptians must have “also appreciated what the Tel Aviv region had to offer… They, too, knew how to enjoy a glass of beer, just as Tel Avivians do today.”

Tel Aviv

Photos: Yoli Shwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Teachers’ Gender Bias Discourages Girls From Pursuing Math, Science]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37210 2015-04-08T08:43:16Z 2015-04-08T08:35:11Z

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It’s a fact: Women are vastly underrepresented in the fields of computer science, engineering, and mathematics. But less clear are the trajectories — academic and otherwise — that lead young women toward other professions. Higher education has already opened the door to equal opportunities for women and minorities in the US — so is it possible that elementary school, as a new Tel Aviv University study suggests, is the critical juncture at which girls are discouraged from pursuing science and mathematics?

New research published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that elementary school teachers’ unconscious biases significantly influence female students’ academic choices later on. According to researchers Dr. Edith Sand and Prof. Victor Lavy, the classroom teacher’s unwitting prejudice is a key factor explaining the divergence of boys’ and girls’ academic preferences.

“It isn’t an issue of discrimination but of unconscious discouragement,” said Dr. Sand. “This discouragement, however, has implications. The track to computer science and engineering fields, which report some of the highest salaries, tapers off in elementary school.”

Taking the gender test

The research was carried out on three groups of students in Israel from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, the first graded by objective scorers who did not know their names and the second by instructors who did know them. In math, the girls outscored the boys in the test that was scored anonymously, but when graded by teachers who were familiar with their names, the boys outscored the girls. The effect was not the same for tests in non-math or science-related subjects.

      SEE ALSO: International Women’s Day: Are Women Equal In The Startup Nation?

girlchalkboard

The researchers concluded that, in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ skills and underestimated the girls’ abilities, and that this had long-term implications for students’ attitudes toward these subjects.

Opting out

“When the same students reached junior high and high school, we examined their performances in matriculation exams (‘Bagrut’ in Hebrew),” said Dr. Sand. “The boys who had been encouraged when they were younger performed significantly better than their female counterparts, though the latter had objectively scored higher at a younger age.”

     SEE ALSO: These 10 Female Israeli Tech Leaders Will Blow You Away

The researchers also monitored the advanced math and science courses that students chose to take in high school, concluding that the girls who had been discouraged by their elementary school teachers were much less likely than the boys to opt for advanced courses.

“If teachers take into account these effects, it could lead to a reduction of the gender gap in achievement, especially in science and math,” said Dr. Sand. “It is clear how important encouragement is for both boys and girls in all their subjects. Teachers play a critical role in lowering and raising the confidence levels of their students, which has serious implications for their futures.”

The research was conducted by Dr. Edith Sand, an economist at the Bank of Israel and an instructor at TAU’s Berglas School of Economics, and Prof. Victor Lavy, a professor at Hebrew University and University of Warwick in England.

Photos: BigStock

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