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.2015-03-01T15:40:04Z http://nocamels.com/feed/atom/WordPress NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israel’s Iconic Snack Bamba Prevents Peanut Allergies In Kids]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37060 2015-03-01T15:40:04Z 2015-03-01T15:27:27Z

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Parents of young children are usually very strict about not letting them eat peanut butter – or any other foods containing peanuts – because it is considered extremely allergenic, much like cow’s milk, which babies shouldn’t consume in the first year of their life. But now, a new study finds that contrary to pediatricians’ recommendations, giving children peanut-based foods early in life can actually protect them from allergies. Were Israeli parents right all along, giving toddlers Bamba, the widely popular peanut-flavored snack? Indeed, it might be the reason why peanut allergy is so rare in Israel.

Since Israeli children suffer from peanut allergies at only 10 percent of the rate of the Western world, researchers at King’s College London decided to conduct a study in which they introduced peanut-based foods to infants. According to the study, the prevalence of peanut allergy among children in Western countries has doubled in the past 10 years, and peanut allergy is becoming apparent in Africa and Asia. In the US, peanut allergies are present in 0.6 percent of the population (roughly 2 million Americans), according to the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The number is greater – about 2 percent – when it comes to children.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Identify Possible Root Of Allergies

peanut butter

Peanut allergy develops early in life, is rarely outgrown and there is currently no cure for it. Because so many foods contain peanuts, peanut oil or traces of peanuts, this allergy imposes a considerable burden, negatively impacting the quality of life of patients and their families.

Now, researchers show that the early introduction of peanuts (at the age of 11 months) significantly decreases peanut allergy. Dubbed LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy), the study was led by Prof. Gideon Lack of King’s College London and was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It is considered a breakthrough because it shows that consumption is actually an effective strategy to prevent food allergies, contradicting previous public health recommendations.

     SEE ALSO: For Babies Allergic To Cow’s Milk, Israelis Develop World’s First Vegetable-Based Formula

The LEAP study enrolled 640 children ages 4-11 months who were considered at high-risk of developing peanut allergy due to pre-existing severe eczema and/or egg allergy. Half of the children were asked to eat peanut-containing foods three or more times a week, and the other half to avoid eating peanuts until 5 years of age.

peanuts

Peanut avoidance significantly increases peanut allergy 

Remarkably, less than 1 percent of children who consumed peanuts developed peanut allergy by 5 years of age, while a whopping 17.3 percent in the avoidance group developed peanut allergy. Therefore, the early introduction of peanut-containing foods was found to be safe and well-tolerated (infants were not fed whole peanuts, which carry a risk of choking in young children); on the other hand, deliberate avoidance of peanuts in the first year of life was brought into question as a strategy to prevent allergy. “This is an important clinical development which contravenes previous guidelines,” Lack said in a statement. “Our study suggests that new guidelines may be needed to reduce the rate of peanut allergy in our children.”

Photos: Dan McKay, Nsaum75Martin L

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Apple CEO Tim Cook Visits Israel To Inaugurate Company’s Second-Largest R&D Center]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37047 2015-03-01T09:43:30Z 2015-03-01T09:43:30Z

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

With 700-plus direct employees in Israel, the Herzliya R&D center is Apple’s second-largest in the world, Apple CEO Tim Cook told local staff on Thursday.

And at a meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin a day earlier, the two leaders discussed not just the fact of Israel’s emergence as an important factor in the Apple ecosystem, but what the two entities had in common.

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

Tel Aviv - Office

Apple’s Herzliya R&D center

 

Cook, who was in Israel to inaugurate Apple’s new R&D center in Herzliya, touched on a number of major issues that concern both Israel and Apple — including environmental matters, education, diversity, and even Israeli Arabs.

That last issue was highlighted not by Cook himself, but by Johny Srouji, who accompanied his boss on the trip. Srouji — vice president for hardware technology — is an Israeli Arab who hails from Haifa. Before joining Apple in 2008 to head its chip-development team, Srouji worked at Intel and IBM, after graduating from the Technion.

     SEE ALSO: Samsung’s Only R&D Centers Outside S. Korea – In Israel

Cook speaking to Israeli employees

Cook speaking to Israeli employees

For Rivlin, Srouji’s ascent to one of the top tech positions in the world was a harbinger of what the government hopes will be a wave of similar accomplishments by people just like Srouji — Israeli Arabs educated in technology disciplines, working at the 300-some multinationals that have R&D and other facilities in Israel.

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

Photos: courtesy

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Tech Allows For Instant Cervical Cancer Readings In Third World Women]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=37031 2015-02-27T20:57:17Z 2015-02-27T20:57:17Z

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

An Israeli medical device to check for the presence of cervical cancer could be an important factor in reducing the rate of death from the disease in the developing world.

Biop Medical founder and CEO Ilan Landesman believes that his examination device — the only one that provides instant readings and results on whether a woman is suffering from cervical cancer — could be a boon to women everywhere, especially in places like Africa.

     SEE ALSO: MobileOCT: The Incredible Social Startup That Uses Mobile Phones To Detect Cervical Cancer In Third World Women

“The Biop device is perfect for any setting, especially for doctors and nurses in rural areas who don’t have — and can’t afford — the fancy equipment usually needed to test for cervical cancer,” said Landesman. “It’s a big-data solution that can replace traditional methods of examining for cervical cancer.”

developingworldwomen

Cervical cancer is the fourth-biggest cancer killer of women worldwide, but where in the world a woman lives is a very important factor in whether or not she will survive the disease. As with so many other major diseases, early detection is an important factor in cures. But the vast majority of women in the world do not have access to doctors to even begin the process of checking for cervical cancer — much less the numerous follow-up visits that are necessary.

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

Testing usually commences with a Pap smear, which involves collecting cells from the cervix for analysis. The cells are collected using a speculum and sent on for analysis, which could take several weeks, even in a Western urban hospital.

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

Photos: Biop Medical/ IAEA Imagebank

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Doctor Turns To Crowdfunding To Treat Three Year-Old Girl’s Rare Disease]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36774 2015-02-26T15:34:20Z 2015-02-26T15:34:20Z

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Rare diseases — those that affect fewer than one in 200,000 people — are often identified early in life. Sadly, some 30 percent of children afflicted by these “orphan diseases” do not live to see their fifth birthday. While the US Orphan Drug Act of 1983 was written into law to promote research on the topic, pharmaceutical companies unfortunately don’t see enough financial incentive to research rare diseases and the cost of identifying the source and progression of these diseases remains prohibitive for many families.

But there is hope for them in our Internet age. Researchers at Tel Aviv University recently concluded a successful experiment to identify a novel genetic mutation as the source of a specific rare disease, and their experiment was supported through crowdfunding — contributions from a large number of individuals over the Internet.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Analyze DNA Of Primitive Centipedes To Shed Light On Evolution

In the study, led by Dr. Noam Shomron , analysis of DNA sequencing of a three-year-old girl and her family revealed a novel mutation that causes mental retardation and severe developmental delays in children. According to Shomron, “By knowing a child’s DNA, you also unlock a family secret that can possibly reflect on cousins, siblings and so on. It goes around and around in a circle — who else is carrying this gene?”

A roadmap to hope

The study harnessed whole exome sequencing (WES) to identify the genetic cause of a three-year-old girl’s involuntary eye movements, small-sized head, involuntary muscle contraction, developmental delay, and progressive neurological decline. The patient had a healthy brother and there was no recent family history of neurological disorders. Although she had smiled at six weeks, laughed at three months, and reached for toys at four months, over the next two years her motor functions had degenerated and she was unable to produce words. She could neither sit nor stand unassisted and she walked only with aids. At the age of 33 months, there was no progress. Extensive medical testing produced no answers. Desperate to understand what was happening to their daughter, the parents sought answers through genetic sequencing.

DNA code analysis

“Parents look to comprehensive genetic analysis, like the one we carried out, when they don’t know where else to look,” said Dr. Shomron. “They are desperate to understand why their children are sick, and the medical community is challenged to identify the source of the suffering. By travelling through the complete human genome, we are able to locate, map, and analyze mutations involved in triggering certain rare diseases.”

The power of the crowd

However, because WES costs around $1,500 per individual, and the DNA of the patient and her parents had to be sequenced as well, the price of the project came to $4,500. Due to the high expense, Dr. Shomron sought to raise the necessary funds from individual donors over the Internet. The platform they used was that of Rare Genomics Institute, which specializes in this kind of fundraising in the US. Dr. Shomron opened the Israeli branch of RGI to cater to the local rare genetic mutation population.

“Crowdfunding provides the means for economically disadvantaged patients to pursue a genetic diagnosis for their ailment. Our project reached its financial goal of $5,000 within 50 days. We were pleased, to say the least. Crowdfunding is a simple and efficient solution for families with rare genetic diseases who lack private or outside funding sources.”

     SEE ALSO: Gene Mutation Linked To People Born Without Fingerprints

“How does it help to know?” said Dr. Shomron. “It’s the missing piece of the genetic puzzle, eliminating from the picture all other diseases that are known to cause death at an early age and allowing the parents to connect with families with similar problems or mutations to build a lifelong support network. The parents can connect with scientists working in the field to learn about advancements. In some cases, a change in lifestyle, drug therapy, and physiotherapy can help their child’s situation. Finally, by knowing what to look for, the parents can feel free to have more children as long as they screen for the identified mutation.”

Dr. Shomron is continuing his research on genetic mutations to help other families struggling with rare diseases.

Dr. Noam Shomron is part of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine. Research for the study was conducted by TAU doctoral student Ofer Isakov together with Dr. Dorit Lev and Dr. Esther Lishinsky of Wolfson Medical Center and was recently published in the “Journal of Genetics and Genomics.”

Photos: OliverThomas Anthony Zampetti

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Alexander Ronen, NoCamels <![CDATA[Your Smartphone’s Battery Use Can Help Spies Follow You…]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36934 2015-02-25T14:51:47Z 2015-02-25T14:38:52Z

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Thought your smartphone’s GPS is the only way for others to track your movements…? Think again. An alarming new study shows that information about the geolocation of Android phones can be retrieved simply by tracking your phone’s energy consumption over time – no GPS needed. Creepy? We thought so.

In other words, even if you turn your cellular data off, it is still possible for someone to track you, or spy on your moves, according to a study by researchers at Israeli defense technology company Rafael and Stanford University. The researchers dubbed this alternative positioning system “PowerSpy” and warned about the dangers of carrying a smartphone.

     SEE ALSO: Trendit: Mapping Population Movements Through Mobile Signals

woman on cell phone

How does it work? Basically, a smartphone needs more power if it’s farther from a cell tower, and less energy when it’s closer to the tower. Collecting and analyzing this information helps researchers – or spies – to determine your location.

The researchers showed that even when the GPS on a phone is turned off, they could track it by collecting and analyzing the phone’s power use over time. Neither Wi-Fi connectivity nor cellular data were needed (as opposed to traditional tracking methods using cell towers). They did so by analyzing two innocuous-seeming files that check the battery’s voltage and current levels – files that are accessed by more than 150 applications in the Google Play Store.

A main cause of battery depletion is radio transmissions to a cell tower in its area. The researchers used the data stored in this cell towers and another study – demonstrating how a mobile phone uses more energy when its signal strength is weaker – to develop a “power profile” for a specific phone model (a Nexus 4) as it moved along a pre-defined route in a city. Overall, the researchers had a 90 percent success rate in tracking the phones; in an area with a greater concentration of cell towers, the rate went down to 78 percent.

StoreDot's Organic Technology Can Charge A Phone In 30 Seconds!

Taking their experiment one step further, the researchers tested if PowerSpy could successfully track a smartphone, in real-time, along an unknown path. The algorithms broke up the phone’s power profile on defined roads into smaller segments, and then matched the phone’s real-time power data to string different segment profiles together. On a Nexus 4 running only a few apps, the phone was successfully tracked two-thirds of the time.

However, when PowerSpy was tested on a phone running many applications, its ability to exactly track the phone path went down to 20 percent, suggesting some limitations when phone use is heavy, but “considerably better than a random guess”, the authors of the paper note.

     SEE ALSO: Mossad: Use Your Smartphone To Become A Spy

hacker

“Effectively devastate the concept of privacy”

“Although currently severely constrained by technological and practical limitations, the eventual potential ability to use what is essentially an unmonitored sensor (i.e., the battery) to avoid outing the software through the Android’s security–minded permissions system creates a real, albeit not novel, privacy concern,” Dov Greenbaum, head of The Zvi Meitar Institute for Legal Implications of Emerging Technologies at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center, tells NoCamels. “More of a canary in a coalmine, as the Internet of Things (IoT) hurdles towards 50 billion online interconnected devices, apps like PowerSpy serve to highlight how, if wholly unregulated, the IoT will effectively devastate the concept of privacy as we know it.”

This Stanford-Rafael study joins a growing body of network security studies that show how the sensors in our smartphone can furtively be used to compromise our privacy. How can we protect ourselves from unwanted spying? Smartphone owners may add power consumption data to the list of functions that require user permission, and also notify the user of the privacy risks involved.

Photos: MirkuzDavide Restivo

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Tel Aviv, Austin, San Francisco Are World’s Most Tech-Friendly Cities]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36983 2015-02-25T14:16:18Z 2015-02-25T13:50:09Z

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For startup companies looking to grow and thrive, there are a handful of cities that provide just the right environment, one that’s technology-friendly but also provides a vibrant urban experience.

According to real estate firm Savills; Austin, San Francisco and Tel Aviv top the list of great cities for tech companies, “proving that small cities are big hitters on the global stage,” according to the report released Wednesday.

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

Rounding up the top five list are New York City and Stockholm; next on the list are London, Singapore, Dublin, Berlin, Hong Kong, Seoul and Mumbai.

San Francisco

The Savills Tech Cities Report aims to understand the many diverse drivers that make good cities for the tech sector. The firm has identified the 12 global centers at the forefront of tech by determining that they “all have thriving and growing tech industries, and are at the top of global shopping lists for tech companies looking for space in which to locate,” Savills researchers said in a statement.

Human capital is key

Savills considers access to human capital a key driver in locating tech firms. “Vibrant cities are where the talent wants to live and work,” according to the firm. Other factors in the report include access to venture capital and housing quality.

The firm also found that while the large global centers come up strong for business environment – New York, Singapore and London lead mainly thanks to their good regulatory environment – Asian centers dominate when looking at the tech environment.

     SEE ALSOFrom Kibbutz To Empire: WeWork Building $5 Billion Global Startup Community

It is interesting to note that smaller cities such as Austin, Dublin and Berlin rank highest in providing affordable accommodation, a lesser level of pollution and access to restaurants. In fact, smaller cities give residents shorter commute times (the average commute for tech cities’ employees is 31 minutes), accessibly by bike, and a better work/life balance.

Austin

Rent is cheaper in Mumbai

Combining office and residential costs, Savills found Mumbai to be the most affordable at $18.6 per square foot, while office rents in Singapore, London and Hong Kong sore above $85 per square foot.

“In today’s world, it is fundamental that companies look closely at how they retain their existing talent pool, attract new talent and keep themselves ahead, in what is an increasingly competitive employment market,” Jon Hutt, head of corporate real estate at Savills UK, said in a statement. “The nature of their space, the areas in which they locate, the quality of life that they can offer their teams and the access they have to talent, as they grow, significantly outweigh saving a few dollars on rent. This applies to all companies but for the tech community in particular it is crucial.”

Savills 12 Tech Cities

Photos and infographics: Ronsho, Justin Kern, The Wandering Angel , Anne Worner, Savills

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[‘Exploding Kittens’ Card Game Literally Explodes On Kickstarter With $8.8M Campaign]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36951 2015-02-24T15:26:43Z 2015-02-24T14:56:28Z

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Exploding kittens, bear-o-dactyls and pig-a-corns; no, these aren’t the names of rare species you’ve never heard of and animal rights activists aren’t freaking out. These are some of the characters in the “Exploding Kittens” card game that raised a whopping $8.8 million in its recent Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, making it the third most successful mass-funding campaign ever. The creative card game, which asking players to avoid exploding kittens in a game that’s similar to Russian Roulette, is the brainchild of former gaming exec Shane Small, Elan Lee, the former Chief Design Officer for Xbox, and “Oatmeal” founder Matthew Inman.

explodingkittenscards

“Exploding Kittens” raised its initial $10,000 funding goal in its first day on Kickstarter and, according to the international crowdfunding platform, has the most backers in the history of the site, 219,392 backers to be precise, beating out the children’s literacy campaign “Reading Rainbow” that held the record with 105,857 backers. According to an update on the site, the founders were completely surprised by the huge showing of funders for the quirky game, stating: “On the very first day of this campaign, we hit our funding goal. That was a big deal, But after that, the campaign stopped being about money, and started being about a community.”

     SEE ALSO: After Waze And Mobileye, Israelis Now Reinvent… The Deodorant.

 

Avoid the exploding kittens

The game itself is similar in its structure to Russian Roulette – the players take turns drawing cards until a player draws an exploding kitten and is eliminated from the game. In order to avoid the imminent and violent death of an innocent kitten, the game has “defuse” cards that allow you to distract the kitten from exploding with things like laser pointers, kitten therapy and catnip sandwiches. In addition, there are a number of strategic cards that allow players to attack others, peek at the deck and secretly relocate or skip a turn (similar to the ‘wild cards’ in “Uno”). In order to attack another player, you can play a bear-o-dactyl card or “deploy thousand-year back hair,” to see the deck you can feast on a unicorn enchilada or rub a belly of a unicorn pig (a pig-a-corn), and you can re-shuffle the deck by releasing a massive plague of bat farts.

otherexplodingcards

There is no shortage of imagination in the minds of the creators of this card game, from the names of the characters themselves to the fun cartoons that will remind you of childhood, and the structure of the game seems perfect for all ages. The creators are also selling a NSFW (which stands for ‘not safe for work’) version that contains images too violent to be considered kid-friendly. The regular game sells for $20 apiece, with free shipping in the US, and, together with the NSFW version, $35. The collectors’ additions sold out quickly, but the standard and NSFW games are available for sale on the company’s website. This may be one of the few crowdfunding campaigns that sees a big peak in interest after the crowdfunding buzz dies down, because of the accessible price and the one-of-a-kind design that could change the way we think about the archaic institution of card games.

     SEE ALSO: Look Again: This Israeli Kickstarter Campaign Has Less Depth Than You Think

Though the majority of the current generation will never play a game of “War” or “Go Fish” due to the overabundance of digital games, “Exploding Kittens” is a great reminder that sometimes the best social interactions don’t involve a computer screen.

Photos: Exploding Kittens

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Quest For The Perfect Veggie: Israelis Create Enhanced Strains Of Fruit And Veg]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36798 2015-02-23T12:58:28Z 2015-02-23T12:23:45Z

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From grape tomatoes to chickpeas that don’t cause flatulence, a range of vegetables and fruits never seen – or tasted – before were developed by Israeli scientists and farmers in recent years. Whether it’s a sweeter strawberry, basil with longer shelf life, nano-watermelon or the combination of grapefruit and pomelo called pomelit, Israeli fruit hybrids are taking the world by storm.

The purposes of modifying fruits and vegetables are many: changing their shapes so they can be packaged better or become finger food at parties, prolonging their shelf life, so they can be exported from Israel to markets worldwide, or combining their traits, so that the consumer will enjoy the best of all worlds. Some of these modern fruits and vegetables have become a hit in Europe, Israel’s main agricultural market.

     SEE ALSO: Buy Your Food Straight From The Local Farmers With Farmigo

Annually, Israeli agricultural exports top $3.8 billion, of them $1.4 billion in fresh fruits, and vegetables, according the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Israel exports roughly $1 billion worth of fresh fruits and vegetables a year to the European Union, which is by far its largest market, followed by Russia ($227 million) and the US ($78 million).

fruits

The new frontier in fresh fruit and veg

Contrary to popular belief, Israel – which is famous for its Jaffa oranges – exports more fresh vegetables than citrus fruits to the world: $530.5 million worth of vegetables vs. $187.3 million worth of citrus fruits were exported last year. Non-citrus fruits exported from Israel account for $309 million, followed by $180 million worth of flowers, $148 million worth of seeds and some $38 million in cotton. Fresh meat exports are valued at $40 million a year.

Most Israeli strains are a product of Israeli research. Much of the Israeli research on fruits and vegetables takes place at the Volcani Center’s Agricultural Research Organization (ARO) and at the Hebrew University Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment. The research focuses on improving the crops and produce. However, “what interests buyers the most are: shelf life, shape and resistance to foodborne illnesses and other diseases,” Prof. Nativ Dudai, head of the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Unit at ARO, tells NoCamels. “Aroma and flavor are less important, unfortunately, although I personally am adamant about fresh herbs’ aroma and taste.”

Over the past several decades, aroma and flavor have eroded, and “the scientists are being blamed for not dealing with that,” he says. “The problem is that most scientists work for farmers, growers and governments, and they have limited budgets. I’ve been evangelizing flavor and aroma for 15 years and usually people chuckle when I talk.”

That’s because the market couldn’t care less, Dudai says. “Buyers don’t often complain about flavor and aroma, they care about pesticides, shelf life and shape.” However, “ugly fruits and vegetables often have the same or even better qualities than those with nicer shapes,” he observes.

Dudai and his team are currently working on fresh basil, oregano and rosemary strains that are resistant to diseases and grow year-round, mainly for the European markets. “But we still emphasize aroma, flavor, antioxidants and additional health benefits,” he exclaims.

basil

The ARO team combines two strains of oregano to perfect its taste and shelf life, through the process of plant breeding. “If I take oregano grown in Israel and oregano from Europe, their offspring might have better qualities. It’s similar to a child who’s taller than his parents,” Dudai explains. “As a result, our new, fresh oregano hybrid (a cross between the biblical Hyssop, or Za’atar, and the European oregano) doesn’t go brown over time. It’s the new frontier in fresh herbs.”

According to an ARO report, exports of herbs top $2 billion a year. But there’s more to Israeli food hybrids than herbs. In recent years, a host of new produce strains and hybrids – which have a better taste, fewer seeds, or different shapes and colors – were introduced to global markets.

Dr. Pepper and Prof. Tomato

Grape tomatoes, which look a lot like a cluster of grapes, were developed in recent years by Prof. Haim Rabinowitch and his research team at the Hebrew University. Grape tomatoes have become so popular, that they now account for nearly 10 percent of all tomatoes marketed in Europe. Rabinowitch, who along with colleague Prof. Nachum Kedar, also perfected the cherry tomato in the 90s (by significantly increasing its shelf life), is considered a tomato guru both in Israel and abroad.

tomato cluster

Rabinowitch attributes the global success of Israeli produce strains to two factors: Israelis’ abilities to grow a range of fruits and vegetables year-round in arid areas; and its technologically advanced agricultural research.

“In most areas of Israel, climate conditions are desert-like and farmers use water from the sea for irrigation, which improves the flavor of fruits and vegetables,” Rabinowitch tells NoCamels. “In Israel, we enjoy local fruits and vegetables year-round, without having to import. That’s because we’ve learned to use our various climates – from the arid Negev Desert, through the Dead Sea area which is virtually tropical, to our California-like coastline, all the way to the Galilee mountains. There’s no other small country in the world that maximizes the use of its natural resources like Israel.”

     SEE ALSO: Genetically Modified Plants To Resist Intense Drought

As for the local agricultural research, Rabinowitch says there’s much room for creativity in designing new strains, despite the limited budgets. In his opinion, some of the greatest Israeli developments in this field are seedless cucumbers, seedless personal watermelons (“which have become a hit in the US”), Pomelit (grapefruit-pomelo hybrid), and the new Orr clementine, “which is small, sweet, easy to peel and is very popular around the world now,” Rabinowitch says.

Pomelit

But vegetable hybrids are not only easier to consume, they also have health benefits. Take for example the chocolate-colored pepper, one of the newest strains developed by the Dr. Yonatan Elkind, whom we fondly dub the Israeli “Dr. Pepper.” Elkind, a professor at the Hebrew University, has been on the forefront of pepper research, and his latest hybrid, developed with Kibbutz Ein Yahav’s farmers, combines all the good of both green and red peppers grown in Israel.

When the pepper is ripe and turns from green to red, its chlorophyll (green pigment) becomes carotenoid (natural red pigment). In the hybrid pepper, both coexist, thus preserving the nutrients and vitamins of the carotenoid (some of which help fight cancer) and the anti-bacterial and antifungal properties of the chlorophyll. So why eat green and red peppers separately, when you can have the two-in-one experience?

What’s the next step for Israeli research? Perhaps square-shaped tomatoes? “Israelis have already grown square tomatoes, which are easier to package and ship,” Rabinowitch says. “But at the end of the day, people want round tomatoes.”

Photos: John Tornow, Maya83, Amanda Slater, Yot, Ionutzmovie

Video courtesy of Volcani Center

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Jonathan Neff, NoCamels <![CDATA[nFrnds And Microsoft Aim To Turn 5 Billion ‘Dumb’ Phones Into Smartphones]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36696 2015-02-23T11:32:21Z 2015-02-22T15:21:13Z

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There are 6.8 billion active mobile phones on earth, but less than a quarter of them are smartphones, according to the United Nations Telecommunication Union. The rest – roughly 5 billion devices – are simple mobile phones, with no email or web browser, not to mention other mobile applications. Now, millions of ‘dumb’ phones are about to get a facelift that will make them infinitely smarter.

nFrnds, originally founded in Israel as VascoDe Technologies, has developed a solution that enables people with any type of mobile phone to connect with the digital world. nFrnds, which last year partnered with Microsoft on cloud computing, digitally connects those who were previously disconnected from the digital world.

Without using mobile data like a typical smartphone, a simple phone equipped with nFrnds’ mobile “operating system” is able to use several different “apps,” such as email, chat and Wikipedia. Since the service does not require mobile data, accessibility is wide. “We are trying to connect the unconnected,” Dorron Mottes, CEO of nFrnds, tells NoCamels.

Teaming up with mobile operators in 20 African countries

VascoDe platform

Users of nFrnds’ platform pay only $1 a month, which makes it affordable for clients in emerging markets. nFrnds first launched in Africa under the name VascoDe in 2009, and has spread to Southeast Asia over the past year. Currently, the company is working with local mobile operators in roughly 20 countries in Africa.

The process is simple. nFrnds teams up with local service providers which help deliver the platform to phones over their network. nFrnds then splits the monthly service fee with the cellular provider. With no installation needed on a user’s phone, the platform is ideal for areas without easy access to the Internet.

The platform that nFrnds uses is called USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), which works by letting users send and receive information from their simple phones. USSD is a text-based platform, much like SMS, which simple mobile phones are capable of processing. The company has developed many apps for this platform – such as My Friends (group chat), Email, Wikipedia and mAgri (for farmers) – that are accessible on simple phones, which outnumber smartphones almost four to one across the globe.

     SEE ALSO: Hoozin: Taking Group Messaging To the Next Level

mAgri, for example, is a “dumb” phone solution for agriculture management. “We provide farmers with the most important digital interactions they need,” Mottes says. Farmers are able to keep track of their crops and even use the platform as a marketplace to find customers.

nFrnds is currently working with end users and cell phone providers – in countries such as Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria – to decide what applications nFrnds can further develop. Over the past six years, nFrnds has provided its platform to hundreds of thousands of simple mobile phone users across Africa.

VascoDe workshop in Uganda

A workshop held by nFrnds in Uganda


Working with Microsoft to improve people’s lives 

nFrnds has partnered with software giant Microsoft to form a new platform that will enable the Israeli startup to expand its services more efficiently into new markets through Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, according to a Microsoft  statement. This strategic partnership also provides nFrnds with more market knowledge. nFrnds will begin making use of Microsoft’s cloud platform, Azure, in the coming months.

Officials from nFrnds regularly conduct lectures and workshops in Africa to train cellular phone users to use the company’s platform. In September of last year, for example, nFrnds, Microsoft and local innovation hub Buni, held a workshop in Tanzania to showcase cellular solutions that could improve people’s lives. “In Tanzania, unfortunately, there are many problems. Just choose one problem, provide a solution, and you will be very successful,” Jumanne Mtambalike, Buni’s co-manager, said in a statement.

Apparently, nFrnds could tap into a huge market. With the company’s further expansion into Southeast Asia in countries like Indonesia, Mottes hopes to reach one million users this year.

SEE ALSO:
 Award-Winning NGO Brings Israeli Innovation To Africa

Photos and video courtesy of VascoDe Technologies

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Faces Of The Startup Nation: Q&A With Startup ‘Gardener’ Roy Povarchik]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36893 2015-02-22T13:55:21Z 2015-02-22T13:53:21Z

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Roy Povarchik, 28, runs a growth hacking and content marketing agency that helps young startups, “build communities in the digital age”. He has worked with companies like PowToon and has ‘hacked’ the world of social media and online promotion. As part of his passion for growing startups, Roy is also a passionate blogger, with a number of his posts featured in noteworthy publications like “FastCompany,” “The Next Web” and more.

Who is your biggest inspiration? I actually have two major inspirations – Steve Jobs and Tom Waits. Steve Jobs is a big inspiration both for his strong empathy skills and the fact that he started from nothing. Jobs was able to create amazing products because he had an inherent ability to really understand people’s needs and behaviors. He knew what he wanted you to feel and knew how to get you there emotionally. My other inspiration is singer-songwriter Tom Waits. Aside from being the master of showmanship and brand building, I feel very close to Waits and his passions of staying close to the dirt. Creating something  beautiful from the most bizarre situations, personas and opportunities.  You always have to go back to the basics. Embrace the dirt and the soil – they are the most beautiful parts of life.

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What were your first steps into the business world? When I was ten-years-old, I would offer to iron neighbors’ and family member’s clothes for money. I think I had reasonable prices.

Who is the one person, past or present, that you’d love to have dinner with? Steve Jobs on the day of his return to Apple in 1997.

Falafel or shawarma? Shawarma.

If you were a selfie, what would you look like? 

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What is your homepage? Producthunt.com or Growthhackers.com depends on the day.

What’s your hidden talent? Wasting time on finding productivity hacks. See what I did there?

Who was your first celebrity crush? The cinematic version of Jim Morrison in ‘The Doors’ movie.

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Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in ‘The Doors’.

What are you totally addicted to? My Wife. Work. Alcohol. Music.

What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Starting my own business when I was 21 with no real previous experience.

Bar Refaeli or Gal Gadot? Did my wife ask you to ask this question? I would have to say Bar Refaeli.

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. I love ‘Family Guy’, and lets face it, without Star Wars, Family Guy wouldn’t have as many episodes.

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If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be? I think I’d be a writer. I’m really passionate about writing. I actually almost published a book once. I was 19 years old at the time.

Tel Aviv or New York? Tel Aviv. It’s interesting enough to be international but small enough to feel like home.

If you could be a movie character, who would you be? Johnny Depp in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.’

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What is the best advice you ever got from your parents? Do what you love.

What is your favorite Hebrew word? ‘Mazleg’ (which means fork).

NoCamels’ “Faces of the Startup Nation” features the leading entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and visionaries to give you an exclusive peak into the movers and shakers of Israel’s innovation scene. If you want to suggest a “Face”, write us in the comments below!

Photos: courtesy/ Jim Morrison/ Steve Jobs

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Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Publish Your Own Books With ‘OurBoox’, The ‘YouTube’ Of Literature]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36831 2015-02-22T14:36:00Z 2015-02-21T13:14:37Z

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With nearly 130 million books in circulation, bookstores are flooded with an overwhelming number choices and publishers are ever more selective about which literary works see the light of day. Despite a surge in electronic books, the odds are so highly stacked against new writers that getting a novel published these days seems like winning the lottery.

For the sake of writers and readers, Mel Rosenberg and Ran Shternin came up with OurBoox, a platform that looks to democratize the publication process so that only the books that we really want to read fill (online) bookshelves. OurBoox claims to be the world’s “simplest” platform for creating and sharing books, and was developed to give a voice to the thousands of writers and illustrators who struggle to get their work published, or for those who wouldn’t usually have the courage to try.

From one struggling author to another

About 10 years ago Mel Rosenberg, a former scientist turned children’s books author, came up with the idea to make online books available for free. A struggling author himself, Mel, who comes from Israel, recognized the difficulties that many writers face and hoped to find a solution that would meet everyone’s needs. That’s when Rosenberg came up with an idea to publish his own e-books online for free so that he could build an online fan base, an endeavor he called ‘Mel Tells’.

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OurBoox founder Mel Rosenberg

However, Mel wasn’t able to achieve stunning success on his own, which is why he decided to open the platform to a larger audience through ‘OurBoox’. OurBoox is a completely free service and written in open code, which means that Google and other search engines can read every word that is published on the site. Similar sites, like e-book industry leader Amazon, block the ability to search literary content on their website, but because OurBoox is an open code website, authors who publish on the site get more exposure to potential readers through Internet searches. OurBoox has what Mel calls “great search-ability,” and provides completely free online books to its users, who can sign in at at any time and read as many books as they desire.

Henry Ford and OurBoox – what’s the connection?

OurBoox also has a unique and simply-designed user experience, reminiscent of Henry Ford’s famous model T.  It’s hard to forget Ford’s famous line “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”; OurBoox takes a similar approach in the simplicity of its user experience, asserting that every e-book created on the platform “looks amazing” on any monochromatic electronic device. Authors can publish a book in any genre of their choosing, “so long as it’s square and uses one font,” Rosenberg explains. Though there is a universal standard of appearances on the site, users can add pictures, illustrations, animations, videos, and even hyperlinks to their work to give their stories added appeal.

     SEE ALSO: Total Boox: Pay Only For The Amount Of Pages You Read

“We are building a kind of ‘YouTube of books.’ The same way that YouTube’s mantra was that you can upload a film, OurBoox gives a voice to anybody who writes or illustrates,” Rosenberg explains.

Much like with YouTube, quality control is a mass endeavor, so it takes some time to find the exact book you are looking for amidst a sea of options. OurBoox seems to let anyone become an author, if they are willing, which may have ramifications for the quality of literature on the site. For instance, once such novel entitled “Let Them Eat French Toast” may have the potential to become the next New York Times bestseller, but, due to the absence of input from an experienced publisher, is stuck with an unfortunate title that makes one look the other way.

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The cover of one of Rosenberg’s illustrated books

Teachers, students, and advertisers may help with challenges

Still in its early stages, OurBoox is self-funded and operates on a low budget, but, despite the difficulty the company has encountered in promoting the product, the startup is doing nicely. With over 2,000 members, the site offers over 1,900 books spanning 40 different genres in dozen or more languages. Books are added to the site everyday and several publishers have expressed interest in certain manuscripts available on the site. “Our biggest success would be for an author to find a publisher through our site. My dream is that any time anybody looks for anything anywhere, they will find at least one of our books,” Mel says of his vision for the future of OurBoox.

The site may also prove to be a valuable asset for advertisers as the commercially-driven sector becomes increasingly story-based. Like YouTube, Mel believes that advertisements could accompany stories that share similar content and he hopes that there are big bucks in the developing sector of information books, providing content of a commercial nature, like one book featured on the site called “My Day at the London Zoo.”

     SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv Opens Its First Public Library With A Sea View

Teachers and students may also find valuable uses for OurBoox’s platform in their classrooms. The site already has a feature that allows authors to upload educational textbooks and Mel recognizes that this maybe just the tip of the iceberg. Research shows that reading and writing skills are two of the most important developmental skills in young children and are more interdependent than once thought.  OurBoox’s easy-to-use technology not only presents students with plenty of accessible reading material, but it also gives them a platform to share their writing with the world.

Eventually, as the website grows, Mel and his team hope to be able to financially compensate their most popular contributing authors and illustrators. For now, however, the most important thing is to ensure that the books on the site stay free and searchable- and that writers and illustrators around the world have a platform that openly allows them to share their literary voice.

Photos: Neil Turner/ OurBoox

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Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[Turning Trash Into Treasure: Massive Trash Site ‘Hiriya’ Turns Into Israel’s Largest Eco-Park]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36587 2015-02-19T12:41:09Z 2015-02-19T11:56:29Z

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Israel’s largest landfill dump has undergone a massive makeover that has seen the mountain of garbage turn into a 2,000-acre ecological park three times the size of New York City’s Central Park. This new “green lung,” which includes a 150-acre recycling station, walking and cycling trails, ponds and extreme sports activities, will soon be home to a 50,000-seat amphitheater, one of the largest concert venues in Israel. And if that’s not enough, the biogas from this landfill, once a toxic pollutant, is now being reused as green energy.

The multi-million-dollar makeover of Hiriya, which started in 2001, has proven to benefit both the surrounding environment and visitors from all over the world. Now, what once was a huge dump between Road 4 and Road 461 in central Israel known for its unpleasant past, is no longer Israel’s ugliest site.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Legislation To Force Clean-Up Of Dump Sites Around The Country

Ariel Sharon Park

The Cinderella of Tel Aviv: From garbage emerged a thriving garden

Mount Hiriya’s makeover was anything but simple due to the large amount of waste that had to be cleaned up. According to Shay Levi, head of the environmental planning department at the Ariel Sharon Park (formerly known as Hiriya), at its peak in 1998, the park saw 3,000 tons of waste enter on a daily basis. “There was enough garbage on this mountain to fill the Azrieli towers 25 times,” Levi tells NoCamels, referring to the three famous Tel Aviv skyscrapers. The landfill was active from 1952 to 1999, piling up to a total of 450,000 square meters of waste.

Beyond its natural beauty and magnificent views of Tel Aviv, Mount Hiriya serves a recreational purpose for families. The park, which opened to the public in July 2014, has become popular in recent months. It offers various guided tours that explain the rehabilitation process as well as educational recycling activities for kids. On weekends and holidays, the park averages roughly 1,000 visitors a day – and growing.

4,500 tons of waste recycled every day 

Next to the park is a recycling center and transfer station. Each day, approximately 800 garbage trucks deposit 3,000 tons of household waste and garden trimmings into the recycling station; and 400 more trucks bring approximately 1,500 tons of construction waste from 18 local municipalities in the area.

Ariel Sharon Park

The overuse of the Hiriya landfill due to the rapid urbanization of Tel Aviv and its surrounding metro-area created drainage and contamination issues with the surrounding streams, as well as a buildup of toxic biogas. Now, not only is the biogas being cleaned up, it’s also being shipped to a nearby city for use as green energy. This gas is formed through the breakdown of waste, and was trapped between layers of garbage. In order to reduce the gas buildup from years of waste, 80 wells were drilled into the mountain to pump out the gas – and ship it to the the City of Azor, where it’s turned into green energy.

Trash facility in Hiriya

Using rainwater to sustain the park’s irrigation system 

At Hiriya, precious rainwater is used to hydrate the soil via a man-made aquifer the park’s staff had built inside the mountain, allowing for the reemergence of the natural vegetation. Through various protective layers, the staff has created a clean and pollutant-free body of water that is used to irrigate the park in a process Levi calls “ecological restoration.”

German architect Prof. Peter Latz, who designed the park, also helped to design its sophisticated watering scheme. Following an international architecture competition hosting 14 applicants from Israel and abroad in 20o4, Latz was chosen as the landscape architect of the park. With the help from Latz, a new bioplastic layer was created to solve the biogas issue, while also allowing flora and fauna to grow, rejuvenating the damaged soil.
     SEE ALSO: Israeli Studio Sfog Recycles Your Old Objects To Create New Furniture

Hiriya Mountain Ariel Sharon Park

The Ariel Sharon Park has become one of the largest, most innovative environmental projects the Middle East, and was featured in several environmental publications. According to Levi, many have come to observe and learn from the successes of Hiriya, looking to replicate this initiative in countries such as the U.S., Russia and China.

But while Hiriya Mountain, previously known as “stinky hill,” has come a long way, it’s still far from being completed. The park will continue to expand through 2020, with more recreational and tourist attractions to come. This new “green lung” of central Israel will offer many observation posts, overlooking the Tel Aviv skyline, along with shops and activities hosted by the park in the future.

 

Photos and video: Ariel Sharon Park, Israel Peled, Dovev, Pil Animation Ltd.

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Andrey Kastelmacher, NoCamels <![CDATA[BriefCam’s Instant Video Surveillance Helps To Quickly Catch Terrorists, Criminals]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36747 2015-02-19T15:06:32Z 2015-02-18T15:46:06Z

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Films like “Minority Report” are no longer considered futuristic: video surveillance methods portrayed in this 2003 film are already in use. In fact, such methods have already helped in catching criminals and terrorists, albeit being controversial.

One of the most innovative technologies in this field was developed by Israeli company BriefCam, which helped in catching the Boston Marathon bombers. Using tracking algorithms, BriefCam enables users to track events caught on tape much more quickly, thus maximizing the potential of video surveillance.

A search engine for videos

Founded in 2007, BriefCam is an Israeli startup that developed video analysis software called Video Synopsis. It condenses hours of footage into minutes, making it easier and faster to analyze data. The software helps in identifying suspects, criminal incidents, stolen items and more. “Essentially, it’s a video search engine,” Dror Irani, BriefCam’s CEO and president, tells NoCamels. This searching capability is achieved through new, complex video tracking algorithms.

     SEE ALSO: Big Brother? Microsoft Unveils Technology To Recognize Faces In Video

Video Synopsis takes long videos and visually indexes them automatically; in fact, it converges many films that contain multiple objects in order to create a simultaneous presentation of events that happened at different times. BriefCam’s technology adds advanced analysis capabilities in order to manage multiple video files that are extremely large. The advantage of BriefCam’s solution it that it can create a digest of many hours of filming, which shortens the video to a few seconds or minutes, depending on the original length of the video. With BriefCam’s product, a gate supervisor at an airport, for example, can quickly scan a daylong video by watching only the important segments.

A mapping algorithm also enables users to refine the video search: They can look for a specific object using parameters such as color and size. So, if you’re looking for a green truck, you don’t need to watch all the white trucks or smaller cars going through the frame.

 

From the Boston Marathon to the Statue of Liberty, BriefCam takes part in homeland security 

Right after the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013, BriefCam helped the FBI in identifying the Tsarnaev brothers in the surveillance videos. After Hurricane Sandy had struck Liberty Island, BriefCam and its partners installed a new, advanced security system (which combines software and hardware) on top of the Statue of Liberty. The US Park Police, National Park Service and the US Department of Interior are also clients of BriefCam, as well as law enforcement agencies in North America, Europe, Asia and Israel.

     SEE ALSO: Cyber Security Nation: Why Israel Leads The World In Protecting The Web

BriefCam is one player in the multi-billion-dollar Israeli defense industry, which includes dozens of companies in the fields of video surveillance, homeland security, defense equipment and components, raw materials and fire protection.

Family home videos inspired BriefCam

BriefCam did not begin as a surveillance tool but rather something far from it. It was designed to track moments from family videos. Eventually, this “domestic” invention transformed into a powerful security tool that can potentially save lives and help law enforcement.

However, surveillance technologies such as Video Synopsis and CCTV are controversial because the tracking and monitoring of people can also clash with privacy. Opponents of video surveillance have argued that it hurts civil liberties. Proponents say they are willing to accept some invasion of privacy in exchange for the safety video surveillance provides.

It’s important to mention that BriefCam’s Video Synopsis isn’t only used for security purposes; it is also used in office buildings and shopping centers, for data mining and to monitor customer behavior. Additionally, this technology is about to be used in smart homes. A recent BriefCam project with FLIR Systems, which manufactures surveillance cameras, provides a cloud-based Video Synopsis tool for monitoring your home – even your refrigerator, if you put a camera in the kitchen. Sounds strange? Well, according to Irani, monitoring food consumption can actually promote a healthier lifestyle for families!

BriefCam worked closely with the Hebrew University on the development of the product, and the university holds shares in BriefCam as the owner of the Video Synopsis algorithm.

BriefCam

Photos and video courtesy of BriefCam

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Jordana Wolf. NoCamels <![CDATA[First Touch-Free ‘Sesame’ Smartphone Allows Disabled To Control Phones With A Nod]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36788 2015-02-17T18:46:56Z 2015-02-17T17:32:07Z

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Sesame Enable’s touch-free smart phone, the first of its kind, will allow users to control their phone without ever lifting a finger. Imagine making a call, taking a picture, or even playing a game with just the nod of your head. Designed exclusively for the mobility impaired, the Sesame phone was developed by techy entrepreneur Oded Ben Dov and former electrical engineer Giora Livne, who became a quadriplegic following a serious accident nine years ago. Frustrated by his inability to order his wife flowers or make private phone calls, among other things, Livne needed to find a way to re-connect with our constantly connected world.

Apparently, he wasn’t the only disabled person feeling cut-off from a world of smartphone data. Inspired by Livne’s predicament, Ben Dov set out to create a device that could serve the millions of people with disabilities worldwide. Three years and one crowdfunding campaign later, the Sesame Enable team plans to release its first batch of touch-free devices to beta users in March, giving people with motor disabilities long-desired access to the ultimate tool of the information age – the smartphone.

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Just say ‘Open Sesame’

When users receive their Sesame phone next month, it will be ready to use right out of the box. To help make the transition to using a smartphone as easy as possible, no installation is required; all users have to do is say “Open Sesame” and their phone will turn on and begin working. The front-facing camera on the phone uses computer vision technology to capture key points on the user’s face, activating a cursor that allows the user to navigate the functions on their phone with a nod of the head. This application of computer vision technology to existing smartphone technology allows users make calls play games, use apps, send texts and browse the web without ever touching a screen.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Enables Touch-Free Control Of Smart Devices For The Disabled

As seemless as it may sound, the software and design for the Sesame phone took some time to hash out. Ben Dov and his team researched and worked with people with different motor disabilities, individuals they were able to gain access to by participating in the world’s first start up accelerator for special needs, A3I (Accelerating Inclusion in Israel). According to Ben Dov, this opportunity was key in making Sesame Enable’s technology as accessible as possible, “The more you meet with different people you realize that there are a lot of different movements, postures, and positions unique to each person. Every time we met with someone new, we faced new challenges. We wanted to make sure to create a system that would be optimal for everyone,” he tells NoCamels.

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The only real touch-free smartphone solution

So far the Sesame phone is the only touch-free smartphone solution on the market. Other companies have tried creating similar solutions using laptops or tablets, but the products are limited. One such company is Tobii, a Swedish technology company, that designed touch-free software for the operation of Windows tablets, however many basic smartphone features, like sending text messages or making calls, are missing. Additionally, this and other touch-free software for the disabled can be expensive, costing up to $2,000.

Ben Dov hopes to make things a little easier on the user by embedding Sesame Enable’s technology into available smartphone models, and by charging a more competitive price of $900, which is still more expensive than the average standard smartphone’s price tag of $200. In a way Sesame phones are really customized versions of Google Nexus phones, but since Sesame’s solution is software-based, in the future the company hopes to make other models, like Apple’s iPhone, accessible to touch-free users.

Now that the challenge of creating the world’s first touch-free smartphone is out of the way, Ben Dov is concerned with reaching the millions of disabled individuals who could benefit from Sesame Enable’s technology. And according to Ben Dov, this can be achieved by partnering with a major mobile operator, “Right now I am super thrilled when I hear that just one person has bought this phone. To think about how it can scale nation-wide is just crazy,” says Ben Dov, continuing, “As soon as the company finds a partner who is interested in the product, it will be easier for us to adapt our code to work on any phone.”

     SEE ALSO: EyeMusic: New App Enables The Blind To ‘Hear’ Images

While Sesame’s current focus is on people with motor disabilities, the company is already thinking up ways to make their touch-free technology available to people with debilitating injuries as well as to the general public that could always use an ease-of-access upgrade. For Ben Dov, the possibilities are endless, “In an industry that is often misconceived as being too small or esoteric to build a business on, this may be the technology that shifts our attention. Many times technologies for special needs can overflow into mass use.”

Paying it forward

Sesame Enable gained some attention during its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign last year in which the company raised $38,000, or 115 percent of its initial funding goal. As part of the campaign, crowdfunders could nominate individuals and organizations that they believed could benefit from the technology, with Sesame donating their phone to the contestants with the most votes. The company has also received investments of $350,000 from the Office of the Chief Scientist in Israel together with a private angel investor. Recently, Sesame got more good news when they were awarded the title of the best educational startup in Verizon Wireless’s ‘Powerful Answers’ competition, taking home $1 million in prize money to donate Sesame phones to those who need them most.

Overall, Ben Dov is positive about what the future for his young company holds, “I think the story behind this technology is good,” he says. “The technology meets people with needs. We don’t think about it daily, but these people don’t have access to a very crucial piece of technology that we use every day, and now they will.”

Photos: Batsi Hansen

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Biological Breakthrough: Researchers Succeed In Creating Human Egg And Sperm Cells In Lab]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36383 2015-02-16T15:48:14Z 2015-02-16T12:30:37Z

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For the millions of individuals who have undergone radiation treatments for cancer and other diseases, or for those who can no longer conceive, there is exciting news that may give new hope. Breakthrough research from the Weizmann Institute in Israel has, for the first time, succeeded in creating human ova (eggs) and sperm, the essence of human reproductive process, at their earliest stages in the lab. Dr. Jacob Hanna, together with his research student Leehee Weinberger, achieved a phenomenal feat in the world of cellular biology that could translate into baby-making in the petri dish in the not-so-distant future.

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Mimicking mouse cells to make it work

Dr. Hanna’s research, published in ‘Cell,’ is a step in the right direction for anthropologists and scientists who worry that we will soon face a reproductive crisis, and is one of the most outstanding achievements in cellular biology made in recent years. According to Dr. Hanna, “Researchers have been attempting to create human primordial germ cells (PGCs) in the petri dish for years,” essentially since 2006 when it was discovered that adult cells (iPS cells) could be reprogrammed into embryonic stem cells. Then, a number of years ago, Japanese researchers succeeded in turning the clock backwards in cells belonging to mice, making many in the field curious if the same could be achieved in human cells.

     SEE ALSO: Technion Discovery May Put Stem Cells In Amniotic Sac

Before you get too lost in the medical jargon, PGC cells are those cells that arise in the earliest stages of embryonic growth, at the important stage when the stem cells begin to differentiate themselves from basic into specific cell types in the body. In order to program the initial human iPS cells (which can be taken from the skin or mouth) back into PGCs, Dr. Hanna and his team focused on determining how human iPS cells differ from mouse embryonic cells. This is because for the Japanese team, the mouse embryonic cells were easily maintained in their stem cell state, while human cells need to be reprogrammed by inserting genes that drive the cell to differentiate. Hanna and his research team were able to create a new method that “tuned down” the genetic pathway for differentiation from an existing iPS cell that they called a “naïve cell,” cells that appear to rejuvenate iPS cells so that they are closer to the original embryonic state. This way Dr. Hanna believed he could trick the iPS cells into thinking they were similar to the mice cells, therefore creating the earliest form of human life, PGCs, in a petri dish.

And the team’s attempts to beat biology at its own game succeeded; using the same techniques that had been applied in the research on mice, Dr. Hanna produced cells that seemed to be identical to human PGCs. With the assistance from Cambridge University Prof. Azim Surani, the scientists added in a fluorescent red marker that could tell them how many of the cells were programmed back to their PCG stage, and the results were remarkable – up to 40 percent of the iPS cells were programmed back to their embryonic state, before their differentiation into specific kinds of human cells.

Discoveries in the process of cellular differentiation

Dr. Jacob Hanna

Dr. Jacob Hanna

Dr. Hanna’s research is the first step in a long chain of discoveries that could one day make it possible to conceive life in a laboratory, especially since he and his team were able to pinpoint the gene that can “rewind” biological processes. The gene Sox17, according to their findings, allows stem cells to be differentiated or made into primordial germ cells and regulates the transformation process, but only in humans. This leads the scientists to believe that they may be on the right path to discovering other important genes that control our biological processes, making the possibilities for manipulation in the lab, like curing certain genetic conditions, endless.

As Dr. Hanna puts it: “Having the ability to create human PCGs in the petri dish will enable us to investigate the process of differentiation on the molecular level. For example, we found that only ‘fresh’ naïve cells can become PGCs; but after a week in conventional growth conditions they lose this capacity once again. We want to know why this is. What is it about human stem cell states that makes them more or less competent?”

     SEE ALSO: Research Succeeds In Isolating Cancer ‘Stem Cells’

It is clear that a number obstacles still remain to be conquered before we begin making babies in the lab. For one, the cells must learn the trick of dividing their DNA in half so that they can become viable reproductive cells, sperm and ova, the act that determines the sex of any embryo. However, Dr. Hanna is confident that these obstacles can be overcome, and that the potential for the future of reproduction and fertility is unfathomable.

“Dr. Hanna’s groups’ findings yield insights into the earliest stages of embryonic development and potentially enable the development of new kinds of reproductive technology,” asserts Associate Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Maryland, Dr. Paul Yarowsky. “For example, it would be incredible to create ova (eggs) from a woman’s iPS cells after she has undergone chemotherapy or premature menopause, because this would enable her to have a baby of her own, through in vitro fertilization.”

The thought that a baby could be made by cultivating someone’s skin or hair cells in the laboratory may seem futuristic, but if Dr. Hanna and his team continue on their current path, it could very well become a reality just in time to solve the modern reproductive conundrum.

Photos: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory / Weizmann Institute/ PinkBox Photography

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David Shamah, The Times Of Israel <![CDATA[Fiat Chrysler Turns To Israel For Alternative Fuel Solutions]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36763 2015-02-15T13:57:06Z 2015-02-15T13:57:06Z

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

Oil prices are low now, but there’s no guarantee they will remain that way. In the long term, developing alternative fuels remains a priority of governments, start-ups — and automobile manufacturers, who sell more vehicles when the fuel that runs them is cheaper.

It’s to that end that the Israel Fuel Choices Initiative (IFCI), a project of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), this week signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), Iveco (a Brand of CNH Industrial) and Magneti Marelli (FCA Group) for cooperation in the development of natural-gas based technologies, developing fuels for cars, trucks and buses.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers In Israel Announce Revolutionary Alternative To Fuel

fiatchrysler

Launched in 2011, IFCI seeks to make Israel a leader in alternative energies for transportation — including developing electrical, biofuel, hydrogen, natural gas, and other fuel solutions for vehicles. The group includes representatives of nine government ministries. And Eyal Rosner, chairman and director of IFCI, is a sort of “godfather,” coordinating the activities, the funding, and the development of technologies such as fuel cells, electric vehicles, hybrids, biodiesel-fueled vehicles, ethanol/methanol fuel, and even algae fuel.

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

While alternatives exist for electricity production — the government’s plan, which is currently behind schedule, is to have 10-20 percent of the country’s electricity produced from non-fossil fuel sources by 2020 — gasoline refined from oil has a near monopoly as a transportation fuel: 96 percent of the vehicles in the world are powered by gas engines. For many countries, oil for transportation takes a huge chunk of the national GDP (oil accounts for nearly 20 percent of Israel’s total imports), and oil in transportation is estimated to be the source of about 25 percent of greenhouse gases.

So there are good reasons for the world to be interested in alternative fuels — and IFCI seeks to make Israel a center of that effort. According to the group’s strategic plan, “we intend to make use of Israel’s strengths, including its interdisciplinary nature and Israeli entrepreneurs’ operational agility, as well as the research power and the exceptional cooperation between academic research bodies and industry” to turn the country into a world showplace of alternative fuel development and deployment.

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

Photos: millerm27

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Yali Barkan, NoCamles <![CDATA[Sci-Fi Medicine Sees Corals Turned Into Bone Grafts]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36262 2015-02-16T13:59:32Z 2015-02-15T08:16:12Z

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Far from the ocean, deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, man-made coral reefs are being grown inside large aquariums to be turned into bone grafts.

One company, OkCoral, has been growing coral for over six years in the Negev, and now another Israeli company, CoreBone, is manufacturing bone grafts (bone replacements) from coral grown in the desert – for use in orthopedic and dental procedures.

In 2008, Assaf Shaham, the CEO of OkCoral, started growing coral in his controlled-environment farm near Eilat for aquarium enthusiasts. But three years ago, when he partnered with Ohad Schwartz, the CEO and co-founder of another Israeli company called CoreBone, he realized that he’d been targeting the wrong market. According to Schwartz, the bone grafting market is a $4.5 billion market and the best bone graft substance is made out of, you guessed it, coral.

Growing coral in the desert for medical purposes 

A bone graft is a substance used as a human bone replacement in several common medical procedures. Bone grafts are usually used as scaffolding for real bone to grow on, when treating injured bone or bone implants, such as dental implants. This is especially important for older patients, whose bones are slow to rehabilitate by themselves.

coralreefcover

At first, bone grafts were extracted from a cadaver or an animal, but after a few documented cases of people contracting diseases following the graft, such as the mad cow disease, synthetic alternatives started to show up. In order for these synthetic bone grafts to be accepted by the body and to induce bone growth, stem cells are added. However, only some synthetic bone grafts are as hard and as effective as the biological ones (those extracted from animals or cadavers).

       SEE ALSO: Israeli Company Grows New Bones From Patients’ Fat

“As strong as the human bone”

Apparently, coral have essential qualities that are very similar to those of the human bone: their chemical composition is mostly made out of calcium, they provide a vascular pathway and they’re as strong as the human bone. “The main problem with using coral as a bone graft is that they are not bioactive. They don’t have the ability to induce biological activities and ‘communicate’ with the cells of the body,” Schwartz, former vice president of Israeli water-filtering company Tami4, tells NoCamels. He further explains that the effect of bioactivity is attracting new bone cells and creating new bone ingrowth.

So, when Schwartz and his partner, Prof. Itzhak Binderman, the former head of the dental department and hard tissue laboratory at the Sourasky Medical Center, founded CoreBone in 2011, they started developing a coral-based, bioactive bone graft. Bioengineering expert Binderman began combining bioactive substances with the coral’s usual diet, so when they are made into bone grafts they contain the qualities of a biological bone graft without the risk of contracting diseases.

coralreefcover

At the OkCoral farm near Eilat, coral in aquariums grow ten times faster than they do in the ocean. The team achieves that by controlling the chemical compound of the water the coral are in, monitoring and controlling their light and temperature, as well as creating artificial waves to help their growth.

“There are four qualities you want a bone graft to have: strength, biocompatibility, remodeling  and bioactivity,” Schwartz explains. “It should be as strong as the human bone, biocompatible so that the body won’t reject it, enable remodeling (the formation of a new bone as it degrades), and bioactive so that it stimulates the growth of a new bone on its surface.”

     SEE ALSO: CoreBone Implants Corals As Human Bone Replacements

The company claims it has developed the only non-biological bone graft that has all four qualities. It will be used for both dental and orthopedic purposes. According to Schwartz, their bone grafts will also cost less than the ones available today in the orthopedic market, which can cost up to $5,000, including hospitalization.     

The future lies in the depth of the ocean 

Later in 2011, CoreBone joined the Mofet incubator, funded by the TrendLines Group, and registered a patent in Europe and in the US for their special ‘coral diet’ and methods of growing coral in a controlled environment. Since then, the company has been developing and testing its product successfully with the latest results even showing that bone grafts implanted in animals create bone marrow, as if they were actual bones.

CoreBone is expected to begin human trials in selected hospitals in Israel and in France before entering the bone grafting market. “Many believe that the future of mankind lies not on the ground but in space, or in the depth of the ocean,” Schwartz says. “After all, we know only two percent of it.”

Video courtesy of CoreBone. Photos: U.S. Geological SurveyUSFWA- Pacific Region, Derek Keats

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Faces Of The Startup Nation: Q&A With ‘Dreamer & Doer’ Enon Landenberg]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36627 2015-02-12T15:54:32Z 2015-02-12T15:45:21Z

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Enon Landenberg, aged 42, is the founder and “dreamer & doer” of sFBI (Small Factory of Big Ideas). sFBI is a venture builder that launches businesses focusing on human-centered innovation. Previously, Landenberg co-founded E-Dologic, Israel’s first interactive advertising agency, which was acquired by Publicis Group in 2001. Landenberg is also the Chief Commercial Marketing Officer for SpaceIL, a project to land an Israeli spacecraft on the moon, and President of Infinity Augmented Reality, one of the first augmented reality software platform that universally connects smart devices. He is an expert in the interactive media field, a lecturer at technology conventions, and a featured TEDx conference keynote speaker.

Who is your biggest inspiration? My biggest inspiration is Bruce Springsteen. Why? Because nothing for him was easy. He had to work very hard for anything he achieved because most people didn’t believe in him or his music. He’s also a showman who has a deep understanding of how to connect with audiences. He’s had the same team for 40 years. All they have to do is look at him and they know their cue. He’s a mensch. He’s a ‘gever’ (meaning ‘a real man’ in Hebrew).

brucespringsteen

Bruce Springsteen, an American idol

What were your first steps into the business world? I couldn’t find a job. No one wanted to hire me. I was 13. I wanted to buy Bruce Springsteen records. So I opened a company that sold bread buns door-to-door in my neighborhood in Haifa.

Who is the one person, past or present, you’d love to have dinner with? Elon Musk. He’s the Leonardo da Vinci of our times. He’s a guy that follows his dreams even though he can work for ten generations without doing anything. He’s going after what he believes in and every one of his dreams is bigger than the previous one.

Falafel or Shawarma? Shawarma. Because it’s meat.

What are some of your favorite weekend activities? Downtime with my family.

If you were a selfie, what would you look like? 

enonselfie

Enon and his kid

What is your homepage? Facebook, because it lets me know what’s going on around me. On my Facebook feed, I get the most relevant updates I need on what my friends are doing and liking.

What is your hidden talent? Nothing is hidden. Everything is out there.

Who was your first celebrity crush? Bruce Springsteen. At the age of one.

Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. It has a better logo.

starwarstreklogos

What are you totally addicted to? My kids, because they are my kids. My best creation.

What’s the biggest risk you have ever taken? Leaving E-Dologic. Leaving the advertising/marketing field and moving into a more technological field was my biggest risk.

Bar Refaeli or Gal Gadot? Gal Gadot, because she seems much more human to me, and she’s a mom.

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be? I’d be a gardener because you grow things from nothing, from soil.

If you could be a movie character, who would you be? I’d be Superman because I love to help people and from time to time you need super powers to do that.

Tel Aviv or New York? Definitely Tel Aviv, because I’m Israeli and Israel is the best place for Israelis. It was built by our grandparents and it suits us perfectly for the good and for the bad.

What is your favorite Hebrew word? ‘Habibi’ (which is actually Arabic) because it sounds good and it makes you feel good to say it and to hear it.

Photos: Ketchum Blog

NoCamels’ “Faces of the Startup Nation” features the leading entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and visionaries to give you an exclusive peak into the movers and shakers of Israel’s innovation scene. If you want to suggest a “Face”,  write us in the comments below!

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[No Bat About It: Bats Eavesdrop To Help Friends Find Food]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36576 2015-02-09T15:00:37Z 2015-02-12T12:05:06Z

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The sound of a bag of potato chips being torn open cuts through a darkened movie theater. The noise, in an otherwise silent space, pinpoints for all moviegoers exactly where the chips are being devoured. According to a new Tel Aviv University study, bats operate in a similar fashion.

Bats, hunting at night in groups, improve their chances of finding the best patches of insects by engaging in reciprocal eavesdropping, says the study’s lead investigator Dr. Yossi Yovel of TAU’s Department of Zoology. “Bats emit sonar signals to sense their environment. By recording them in real time, we can tell when they’re attacking prey or when they encounter another bat and how they respond to it. This reveals new knowledge on the world of these miniature flying mammals, which account for more than 20 percent of mammalian species. It is an example of how an animal gains from working in a group, and it could even provide insight into operating swarms of drones in a collective search mission, for example.”

Eavesdropping on the eavesdroppers

The subject of the study, the Rhinopoma microphyllum, also known as the greater mouse-tailed bat, preys on flying queen ants, an insect that congregates in highly-dispersed patches that can be difficult to find. While bats are able to use biosonar to detect their prey within 33 feet, their remarkable “eavesdropping” honing radar is able to identify other bats eating that prey from some 328 feet away. The study, conducted over two summers (2012-13) in Israel’s northern Galilee region, found that bats’ unique ability to snoop on others’ hunting improved their collective chance of feeding well.

     SEE ALSO: ‘Blind As A Bat’ Is Surprisingly Inaccurate, As The Researchers Determine The Mammals’ 3D Vision

mousetailedbatcloseup

The Greater Mouse-Tailed Bat

For the purpose of the study, Dr. Yovel and his team rigged 30 greater mouse-tailed bats, a highly social species of bats that migrate to Israel for the summer, with very small, GPS-enabled ultrasonic recorders. The chips were attached with surgical glue which wore off after a week, causing them to fall off the bats. The team collected these chips to analyze the data they contained. They were only able to retrieve 40 per cent of the recorders, but they contained valuable recordings of 1,100 bat interactions, allowing the researchers to identify when the bats were hunting down prey and when they were simply chatting with other bats.

     SEE ALSO: Bats Combine Echolocation And Vision To Rule The Skies

“The high bat density might result in a few possible sources of interference,” said Dr. Yovel. “A bat might compete for the same prey, bat signals might theoretically jam others’ sonar calls, and bats might suffer because they constantly need to track other bats while at the same time tracking food. We found this last source to be of most importance to the bats. Imagine that you are tracking a fly and a baseball is thrown towards you — you will have to stop tracking the fly. This is a kind of trade-off. Foraging in a group is beneficial, but not when the group is too dense.”

Using high-tech to study low-tech animals

“We seek to understand nature,” Dr. Yovel said. “We seek to understand how animals make decisions in the wild, but we are very limited in our ability to track animals in their natural environment, to accurately track their behavior, their foraging tactics and interactions with counterparts. In this study we were lucky to be able to harness a novel technology to gain insight into the secret world of bats.”

The researchers are continuing to study bat behavior, comparing bats that use different foraging strategies. Dr. Yovel is also developing new sensors to monitor a host of other bat biological markers.

The research, published recently in the journal “Current Biology,” was conducted in part by TAU graduate students Noam Cvikel, Katya Egert-Berg, and post-doc Eran Levin.

Photos: Jen Rydell, Bruce Thompson

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Alexander Ronen, NoCamels <![CDATA[Oldest Human Skull Outside Of Africa Discovered In Israel]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36663 2015-02-12T10:30:12Z 2015-02-11T14:55:49Z

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An ancient human skull found in Israel could be one of the most important discoveries in understanding the history of human evolution. The 55,000-year-old skull found inside Manot Cave in northern Israel seven years ago was recently declared the oldest skull found outside of Africa. This rare fossil indicates that homo sapiens, our human race, originated in East Africa and migrated to the Middle East about 50,000-70,000 years ago.

The skull was accidentally discovered in the Western Galilee in 2008 when an unknown cave that had been sealed off for at least 30,000 years was exposed by a bulldozer operator. Inside of the cave, researchers from Israeli universities discovered a calcite-covered fragment of a small, anatomically modern human skull.

“This is a goldmine,” Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Israel Hershkovitz, who leads the research of the skull, stated. “Most other caves are ‘disturbed caves,’ but this is untouched, frozen in time — truly an amazing find.” Hershkovitz lead the research team analyzing the skull, working jointly with the Israel Antiquities Authority and Ben Gurion University, but news of the discovery quickly spread. Anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists and other scientists from around the globe made their way to Israel to study the skull and the cave due to the important implications of the discovery.

Manot Cave

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

There are competing theories on how modern humans came to populate the Earth. One of these, called the assimilation model, proposes that modern humans bred with archaic human populations, such as Neanderthals, to form hybrid groups who were absorbed into larger modern human populations. Strong genetic support for a version of this model came in 2010 from Leipzig-based evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo, who presented a draft sequence of a Neanderthal genome. His analysis showed that the ancestors of non-African people interbred with Neanderthals in the Middle East – before they migrated to Europe and Asia – sometime between 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. Another genetic analysis of 45,000-year-old DNA from a Siberian thighbone published last year further narrowed the likely interbreeding time to between 52,000 to 58,000 years ago. However, no one has been able to corroborate these findings with physical clues, until Hershkovitz concluded his study of the prehistoric skull in January.

The only cohabitation of Neanderthals and modern humans 

In a paper recently published in “Nature,” Hershkovitz and his co-authors claim they have found the missing fossil evidence. The skull was discovered just a few dozen kilometers from other caves where Neanderthal remains from the same time period had been identified. “When the Manot people came to Israel, they encountered a flourishing population of Neanderthals, with whom they must have communicated, shared tools and interbred with,” Hershkovitz said in a statement. “According to our analysis of the skull, which bears a complex mix of archaic and modern characteristics, this was probably the only place on earth where Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans lived side by side for a long period of time.”

     SEE ALSO: Ancient Copper Smiths Were Aristocrats – Not Slaves – Israeli Archaeologists Find

The skullcap (or calvarium), is complete enough to indicate a lineage from modern humans in Africa to the people of the Manot cave, and on to later European human populations. “When we analyzed the morphology of Manot skull, we made two important discoveries,” Hershkovitz recalls. “First, we found African affinities, confirming that the Manot population originated in Africa. Second, we noted many morphological peculiarities akin to early Upper Paleolithic populations in Europe, which suggest ancestral connections to earlier European populations. All of this confirms that people in Manot came from Africa, stayed in Israel for several thousand years, and later, when weather conditions improved, moved to Europe. The Manot people are indeed the ancestors of European populations.”

The research team expects that additional fossils will be found in the Western Galilee area of Israel during future excavations.

 

ancient skull 2

Photos: Israel Antiquities Authority/Clara Amit, Simon Fraser University

 

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Parental Monitoring Leads To Fewer Teenage Road Deaths, Study Shows]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36253 2015-02-11T13:26:16Z 2015-02-11T12:38:22Z

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Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of teenage death in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seven 16- to 19-year-olds die every day as a result of injuries incurred from road crashes. But attempts to address the problem through legislation and technological innovation have yielded limited results.

Now a new study by Tel Aviv University researchers proposes a two-pronged strategy of vigilant parental intervention and monitoring technology to improve the safety of young drivers on the road.

“We have shown that it is possible to reduce dangerous driving in young drivers by increasing parental involvement in a positive way,” said lead author of the study Prof. Haim Omer. “Our program is based on a model of parental involvement called ‘Vigilant Care,’ which has shown to be effective in reducing risky behavior exhibited in other fields. According to this model, parents remain non-invasively involved in their youngsters’ activities, but are poised to increase their level of involvement at the first signs of danger.”

teenhandsonwheel

“Vigilant Care,” emphasizing both parental intervention to reduce risky behavior as well as a nurturing environment in which to introduce the involvement, lies at the heart of the model of parental guidance. Prior to the study, recently published in “Journal of Adolescence,” a number of parents received training in Prof. Omer’s program.

Learning from feedback

For the study, 242 families of adolescent drivers installed In-Vehicle Data Recorders (IVDRs) that monitor driving in real time and offer feedback on risk patterns in the cars. The families were then assigned to one of four groups that differed according to type of IVDR feedback and level of parental intervention: 1) IVDR feedback to the entire family that led to parental intervention through their “Vigilant Care” training; 2) IVDR feedback to the entire family that did not lead to parental intervention; 3) individual IVDR feedback without parental guidance; and 4) neither IVDR feedback nor parental involvement.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Gadget Solves The Problem Of Phone Stands In Cars

For example, a young driver would be required to send a text message to their parents upon arriving at their destination and once again before midnight. In this way, the parents were certain to remain on their child’s mind, one of the protective mechanisms at the heart of “Vigilant Care.” The parents would also hold “driving chats” with their child on a weekly basis, sitting together to plan trips to new destinations. In these ways, the novice driver was constantly reminded of their parents while driving. As one of the teens said, “I felt as though someone was sitting by my side, even though I was alone in the car.”

From pre-teens to teens

“In past studies, ‘Vigilant Care’ has been shown to reduce risky behavior in many areas of child development,” said Prof. Omer, who conducted the study together with Dr. Yaara Shimshoni. “However, the difficult challenge here was to amend and apply the model to an older and normative population of young adults.”

     SEE ALSO: iOnRoad Uses Augmented Reality To Warn Drivers

After following the teen drivers and the four groups for three months at a time, the researchers found that the drivers whose parents had received “Vigilant Care” training and who had also received family-wide IVDR feedback significantly improved their behavior behind the wheel. The combined technological monitoring plus intervention was found to be most effective for drivers who exhibited the riskiest behavior.

Parents will do anything to help their child avoid unfortunate scenes like this.

Parents will do anything to help their child avoid unfortunate scenes like this one.

“We have shown that the combination of technology and ‘Vigilant Care’ can meet the challenge of dangerous teen driving,” said Dr. Shimshoni. “This is the first study in which a systematic, theory-based intervention for parental involvement in teen driving was found to be effective.”

Prof. Omer, together with Or Yarok of the Association for Safer Driving in Israel, is currently adapting and extending the “Vigilant Care” intervention to address the needs of different populations.

The research, published recently in the Journal of Adolescence, was led by Prof. Haim Omer of TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences and conducted by Dr. Yaara Shimshoni, in collaboration with Or Yarok of the Association for Safer Driving in Israel.

Photos: Marilyn Matusky/ Maddie M.

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Alexander Ronen, NoCamels <![CDATA[Technion Discovery To Identify Cancerous Cells By Investigating Their Evolution]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36554 2015-02-11T11:54:05Z 2015-02-10T15:30:48Z

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The great evolutionary biologist Theodore Dobzhansky famously said that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Now Israeli researchers have decided to decode one of humanity’s biggest threats – cancer – based on the laws of evolution.

It all started three years ago, when researchers in Technion Associate Prof. Itai Yanai’s lab invented a new method to accurately analyze gene activity in animal cells. They first applied it to a field that has left biologists puzzled since the 19th century: the evolutionary process, by which every organ and cell in our bodies developed. The lab focused its attention on determining which of the three special cell layers of an animal embryo came first: the layer that becomes its brain (ectoderm), its bones (mesoderm), or its guts (endoderm).

The method they developed, called CEL-Seq, can spy on the activity of every gene within a cell at once. In a paper recently published in the scientific journal ‘Nature,’ Yanai and his colleagues provide compelling evidence that the layer called the endoderm evolved first, followed by the ectoderm layer and finally the mesoderm layer. “We applied this unbelievably powerful tool to figuring out the evolution of the germ layers, a 19th century problem, but it will also be useful in things like cutting-edge cancer research as well,” Yanai said in a written statement.

Understanding how evolution has altered cells in the past can also “reveal to us what is easily changeable and what is not changeable in a cell,” Yanai added. “If a cell goes into a disease state, for instance, we might know more about what we could do to reverse this state, and what might be more difficult to reprogram in the cell.”

     SEE ALSO: New Breakthrough In Adoptive Cell Transfer Therapy For Cancer

cells


“Insight into why cancer often recurs”

Yanai’s lab is now starting a project that will apply the new method to better understand the causes for different stages of the same cancer. Dr. Tamar Hashimshony, a researcher in Yanai’s lab and the first author of the ‘Nature’ paper, tells NoCamels that just as individual animals evolve over time, individual cells within an organism also undergo evolutionary pressures. Another project will examine the different types of cells within cancerous growths, including tumors. A clearer picture here may lead to key insights into why cancer often recurs. “We are trying to understand cancer as an evolutionary process,” Hashimshony tells NoCamels.

CEL-Seq – an acronym of C. Elegans, the roundworm commonly used as a model by geneticists, and the word “sequencing” – was invented at the Technion in 2012 by the Yanai lab. It allows researchers to study a sufficient amount of the genetic code being expressed in an animal cell without distorting the information it encodes, or losing track of from which type of cell it originated from. One way to envision the method’s power is to consider a single human cell and the 20,000 genes it contains as a room with 20,000 light switches. According to Yanai, “Each room can have a different mood, because we can turn on or turn off those switches in many different ways. This is why cells with the same genes can have many, many different types of behavior. With this method, we can take a given cell and know the position of every switch—whether it’s on or off–and from this infer what functions are going on.”

old light switches
Yanai and his colleagues used CEL-Seq to show that genes turned on in the endoderm of a worm embryo are the first to turn on in development, followed by genes turning on in the ectoderm and then mesoderm. They also detected that endoderm genes are older than genes found in the ectoderm and mesoderm.

In their paper, the researchers argue that the endoderm layer dates back to ancient single-celled organisms that banded together to form the first multicellular animals. Endoderm cells kept up their ancestral feeding function in the new animals, which freed up the other cells to evolve into new layers in the animal.

The Yanai lab is now focusing its attention on studying cancer from the evolutionary-developmental biology perspective, where their original research began.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Analyze DNA Of Primitive Centipedes To Shed Light On Evolution

Currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard University, Yanai is using the method to study the development of tumors in zebrafish. “For the last ten years I’ve been working on development and evolution, all seen through the eyes of gene expression,” he said, “and I’ve realized that cancer is actually a natural extension of this work since here you also have cells developing and evolving.”

While it remains to be seen in what direction their evolutionary focus on cancer takes them, the next few years could very well see another big splash from Yanai’s team, with findings that could affect the lives of millions around the world.

zebrafish

Photos: Paul Crosskamujp

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Dyana So, NoCamels <![CDATA[Alvio Treats Asthma The Natural Way With Kid-Friendly Mobile Games]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36088 2015-02-08T15:54:00Z 2015-02-10T12:07:36Z

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Now here’s a breath of fresh air! A solution to replace asthma inhalers has yet to be invented, but studies show that with regular breathing exercises, dependency on inhalers and other devices can be greatly decreased.

With a name inspired by ‘alveoli’ – the air sacs found in human lungs where inhaled oxygen passes through – Alvio is the first line of products created by Israeli entrepreneur Bezalel Arkush’s company Quality of Life (QoL) that relies on natural methods to help people improve their overall respiratory state.

alviodevicealviodevice2

Created by Arkush in 2012, Alvio is the world’s first integrative breathing trainer that teaches asmatics proper breathing techniques with fun, intuitive games. Like a number of other medical devices that have come to embrace the benefits of internet connectivity, Alvio ‘breathes’ new life into current respiratory training by offering interactive elements and automatically collecting data to inform users of their progess. Alvio consists of a standard breathing device and a complimentary app, elements that work together to create a personalized respiratory training schedule that claims to naturally reduce asthmatic breathing patterns.

The healthy habits children won’t know they’re learning

Breathing trainers not only help people with common respiratory problems like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) develop stronger lungs, they are also believed to benefit athletes, musicians, opera singers and even patients under post-operative care after surgery. But as Alvio CEO Bezela Arkush recognized in the case of one of his own friends using an incentive spirometer after surgery, current breathing trainers are not as engaging as they are easy to use.

     SEE ALSO: Researchers Identify Possible Root Of Allergies

alvioapptracker

The Alvio app tracks progress with an intuitive and fun design.

Arkush realized that this is especially problematic for children because they tend to shy away from routine and require a good deal of outside stimulation to want to continue practicing correct breathing methods. In addition, the earlier children get into the habit of practicing their breathing exercises, the less reliant they ultimately become on inhalers. For concerned parents, Alvio disguises routine with a fun, award-incentivizing mobile game that was specifically designed with doctors to facilitate appropriate breathing exercises. In addition, Alvio’s app tracks the child’s breathing progress as they play, making this data available to both parents and healthcare providers to ensure proper care.

“One of the biggest challenges in respiratory issues is how to monitor your status to avoid hospitalization,” Arkush tells NoCamels. “One of the basic things you can do is monitor your state.”

Alvio tracks the breathing health of a user with every use of its breathing device, recording breathing performance over time. By giving parents a way to monitor their child’s respiratory condition closely, they have more peace of mind to let their ‘kids be kids.’

One of the games offered by Alvio.

One of the games offered by Alvio.

Adults too can ‘breathe easy’

Grown adults with respiratory issues may not need app games to help them develop solid breathing habits, but they too can benefit from Alvio’s monitoring feature. According to Arksuh, QoL does intend to develop alternative versions of Alvio that are better suited for adults. Even for patients that do not personally own a smartphone, Alvio provides a breathing device with an additional screen feature.

     SEE ALSO: NaNose: The Breathalyzer Test That Sniffs Out Lung Cancer Before It Spreads

As of December 2013, R/GA Ventures, an award-winning digital agency, and Techstar, both invested in QoL. Alvio also receives funding from several undisclosed private investors, as well as from an international American rehabilitation center that hopes to be among Alvio’s biggest customers. In June, the company received a $100,000 grant from Pilot Health Tech NYC and has participated in the well-known TEDMED talks on medical innovation.

With the QoL headquarters in New York City, Alvio’s initial focus will be on the American market. In addition to carrying out several clinical tests at Montefiore Medical Center in NYC, Alvio continues to maintain good relationships with local, supportive hospitals, awaiting US Food and Drug Administration approval for its device.

According to Arkush, Alvio will be made available to the consumer market within the first quarter of 2015, at a starting price near $200 USD. Orders can be made on Alvio’s website, and the company is looking into collaborating with distributors, though it is set to encounter difficulty until it receives FDA approval.

“Asthma is not a curable disease,” Arkush reiterates. “It’s a chronic condition that you constantly have to monitor and improve.” Alvio was designed to help ease the lifestyles of individuals, specifically children, that struggle with dehabilitating respiratory problems, showing them that asthma be beat, one breath at a time.

Photos: Alvio

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Startups Shine At Verizon’s ‘Powerful Answers’ Competition]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36641 2015-02-09T15:25:07Z 2015-02-09T15:23:40Z

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

In a worldwide contest by US telecom giant Verizon to search out top technologies that can help people live better lives, Israeli start-ups swept three out of the twelve prizes awarded – including one of the top prizes, a million-dollar payout.

Oded Ben-Dov, the inventor of the winning Sesame Enable smartphone, plans to use the money his invention was awarded for a full rollout of the device, which lets individuals who cannot use their limbs due to the effects of conditions like ALS, paralysis, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injuries to make phone calls, surf the web, and send text messages, all with a slight movement of their head.

“It’s a very proud and happy day for the disabled, and for us at Sesame Enable,” said Ben-Dov upon hearing that he won a million dollars in the Verizon Powerful Voices contest. “Now we have the resources to continue our work, enabling the severely disabled to interact with the online world in a way that was impossible until now.”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Startup Enables Touch-Free Control Of Smart Devices For The Disabled

The winners were announced last week at a special ceremony in San Francisco.

Besides Sesame Enable, which won the million-dollar prize in the contest’s Education category, two other Israeli apps received a $250,000 prize in the Verizon Powerful Answers contest. Israeli start-up VoiceItt won a $250,000 prize in the contest’s Healthcare category for its TalkItt app, which interprets unclear communication by disabled individuals with heavy speech impediments into actual words in any language.

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

Photo: Basti Hansen

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Betty Ilovici, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israelis, Palestinians Join Forces To Explore Local Flowers To Combat Cancer, Diabetes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36477 2015-02-15T08:21:44Z 2015-02-09T12:54:29Z

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Tropical rain forests are home to plants that have been used in 65 percent of promising anti-cancer drugs. Now, it turns out that medicinal flowers grow in the Mediterranean climate as well. In the last three years, Israeli and Palestinian researchers have joined efforts to discover the untapped potential of plant diversity in the Mediterranean Basin. Throughout their study, the researchers gathered plants from different regions across Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and discovered plant properties to be used in the treatment of diabetes, infections and viral diseases, but also for cosmetic uses.

Anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties

The collaborative research project, named Bio-Xplore, was led by Professor Bertold Fridlender and Dr. Gili Joseph from Hadassah Academic College in Israel. Under their instruction, Israeli, Palestinian, Greek and Spanish researchers screened thousands of plant samples and analyzed plant properties such as antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and anti-fungal agents.

     SEE ALSO: Yellow Water Lily May Hold Key For Cancer Treatment

Much of the information about the medicinal uses of plants was based on folklore and traditional medicine. Joseph spoke to members of Arab communities, who passed information from generation to generation, about these medicinal plants. Her goal was to further these traditions and use science to identify the materials and active ingredients with health benefits, which led her to study more than 4,000 plant samples with a wide range of medicinal activities.

“We need to take the results from the screening of plant species and continue investigating their uses at different concentrations, while verifying that they are nontoxic,” Joseph tells NoCamels. “If we are able to identify compounds that are active, we can develop new drugs and even over- the- counter products.”

white flowers

A bouquet of flowers to treat a range of diseases

During the study, researchers discovered that what they needed to treat chronic illness was at the tips of their fingers. Diseases such as diabetes, which affects over 347 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization, can be addressed using the rich plant diversity of the region. An example of such, the Senecio flower, a genus of the daisy family, is a plant found in almost every field in Israel. It was found to have properties essential to the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

According to Fridlender, his research will give some new leads on molecules that can be developed into new drugs. “These materials in plants can be used in cosmetics, the veterinarian industry, and as food additives,” he tells NoCamels. “They open up a number of possibilities for enhancing human health and wellness.”

Senecio


Viable alternative to synthetic chemicals

Despite the medicinal treasures found in nature, in recent years many pharmaceutical companies have chosen to stick to synthetic chemicals in their products. This is because they are not as difficult to acquire and test, unlike plant species which may be found in remote regions or may require cooperation with native populations who have used them traditionally for centuries.

In order to reach out to native populations, a rare collaboration was created and funded by the European Union, which aimed to encourage cooperation among various Mediterranean countries. The 2 million euro grant from the EU was given for the advancement of pharmaceutical research, but also in order to fuel regional communication, as well as economic development and wellbeing.

     SEE ALSO: Architecture Firm Builds Bridges Between Israelis And Palestinians, Literally

The project tackled economic, environmental and even political sustainability. At the same time, it provided groundbreaking information that will be used as a basis for further research in treatment of chronic illnesses, viruses, and even cancer. The research is expected to be brought to practice in the pharmaceutical industry within a few years.

pills

An untapped national treasure

The future of the project lies in further examinations of the anti-bacterial properties of plants, but also in establishing relationships with the local industry and increasing scientific collaboration across borders.

In addition to the EU grant, the researchers have been awarded a grant by the Israeli Ministry of Health to create a center of excellence which will develop antibiotics from plants – a promising project that is expected to reach scientific breakthroughs, according to the research team. The center will also further multinational collaborations, much like the Bio-Xplore project.

“We have a national treasure that is simply unused,” Fridlender says about medicinal flowers. “We need to develop a cultivation system for the plants to be converted into medicinal products, while also protecting the environment.”

Commenting on the cross-cultural collaboration, Fridlender says: “Even though we were all exposed to the political issues, we were able to overcome those issues and work for common objectives. The language of science allowed us to create a bridge of communication.”

Health News: Israeli Flower May Hold Key For Cancer Treatment

 

Photos: Tony Wills, Marcia Stefani, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel/Nadav Arama, Taki Steve

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Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[What’s In The Air You Breathe? BreezoMeter App Monitors Pollution Down To Your Specific Street]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36090 2015-02-08T15:25:09Z 2015-02-08T15:17:11Z

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Have you ever wondered how the air you breathe every second of the day might be affecting your health? Or whether the air pollutants at home are different from those at work? Breathing is so obvious to us, that we almost never pay attention to the air quality around us.

But an Israeli startup company called BreezoMeter is like a breath of fresh air when it comes to monitoring and treating pollution – its app actually tracks pollutants and determines the air quality in every corner of the world. By monitoring and analyzing pollution trends, BreezoMeter provides users with air quality information at the touch of their fingertips. CNBC even called Breezometer one of the “world’s hottest apps”.

BreezoMeter
“Air pollution is a global problem that killed 8 million people around the world and 2,500 in Israel alone last year,” BreezoMeter’s co-founder and CMO Ziv Lautman tells NoCamels. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is a leading environmental cause of cancer deaths.

     SEE ALSO: Exposure To Air Pollution In Womb Raises Risk Of Autism, Study Finds

BreezoMeter is a big-data analytics platform that uses local air-monitoring sensors and stations to gather real-time pollution data. The information is collected by the startup from monitoring stations and is then compiled and packaged to provide up-to-date information about air quality in any given location. In Israel, there are about 300 monitoring stations. This air quality data is available to the public and companies like BreezoMeter in 90 countries worldwide. Breezometer also sells data and air analysis to businesses in the real estate and fitness markets.

No more scattered pollution data

It all started when BreezoMeter’s CEO Ran Korber looked to buy a family home with his pregnant wife in an area with little air pollution. Korber sought out information that could address his concerns, down to the specific street he looked at. The results of his research were so scattered, impersonal and disorganized, that they inspired the beginnings of BreezoMeter. Alongside co-founders Emil Fisher and Ziv Lautman, this idea became a reality two years ago. Alongside angel investments, BreezoMeter has already undergone seed funding, which brought in $200,000 from venture capital firms Jumpspeed and Entree Capital.

The Breezometer app is available on Google Play and by March 2015, it should also be available on the Apple App Store. The mobile app is still in its early stages: it’s user friendly, however, it obviously requires a diligent effort on the user’s part to improve their lifestyle. There are options to personalize the health results; however, these are very basic and limited at the moment.

The app uses GPS technology to locate the nearest monitoring station for up-to-date information. Using its own algorithms, BreezoMeter then checks for the necessary information and uses weather data including temperature, wind speeds, and time of the day. BreezoMeter then formulates a localized pollution reading with 99% accuracy, according to Lautman. Of the consumers who have download the app, 35% use it on a daily basis, Lautman claims.

How clear is the air in your kid’s kindergarten?

The app doesn’t stop at air quality monitoring. In fact, BreezoMeter also provides personalized, easy-to-follow health solutions for kids, athletes, adults and more – all in real time, based on air quality levels. Users can go so far as to plug in health history and habits in order to allow for the app to personalize and search for optimal living conditions based on individual needs. For example, individuals with respiratory sensitivities can make conscious decisions to stay out of heavily polluted areas that put them at risk. “It is not just about the air quality, but it’s also about the alternatives and solutions we provide”, Lautman explains.

BreezoMeter currently has a modest staff of 10 employees, with most coming from computer science or engineering backgrounds. The company has participated in several competitions, and recently won the StartUp Open Israel Competition.

    SEE ALSO: Israeli Air Pollution App ‘BreezoMeter’ Named In World’s ’20 Hottest Apps’ By CNBC

Still, pollutants are all around us – and that’s something BreezoMeter can’t change. However, it does give consumers better knowledge of their surroundings, in hopes that they can then act on that knowledge. As Dr. Maria Neira, Director of WHO’s Department for Public Health, has put it: “Few risks have a greater impact on global health today than air pollution; the evidence signals the need for concerted action to clean up the air we all breathe.” The question is whether people can afford to follow BreezoMeter’s recommendations and relocate, and whether people’s awareness to pollution will drive governments to act. Says Lautman: “Providing people with the information necessary to monitor air quality will encourage them to demand healthier air.”


Photos and videos courtesy of BreezoMeter

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Startup ‘Freightos’ Takes Centuries-Old Shipping Industry Online]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36571 2015-02-08T10:38:53Z 2015-02-08T10:38:53Z

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

Today, travelers can get quotes for airline travel online; taxi passengers can order rides with an app; and drivers can get up-to-the-second data on what routes to take and which ones to avoid. But in the international shipping industry — a business worth about $4 trillion — things are done today as they were decades, even centuries, ago.

“It’s totally inefficient,” said Zvi Schreiber, CEO of Israeli start-up Freightos. “Unlike with air travel, for example, where passengers can get quotes on multiple airlines and order tickets in a matter of minutes, it takes days to get a price quote on shipping cargo. Agents are the go-between to locate ships, determine routes, figure out pricing, etc.”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Students Turn Shipping Containers Into Swanky Sustainable Homes

There’s no reason why shipping, like so many other things, can’t be automated, Schreiber believes — so he started Freightos, a company that is determined to bring shipping into the 21st century.

By utilizing big data, advanced software routines, and cloud technology, Schreiber believes he can modernize shipping to the point where companies or individuals that need to send cargo overseas will be able to track down the ship set to sail from the port where their cargo is located, and its destination port, with automated price quotes for shipping, insurance, lading, and anything else involved in moving goods from point A to point B.

Schreiber, a serial entrepreneur, has a number of very successful tech exits under his belt, including Tradeum (acquired by VerticalNet), Lightech (acquired by General Electric), and Unicorn Solutions (acquired by IBM). He was also the brains behind G.ho.st, a cloud-based operating system and computing environment that has a lot of similarities with Google’s Chrome OS. But he preceded Chrome by about five years, “before the world was ready for such a virtual system,” claimed Schreiber.

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

Photos: zackzen

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Are Lengthy Emails A Thing Of The Past? The Founder Of TL;DR Seems To Think So]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36526 2015-02-05T14:15:15Z 2015-02-05T14:15:15Z

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According to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, the average person spends 13 hours, or 28 percent of the work week, sorting through and sending emails. This is added to fact that long, drawn-out emails are slowly losing their relevance in an abundance of social networks and instant messaging platforms. Hence, the tech community has unofficially decided that what the world needs is a new kind of email platform that will allow users to cut down the time they spend reading and sorting through emails. One Israeli platform that attempts to break in the potential of the quick email bubble is TL;DR.

TL;DR: Emails are the new tweets

Created by Ami Ben David, TL;DR, meaning “too long; didn’t read”, focuses on breaking down emails so that users are only exposed to what they must see. Structured like an easy-to-navigate social network feed, TL;DR allows users to swipe left and right to delete or send a quick reply to an email, which , by the way, is limited to 30 words. However, there is an option to add longer text if it’s needed, which doesn’t happen often for most email users, according to Ben David. “You could add ‘long text’ if you want to write a novel, but those first 30 words should convey exactly what you want, because that’s what the recipients will see in their inbox feed.” Besides trying to make our email experiences simpler, TL;DR apparently also wants to tell us how our emails should look, and it seems that they should look like a Twitter tweet.

tldrscreen

     SEE ALSO: App Of The Week: Slipnote, The Crazy Child Of WhatsApp And 9GAG

TL;DR automatically syncs with your email accounts, shortening long emails into 30 word posts even if they contain more words (which most emails usually do). Then the emails are color-coded to help you differentiate between them, and probably to make sure that you are replying the right 30 word response to the right email chain. The app also brings email attachments like links, images and documents to the forefront so that you don’t miss them in your shortened version of the email. These features are what Ben David believes make TL;DR a truly “lighting fast” messaging app with the potential to change the face of email.

Emails are really just longer text messages

The co-founder of Everything.me, an Android launch platform that attempts to narrow down the apps on your phone to the ones you use most, Ben David seems to think that TL;DR does much more than provide us with a platform for quickly dealing with emails. “More profoundly, TL;DR is dealing head-on with the social convention that emails must be lengthier than text messages,” he states, continuing, “Emails can and should be short! When we spend less time on email, we have much more time to actually have a life.”

Regarding “having a life,” TL;DR doesn’t do much to improve in that category; in fact, it makes one of the central aspects of life, the act of writing, nearly obsolete. Why not open a Twitter and Facebook account and get rid of email entirely? The problem is that you can’t. One of the most obvious downsides of using the app, which is still in beta, is that it sends you notifications just like your mail applications do. This, in my eyes, makes the app unnecessary because if you are already using a certain mail application, why switch just to read your email in a the style of a social feed?  Another downside is the user experience. Searching for emails on the platform was no easy task and the email chains start to run together at some point.

     SEE ALSO: Say Yo! Why This Ridiculously Simple Israeli App Is Going Viral

As noted, TL;DR is still in its beta stage, but the app will soon be available for download in the Apple Store. Raising seed funding from Moshe Hogeg, the founder of Mobli and Yo!, TL;DR hopes to become a viral sensation in the world of email (similar to Yo) and to minimize the 13 hours we spend on emails. However, due to a confusing user experience and an overlap with existing email alerts, TL;DR may need to make some changes before it can claim to herald in a new age of the 30 word email.

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Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The Top Ten Israeli Companies Revolutionizing Fashion Tech]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36066 2015-02-04T15:41:15Z 2015-02-04T15:41:15Z

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It’s not enough in the fashion industry to just look good anymore – being fashion-forward increasingly requires integrating technology to sell, purchase and create fashion items. Designing cutting edge wearable technology, using big data technology to match the right outfit with the right customer and using interactive displays to draw in consumers are all part of the ‘FashTech’ (fashion technology) revolution.

These are some of the top Israeli fashion tech companies looking to make the business of fashion a lot more cutting-edge.

MICA

micabraclet

According to some, wearable technology will only take off if it is designed with an eye for fashion, which is why Intel has joined forces with fashion house Opening Ceremony to create a luxury smart accessory designed for the fashion forward, connected woman. MICA, standing for “My Intelligent Communication Accessory,” is a high-end designer bracelet, complete with semiprecious stones, 18K gold plating and designed with a curved sapphire touch screen display allowing users to access text messages, calendar reminders, meeting alerts and other notifications through Google, Facebook, and Yelp. MICA works without being connected to a smartphone and will be powered by its own two-year AT&T data contract. For $450, you can stay ahead of the fashion trends and buy this bracelet for your connected loved ones at Barney’s or Opening Ceremony online and in stores.

micabracelet2

 

EZface

The kiosk screen

The kiosk screen

The cosmetics industry has gotten a makeover with EZface technology, a technology that allows consumers to digitally try on color cosmetics without making a mess! Founded in 2000, by Ruth Gal and Rami Orpaz, this futuristic cosmetic solution, now available at kiosks in over 30 stores worldwide, claims to provide a hassle-free way for women to find the cosmetics that will best suit their features and needs. Just snap a digital photo using the kiosk’s camera, scan the barcode of any beauty product, and in seconds, the technology analyzes the photo to determine precisely where and how to apply the makeup. The system provides a very realistic preview of the customer’s new look and even suggests complementary products and shades that best suit the user’s profile. For now you can scan a variety of products from L’Oreal Paris, Maybelline New York, CoverGirl and Revlon, but the company hopes to continue expanding its reach. And – it gets even better – the EZface app is now available for iPhone, so now you can virtually try on makeup on the go!

 

AWear

Want a bag like Ariana's?

Want a bag like Ariana’s?

‘Wow I love your bag! Where did you get it?’ This is one question that AWear founder Liron Slonimsky regretted asking after an uncomfortable encounter with a stylish stranger who wouldn’t reveal her outfit’s origin. Fortunately, those awkward encounters may be a thing of the past since Slonimsky founded her company in 2013. AWear’s application allows users to identify the exact piece of clothing or accessory someone is wearing from up to 30 feet away. Eyeing those killer boots on a fashionista across the street? Just covertly use your phone to scan the item and the app promises to reveal the brand, price, and where you can buy it within seconds. For some items, you can even make an online purchase directly through the app. The technology works by embedding AWear’s specially designed chips into a brand’s product, which means that millions of retailers and brands will have to get onboard with AWear for this technology to really work. But according to the company, the technology turns customers into brand ambassadors and provides designers with free marketing. Consumers also get rewarded; every time an item they’re wearing is scanned, they earn points that turn into rewards and discounts from that brand.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Designer Wins International Award For Stunning 3D Printer Fashion

Stylit

stylit2-1

Stylit claims that finding the perfect outfit with their technology has never been easier. Fill out a short questionnaire online regarding your budget, style, and size and in just seconds an “algo-fashion” styling machine will determine your style DNA.  Employing over 50 international stylists, the Stylit team hopes to be able to offer up keen style advice that suits your personal style, size and budgetary limits. Each week, the team delivers free styling advice right to your e-mail, including suggested outfits, accessories, and even makeup. The best part about the site is that once you find an outfit you like, all you have to do is click and you’ll be taken directly to the website of the store where you can purchase it. By rating outfit choices, Stylit is able to adjust its recommendations to ensure that their users discover clothes that they love.  Currently the site is geared towards women, but founders Maya Kramer, Yaniv Nissim, Michael Gutkin, and Shilo Ayalon hope to eventually offer up a similar service for men.

 

LikeAGlove

likeaglovedemo

Research shows that nearly half of all clothing purchases made online are returned because finding the right size and fit online can be very tricky. That’s why ecommerce accounts for only 15 percent of total garment sales as shoppers are reluctant to buy clothes they can’t try on. A new smart garment, LikeAGlove, is about to change that. Just put the LikeAGlove garment on in the comfort of your home, stand up, and in seconds the smart fabric will measure your exact shape and send the data over Bluetooth to the LikeAGlove app on your phone or tablet. The app will save your data to your personal account, which you can use within the LikeAGlove search engine to help you find the clothing items you are looking for, and in the right size! The innovative search engine not only suggests items that are the right size, but also ones that suit your body type.

 

Famuza

famuza

Fashion designers aren’t mind readers and they can’t always predict what their customers will want. But by allowing the customer to dictate what’s in style, Famuza is creating a real buzz. According to founders Tomer Dvir and Asaf Hachmon, tons of clothing items are discarded each year due to over production and a lack of demand. At Famuza, a new type of fashion house pledged to “real fashion, by real designers, for real people,” demand is calculated by reaching out to the crowd, allowing ideas to flow between designers and customers without interference. Up-and-coming designers provide sketches and designs, and the users get to decide which of the ideas comes to life. Famuza will then coordinate production and distribution for the most popular items, predict the demand, and manufacture the clothing that we really want to wear to minimize waste.

 

Zeekit

zeekittechcrunch

It can be difficult to buy clothes online without trying them on, but Zeekit, similar to LikeAGlove (above), is making virtual fitting possible. Created by Alon Kristal, Yael Vizel and Nir Appleboim, Zeekit allows you to envision how you look wearing the clothing you find online. All you have to do is upload a photo to the site, fill out a questionnaire about the kind of clothes you are looking for and click on any of the available clothing items to virtually try them on. You can even mix and match, trying on different colors and patterns to see what works best. When you find what you like, you can purchase it through the Zeekit app, which also recommends sizes, showing users where items fit and where they don’t. Still in beta stage, Zeekit hopes to transform the online shopping industry by using its image processing technology to boost online sales and bestow confidence in consumers of the digital age.

SnapGet

snapget

Every once in awhile a girl has to indulge herself, and according to Jimmy Choo, “The right shoe can make everything different.” That’s why Beni Gazala, Alex Azarh, and Danny Shir have teamed up to create SnapGet, a simple new way to find those must-have shoes. It’s really very simple; just as the name suggests, ‘snap’ a picture of any shoe from any store, on any person, or in any magazine, and SnapGet promises to find it for you. Once you find what you’re looking for, you can purchase it right through the app. Priced above budget? SnapGet’s app can help you find a similar pair that’s in your price range, a feature that has reportedly increased purchases by up to 40 percent, according to news website GeekTime. The current version of the application focuses only on shoes, but the company plans to expand to other clothing items in the near future.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Fashion Student Designs With Live Bacteria

Fashioholic

fashioholic

Israeli startup Fashioholic designs and develops what it calls “serious fashion games” to display and advertise designer trends to consumers. Participating designers choose what merchandise to display and are able to present their products in front of fashion-forward, style-savvy, trendsetters. Fashioholic’s latest app, Fashion Eye, is a social game that incorporates fashion, prompting players to pick which of two items they think is more expensive, guess the designer, or even the exact price. You can play against friends, unlock badges, and receive great offers. The best part is that you can save the clothing that you’re interested in and purchase it when you finish. By using games to promote their products, retailers and designers collect information on users’ preferences and deliver targeted, effective marketing strategies that can reach consumers in ways that display ads can’t.

 

righTune

rightune

“Increase your revenue one tune at a time”- that’s righTune’s motto. righTune helps brands connect emotionally to their online audience by creating an in-store ambiance through customized music. According to a survey by Gallup, 33 percent of consumers report that music influences their decision to make a purchase. That’s why righTune founder and CEO Erez Perlmuter, with the help of CTO Genady Trifton and Chief Music Editor Yossi Barak, have created a patented technology and ongoing learning mechanism to provide personalized music for websites. righTune obtains information about the target audience and core brand values to generate customized music for each website user. The company tracks user engagement for each website’s playlist, and learns which playlists perform best at which times of the day so that music can be adjusted and tailored as needed. All you have to do is sit back, relax, and listen in as your revenue rises – at least that’s what rightTune hopes!

Photos: Bigstock/ Collier Schorr- Intel/ EZFace/ WENN.com/ screenshot/ LikeAGlove/ Famuza/ Globes/ Fashioholic/ righTune

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David Shamah, Times of Israel <![CDATA[Bloomberg: Israel Is World’s 5th Most Innovative Country, Ahead Of US, UK]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36544 2015-02-04T12:37:33Z 2015-02-04T12:37:33Z

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

Israel has been ranked number five overall on this year’s Bloomberg Innovation Index, an annual ranking of countries that measures performance in research and development, tech education, patents, and other marks of technology prowess. Fifth place marked a dramatic rise from last year’s 30th.

Israel did especially well in the R&D category, with the country ranking second in GDP expenditure on research, as well as on the percentage of the labor force with advanced degrees and the number of research professionals per million population. Israel ranked fourth overall in both those categories.

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

The study measured country rankings in six areas: R&D, manufacturing, the number of high-tech companies located in each country (the total number, not adjusted for population size), the number of students enrolled in post-secondary education programs, the number of PhDs working in R&D, and the number of patents per capita.

innovationindexresults

With its fifth place overall ranking, Israel bested France, Singapore, and the UK, as well as the US, which came in sixth overall. Taking the number one spot in overall innovation, as well as in R&D and education, was South Korea, followed by Japan, Germany, and Finland. China, recently touted by some as posing an R&D challenge to Israel, came in 18th in that category, and 23rd overall. India, another supposed challenger, did not make the top fifty in any of the metrics.

Israel’s overall rank was a strong improvement over last year’s Bloomberg ranking, which lists the top 50 countries for innovation. In that ranking, Israel placed a dismal 30th. In those rankings, Israel did well in education and R&D, but not as well in patents – ranking only 28th.

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

Photos: Bloomberg, screenshot

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Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Study Decodes Viral Online Content, Finds ‘Memes’ Act Just Like Genes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36014 2015-02-03T12:39:14Z 2015-02-03T11:48:15Z

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Catchy melodies, funny images, new fashion trends, quirky ideas, unique rituals and memorable dances float around the web each day, some spreading more quickly then others, grabbing our attention and inspiring us to click ‘share’. These “memes” as many of them are called are shared elements of culture that spread from one individual to another over the Internet. In order to better understand cultural “virality” Professor David Eilam of Tel Aviv University conducted a study to shed light on the building blocks of viral content and the different ways it’s used to preserve traditional rituals and practices.

grumpycatmeme

The term “meme,” first coined in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, explains the way cultural information spreads. In his book, ‘The Selfish Gene,’ Dawkins suggests that just as genes transfer genetic properties from one individual to another, “memes” have a unique way of transferring cultural information by replicating and spreading from one mind to another. However, Dawkins’ research remained incomplete. Now Prof. Eilam and a team of researchers have found a way to offer both qualitative and quantitative methods to track memes, reinforcing Dawkins’ original theory that both genes and memes evolve in similar ways.

A viral meme is what you make it

According to Eilam’s research, memes appear and catch on somewhat randomly. “In culture, unlike in biology, there is really no reason why certain styles of music, architecture, or fashion prevail. As long as the acts are brief, short, simple, and used repeatedly, they have the potential to become a meme,” Eilam explains. In their study, the researchers also discovered that idiosyncratic acts, or distinctive expressions, which often occur before or after a ritual, are actually essential to how, and if, the meme catches on.

     SEE ALSO: Say Yo! Why This Ridiculously Simple Israeli App Is Going Viral

“The variability that we have in rituals has the same importance that variation has in biology. The basis of evolution is variability, and in a sense the same rules that apply to evolution in biology can also be applied to culture,” says Prof. Eilam. The idiosyncratic acts of individuals may eventually be repeated by others, becoming an integral part of a ritual, or essentially a new meme. “Now we have found a way to use the same tools that we use in biology to create a more solid understanding of cultural information,” explains Prof. Eilam.

Keeping with tradition means staying true to yourself

To conduct their research, the team observed and examined a traditional wedding dance called the “Umsindo,” performed by the Zulu tribe in South Africa. In this dance the high kick, the only standard meme of the dance, was performed by all 19 participants. However all of the dancers engaged in additional idiosyncratic movements resembling free-style dance before and after executing the high kick. The researchers found that having the freedom to add unique movements made it easier to inherit the one main act because it allowed for self-expression and creativity.

traditionalafricandance

The traditional “Umsindo” dance high kick.

The team also studied the traditional Jewish “tefillin” ceremony, in which Jewish men wrap a leather band around their arm as part of their morning prayers. Prof Eilam posits, “When we started to analyze this tradition, we didn’t see many differences. But after careful observation, we noticed that 70 percent of people actually did something different. There were only 11 acts out of 67 that all of the men actually did.” The fact that the men practicing this centuries-old ritual are able to express a degree of flexibility accounts for the preservation of the meme over so many years. It’s hard to adhere to 10 or 20 acts, and much easier to inherit just a few.

     SEE ALSO: Beyond The Ice Bucket Challenge: Israel’s ‘NurOwn’ May Become The First Real Treatment For ALS

To bring things into a more modern context, this year the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge “broke the Internet” by challenging people to dump a bucket of ice on their heads to raise money and awareness. Everyone from Bill Gates to Justin Timberlake took on the freeze, but it wasn’t the fact that they poured a bucket of ice on their heads that made their videos go viral—it was their creative approach to this universal challenge.

So, the next time, you are giggling to a funny video, watching a viral dance, or passing around a hilarious photo on Facebook, you’ll know that in some way you are contributing to a wider sense of cultural replication and evolution. That should make you think twice before clicking ‘share’!

The research was conducted by Prof. David Eilam and Dr. Michal Fux of the Department of Zoology at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences, together with Dr. Joel Mort, and Dr. Tom Lawson of Queens University Belfast.

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Get Tech Savy On The Slopes With RideOn’s Augmented Reality Ski Goggles]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36418 2015-02-03T08:48:27Z 2015-02-02T20:10:55Z

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Whether you’re a fan of skiing, snowboarding, or neither, there’s no denying that the latest Israeli crowdfunding campaign has the potential to take your run down the slopes to the next level. RideOn claims to be the first augmented reality (AR) ski goggles available on the market that will allow you to interact with friends and experience video-game like interfaces while you’re taking on the slopes.

Challenge your friends, and yourself, on the slopes

Created by Israeli co-founders Ori Kotek and Alon Getz, RideOn’s next-level ski goggles allow wearers to view their ski path through layers of augmented reality that appear as if they are being projected on the snow 15 feet in front of you. The wearer can then interact with the goggle’s features using eye movements, which allow them to play games and challenges, call and video message their friends on the slopes, send quick text messages and navigate their way through the pistes. The interactive technology is made possible by a number of sensors, a high-definition video camera and network connectivity that are all part of the goggles, which also feature, like any other top-of-the-line ski goggles, anti-scratch, anti-fog and helmet compatible lenses. And once RideOn’s crowdfunding campaign is complete, the company will release a free mobile application that will connect with the mobile app to let you track your progress, interact with other riders in your vicinity, your friends back home, and instantly upload your skiing videos online.

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

rideon4

Though many in the tech world have already declared the death of the first augmented reality glasses, Google Glass, some two years after they were released, RideOn has taken the “extreme” angle that seems to hold greater potential. Although I myself am not a skier or snowboarder and hate the snow, the game and challenge feature of the RideOn glasses makes me want to get myself on a mountain and start learning. The possibility of challenging your friends could take the sport skiing to the next level, out of its individualized sport niche. In addition, the ability to connect with your friends on the mountain and to navigate the slopes without using a map makes it seem like RideOn could become as essential to skiers and snowboarders as wearing a helmet. A week into their crowdfunding campaign, the RideOn team has raised over 70 percent of their $75,000 funding goal, so it’s a safe bet that they will meet their goal, or raise even more, before the campaign closes on February 19th. Currently, a pair of the goggles can be purchased on Indiegogo for $499 and the products are expected to ship by September 2015, if the funding goal is met.

Not the first AR goggles to hit the slopes

Some potential downsides of RideOn’s AR ski goggles are the price and the weight. Regular ski goggles cost between $100-$250 on average and weigh much less, about 100 grams, in comparison to RideOn’s goggles that weigh 240 grams. The added price and weight are obviously due to the “heavy” technological specs, but for the majority of first time and occasional skiers, the fun user experience won’t convince them to dish out their wallet for more expense ski gear. This product is geared towards regular and professional skiing fanatics that want to be the coolest person on the slopes. Another potential downside of the RideOn goggles is the weight, which could prove a dangerous factor if a skier is injured or is prone to accidents.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli App Brings Archaeological Landmarks Back To Life

Last but not least, though RideOn claims to be the first pair of augmented reality goggles, that’s simply not true. Sporting brand Oakley came out with their own augmented reality goggles that track speed and connect you to your smartphone via Bluetooth two years ago. Another brand called Zealoptics released their own AR ski goggles with GPS and performance tracking in 2011. There are a number of other companies that have tried to crack the ski goggle market and simply haven’t made it, which may be because the product is geared at a rather slim audience, namely lovers of ski and advanced technology. Maybe with its video game-like feature and social connectivity RideOn will be able to go where no ski goggles have gone before, but you’ll have to wait until February 19th or try the goggles out for yourself to find out.

Photos: courtesy of RideOn

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Jonathan Neff, NoCamels <![CDATA[Home Is Where The Hand Is: New Gizmo Singlecue Uses Gestures To Control Anything From TV to iTunes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=35683 2015-02-01T13:04:34Z 2015-02-01T12:08:12Z

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In a world where everything is becoming more automated and connected, Singlecue takes it one step further. Just imagine sitting in front of your television and muting it by simply placing a finger to your lips in a “shush” motion. In the coming months, this vision will become reality.

Singlecue is a home-automation device, designed by Israel-based EyeSight Technologies. Singlecue sits right above your television set and claims to give users complete, gesture-powered control of nearly any device. Although Singlecue has an official list of compatible devices, you can teach it to recognize almost anything with an infrared, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth sensor.

Singlecue

Hassle-free home automation

This product aims to spread its wings far beyond traditional entertainment control systems. With its flexible compatibility, Singlecue says it can even pair certain thermostats to control temperature completely hands-free or certain systems that control the lighting in your home.

“You feel total freedom,” EyeSight CEO Gideon Shmuel tells NoCamels.com. A remote control free home, in which the control of devices is unified into a single interface, helps you perform many basic functions through gestures, eliminating much of the need for multiple remotes, apps and excess cables. “Singlecue turns the user into the remote,” says Shmuel.

Although Singlecue plans to lead the home automation market, one can’t help but think of the inevitable mistakes that might occur. During a product demo, Shmuel occasionally had difficulty getting Singlecue to respond to a specific command. One of the company’s main challenges is designing a user interface that can recognize not only the small differences in gestures, but also the almost microscopic idiosyncrasies of any given user.

     SEE ALSO: Bewitched? Control Any Home Appliance With A Wave Of Your Hand

26 million Internet of Things devices by 2020

Singlecue is one product that joins the latest internet of things movement, which aims to connect many systems – not just computers and hand-held devices – to the internet. “Singlecue isn’t just an addition to the smart home market,” Shmuel explains. “It takes all of your existing things and puts them in one place with a fun, intuitive experience.”

Information technology research firm Gartner estimates that there will be 26 million “internet of things” devices – such as smartwatches, health devices, and home automation devices including Singlecue – by 2020. In this respect, Singlecue doesn’t fit into the traditional mold of home automation, as it is internet-connected and much more flexible and pertinent to life in a rapidly growing tech age.

A visit to EyeSight’s office provides an opportunity to turn the TV and cable box on with one wave of the hand, and control channels, volume, and other connected devices by simply “swiping” through the controls.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Gesture-Recognition To Be Incorporated In Androids


Hands-free control of iTunes from anywhere in the house

EyeSight’s Mac OS application, which is still in development, will give complete control of iTunes using the same gestures and built-in camera. You’ll soon able to pause, skip through your music, and control volume – all without touching your keyboard. Think about not having to wash your greasy hands in the kitchen just to change your music!

EyeSight Technologies was established in 2005 with the mission of bringing machine vision across connected devices in a simple, interactive experience. Before Singlecue, EyeSight developed similar technology that can be found in big brands such as Lenovo and Phillips to this day. The company continues to license its gesture recognition technology out to third parties, but Singlecue is EyeSight’s solution for end users. The goal is to market Singlecue directly to as many consumers as possible.

The product is expected to become available in early 2015 for $129 for customers who preorder the product; retailers will charge roughly $199, company officials estimate. However, EyeSight has yet to start mass-manufacturing the product because it is still working on an improved and bug-free version of Singlecue’s user interface, Shmuel told NoCamels.

Competition is fierce 

This is not the first time, however, that gesture control has made its way into the home. Reemo, another gesture control device, is a wearable gadget that looks similar to a watch with many of the same capabilities as Singlecue. ThalmicLabs’ Myo is an armband which allows for gesture control of media players. Likewise, Kinect for Xbox has provided gesture control for its media devices since 2010, and Kinect developers have just recently delved into more home automation applications.

Another Israeli company, PointGrab, also developed a gesture device to control home appliances, but so far it seems that Singlecue is the most inclusive and compatible. There is no doubt that gesture control devices have been on the rise in the last couple of years, but Singlecue is one of the first to enter the realm of total home automation. Despite Singlecue’s limitations, it will be interesting to see if it will indeed lead to a new age of hands-free tech.

Photos and video courtesy of EyeSight

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Exit Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For $860 Million In First Four Weeks Of 2015]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36432 2015-02-01T07:33:41Z 2015-01-31T17:47:50Z

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In the course of the first four weeks of the year, Israeli startup companies sold for a record $860 million, and observers expect large corporations to extend their shopping spree in Startup Nation well into 2015. According to the IVC-Meitar Exits Report, in all of 2014, 99 Israeli companies sold for a total of $6.94 billion, which translates into an average monthly rate of $578 million – two-thirds of the acquisition volume recorded in January 2015 alone.

The bulk of money (roughly $670 million) spent on Israeli companies in January went toward the acquisitions of Annapurna, CloudOn and Redbend. Why did giants like Amazon and Dropbox flock to Israel to gobble up these startup companies? A look at the latest string of acquisitions reveals not only promising new technologies and entrepreneurs, but also the notorious Israeli chutzpah – which helps international companies solve their problems creatively.

According to the IVC-Meitar Exits Report released this month, 99 Israeli high-tech companies sold for a total of $6.94 billion in 2014, up 5 percent from $6.59 billion of 2013 (90 exits). Koby Simana, CEO of the IVC Research Center, expects this trend to continue in 2015. “This wave of acquisitions started two years ago, and it’s gaining more momentum,” he tells NoCamels. Already in 2014, there was an increase in deals ranging from $100 million to $500 million – 18 deals vs. 12 in 2013.

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

Ofer Sela, Technology Partner at KPMG Somekh Chaikin, expects 2015 to yield additional exits, as 40-50 startups are mature enough for acquisitions. “It’s very hard to recruit talented employees in Silicon Valley now – the competition is wild,” Sela tells NoCamels.

That’s part of the reason why large companies are buying startups in Israel, which has been dubbed Silicon Wadi. “We’re not as disciplined as the Irish or the Indian, it’s not in our DNA,” Sela says. “We think outside the box when it comes to problem solving. When big companies present a problem and ask for a solution, Israeli professionals tend to daringly redefine the problem – and creatively solve it. At first, Israelis may seem arrogant or rude, but in the end, the process enriches and progresses the acquiring company.”

Amazon buys Annapurna Labs for $370 million

The biggest exit so far this year, is that of Annapurna Labs. Not much is known about this closely held chipmaker, which sold to tech giant Amazon for an estimated $370 million earlier this month. The company – named after one of the highest peaks of the Himalayas – develops chips that make server farms work more efficiently and cost-effectively. Amazon purchased Annapurna for its cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services.

Jeff Bezos

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com

Yokna’em-based Annapurna was founded in 2011 by Avigdor Willenz, who also sold another chipmaker in late 2000, ‘Galileo’, for $1.7 billion to Marvell Technology Group. Investors in Annapurna Labs include British chip designer ARM and venture capital firm Walden International. In the past three years, Annapurna has reportedly raised tens of millions of dollars in private funding. According to a report in Calcalist, as part of the acquisition, Amazon will open a research and development center in Israel.

According to Sela, Annapurna’s technology will help Amazon integrate hardware and software. “Companies like Apple, which offer both hardware and software, provide a better user experience,” he tells NoCamels. “Also, it’s disadvantageous and expensive for a company like Amazon to base its infrastructure on a third party.”

Dropbox acquires CloudOn for an estimated $100 million

Another major acquisition this month was by cloud storage company Dropbox, which acquired Herzliya-based startup CloudOn. CloudOn, which has 9 million users, develops applications that edit documents and spreadsheets on mobile devices.

In a letter to CloudOn users, company founders state that they have spent the past three years “changing the way people edit, create, organize and share docs on any platform.” The company claims that during that time, its apps were used to create, edit and share 90 million documents, making it a top 10 productivity app in 120 countries.

CloudOn founders Milind Gadekar, Meir Morgenstern and Jay Zaveri state that the company is now “taking the next step toward our vision of reimagining docs – by joining the Dropbox team. Our companies share similar values, are committed to helping people work better, and together we can make an even greater impact.”

 

HARMAN Buys Red Bend for $200 million

HARMAN International Industries, an American audio and infotainment equipment company that designs, manufactures and markets audio equipment mainly for the automotive industry, has acquired Hod Hasharon-based Red Bend Software for $200 million in cash and stock.

Red Bend is a provider of software management technology for connected devices that has been in the much-hyped Internet of Things field for several years. The company was founded in 1999, and has since developed over-the-air (OTA) software and firmware upgrading services.

“Building upon Red Bend’s strength in the mobile and carrier markets, HARMAN will accelerate Red Bend’s growth in the automotive space and will position Red Bend software as the de facto standard for OTA software services for mobile devices and automotive applications,” according to a statement issued by HARMAN earlier this month.

By 2020, it is expected that more than 90 percent of vehicles on the road will be connected, according to Frost and Sullivan, so it seems that with the acquisition of Red Bend, HARMAN will be able to tap into a huge market.

 

     SEE ALSO: Meet The Winners: Top 15 Israeli Startups And Innovations Of 2014

Only 4 percent of startups succeed

Simana argues that many startups can only be successful if bought – otherwise, they’re doomed to die. “Not all Israeli startups are destined to become the next Check Point or Mellanox,” he says, referring to two successful, publicly traded Israeli high tech companies. “There are 290 research and development centers in Israel, most of which were created by foreign acquisitions of local startups. Many startups can’t make it on their own.”

According to the Israeli Startup Success Report 1999-2014, published this week by the IVC Research Center and REVERSEXIT, only four out of 100 startups succeed and only four out of 500 are successful at growing independently. In addition, the study found that 46 percent of Israeli startups stop operating within 3.5 years on average. The good news is that 71 percent of successful companies are acquired. And if that rate will indeed grow further this year, as expected, we’ll see a range of international companies scouting the Innovation Nation for new, exciting acquisitions.

 

Startup Success Report

 

Photos and videos: Duisenberg School of Finance, Amazon.com, CloudOn, Red Bend Software, IVC Research CenterReversExit

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David Shamah, Times of Israel <![CDATA[Space Week Lifts Off As Google Space Race Intensifies]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36429 2015-01-31T17:33:58Z 2015-01-31T17:32:04Z

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

Israelis are looking to the stars once again, as Space Week begins Sunday, with exhibits, lectures, contests, demonstrations and more showing off Israel’s prowess in space tech. The event is perhaps more relevant this year than ever, according to Dr. Isaac Ben-Israel, chairman of the Israel Space Agency (ISA), because this year the core tech that will bring Israel to the moon needs to be finished.

2015 was set to be the “year of space” for Israel as well as for many other countries that have teams competing for a $20 million prize in the Google LunarX space race contest. The mission for the moon-bound spaceships: to take high-definition video and beam it back to earth, and explore the surface of the moon by moving, or sending out a vehicle, that will move 500 meters along the moon’s surface.

Thirty-three teams entered the contest when it was first announced in 2007; today, 18 remain, but only five, including Israel’s team, are thought by industry experts to be making significant progress on their projects.

The original end-of-2015 deadline has been pushed back to December 31, 2016, but the core technology for the Israeli craft being built by SpaceIL, the organization that intends to win the prize on Israel’s behalf, needs to be completed soon.

     SEE ALSO: SpaceIL’s Mission To The Moon Says Its Chances Of Winning Google Lunar XPrize Are High

That makes Israel Space Week a very important event for Israelis, said Ben-Israel. “Israel sees space technology as an incentive to advancement and a key to a highly developed information economy which will attract high-quality professionals and skilled workers,” he said. “SpaceIL’s initiative is the first of what we expect will be many Israeli innovations in space exploration.”

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

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Many Seniors Turn To Substance And Alcohol Abuse After Retirement, Study Finds]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36370 2015-01-28T15:39:53Z 2015-01-28T16:36:30Z

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Close to three million Americans aged 55 and older suffer from alcohol abuse — and this figure is expected to reach nearly 6 million by 2020. While alcohol abuse remains prevalent among them, the rate of illicit drug abuse in adults over 50 more than doubled between 2002 and 2013.

Many of the older Americans suffering from substance abuse are retired. But according to Tel Aviv University research in Israel, it is not retirement alone that leads to drug and alcohol abuse, but rather a host of circumstances surrounding leaving the work force, which often coincides with painful later-life events such as the death of spouses and friends.retirementjar

More than lack of work

According to the study, published in the inaugural issue of “Journal of Work, Aging and Retirement,” older adults often lack the skills required to cope with the sudden vacuum produced by retirement as well as painful events in later life. The research also pointed to the impact of circumstances and conditions of retirement on feelings of depression, purposelessness, and financial strain, which are known to lead to substance abuse.

     SEE ALSO: Want To Save $19K? Meet FeeX The ‘Robin Hood Of Fees’ That Eliminates Your Hidden Charges

“We found that the conditions under which people retired — whether they were pushed into it or it was something expected, which they planned for — had great bearing on alcohol and drug habits,” said Prof. Peter A. Bamberger. “The worst combination we found was among people who took early retirement from jobs they loved because they were terrified their companies were going under. Among all groups studied, this one exhibited the highest incidence of substance abuse.

“Our second major finding was that the conditions experienced once in retirement influenced alcohol and drug habits,” Prof. Bamberger continued. “Even if an individual plans for retirement, he/she might not fully grasp the changes that must be made to his/her lifestyle. As a result, many people experience serious financial straits. Feeling unstable, lonely, and depressed, it isn’t surprising perhaps — but it is unfortunate — that many retirees look to alcohol or drugs for comfort.”

The study, conducted as an annual phone-based survey of 1,200 service, construction, and manufacturing workers aged 52-75, also found that retirement can cause marital strain, and this too may precipitate or exacerbate substance misuse or abuse. “Financial strain and marital strain, both potential consequences of retirement, elicited problems with sleep. This in particular explained much of males’ misuse of alcohol,” said Prof. Bamberger.

retirementsmoking

More retirees are turning to harmful habits in order to cope with difficult life factors.

A silver lining for the silver years

Much can be done to prevent retirees from bottoming out, including screening and brief interventions aimed at identifying behavioral changes that could lead to substance abuse. “Sometimes awareness alone is enough to bring about positive change,” said Prof. Bamberger. “Even short phone calls or brief Internet-based feedback can be so instrumental. The other way of reversing this trend is to provide ways of coping with the stresses of retirement. Retirement groups and mentors are often able to pick up on signs of deterioration before they become a problem.”

     SEE ALSO: Study: ADHD Medicine Can Reduce The Risk Of Falling In The Elderly

Prof. Bamberger is currently working on a new NIH-sponsored study examining the alcohol-related consequences of the college-to-work transition among younger people.

Published in the inaugural issue of ‘Journal of Work, Aging and Retirement,’ the comprehensive ten-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was conducted by Prof. Peter A. Bamberger of TAU’s Faculty of Management and Cornell University’s Smithers Institute, and Prof. Samuel B. Bacharach of Cornell University. The two also co-authored ‘Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic’ (Oxford University Press, 2014), a layman’s summary of their many studies on the subject.

Photos: halthem msahbin/ American Advisers Group/ Dieter Mueller Photography

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Faces Of The Startup Nation: Q&A With Hotshot Entrepreneur Ron Gura]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36176 2015-01-28T15:40:32Z 2015-01-28T15:34:52Z

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Ron Gura is a young Israeli entrepreneur and investor, focusing on e-commerce, the consumer Internet, Internet of Things, FinTech and big data. Gura recently left his position at Israel’s eBay Innovation Center to become an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Eden Shochat and Michael Eisenberg’s ‘Aleph Ventures,’ an Israeli VC focusing on early-stage and seed investments. Gura was also the CEO and co-founder of ‘The Gifts Project,’ a social group-gifting platform that allows friends to chip in for gifts purchased on ecommerce websites, which was acquired by eBay in 2011.

What were your first steps into the business world? When I was 14, I bought a used Fender Jaguar Guitar (1967) in Colorado because I thought it was underpriced. I sold it a few months later in Israel for five times what I bought it for, so that was a sweet deal. All downhill from there.

What is your hidden talent? I can move my ears.

Falafel or Shawarma? Falafel #veggie

What are some of your favorite weekend activities? Friday’s breakfast with the house specialty “egg in a nest”.

If you were a selfie, what would you look like?

Selfie - me and my friends

What is your homepage? The Daily Pig (by @yonbergman)

What is the best place you’ve ever traveled to? Cinque Terre, Italy

Who was your first celebrity crush? Jennifer Love Hewitt

The ultimate 90's sweetheart.

The ultimate 90’s sweetheart.

Star Wars or Star Trek? I don’t really watch Star Wars, but love Star Trek.

What are you totally addicted to? Labneh cheese

What (or who) is your biggest inspiration? My brother Eyal. He’s a fearless and visionary entrepreneur who’s constantly looking around for new pains to solve.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Saying no to acquisition offers can keep you up at night.

Bar Refaeli or Gal Gadot? Gal who?

If you weren’t an entrepreneur, what would you be? Busy making the best sandwiches ever.

If you could be a movie character who would you be? Ari Gold from the show ‘Entourage’.

Ari Gold from 'Entourage'.

Ari Gold from ‘Entourage’.

Tel Aviv or New York? Really? do you enjoy freezing your ass off? Tel Aviv.

What is the best advice that you ever got from your parents? Whatever you do, wherever you are – do not sleep with your socks on.

Burger or green juice? Can I combo the two into one big juicy veggie burger?

What is your favorite Hebrew word? ‘Baduk’ meaning ‘For sure’.

NoCamels “Faces of the Startup Nation” features the leading entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and visionaries to give you an exclusive peak into the movers and shakers of Israel’s innovation scene. If you want to suggest a “Face”,  write us in the comments below!

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[First Of Its Kind In Israel: 3D Metal Printer Gets To Work At Technion]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36207 2015-01-28T08:22:59Z 2015-01-27T16:20:42Z

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A revolutionary 3-D printing system has recently been put into operation at the Israel Institute of Metals (IMM) – a research institute operating under the Technion R&D foundation. It is the first printer of its kind in Israel designed for metal components based on the melting of metal powder particles by an electron beam (EBM). The system is intended to be used to print metal components such as titanium for the aerospace industry, dental implants, bone substitutes, and more.

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

Three-dimensional metallic component manufacturing printing technology, or “stratification” (its professional term), is considered an innovative field that has come to be known as the “third industrial revolution.” This technology enables the production of components with high geometrical intricacies, eliminating the need for complicated and tailor-made machining processes for every part. This technology is predicted to become an integral part of research and production in aerospace, and health care industries (medical and dental medicine), as it is relevant to any area where tiny metallic component production is required, especially those characterized by a particularly complex geometry or are designed to work in extreme conditions. The system at the Technion has already printed a fuel tank prototype for a nano-satellite, also developed at the Technion. Future plans include the printing of engine blades, knee implants and more.

ARCAM's 3D metal printer

ARCAM’s 3D metal printer

     

The new system, manufactured by Sweden’s ARCAM Company, uses an electron beam (EBM), or a vacuum that manipulates electric and magnetic fields to melt metal powder particles. Its innovative melting process is safer, cheaper and more reliable than the prevailing methods used today, which are based on laser beams. Another advantage of this new system is its ability to work with a variety of metal alloys, since the transition between them is much simpler than laser-based systems. The total cost of the system (purchase, installation, training and input and output devices) amounts to approximately €850,000 ($982,000), was partially funded by the Office of the Chief Scientist in the Ministry of Economy.

     SEE ALSO: You Won’t Believe What This Is!

Until today, there were only three 3-D metal printers in Israel, all operating on the older laser technology. The new system at the Technion is, as a matter of fact, the very first 3-D metal printer ever installed in an Israeli academic institution. “IMM, which is at the forefront of research in this area in Israel, enjoys good exposure to Israeli industry, making it the most natural place for leading and deploying innovative technology of this kind in the country,” explains the Director of the Institute, Haim Rosenson. “The establishment of three-dimensional printing center at IMM will help promote this industry in Israel, provide for current and future needs, and encourage the conversion of manufacturing facilities to production using advanced technologies.”

Photos: courtesy

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Ariel Halevi, Vayomar <![CDATA[4 Steps To Creating A Memorable 60-Second Pitch]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36402 2015-01-27T12:53:21Z 2015-01-27T12:16:22Z

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60 seconds – a minute.

A lot of things can happen in 60 seconds:

250 babies are born around the world, 1.8 million ‘likes’ are made on Facebook and Americans eat 21,000 slices of pizza. But what can you do in 60 seconds?

Would you be prepared if someone asked you to pitch your startup in just 60 seconds? It sounds impossible. How can you be expected to give out all the necessary details in only one minute? The startups showcasing at the MassChallenge Israel launch event on February 11 will have to face that challenge.

Believe it or not, 60 seconds is plenty of time to introduce yourself, your startup, and your goals. All you have to do is follow these easy steps in order to create not just a 60-second pitch, but a GREAT 60-second pitch.

Technology News: With $800K In The Bank Emaze Want To Reinvent Presentation Design

Step 1: The Opening

Every famous speech needs a powerful opening to capture the audience’s attention, and that’s exactly what your pitch needs. Whatever it is you do, relate it to what you’re speaking about. It could be a quote or a statistic, something dramatic to really pull the crowd in.  It could be a question or a request for a raise of hands, something to get the audience involved. It could even be something as simple as wearing a funny accessory or holding a funny prop, something to make people look at you. You need to clearly communicate what it is you’re pitching within the first 10-15 seconds.

Step 2: The Essence

Now that you’ve introduced yourself in an interesting way, it’s time to move on to the bulk of your speech: what exactly your company is about.  The trick here is to use the fewest words possible. There is no real correlation between the innovation of your company and the time it takes to talk about its essence. Your audience just needs to understand the importance of what you’re trying to say. After another 15-20 seconds, you should have communicated the field your venture is in (i.e. transportation, technology, etc.), the value this idea brings, and the innovation.

     SEE ALSOCEO Of World’s Largest Accelerator, MassChallenge, Talks To NoCamels About The Startup Nation And Launching In Israel

Step 3: The Traction

30 seconds have gone by and you’ve already captured your audience’s attention and fully explained the core of your company. Now is the time to tell your audience about the progress you’ve made. They will need facts, not just ideas, to prove that you can actually further your company. Talk about the money you’ve made so far, the advisors you’ve recruited, partnerships you’ve formed, anything to show that you’re serious about the future. Talk about the team you’ve put together, where you want to improve upon or advance in the short and long terms. In these 15-20 seconds, you should prove to potential investors that you have a solid foundation and know how to take your company to the next level.

mass challenge pitch night

Step 4: The Conclusion

At the end of your pitch, you must clearly communicate what it is you want from your audience. If it’s money for the company, potential partnerships, or something else – your audience must be made fully aware. Thank the audience for their time, and your 5-10 seconds will have been worthwhile.

Think you can create an amazing 60-seconds pitch?

Apply now to pitch at “Minute to Pitch It” at the MassChallenge Israel program launch event, where startups at all stages and from all industries (whether they apply for MassChallenge, or not) will showcase their startups to approximately 200 of the leading investors, corporate executives, government officials and other entrepreneurs of the startup ecosystem.

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Betty Ilovici, NoCamels <![CDATA[From Lego-Style Buildings To Mega Hotels, Legendary Israeli Architect Moshe Safdie Still Stuns The World]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=35864 2015-01-27T09:11:32Z 2015-01-26T19:21:34Z

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Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie is a legendary name with breathtaking architectural projects under his belt that range from the famous Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada, to the new Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. Safdie is known for his culturally and socially sensitive designs that respond to human aspirations – regardless of the size of the project: while Safdie used small Lego blocks to design his famous Habitat 67 complex in Montreal, his ingenuity also lies in the structural sophistication of his mega-buildings.

The Architect, urban planner, educator, theorist and author, now aged 77, was recently awarded the most prestigious recognition in the field of architecture: the 2015 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. The award was given to Safdie thanks to his 85 futuristic designs of public and cultural spaces in three continents. Specifically, the award recognized Safdie’s most recent work in Singapore – the $6 billion Marina Bay Sands Hotel, owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. The hotel features one of the most magnificent tourist attractions in the city – an infinity pool built over the roofs of Singapore skyscrapers, along with a museum, theaters, and other entertainment venues. The colossal structure with 56 floors, which dominates the skyline, is reminiscent of Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England.

SkyPark Marina Bay Sands

In Safdie’s written nomination for the award, President of the Boston Society of Architects Emily Grandstaff-Rice noted that he “has continued to practice architecture in the purest and most complete sense of the word, without regard for fashion, with a hunger to follow ideals and ideas across the globe in his teaching, writing, practice and research.”

“Meaningful, vital, inclusive social spaces”

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is not Safdie’s only project in Singapore. Safdie has recently launched his design for “Project Jewel” – a mixed-use addition to Singapore’s Airport. This megastructure dominates roughly 134,000 square meters. The facility features a glass dome with a thriving indoor garden and waterfall, in addition to shops, leisure and entertainment venues. The complex will be ready by 2018 for use by more than 53 million passengers per year.

Project-Jewel-Moshe-Safdie-2

But don’t be misled by the impressive scale of Safdie’s works; the foundation for all of Safdie’s projects is his spiritual design philosophy. “I try to make buildings humane. Countries and places have a history, a story, and a culture. I want my buildings to take root and look as if they’ve always been there,” he told Vanity Fair in 2012.

The goal of architecture, as stated on the Safdie Architects website, is that of creating “meaningful, vital, inclusive social spaces,” in addition to “mitigating the dehumanizing of the mega-scale,” as architecture caters to increasingly dense populations in urban centers.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Super Architect Moshe Safdie Designs Singapore Airport’s Incredible Bio-Dome

Critical acclaim at age 33

Safdie and his innovative approach to architecture was recognized internationally when his face was splashed on the cover of Newsweek at the age of 33. “The Shape of Things to Come” was the title of the Newsweek story, which portrayed the up-and-coming architect in 1971. That was four years after Safdie had designed his first solo project, the celebrated Habitat 67, as part of his master’s thesis at McGill University. The housing project was then built as a pavilion for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, Canada.

The futuristic residential complex of 158 stacked concrete units designed by the young aspiring architect earned him global acclaim. Habitat 67 redefined urban living by addressing high-density housing and improving social integration through architecture. In an interview for CBS in April 2014, Safdie described the story of his famed Habitat 67: “It was like a fairytale.”

Habitat 67 by Safdie

Montreal – QC – Habitat67” by WladyslawOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Before the fairytale began, Safdie had lived in Haifa, Israel, where he was born in 1938. At age 15 he moved to Canada with his family, where he later attended McGill University, pursuing a degree in architecture. Before becoming a big name himself, Safdie apprenticed under the famed 20th-century architect Louis Kahn, who also was a recipient of the AIA Gold Medal. Following his apprenticeship with Kahn in the US, he returned to Montreal to oversee the master plan for the 67 World Expo. After establishing his own firm, Safdie opened a Jerusalem branch office in 1970, marking the beginning of his immense involvement in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

Over the years, Safdie designed some of the most stunning buildings in Israel, including the David’s Citadel Hotel, Mamilla Promenade and IDF Square in Jerusalem. In 2004, he planned the airside building of terminal 3 in Ben Gurion Airport, which like its Singaporean counterpart also features a central waterfall surrounded by shops.

Following his work in Israel and in Canada, Safdie created a rich variety of projects, including cultural, educational and civic institutions, neighborhoods and parks, urban centers and airports, as well as master plans for new cities around the world. Some of his most acclaimed projects include the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters on the Mall in Washington D.C., and the Khalsa Heritage Memorial, a museum dedicated to India’s Sikh people. In addition to designing some remarkable monuments around the globe, Safdie has taught at Yale, McGill, and Ben Gurion Universities, as well as served as director of the Urban Design Program at Harvard University.

     SEE ALSOIsraeli Architect Plans Green Paradise In China

Institute of Peace

Symbolizing life through structurally sophisticated monuments

In order to comprehend Safdie’s spiritual design, one must look closely at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, which was built through a mountain. Safdie thought the story of the Holocaust was so horrific, that it could not be commemorated with an ordinary building. He wanted to reflect introspection, so he built underground. Safdie created a structure that takes you deep into the earth and then emerges at the other side of the mountain, a symbol that life has prevailed.

Yad Vashem

Safdie turns symbolism into structure. Most of his buildings are, as he has said, “drenched in light” because this reflects peace and transparency – hence the glass structure of the US Institute for Peace in Washington D.C. The facility is not only filled with light, but is also shaped to reflect the light of a dove.

At age 77, Safdie continues to infuse his projects with his philosophy and vision, whether they are in Canada, Singapore, Israel, or anywhere else in the world. Safdie, who typically shies away from the press, has said he uses light and water to achieve what rhythm and melody do in music. He has claimed that architecture has the same effect that music has on us, because it is beyond utility – it has to do with spirituality: “Every project, the sublime and the ordinary, has critical issues of humanity, of social responsibility.”

Photos, renderings and video: Wladyslaw, Someformofhuman (both via Wikimedia Commons), Las Vegas Sands Corp., Safdie Architects

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Tel Aviv’s Pastel Brasserie Is Voted World’s Most Beautiful Restaurant]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36338 2015-01-25T16:00:40Z 2015-01-25T16:00:40Z

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The most stunning restaurant on earth is apparently in Tel Aviv, Israel: The Israeli designers of Pastel Brasserie and Bar in the Herta and Paul Amir Building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art have won the 2014 International Space Design Award–Idea Tops for the world’s best-designed restaurant. Alon Baranowitz and Irene Kronenberg’s entry won among 4,000 projects from 35 countries entered in the competition (in various categories). The global competition was held in China earlier this month.

The building itself was designed by architect Prof. Preston Scott Cohen of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The interior design of the restaurant was created by architects Baranowitz and Kronenberg. The couple (in business and in life) is known for designing some of the hippest restaurants in Europe. In addition, they recently designed the Wyndham Grand Frankfurt Hotel in Germany.

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

Pastel Brasserie and Bar

Baranowitz graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1990. Kronenberg graduated from the Technion – Israel’s Institute of Technology – in 1981. They founded the BK studio in 1999. Last year, they won the Restaurant and Bar Design Award for the Topolopompo restaurant in Tel Aviv for the best-designed restaurant in the Middle East and Africa.

Pastel Brasserie and Bar

Pastel Brasserie and Bar, which opened in 2013, was designed by BK Architects inside Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s new wing. Its white, sculptural ceiling, combined with the mahogany hues of its countertops and furniture, create a dynamic space. The interior of the restaurant shimmers in bright daylight, and diners seated on the balcony can view the museum’s sculpture garden.

Pastel Brasserie and Bar

The building’s “envelope” is drawn into the interior of the restaurant, sculpting the seating area and bar, which are richly outfitted with upholstered booths, antique wooden flooring, a deep burgundy-colored bar, multi-hued marble surfaces, and Art Nouveau lighting fixtures made out of crystal and gilded metal.

Inside the restaurant, BK developed a narrative inspired by two opposite worlds: the new world, represented by the hyper-geometric architecture of the new wing, and the old world of the brasserie – a two-centuries-old culinary bastion of the western world. The dynamic envelope of the new wing is sucked into the space to become the interior envelope of Pastel. According to Kronenberg, the new world is represented by the vigorous geometry clouding Pastel with its endless shades of white. The southeast light bounces onto the grey stone flooring and renders the ceiling with a soft appearance. The brasserie world, on the other hand, is reflected by booth seating, crystal chandeliers, voluptuous marble tops and vintage chairs.

Pastel Brasserie and Bar5

 

The new wing: $45 million, 430 cement panels 

After winning the 2004 Herta and Paul Amir Competition, Cohen designed a new building for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, with a budget of $45 million. The new wing, which opened in 2011, dominates roughly 19,000 square meters and is known for its hyperboloid form. The building’s exterior envelope, an extended “folding” surface that breaks at certain angles, is a dynamic ornament made of 430 polished cement panels manufactured on location.

“We tried to keep the design of the restaurant within the contextual scenery of the iconic new wing,” Baranowitz tells NoCamels. “We felt very lucky to work inside Cohen’s building, and we incorporated the language of its exterior in the interior.”

Prior to designing Pastel, Baranowitz and Kronenberg researched both French brasseries and museum restaurants around the globe. “We have to be respectful of whatever is in the museum,” he says. “In the Whitney Museum or the Museum of Modern Art, you can really see how the language of the museum finds itself inside the restaurant.”

Tel Aviv Museum of Art

“Design is everything” 

Interior design for Pastel cost roughly $2 million, and its façade is in line with its surrounding, high-end area. Similar to the Lincoln Center in New York, the restaurant’s piazza is also home to the Israeli Opera, the Cameri Theater and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. While Baranowitz agrees this area may be intimidating to some people, he hopes the design of the restaurant itself is inviting. “I don’t think the restaurant looks expensive from the outside,” he says. “I don’t find it intimidating. It’s well done, very accurate and sharp-looking.”

The restaurant looks inviting, Baranowitz says, but the surrounding area is “quite austere; it’s not the friendliest space.” He admits that to some extent, “Pastel is within that context.”

In his view, design is key to restaurants’ success. “If the food is shitty but the atmosphere is great, you’ll keep coming,” Baranowitz says. “Food is redundant; the design affects the success of the restaurant. Design is everything today.”

     SEE ALSO: Too Beautiful To Eat? Israel Museum’s Restaurant Offers Art-Inspired Dishes

amir building tel aviv museum


Photos courtesy of: Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Pastel Brasserie and Bar, BK, Preston Scott Cohen, Inc.

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David Shamah, Times of Israel <![CDATA[Samsung Invests In Two Israeli Companies In One Week]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36325 2015-01-25T12:58:35Z 2015-01-25T12:58:35Z

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

Korean tech giant Samsung will invest $10 million in Israel patient monitoring firm EarlySense, part of a $20 million financing round.

“EarlySense has developed and brought to market a unique, breakthrough technology that will improve the lives of consumers through health parameter sensing and monitoring,” said Gonzalo Martinez de Azagra, head of Samsung Ventures Israel, the company’s investment arm. “Our investment is evidence of our belief in the need to bring sensors to hundreds of millions of consumers and we will do all that is in our hands to contribute to EarlySense’s accelerated growth.”

In business since 2004, EarlySense developed a system that monitors patients who are sick enough to require continuous tracking, but are unwilling or do not need to be connected physically to monitors and sensors. Designed for use in non-emergency room or even home settings, the system uses sensors embedded into a mattress or chair cushion to monitor heartbeat, respiration rate, and movement. It operates on the theory that the more a patient moves around in bed, the healthier they are, in general.

EarlySense's smart hospital bed.

EarlySense’s smart hospital bed.

The data is transferred to a monitoring station, either local or remote, with the system setting off alarms in the event that something appears amiss. The system is use in thousands of hospitals, nursing homes and home settings around the world, and according to hospital studies, over 90 percent of staff said that the system was useful in stemming and preventing patient deterioration.

     SEE ALSO: Samsung And Israel’s E-Virt Partner On Tablet To Allow Children In Hospital To Study Remotely

For Samsung, the investment in EarlySense is about far more than healthcare. Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in January, Yoon Boo-keun, head of Samsung Electronics’ consumer products unit, said that the company was planning to more aggressively develop technology for Internet of Things. During his speech he specifically named EarlySense’s technology as one the company would be able to deploy for IoT products.

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

Photos: Samsung

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Yuval Haimovits <![CDATA[App Of The Week: Slipnote, The Crazy Child Of WhatsApp And 9GAG]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36260 2015-01-24T18:43:13Z 2015-01-24T18:26:42Z

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App Name: Slipnote Available For: iOS & Android Price: Free Developer: Heykuers LTD

The Promise: “You’re hilarious,” is exactly what your friends will say when you start messaging them with Slipnote.

Messaging avenues like text messaging, Whatsapp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger are just a portion of the huge instant messaging ecosystem. Whatsapp recently reported that it handled 50 billion messages per day for every day of 2014. This number, among other statistics, proves that people prefer this method of communication option over others, and instant messaging is here to stay.

Now, a new Israeli app is trying to take available messaging options a step further with a new creative platform – Slipnote.

     SEE ALSO: App Of The Week: ‘GetYou’ – Can Others Guess Your Age And Profession Based On A Photo?

Slipnote is a doodling, photo editing messaging app that will let you create artistically funky messages you can send to your friends. You just choose a photo, edit a fun cut-out, add text and doodles and send it to your friends – your very own personalized meme.

Our Experience

After downloading the app from the App Store or Google Play, Slipnote asks you for your phone number to activate the app, just like WhatsApp. Not my favorite method of registration, but this app is too cute not to try. Following a short tutorial, you can get to work making your first message. First, you choose an image; you can take a photo with your camera, choose one from your existing library of photos or search for images on Google Images through an internal search. The app creators have also provided users with a crazy photo album containing images of famous memes like Borat and the grumpy cat.

Slipnote app and camels

The creator of Slipnote created us some camels craziness

The process continues with some photo editing and adjustments (done by touch) that is paired with absurd elevator music to give the whole process an artisan vibe. Then you can add text and doodles to make your image even more outlandish, and, that’s it, you’re ready to send it to your friends. You can send messages to your friends who are also users of the app, to groups of friends and my favorite choice, you can export the image and send it to your WhatsApp contacts.

The creators added other cool features like public groups (organized by category) that allow you to share your bizarre creations. One group is called “Cats on Drugs” and it’s just hilarious! Another cool feature is the “inspire me” button that leads you to a photo gallery feed with all the creative ideas shared by other Slipnote community members.

cats2 cats1

The app is easy to use, designed clearly and colorfully. My only problem was the elevator music during the photo editing process. I tested the app while standing in line at the bank and needless to say, when this odd music unexpectedly started playing, people stared. Worse, there is no way to turn the music off.

But overall, Slipnote is a great app that can enrich your texting habits and could put a smile on your friends’ faces. I don’t know if I’ll continue to use it in the long run, but I’ll for sure turn to it for creative ideas whenever I want to goof around with my texting pals.

The Verdict

camel-full-smallcamel-full-smallcamel-full-smallcamel-full-smallcamel-gray-small

You can download Slipnote for iOS and Android.

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Jordana Wolf, NoCamels <![CDATA[Music Moguls Love Israeli App ‘Music Messenger’, The ‘WhatsApp’ Of Song Sharing]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36160 2015-01-23T09:52:16Z 2015-01-23T09:52:16Z

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‘Music Messenger’ is ready to take the world by storm, as it has positioned itself to become the largest music sharing company on the planet, surpassing industry leaders like Sony, Universal and Warner Music Group. Just three months in and the app is already backed by some of the most influential members of the music industry like will.i.am, David Guetta, Tiesto, Nicki Minaj, Dave Holmes (Coldplay’s manager) and Gee Roberson (manager of Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne). The young app has two million users that it has won over by creating a simple way for people to share music with their friends, or the ‘WhatsApp’ of song sharing. Much like WhatsApp did for text messaging, Music Messenger may too have the potential to change the way that we share and interact with music, for good.

Music to our ears

Based in Israel and developed by David Strauss, O.D. Kobo, Shai Azran and Uzi Refaeli, Music Messenger began as a way for the friends to share music amongst themselves. This led them to identify a key feature missing in existing technologies, namely the ability to share your favorite music with your friends in an easy-to-access message (and not over social networks with platforms like SoundCloud). Strauss explains, “With the iPhone, it is very difficult to send music from one person to another. Spotify is not available across all countries and their libraries can be limited. We wanted to create a messaging platform that would make sharing music easy.”

     SEE ALSO: Will Israeli App Loudlee Become Music ‘Pinterest’?

It didn’t take long for the app to reach music moguls across the globe. “Gee was one of the first to show interest. He really flipped out,” Strauss says. “He got on the phone, asked how he could get involved, and jumped on a plane to Israel within 48 hours. That’s when we really knew we had a company.” Within days, the company had over 16 investors on board, all renowned figures of the music industry, raising $5 million from strategic investors at a company valuation of $25 million in just eight weeks. One month later, on September 25, 2014, the company was launched.

Changing the way we share music

Music Messenger’s platform is ‘music’ to big industry ears because it succeeds in wrapping all steps typically required to send and receive music into one simple package. Even better, and unlike a number of other music platforms, Music Messenger is fully compliant with copyright laws since the app doesn’t actually host original content. The way it works is that the company taps into open source sites like YouTube, SoundCloud, Yahoo and Baidu, giving them the ability to aggregate a music library of several hundred millions of songs in any language and from many regions. And, as long as those sites grow, and for the meantime they continue to, so does the Music Messenger music library, which is updated on a constant basis. In addition, users can create music libraries and playlists of songs shared by their contacts, as well as search for specific songs that they just have to hear.

     SEE ALSO: Find Out Which Hollywood Celebrities Are Betting Their Money On The Startup Nation

However, Strass clarifies, “Music Messenger is a music messaging tool and not a music service.“ Music services like Spotify request annoying fees due to copyright and licensing laws and the service is restricted in some countries. Music Messenger, available for download on Android and iOS devices, has the upper hand here because it is a messaging tool that can  be used to share music with an unlimited number of people, everywhere. “To service one million users, is the same cost for us as to service 50 million users,” boasts Strauss. “That’s why people in the industry flipped out. We have the ability to send, receive and listen to millions of different songs without having to worry about the costs.”

Taylor Swift performed an exclusive concert for a small group of fans to promote her new album.

Taylor Swift performed an exclusive concert for a small group of fans to promote her new album.

Despite a sour history with crowd-created music platforms like the infamous Napster and uTorrent, the music industry seems to be on board. When it comes down to it, thanks to YouTube, the majority of music has become free and easily accessible. “We didn’t make it this way, but it’s how the music industry has become,” Strauss explains. Consequently, musicians aren’t placing a heavy focus on music sales anymore, but rather searching for innovative ways to use technology to promote their work (take Beyonce and Taylor Swift’s decision to release their latest albums without promoting them with traditional marketing venues) Music Messenger hopes to maximize on the latest trend by allowing artists to endorse their music on mobile devices, where users can send and receive their tracks, with personalized messages attached, for free.

China, a new musical frontier

When you take a look at the team behind Music Messenger, it’s no wonder that the often stringent minds of the music industry are so willing to expand their horizons. One of the team’s members, O.D. Kobo, has seen rampant success, selling two of his previous companies for impressive amounts—the teen social network Pheed that sold to Mobli for $40 million after 18 months of operation and the Koolanoo Group that sold for $80 million to East River Capital.

musicmessenger

While the app has been steadily gaining users in the US and Europe, placing among the top 100 apps in the US market during the last three months, the Music Messenger team is getting ready for a big marketing push in China. With roughly 600 million mobile phone users in the country, the app has the potential to really go viral in such a market. Launching in China is a given for the co-founders, since several of them have spent several years in China operating previous enterprises. “When we launch in China, we will be able to provide citizens with almost every single Chinese song ever recorded in history. This gives us great positioning in a really great market,” Strauss exclaims.

This summer, in collaboration with many of its investors, Music Messenger will launch a large promotional concert tour in five cities across Asia to help introduce the app to the Asian market. Big-name performers like Nicki Minaj, Coldplay, and will.i.am will take part in the concert series that is set to attract a good deal of attention.

For Strauss and his team, the famous names that have expressed interest in the platform are a validation of Israeli tech as a whole: “It’s very cool to have so many celebrities that have never worked with an Israeli company so eager to invest,” says Strauss, rather humbly. “We are so happy that the music world and Israeli tech space are finally getting the chance to meet.”

Photos: Music Messenger/ Todd Owyoung

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Tel Aviv Engineering Students Bring Clean Water Solution To Tanzania]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36246 2015-01-21T18:19:56Z 2015-01-21T18:19:56Z

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Like many good stories, this one began with food. A group of students at TAU’s Iby and Aladar Fleischman Faculty of Engineering organized a campus beer and bratwurst sale to kickstart fundraising for a volunteering project in Africa. Many sausages later, and with a lead donation from Arison Group’s Shikun & Binui construction company, a TAU team arrived in Tanzania to build a system that would provide hundreds of students at a local high school with clean drinking water.

Leading the TAU delegation was electrical engineering student Eran Roll, the director of TAU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), which initiated and supervised the project. EWB is an international organization dedicated to bringing engineering solutions to disadvantaged communities.

tanzanianschool

Roll explained that the project’s genesis went back to 2007, when engineering alumnus Itai Perry saw the hardship caused by contaminated water during a TAU-affiliated volunteer trip to the northern Tanzanian village of Minjingu. The residents’ drinking water was saturated with exceptionally high levels of fluoride, causing skeletal deformities and severe dental problems among the local children. Seven years later, Roll and four others came to Minjingu to build and install a 48,000-liter rainwater harvesting and advanced filtration system that would allow the 400 students and staff members at Nkaiti Secondary School – the only high school in the region – to drink and cook with clean, safe water. They also trained school officials and volunteers on how to operate and maintain the system, and they kept in touch with local residents to ensure that any bugs would be worked out. The team created the system with the help of Israeli rainwater harvesting expert Amir Yechieli.

      SEE ALSO: Award-Winning NGO Brings Israeli Innovation To Africa

Once the project was complete, the school’s principal, Mr. Tango, wrote the TAU team a letter of gratitude. “Thanks to this project, we are now one family with you. Let us maintain our relationship more and more,” he wrote. “We hope that you will bring more projects for the development of our school.”

studentstanzania

(From left) Maayan, Tomer, Eran, Roey and Meital

 

The learning process

Before Roll and his team – electrical engineering student Maayan Raviv, MBA student Meital Shamia, neuroscience student Roey Ravits and industrial engineering graduate Tomer Avitzur – were able to build the water system, they needed to determine how best to help the people of Minjingu. “Without going there and seeing the problems with our own eyes, we wouldn’t know what to do,” said Roll. He, Raviv and water engineer Idit Zarchi traveled to Tanzania a year before the full delegation to assess the community’s specific needs, speak to local leaders and villagers and to set a goal that was within reach.

“When the people in Minjingu saw us return after a year, they said, ‘the first time you came here you were boys, now you are men,’” Roll recalled, explaining that the Tanzanians were used to being promised humanitarian projects that never came to fruition. “We came through with our promise, and it meant a lot to me,” he said.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Technology Turns Air Into Drinking Water For Troops

As he continues to plan for the upcoming projects and to recruit volunteers, Roll is proud of the success the small delegation has achieved so far. “It felt like we really made a difference,” he said. “When the project was done, my friends and I just stood there after everyone had left. We felt like we had accomplished something – something big.”

When funding permits, the team plans to return to Tanzania to expand the existing rainwater harvesting system to 160,000 liters and to create a similar one for the village’s medical center, for which they will also install solar panels.

Photos: courtesy

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Jacob Ryan, NoCamels <![CDATA[Want To Save $19K? Meet FeeX, The ‘Robin Hood Of Fees’ That Eliminates Your Hidden Charges]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36189 2015-01-21T10:45:52Z 2015-01-21T09:50:28Z

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How much money are you losing in hidden fees you’re unaware of? Grey charges are everywhere, especially in your bank accounts and pension plans. Israeli startup FeeX, the self-proclaimed ‘Robin Hood of Fees’ is now helping consumers to get their money back. It may be pennies per month for each consumer, but in the US hidden charges add up to a frightening , multi-billion-dollar sum every year. Hidden charges can be anything from products you never signed up for, such as ringtones for your smartphone, to services such as a gym membership you’ve already canceled – all the way to your 401(k) plan and bank account.

The first step in eliminating these hidden charges is educating consumers on the nuanced world of grey fees. According to FeeX, these fees affect everyone in one way or another, whether you see them or not. “Last year in the US, customers paid $600 billion in financial fees alone”, FeeX CEO Yoav Zurel tells NoCamels. “These fees are going straight out of our pockets in ways and methods that we don’t understand and can’t see.”

Zurel says the goal is to be the ‘Robin Hood of fees.” The website analyzes financial data from its community of users and compares the amount you pay in fees. FeeX gives you a score on its “sucker meter” to let you know how much you are overpaying in fees. It also provides insight into how much you should really be paying.

feex

FeeX prides itself on a three-step process: find your fees, reduce your fees, and retire with more. The process is quite simple. Once you sign up and upload your financial disclosure form, FeeX scans your accounts and finds the grey fees in a matter of minutes. This financial disclosure form is provided to consumers by their financial institutions. However, these forms can be hard to understand for the typical consumer with a limited financial background.

Once the form is uploaded, the users then fill out personal information about their accounts and the process is underway. In a matter of minutes, FeeX shows its users the fees that drain these plans and provides ways to keep the money in the consumer’s hands.

FeeX looks at reports from the FDIC, AARP, U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve in order to figure out how much money people spend on fees. The team found that $150,000 is spent over the course of a career on 401K fees, while most Americans believe their 401K plan is free.

Following the account review, FeeX provides its users with financially viable alternatives with lower fees. These suggested alternatives are solely based on reducing your fees. However, it’s important to remember that FeeX does not serve as an intermediary between the financial institutions and consumers – Feex will not call the bank for you. It is still the consumer’s responsibility to make changes to his or her account.

     SEE ALSO: Waze Founder’s ‘FeeX’ Raises $3M To Help You Avoid Hidden Retirement Fees

“We’re paying too much in fees”

While fees at first may appear minor and seemingly insignificant, this could not be farther from the truth. Once the fees are compounded, a different picture is revealed, leaving the consumers footing the tab. “When you’re paying one percent you’re really paying 30 percent,” Zurel explains. This is because these hidden fees add up, and what may seem like an insignificant fee will balloon years down the road.

The problem is that the grey fees are often hidden in the disclosure forms, leaving the average consumer unable to understand the financial implications. Free and clear information to the consumers is priority. “As consumers, we don’t know how much we are paying in fees, and therefore, we are paying too much,” Zurel says.

This seems ever more important today, in a time where the most recent US National Retirement Risk Index estimates show that more than 50 percent of households will not have enough retirement income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living, even if they work until they’re 65.

“Our mission, our purpose, our objective is pretty simple. Connect any kind of financial product that you have and we will crunch the numbers, pull out the fees and show you how to reduce them and start saving serious money,” Zurel says.

FeeX has undergone three rounds of funding, with its most recent round totaling 6.5 million dollars from venture capital firm Horizons Ventures. The company’s services are currently free and offered in both Israel and the United States, looking to expand elsewhere in the near future. The FeeX staff is led by founders David Weisz, Eyal Halami, Yoav ZureI, and former Waze co-founder Uri Levine. Waze sold to Google for an estimated $1.3 billion in 2013.

     SEE ALSO: Meet The Winners: Top 15 Israeli Startups And Innovations Of 2014

feex staff


27.7 percent of financial assets are hidden fees

Currently, the company claims it has 70,000 users, mostly in the US and in Israel, who have a total of $1 billion in assets, of which $277 million were marked as hidden fees by FeeX. In other words, FeeX says that nearly 28 percent of all their users’ financial assets are grey charges. By finding these hidden charges and alerting its customers, FeeX claims it saved each of its clients $19,000 on average, although this couldn’t be verified by NoCamels. FeeX supports both savings and investment accounts for free at this point, but the company plans to charge for premium services in the future.

FeeX is not alone in its efforts to empower consumers to reduce their fees. Israeli company BillGuard has stated that “it’s not only hackers, but legitimate merchants who are taking advantage of us with charges we’re purposefully meant to miss or forget about.”

BillGuard also offers services to help consumers monitor hidden fees, but contrary to FeeX – which primarily scans disclosure forms from financial institutions to find grey fees – BillGuard mainly helps people fight credit card fraud by using the wisdom of the crowds. BillGuard has developed a solution that can take an alert raised by one of their users and send it to every other user that might also be affected. The company warns them about excess credit card charges, billing errors, fraud, or other charges of which they are not aware. In other words, all problematic charges or complaints go into the BillGuard server and every user who has an account at BillGuard gets an update about the problem if it is relevant to the user’s purchasing history.

So far, Feex has marked millions of dollars in hidden fees for its clients – but now the challenge is theirs. Users then need to track down clerks and account managers, fill out paperwork and request that changes will be made to their accounts and plans. Hopefully, they won’t be charged for making these changes!

feex
Photos courtesy of Feex, 401(K) 2012

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli-Created Game ‘Linebound’ Goes Viral In App Store]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36233 2015-01-20T13:36:56Z 2015-01-20T13:36:56Z

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

Israeli game publisher TabTale‘s new Linebound game, released last Sunday, has been downloaded over a million times in its first 72 hours on the 120+ App Stores worldwide.

The TabTale team has racked up several app industry awards in the past year. In December, TabTale’s Airheads Jump was selected as one of the App Store’s Best of 2014 Games; in August, the company was rated as one of the Top 10 Games Publisher Worldwide (iOS and Google Play combined) by a top industry site; and, by the end of 2014, it reported that a total of over half a billion of its 300 titles had been downloaded since its first game came out five years ago.

     SEE ALSONew Game Turns Your iPad Into A Piano

Linebound: Life on the Line, distributed by TabTale’s Crazy Labs “casual” gaming label (Crazy Labs’ titles are aimed at teens and adults), advertises itself as a “fast-paced arcade game that requires lightning reflexes,” with networking capabilities that let people around the world play each other, and display their accomplishments on Facebook and other social media, with “endless gameplay” — all free.

Linebound Game Linebound Game Linebound Game

Nearly all of TabTale’s downloads are based on a freemium model, with the app or game available for free and extra features available for a fee, from which TabTales derives much of the approximately $20 million of its annual revenue. In Outdoor Baby, one of its popular games, for example, users can play for free and buy virtual goods, like tents and flashlights, for real money.

The company raised $12 million in Series B funding last year, for a total of $13.5 million to date. Based in Tel Aviv, it has over 300 employees in Israel, the US, Macedonia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, and Hong Kong.

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

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Andrey Kastelmacher, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The ‘Designer’ Strains Of Marijuana Bred In Israel To Treat A Wide Range Of Illnesses]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=36140 2015-01-20T12:28:32Z 2015-01-20T11:41:51Z

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Purple Kush and Lemon Haze may be items on a menu of an Amsterdam coffee shop that offers different kinds of ‘high,’ but different types of medical cannabis can now be used to treat diverse conditions. Thanks to Israeli researchers, who are working on a ‘menu’ of medical marijuana strains that will cater to various patients, this potent weed is now used to soothe anything from depression to epilepsy.

Nowadays, progressive legislation and new research allow modern science to delve into the various medical uses of cannabis, as well as to create new “designer” strains of marijuana. Israeli scientists, who have been at the forefront of marijuana’s genetic engineering for years, are now modifying marijuana to treat a range of diseases.

Health News - Research: Tiny Quantities Of Marijuana Protect Against Brain Damage

Nearly 5,000 years of medicinal history

Marijuana is gradually becoming a genetically modified organism (GMO), produced in greenhouse-laboratories to treat very specific conditions. By using genetic markers to control molecule counts, scientists modify the plant so it can better treat certain symptoms, thus helping millions of patients worldwide.

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

Medical marijuana was said to be used in China as early as 2,900 BC and was described as a medicinal power-flower throughout history. Israel pioneered marijuana research in 1964 when Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered “D9-tetrahydrocannabinol”, also known as THC, one of 70 cannabinoids (the active molecules in cannabis). Today, Israeli researchers lead the scientific world in cannabinoid research, inventing new methods of mapping the cannabis genome, while discovering new medical uses for the plant. In the last six years, with the help of the Israeli Health Ministry, the number of patients treated with cannabis grew from 100 to tens of thousands.


“A healthy kid, not a ‘high’ kid”

Agrobreeding, a computer-controlled breeding method that genetically modifies plants, creates a closely monitored, controlled environment in which scientists grow and farm marijuana strains. This selective breeding method uses big-data computers and analysis techniques that provide growers and researchers with insightful plant information, including the amounts of active THC and CBD in marijuana.

THC is responsible for the “high” feeling, while CBD is the non-psychoactive component that has been proven to have several health benefits. Cannabinoids are generally used to reduce pain, stress, as well as to increase appetite, among other uses; however, further research is necessary. “Out of 70 Cannabinoids, we have really only mapped and studied THC and CBD,” genetics researcher Yoav Giladi of the Hebrew University tells NoCamels. “The most interesting Cannabinoid is CBD, since it has proven to treat epilepsy very well. We are now able to identify the biosynthetic pathway leading to CBD formation and to create a cannabis strain with a high concentration of CBD. We want a healthy kid, not a ‘high’ kid.”

Israeli company BreedIT is combining the power of science and technology with the medical power of cannabis, helping growers breed biogenetically engineered marijuana. Collaborating with doctors and researchers from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, BreedIT manufactures agrobreeding systems for growers. These systems use big-data computers that measure molecules and DNA structures, providing tools for the genetic modeling of plants. The Intelligent Decision Support System (IDSS) that BreedIT uses speeds up the process of monitoring, analyzing and cross-referencing genetic information.

Marijuana by Seach

From sleep disorders to epilepsy – medical cannabis soothes a range of conditions

BreedIT exports its systems worldwide mainly for the use of marijuana growers, who acknowledge that cannabis is a potent medicine – not just a drug. “After all, eating well, sleeping well and avoiding stress are all part of good health” and medical cannabis can help patients do all that, Giladi says.

BreedIt and Seach, another Israeli company, have formed a joint venture called KanaboSeed, which uses the agrobreeding method and scientific research to provide strains specifically requested by physicians. In other words, this joint venture creates designer strains, such as Avidekel, a non-psychoactive CBD strain for treatment of epilepsy.

     SEE ALSO: Marijuana Prevents Post-Traumatic Symptoms, Study Shows

Avidekel is one of the strains Tikun Olam is growing. Tikun Olam, which means “heal the world” in Hebrew, is one of the first Israeli companies to grow different strains of medical cannabis. Its facility in the northern Galilee region of Israel is considered one of the world’s most advanced in agrobreeding.

Marijuana by Seach

A $2.7 billion industry – and growing, literally  

While medical marijuana is a growing industry, cannabis for recreational use is also gradually being legalized. In addition, hemp – which is refined into products such as hemp seed foods, hemp oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper and fuel – is a multi-billion-dollar industry. In the United States, cannabis is now legal in 23 states and de-criminalized in most, which means you will not be arrested if marijuana is found in your possession in small amounts.

According to Chris Walsh, editor of the Marijuana Business Daily, the cannabis market tops $2.7 billion dollars in the US and patients who use medical marijuana spend an average $156 a month on cannabis, according to research. Medical marijuana is prescribed in the US for cancer, AIDS, asthma and glaucoma, as well as an antidepressant and an appetite stimulant. Cannabis is also used as an anti-convulsant and anti-spasmodic, with many clinical studies still ongoing.

In Israel, “cannabis treatment is prescribed by neurologists and trauma specialists for chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, Neuropathias and many other conditions”, says Dr. Oshrat Kastel, owner of a private family clinic in Shoham, Israel.

In the US, Israel and elsewhere in the world, the use of medical marijuana is expected to expand in the next decade, thanks to new growing methods and increasing government support. And since there are many cannabinoids to study, researchers hope to reveal additional uses for marijuana in years to come.

Photos and videos courtesy of BreedIT, Tikun Olam, Seach

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Essential Protein May Be Key In Slowing Down Biological Clock]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=35196 2015-01-18T12:36:42Z 2015-01-18T13:45:15Z

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Fertility rates in the United States have dropped to an all-time low in recent years, a trend many experts believe is tied to the economic aftershock of the Great Recession in 2007. In order to address fertility problems, many women turn to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) methods, which involve removing eggs, fertilizing them with sperm in the lab and re-injecting them into the woman’s ovaries. Other women have taken to regular hormone treatments in order to up their egg count, and still others use traditional thermometers and holistic methods.

But the difficulty of conceiving for many women may now be relieved due to a new discovery by researchers at Tel Aviv University and Sheba Medical Center that was effective in boosting the fertility lifespan of lab mice by up to 20 percent.

     SEE ALSO: Antioxidants Could Reduce Your Chances Of Getting Pregnant

Their new research reveals a linkage between the genes of the innate immune system — immunity with which human beings are born, rather than immunity they acquire during their lives — and ovarian longevity. The study, published recently in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” was the doctoral work of Dr. Shiri Uri-Belapolsky, overseen by Prof. Ruth Shalgi.

Mother playing with her baby boy son on bedNeutralizing the risks

According to research conducted on laboratory mice, the genetic deletion of the protein Interleukin-1 (IL-1), a key player in the innate immune system, could improve the number of eggs available for fertilization as well as improve the ovarian response to hormonal stimulation involved in IVF procedures. This could prove especially effective in women who initially respond poorly to hormonal treatment.

”We revealed a clear linkage between the genes of the innate immune system and female reproduction,” said Dr. Uri-Belapolsky. “The results of our study, which point to neutralizing the effects of the IL-1 protein to slow down the natural processes that destroy the eggs, may set the basis for the development of new treatments, such as an IL-1 blockade that would raise the number of eggs recovered during an IVF cycle and reduce the amount of hormones injected into women undergoing the treatment.”

CDC fertility statistics

CDC fertility statistics for the US

The connection between IL-1 and fertility was discovered by accident in the course of research performed by the scientists on the role of IL-1 in atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. In a surprise result of the research, the fertility lifespan of IL-1-deficient mice was found to be up to 20 percent longer than that of control mice.

Keeping the clock ticking

Female mammals, including humans, are born with a finite number of eggs and are subject to a biological clock that dictates the end of the reproductive lifespan at around 50 years of age. Over the past decade, a trend of postponing childbearing into advanced age has led to a corresponding upward trend in the number of IVF treatments. “Identifying a possible culprit, such as Interleukin-1, may offer new insight into the mechanisms responsible for egg loss as well as practical interventions,” the study reports.

     SEE ALSO: Mom’s Stress During Pregnancy Affects Baby’s Iron Levels

“Our revelation is secured with a patent application, and naturally, further study in mice and in humans is required to examine this therapeutic opportunity,” said Prof. Shalgi. “I believe we will take this research forward into human clinical trials. However, there is still research to be done before we can start these trials.”

Dr. Shiri Uri-Belapolsky is at doctoral student at TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine and the research was overseen by Prof. Ruth Shalgi, of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Dr. Yehuda Kamari and Prof. Dror Harats of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center, and Dr. Aviv Shaish of Sheba Medical Center.

Photos: cvrcak1/ PBR

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Dyana So, NoCamels <![CDATA[Perfecting The Art Of Smart Gardening Is The Name Of GreenIQ’s Game]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=34892 2015-01-18T12:20:09Z 2015-01-18T12:20:09Z

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Here’s a little known fact: having green thumbs doesn’t necessarily mean you have the most environmentally friendly home. While maintaining a garden may be good for the soul, it can lead to serious resource waste, not to mention water and electricity bills through the roof.

Two companies that offer smart gardening technologies, GreenIQ and Parrot, have joined forces to provide garden lovers with an efficient, eco-friendly and economical way to keep plants healthy. Their collaboration not only paves the way for a new sector of home-use Internet-of-Things (IoT) technologies, but gardens and our planet could become greener because of it.

greeniqdevice

Greener gardens as a common purpose

CEO of Israeli company GreenIQ, the creator of the app-controlled, WiFi-connected garden computer, Odi Dahan reached out to established French wireless products manufacturer Parrot when he realized that they both offered consumers similar smart gardening devices.

With GreenIQ’s Smart Garden Hub, sprinklers don’t go off when rain is pouring outside and the outdoor lights know to turn on just as the sun sets behind the hills. Their smart garden computer automatically activates the wireless sensors installed into implanted gardening devices, watering and caring for plants according to weather information and daylight schedules collected from the nearest weather station. GreenIQ complements what Mother Nature already provides for your garden by giving it a ‘brain,’ allowing plants to take care of themselves.

     SEE ALSO: GreenIQ Will Save You Half Of The Water You Use In Your Garden

By contrast, Parrot’s Flower Power product gives plants ‘a voice’ by constantly collecting information on their health and growth status. Flower Power itself is a small device implanted in the soil next to plants that uses wireless sensors to let plant-owner’s know when they should water their plants or add more fertilizer. According to Dahan, “Parrot Flower Power gave a voice to plants. The GreenIQ Smart Garden Hub hears that voice and automatically takes care for all plant’s watering needs.” At the recent 2015 Consumer Electronics Showcase, Parrot released a new feature of its Flower Power system – a ‘smart pot’ that detects when plants are receiving enough light and fertilizer, and waters them when needed.

smartpot

Parrot’s recently revealed ‘smart pot’

Now the weather-based irrigation system, the Smart Garden Hub, and an astute gardener’s dream, the Flower Power, have joined forces to create the ultimate gardening machine that communicates over the cloud. “Cloud communication between GreenIQ and Parrot Flower Power will create an eco-system that provides garden owners with all relevant information they need in order to make their gardens green, smart and environmentally friendly,” says Dahan. This development gives gardeners the option to fully customize their smart garden systems with the tools they need, while keeping the possibilities open for connecting to other gardening technologies over the shared GreenIQ-Parrot cloud network.

Cooperation is the name of the ‘smarthouse’ game

GreenIQ, which last week presented at CES 2015, the global consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow, and Parrot’s collaboration is only part of a growing and competitive market of smart-home technologies. When we think of a ‘smart house,’ images of futuristic, robotic homes may spring to mind, as well as the thought that humans are becoming lazier due to a reliance on technology. But the automation GreenIQ and Parrot’s product provides strives to send the opposite message: the smarter the house, the smarter the people living in them, because they’re saving money.

     SEE ALSO: Coral ‘Carpets’ Could Be The Saving Grace For Disappearing Coral Reefs

GreenIQ and Parrot recognize that the applications for their product extend beyond improving individual homes and gardens, having designed their products with the impeding global threat of water scarcity in mind. “There are a lot of customers who are aware of the need to save water, and they appreciate the opportunity that GreenIQ provides them to save water,” Dahan tells NoCamels.

Is the grass green on GreenIQ’s side?

As more smart gardening startups come into play, Dahan believes that it’s GreenIQ and Parrot’s innovative integration that makes them unique from their competitors. “We believe we provide a wider solution to the garden and not targeting specific issues.” Dahan says.

Now, with a strong partnership on hand, GreenIQ plans to strengthen its presence in the public gardens sector, appealing to municipal bodies with the promise of cutting maintenance costs. “We know that millions or maybe hundreds of millions of dollars are being wasted on inefficient watering of public gardens,” says Dahan. “Our next generation of products would be more suitable for this market.”

Recently GreenIQ secured $450,000 in funding from Entree Capital to support its plans for global market expansion and further partnerships. Based in Israel and founded in 2013, GreenIQ has made many strides since its humble beginnings with Dahan as its sole founder and employee, but there is still progress to be made.

While the collaboration between GreenIQ and Parrot enhances the services provided to the smart garden, the green-thumb team has yet to expand their horizons to a possibly more profitable sector in greater need of such smart technologies – agriculture.

Photos: GreenIQ/ Parrot

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