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.2016-02-07T08:49:39Z http://nocamels.com/feed/atom/WordPress David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Firm Unitronics Provides More Parking In Less Space]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=43087 2016-02-07T08:45:56Z 2016-02-07T08:49:39Z

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

City centers the world over are getting more crowded, and that means drivers are having a harder time finding parking.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Mobile Apps Revolutionizing Parking

Recognizing that not everyone is going to give up their vehicle and take a train or a bus, Israeli firm Unitronics has been developing an automated parking system to remedy the situation – providing builders with the ability to fit more cars in less space, saving them time and money, and saving the parking structure’s neighbors from excess pollution.

According to Yair Goldberg, CEO of Unitronics Systems, the company is well-equipped to deploy the novel – and much-needed – solution. “We bring decades of experience in the automated solutions industry, bringing an industrial, compact and cost-efficient approach to residential auto parking,” he said.

As more people flock to downtown to live, work and shop, there’s a greater need for parking spaces. In addition, there are a slew of regulations regarding parking that builders need to follow, such as ensuring that there are enough spaces for residents and potential visitors to commercial centers, and, in flood-prone areas, building parking structures above ground to better protect vehicles.

SEE ALSO: Hanging Garden Will Cover Israel’s Busiest Highway

With limited space, the only sensible way to build an above-ground parking structure is up. But, you can only go so high; nobody is going to drive up to the 50th floor to look for a space.

No person, that is – but a machine, like the one developed by Tel Aviv-based Unitronics Systems, doesn’t care if it has to cart a car to the first, 10th, or 100th floor of a parking structure. And while the company has yet to build a 100-story parking structure using its automated “untouched by human hands” parking system, the sky is the limit for the company’s Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval System (AVSRS) system.

cars parked in San Francisco

To read the full article, click here

Photos and video: Courtesy

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Alice Menichelli and Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Why Studying Mosquito Habitats And The Evolution Of The Zika Virus Can Help Halt The Epidemic]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=43126 2016-02-05T14:33:43Z 2016-02-04T15:22:03Z

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Since the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a “public health emergency of international concern” alert regarding the Zika virus, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders have called upon researchers to develop tests, vaccines and treatments to fight the mosquito-transmitted virus. Less than a week later, Israeli scientists from Ben Gurion University and the University of Haifa responded with insights into the particular circumstances of this most recent outbreak and how the virus is evolving.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researcher’s Discovery May Pave Way For Malaria Vaccine

Since the 1940s, outbreaks of the Zika virus have been reported in Africa, the Americas and in parts of Asia. Spread through Aedes mosquito bites, the virus used to cause fever and joint pain. However, now, researchers have reason to believe that the most recent outbreak is closely linked to microcephaly, a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

Aedes mosquito

Aedes mosquito

Over the past few months, hundreds of Brazilian women affected by the Zika virus gave birth to babies with microcephaly, leading several governments in Latin America to advise women to avoid pregnancy for the next two years.

SEE ALSO: Israel’s SightDx Detects Malaria In Blood In Only Three Minutes

This call-to-inaction is so extreme that Israeli universities are trying to gather findings that could stop the outbreak. Ben Gurion University’s Dr. Leslie Lobel has joined a much-needed international consortium in order to understand the risks and prevent the spread of the disease. “The Zika virus was discovered long ago, but not so much research has been done on it,” virologist Lobel tells NoCamels. The main goal now is to check if the pathology caused by the Zika virus is changing and, if so, why. “The correlation with microcephaly is still not clear,” he says.

 

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Comparing Brazil to Uganda 

Lobel’s preliminary research focuses on the genetics of the virus, and on the differences between symptoms found in Ugandan and Brazilian patients. These differences could teach us about the evolution of Zika and lead researchers to a possible cure. In other words, virologists are trying to understand why before, the Zika virus only caused mild reactions such as fever, whereas now, it is believed to cause more severe symptoms such as microcephaly.

Lobel, an American-born virologist and physician, has worked on Zika together with Ugandan experts for 13 years and is now helping Brazilian authorities, since “it is very important to have a reference and compare the different cases”, he says. Funding for the research will likely come from the European Union, which sponsors several projects to advance medical research, some of them specifically addressed at preventing the spread of Zika.

However, Zika will not likely spread to Israel and many other parts of the world, Lobel estimates. “The insects that cause the virus don’t exist in Israel, and the ecosystem here does not represent an ideal environment for them to proliferate,” he tells NoCamels. “But we cannot foresee if the virus will change again in the future.”

Severe drought could have led to mosquito proliferation 

Meanwhile, preliminary findings from a study conducted at Israel’s University of Haifa could shed light on certain climates in which Zika-carrying mosquitos flourish. The study, led by Dr. Shlomit Paz in collaboration with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, has found correlation between exceptionally hot and dry winters and the Zika virus. The study was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal The Lancet.

“The extreme temperature and drought in Brazil are due to a combination of the El Niño phenomenon and the climate changes of recent years,” Paz said in a statement. Her findings are based on data from the US agency the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They show that the latter half of 2015 saw the highest temperatures since records began, combined with severe drought. The Zika outbreak appeared in these areas over the weeks that followed.

Drought in Brazil

The Zika outbreak is linked to global warming

High temperatures (up to a certain limit) have provided a fertile breeding ground for Aedes mosquitoes to reproduce. These mosquitoes also require water. Coincidentally, during periods of drought, local residents store water in containers, thereby creating a convenient habitat for the mosquitoes to proliferate.

The researchers are currently expanding the study in order to gain further insight into the precise nature of the correlation between climatic conditions and the outbreak of the disease. “In light of the health risk, and the fact that the Aedes mosquitoes also carry other viruses, it is important to address the impacts of climate when analyzing the causes of the current outbreak,” Paz concluded.

Photos: Muhammad Mahdi Karim, Planet Ark

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Flavoring Giant Frutarom Pivots To Multi-Billion-Dollar Organic Food Market]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=43035 2016-02-04T08:39:43Z 2016-02-03T13:48:55Z

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Consumers’ craving for natural and chemical-free products has been growing in recent years; everything from organic milk to organic cosmetics is becoming more widespread, according to industry trade group the Organic Trade Association (OTA), which estimates that the US market for organic products, both food and non-food items, is just shy of $39 billion — an 11 percent increase from last year.

SEE ALSO: Burger And Fries, Anyone? Processed Foods Could Cause Autoimmune Diseases

Israeli food flavoring giant Frutarom is cashing in on the opportunity, using its deep pockets to acquire organic and natural food flavoring companies, which its CEO hopes will bring the company a ‘unicorn,’ $1 billion valuation.

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Frutarom’s lab in Herzeliya

Founded in 1933, Frutarom is one of Israel’s oldest enterprises and considered to be one of the 10 largest companies globally in the field of flavors and specialty fine ingredients. Everything from low-fat peach yogurt to jalapeno tortilla chips use flavors and extracts supplied by Frutarom, which operates production centers in six contents, selling over 43,000 products to more than 20,000 customers in 150 countries.

SEE ALSO: Is Sushi Healthier Than Ice Cream? Not Necessarily, Diabetes Researchers Say

To ensure market leadership, Frutarom has recently pivoted towards the organic foods market. Natural products already make up 75 percent of the company’s activity, which Frutarom’s management wants to expand: “The key is to manufacture unique ingredients at an affordable price,” CEO Ori Yehudai tells NoCamels. “To do so, we need to collaborate with the most innovative and technologically advanced enterprises.”

Growing through acquisitions 

Working to expand its research and development, Frutarom has turned its attention to Israeli algae producer Algalo. Based on Kibbutz Ein HaMifratz near Haifa, Algalo has developed a method for the cultivation, harvesting and processing of a variety of algae that yield active ingredients for use in the food and cosmetics industries. Frutarom invested $ 2.6 million in Algalo in order to develop a broader range of cosmetic products (yes, your hand moisturizer contains algae).

“The investment in Algalo is part of a broad strategic move to boost our presence in the organic market, while offering the healthiest and most natural solutions to our clients”, Yehudai explains.

Algalo is but one of Frutarom’s 15 investments in the past 12 months. Most recently, Frutarom acquired Grow Company, an American producer of vitamins and dietary supplements, for $20 million. The acquisition of the New Jersey-based company came off the heels of their largest deal yet, announced last December, in which Frutarom revealed that it was buying Austrian savory flavor company Wilberg for approximately €119 million ($130 million). Over the past five years, Frutarom has acquired 30 companies.

1200px-Whole_Foods_Market_in_the_Lower_East_Side_of_New_York - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whole_Foods_Market_in_the_Lower_East_Side_of_New_York.jpg

Organic supermarkets like Whole Foods (pictured) have bolstered consumer demand for organic products

These multinational deals are part of the company’s rapid growth strategy to achieve what Yehudai hopes to be $2 billion in sales by 2020. “Frutarom has doubled its size every 4 -5 years, every year is a new record for us,” Yehudai says. “It is really a fascinating journey.”

Given that more households are buying organic — 51 percent more, according to the OTA —Frutarom flavors are now more likely to end up on the dinner table of families that consume organic foods.

Photos: Frutarom; David Shankbone, Taura Natural Ingredients 

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Researchers Develop Novel Method To Treat Aggressive Blood Cancers]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42618 2016-02-02T19:00:25Z 2016-02-02T12:50:40Z

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With a median survival rate of just five to seven years, Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) is considered the most aggressive blood cancer, and despite the progress in genetic-based cancer treatments, researchers have yet to develop an effective method for treating this rare form of lymphoma.

SEE ALSO: Medical Breakthrough: Israeli Researcher Predicts Where Cancer Will Spread

However, a novel method developed in Israel successfully locates and blocks the reproduction of a cancer-related protein in white blood cells, suggesting that a cure for MCL, as well as other blood cancers, may be within reach. The study was led by Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Dan Peer.

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White blood cells in the blood stream

Gene silencers

“MCL has a genetic hallmark,” Peer said in a statement. “In 85 percent of cases, the characteristic that defines this aggressive lymphoma is the heightened activity of the gene CCND1.” When over-expressed, the CCND1 gene produces too much of a protein called Cyclin D1, sometimes 3,000 – 15,000 times too many.

To reduce and regulate protein production, Peer has been investigating an approach called siRNA, or small interfering RNA. A synthetic strand of RNA molecules, siRNA is basically a gene silencer, designed to specifically target a particular messenger RNA (RNA molecules that convey genetic information from the DNA to the ribosomes, where protein is produced) and disable its ability to express a specific gene.

In principle, any gene can be knocked down by a siRNA strand, and has thus drawn keen interest from geneticists and drug developers since its discovery in 1999. However, in practice, siRNA has shown different levels of effectiveness; some cells respond well, whereas others show no knockdown. Delivering siRNA to white blood cells has proven especially difficult because they are dispersed throughout the body, and have thus far been resistant to conventional siRNA strands.

SEE ALSO: Will IBM’s Super Computer ‘Watson’ Treat Cancer?

To better guide siRNA, researchers in Peer’s lab designed lipid-based nanoparticles (LNPs) coated with antibodies that specifically target the CCND1 gene. When loaded onto these LNPs, siRNA effectively induced gene silencing in MCL cells and prolonged survival of tumor-bearing mice with no observed adverse effects, the researchers found.

Personalized medicine

The drug developed in Peer’s lab points to the potential of personalized medicine in the treatment of cancers, which display wide genetic variety even within the same pathology. “MCL is a disease with a specific genetic hallmark, so you can sequence the patient to identify the mutation(s), and design RNA blockers to be placed inside a nano-vehicle,” according to Peer. “However, the delivery system can be used to accommodate any disease with a [known] genetic profile. This could be the future. We are seeing it happen before our very eyes.”

white blood cells

The research, whose results were recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, was led by Peer, and conducted by Ph.D. students Shiri Weinstein and Itai Toker, in collaboration with Prof. Pia Raanani of Israel’s Rabin Medical Center and Prof. Arnon Nagler of Sheba Medical Center. Peer’s laboratory is funded by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Photos: Wellcome Images; The Franklin InstituteAlkhwarizmi Center for Bioinformatics

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[‘Bringg’ Brings On-Demand Delivery Services To Small Businesses, Consumers]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=43013 2016-02-01T13:43:15Z 2016-02-01T11:51:42Z

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In our on-demand society, delivery services are increasingly becoming faster and more transparent. Well-established e-commerce websites such as Amazon or eBay are known for allowing their customers to track their orders, and other large retailers and restaurants are following in their footsteps.

The Uber revolution – which started with a mobile app that allows customers to identify and track the closest taxi driver available – has now spread to almost every product and service you can imagine, from carpooling to shoes.

But what about small businesses and mom-and-pop stores that want to implement such services, but cannot afford to develop their own technology? Aiming to enable the smallest companies to implement high-tech delivery and tracking services, two Israeli entrepreneurs have founded mobile platform Bringg, which helps small businesses manage their deliveries online – just like the giant e-commerce sites.

bringg

There are many old-school businesses that “understand the changes and know they need to catch up,” says Bringg co-founder and CEO Raanan Cohen about the trickle-down effect of the Uber revolution. “The new standards for consumer experience can work for 99 percent of businesses.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Flytrex Sky’ Drone Ships Goods Within Minutes

Cohen claims that Bringg saves companies the thousands of dollars necessary to develop their own delivery platforms and get the advanced operational abilities required in an on-demand economy.

Bringg’s service starts at $150 a month for 500 monthly deliveries, and unlike courier services, it lets the business employ its own couriers, typically employees of the company. Among Bringg’s competitors are Seattle-based Glympse, and San Francisco-based Onfleet.

In essence, Bringg’s technology connects the three players involved in the delivery process – the business, the driver and the client.

SEE ALSO: Soon Enough, This Robot Could Be Delivering Your Packages

To join the service, drivers can download a mobile app similar to the one used by Uber or its rival, Israeli mobile transportation startup Gett, which allows them to manage orders and navigate to clients. Meanwhile, the business owner can use a web-based dashboard to manage both orders and drivers. No installation is needed on the clients’ side, as they simply receive a message on their phone with the link to track their order.

tunnel

Bringg was founded in 2013 by Cohen and Lior Sion, former CTO of of Gett (formerly GetTaxi). With offices in New York and Tel Aviv, Bringg’s service is now available in 50 countries. The company has so far raised $7.5 million in two investments rounds led by Ituran, an Israeli provider of tracking services for vehicles.

The idea behind Bringg is simply to enable businesses to offer an Uber-like experience to their clients. Says Sion: “If Gett works, I don’t see why I can’t track my pizza delivery in real time.”

pizza delivery

Photos: Bringg, Chring BirdCycling Portland

 

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Is Israel Becoming A Nanotechnology Superpower?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42995 2016-01-31T09:02:27Z 2016-01-31T09:00:02Z

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

In the past nine years, Israeli nanotechnology researchers have filed 1,590 patents (769 granted so far), published 12,392 scholarly articles on the subject, and had 129 nano-success stories, which include establishing startups, selling ideas or technology to multinationals, licensing a patent, etc. Israeli nanotech innovations are part of some of the world’s biggest, most innovative pharmaceutical, water filtration, diagnostic, energy, security – even hair coloring – technologies and products.

And currently, there are over 1,600 ongoing research programs between Israeli universities and local or international companies studying the application of nanotech research conducted here to a slew of industrial, infrastructure, and information technology issues.

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

nano technology

That’s enough for Israel to call itself a nanotech superpower, according to Dan Vilenski, an Israeli entrepreneur who believes that Israel’s “next billion” is in the nanotech business. “Ten years from now, the world is going to look completely different, thanks to nanotechnology, and Israel will have a lot to do with that,” said Vilenski, who runs the Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative (INNI), and is helping organize this year’s NanoIsrael 2016 event.

The fact that nanotech hasn’t taken off in the way the media have been portraying that it would over the past decade and a half – clothes that clean themselves with nano-engineered bacteria still aren’t common items on department store racks – doesn’t bother Vilenski.

“Nanotechnology is already upending a number of industries”

“There was a lot of skepticism when they came out with the transistor, and now look at the world,” he said. “And even if it isn’t fully obvious yet, we are already seeing nanotechnology upending a number of industries. It’s just that the products look the same, so we don’t realize what is happening inside.”

Agreeing with Vilenski is Rafi Koriat, who is chairing the NanoIsrael 2016 event, set for February 22-23 in Tel Aviv. “Like many other technologies, nanotechnology in its initial stages has been evolutionary, even though it operates in revolutionary ways. Soon, however, we will begin to see the more revolutionary side of nanotechnology.”

SEE ALSO: Crafting the World’s Smallest Bible, Israeli Nanotech Engineers Insert Scripture In Jewelry

A good example: Israeli energy tech firm 3GSolar, which is using nanotechnology to develop integrated photovoltaic energy cells that will allow consumer devices to recharge themselves not in the sun, but with ordinary lighting – including electric lighting – indoors, thus eliminating a need for batteries altogether.

nanotechnologylab

To read the full article, click here

Photos: NanoIsrael 2016

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Study: Post-Term Delivery Doubles Risk Of Complications For Newborns]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42944 2016-01-28T08:33:00Z 2016-01-28T08:33:00Z

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While pregnancy is considered full-term at 40 weeks, only 5 percent of women actually give birth on their predetermined due date. That’s why most OBGYNs recommend more frequent and more vigilant monitoring after 40 weeks, and sometimes the artificial induction of labor. However, many pregnant women refuse induction due to the risk of stress to the fetus or increased likelihood of requiring a C-section.

But a new Israeli study provides evidence that the risks of not inducing labor at 42 weeks of pregnancy outweigh the risks to the baby if labor is not induced.

SEE ALSO: A Female’s Level Of Stress Before She Even Conceives Affects Her Offspring’s Genes, Study Shows

baby

Conducted by Tel Aviv University researchers, the study has found that post-term deliveries, even among low-risk pregnancies, are associated with increased short-term risks to newborns, including illnesses and infections, which land them twice as frequently in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). The study isolates the post-term due date as a single, influential risk factor for the first time, according to the scientists.

The research was led by TAU’s Dr. Liran Hiersch and Prof. Nehama Linder, along with Dr. Nir Melamed of the Rabin Medical Center. It was recently published in the scientific journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

Countering fear with fact

“There are women who refuse induction of labor, even more than two weeks past their due date,” Hiersch said in a statement. “Without the relevant data, it is difficult for doctors to convince them otherwise. Maybe now, with this research and further studies in hand, we can convince them that even though their pregnancies had experienced no complications — and they are being monitored, say, every three days — they’re potentially risking infection, illness and other unforeseen complications by refusing medical intervention.”

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

Hiersch and his team examined the records of all women who delivered babies at Israel’s Rabin Medical Center over a five-year period. They extracted the records of approximately 23,500 women with a single fetus and without pregnancy complications who delivered at 39-44 weeks of gestation. Then, they compared the neonatal outcomes of three groups: babies born at 39-40 weeks; babies born at 41 weeks; and babies born at 42 weeks and later (post-date pregnancies).

“Although previous studies demonstrated an increased risk of complications for newborns born in the post-term period, most of these studies included women with pregnancy-related complications, such as small fetuses, hypertension and diabetes,” Hiersch explains. “The isolated effect of the prolonged pregnancy could not be determined. For this reason, we included in our analysis only women with low-risk pregnancies in order to more clearly determine the effect of gestational age at delivery on neonatal outcome.”

The researchers only addressed women who gave birth to live infants; they found that infants born past 42 weeks had twice the risk of contracting infections, experiencing respiratory difficulties and being admitted to NICUs than those born at 39-40 weeks.

baby girl sleeping

A warning to new mothers: “Do not postpone delivery beyond 42 weeks”

“Our study implies that even in otherwise low-risk pregnancy, it is advisable not to postpone delivery beyond 42 weeks,” Hiersch warns. “Therefore, it is reasonable to offer induction of labor to women reaching that time of pregnancy and maybe a little earlier.”

In the study, the researchers addressed the complications that occur immediately following birth. They are now exploring a larger study that addresses whether post-term deliveries put infants at risk for developmental difficulties later in life.

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Keeping The Lights On: Israeli Startups Protect Against Dire Cyber Attacks]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42800 2016-01-27T12:11:35Z 2016-01-27T11:14:45Z

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“We are currently experiencing one of the most severe cyber-attacks on the Israeli Electricity Authority,” Israeli Minister of National Infrastructure Dr. Yuval Steinitz announced yesterday at the third annual CyberTech Conference in Tel Aviv. The minister assured the 11,000 attendees that, fortunately, the attack is handled by his office and the Israeli National Cyber Bureau.

It seems that ‘fortunately’ was quite an understatement, as the attack incapacitated many of the computers of the Israeli Electricity Authority. Only because the malware had been previously identified, a patch was able to neutralize the attack before it could cause considerable damage. Steinitz stressed that “cyber-attacks on infrastructure can paralyze power stations and the whole energy supply chain – from natural gas, oil, petrol to water systems – and can additionally cause fatalities.”

SEE ALSO: How Israeli Cyber-Security Startups Are Battling The World’s Riskiest Online Hacks

His warning reflects the growing concern both in Israel and abroad that 2016 will bring a wave of new cyber attacks, not on virtual assets, such as credit card and social security numbers, but rather physical ones — telecommunication towers, public transport, hospitals — an attack on the scale of that which sabotaged an Iranian nuclear facility a few years ago.

Yet, protecting critical infrastructure (yes, we know it is not sexy) is looking increasingly daunting, because despite the plethora of cyber security companies coming out of the US and Israel (respectively, the number one, and number two exporters of cyber-security solutions according to Israel’s National Cyber Bureau), only a small number deal with critical infrastructure.

Herzliya-based CyberX is one of the few that does. Founded in 2012 by Omer Schneider (CEO) and Nir Giller (CTO), both former members of an elite cyber unit “Matzov” in the Israeli Defense Forces, CyberX is developing solutions to secure what has been termed the “Industrial Internet.”

For decades, energy producers, car manufacturers, railroads and other industrials fenced off their networks from the internet and other networks, thereby securing their operations from outside attacks. However, in recent years, many organizations have converged their operational technology (OT) with their information technology (IT) systems in the name of optimization; healthcare, transportation, and assembly lines are more efficient with big data analytics and smart machines —all of which require internet connectivity. “The moment you have the industrial internet, you have a breeding ground for hackers,” Schneider, whose company was one of the 350 presenting at the cyber technology conference, tells NoCamels.

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CyberX’s flagship product, XSense, overcomes that hurdle by acting as an invisible layer over the OT Networks. What the company says is a no-interruption solution, XSense begins modeling the OT networks within 15 minutes of installation. From the XSense dashboard, operators see all connected devices and any anomalies that XSense’s behavorial analytics detect, whether it is a cyber-attack or an operational malfunction.

SEE ALSO: Why Israel Leads The World In Protecting The Web

With only $2 million in seed funding from Glilot Capital Partners, the company has already discovered vulnerabilities in the products of Schneider Electric (unrelated to Omer Schneider) and Rockwell Automation, multi-billion dollar companies whose programmable logic controllers are used globally to monitor and adjust industrial equipment. Earlier this week, the US Department of Homeland Security issued its latest advisory, crediting David Atch of CyberX with identifying another vulnerability that affects eight different Rockwell controllers.

The announcement came on the heels of another finding, in which CyberX identified the ‘BlackEnergy’ malware, which is believed to have been the cause of the Ukrainian power outages this past Christmas and the attack on Ukraine’s air traffic control this past week.

railroad tracks

Increased investment in cyber-security 

CyberX is not without competition. Indegy, another Israeli industrial cyber-security company, has raised $6 million from veteran cyber-security entrepreneur Shlomo Kramer (co-founder of Israeli cyber-security pioneer Check Point) and from Israeli venture capital firm Magma Ventures.

Moreover, investment into the Israeli cyber security sector has increased by approximately 20 percent, and will likely bring more players into the space. The National Cyber Bureau reports $500 million was invested into cyber-security companies in 2015, while Start Up Nation Central and IVC Research Center report slightly higher numbers, $533 million and $540 million respectively.

Yet, out of the hundreds active Israeli cyber-security startups (reported numbers vary between 250 and 430), only a handful of companies are engaged in critical infrastructure, and only a handful have raised seed capital or progressed to later-stage funding rounds, according to Startup Nation Central. As Schneider explains: “We’re coming to a market that is a greenfield.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at CyberTech 2016 Conference in Tel Aviv

In his State of the Union Address two weeks ago, US President Barack Obama underscored that “our critical infrastructure continues to be at risk from threats in cyberspace.” Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed at the cyber-tech conference the importance of robust solutions for infrastructure: “The greatest curse that we face is that in the internet of everything, everything can be penetrated… Our national economies and our national defense. Everything from our personal accounts and information, our bank accounts, our power grids, our communications centers, our planes, our cars – even the way we do elections. Everything can be penetrated.”

Given that most developed countries face similar risks, “cyber-security is not hype,” as Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson put it — particularly when it comes to keeping your lights on.

Photos: Spencer Cooper; Massimo Ankor; CyberTech 2016

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[OurCrowd Summit Attracts Thousands Of Investors As Israeli Startups Complete Record Year]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42896 2016-01-26T15:42:38Z 2016-01-26T15:42:38Z

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Although financial markets around the world continue to stumble, some investors see the glass half full. “Great companies are built in downturns,” said Jon Medved, founder and CEO of Israeli equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd.

As dozens of companies presented at its second annual global investor summit in Jerusalem yesterday, Medved welcomed some 3,000 investors, entrepreneurs and industry leaders to see the breadth of Israeli innovation, and hear “the extraordinary story of growth here in the Israeli economy.”

SEE ALSO: Exit Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For Whopping $9B in 2015

Though known for his optimism, Medved wasn’t overselling. According to a report released yesterday by IVC Research Center, Israeli high-tech companies raised a record $4.43 billion in 2015 (of them $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter alone), a 30 percent increase from the previous year. Startups presenting at the conference were able to show how they put their newly raised capital to use.

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Jon Medved, Founder and CEO of OurCrowd

Voice activation startup VocalZoom, with over $12 million in equity funding, showed off their optoelectronic microphone that substantially enhances a speaker’s voice over any background noise. The company has recently partnered with Motorola Solutions, whose CTO Paul Steinberg commented that “VocalZoom has the potential to be the difference of whether a firefighter can communicate at a dangerous fire scene, or if a transportation or utility worker can give or receive information in a noisy work environment.”

Meanwhile, Zebra Medical Vision, with $8 million in equity funding, presented their computer vision technology to assist radiologists in spotting anomalies. The company has recently partnered with Dell to integrate its vision analytics into the computer giant’s Cloud Clinical Archive, a diagnostic and data management tool for radiologists, which currently hosts more than 10 billion medical images and 150 million medical studies.

Startups in IoT, virtual reality, AgTech and many other industries presented before a packed house of investors as well as senior executives from large corporations. Coca Cola, Samsung and Philips hosted industry-specific panel discussions, as well as Honda, which announced its formal engagement with Israeli startups through its accelerator programs, Honda Developer Studio and Honda Xcelerator.

Democratizing investing

After announcing that OurCrowd has nearly doubled the number of its portfolio companies, and completed one of the largest equity crowdfunding rounds in the industry’s history – $14.8 million for mPrest – Medved made the case for investing in privately held companies. Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 14.59.56

Displaying the chart above, Medved explained that investors are no longer finding alpha, or return on an investment, in publicly traded companies, and instead are turning to private ones.

Given that the S&P 500 has dropped more than 11 percent since the beginning of this year, the crowd must have heard the serial investor, “a deal junkie,” as he calls himself, loud and clear. Yet, investment in private companies, especially while still in early stages, has until recently been limited to a handful venture capital funds and veteran angel investors.

SEE ALSO: BIRD Transforms Surfaces Into Interactive Touchscreens

OurCrowd is aiming to change that by what Medved calls “democratizing investing.” After conducting their own due diligence on all portfolio companies, accepting only two percent of companies that pitch to them, OurCrowd invites selected companies to their online platform. There, companies can, independent of one another, raise capital from accredited investors who may invest a minimum of $10,000 per deal.

Though the figure is higher than most platforms (some are as low at $100, and few don’t even have a minimum), the threshold, along with the investor accreditation requirements of $1 million in assets or $200,000 in annual income, is “to make sure that people understand how risky this whole business is,” Medved said and pointed out that in English, venture capital sounds like an adventure ride, but in Hebrew, “hon sicun” translates to danger capital, what he considers a more straightforward way of introducing venture capital to crowdfunders. “We want people to understand that they’re stepping out onto the wild side; these are nothing like secure investments.”

money

Although the platform hasn’t yet seen one of its portfolio companies collapse in the three years since its inception, OurCrowd estimates that about 30 perfect of its investments could fail, a rate that they see in line with other venture capital firms.

Growing Israeli startups from the crowd up

However, the difference between OurCrowd and a traditional venture capital firm it the crowd itself.

“Crowdfunding as an industry has proven an ability to pool together many small investors in order to raise large amounts of money but what we’ve realized is that you can actually leverage the power of the crowd for so much more,’ OurCrowd Partner David Stark said. “Our pitch to these companies is that overnight they inherit a business development network of thousands of accredited investors all over the world.

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The OurCrowd Summit in Jerusalem

“So, we’ll invest with two other VC funds, but it’s the $20,000 investor from New York who introduces the company to their largest customer; or it’s an investor from Australia who introduces them to the private equity fund which will lead their next round,” he continued. “Companies are coming to us saying ‘this quarter my dream is to get connected to the CIO or the CTO of this and that company. Can you make that happen?’ We then go out to the crowd and use our extended network and we’re able to produce unbelievable results.”

Photos: Courtesy

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Meital Goldberg and Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[MUV’s Smart ‘Ring’ BIRD Transforms Surfaces Into Giant Interactive Touchscreens]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42841 2016-01-25T18:06:49Z 2016-01-25T08:11:36Z

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Imagine that you could see your computer screen in three dimensions on your wall, and control it with only a flick of the finger. Israeli startup MUV Interactive – which exhibited earlier this month at the world’s largest consumer electronics show, CES 2016 – has designed exactly that. Called “BIRD,” this smart sensor ring can control the content displayed on computer and television screens; or, with the use of a projector, it can control anything projected  onto any flat surface, turning walls, desks and floors into large interactive touchscreens.

SEE ALSO: CES 2016: The Best Of Israeli Tech

Using a Bluetooth connection, BIRD connects to a computer or a mobile device, whose content can be pushed, pulled, grabbed, rotated, and swiped in midair, as though desktop computers never existed.

When we tested it, the BIRD was as simple to use as a pencil and as precise as a computer – with the added advantage that it could be used while lying on the couch!

Though only a plastic shell, this 7 centimeter-long controller is embedded with sensors that can pinpoint a finger’s position, pointing direction, hand posture, and pressure level on any surface – down to the pixel. And, it also has voice control.

SEE ALSO: Wear It Well: The Top Ten Wearable Tech Made In Israel

The device integrates with Mac, iOS, Windows and Android, and charges through a cradle that is connected to a USB port. The current pre-order price is $249, but MUV Interactive is expecting the price to rise to $349 when the product is released this spring.

Although gaming giants Nintendo and Microsoft’s XBox have separately developed motion-tracking devices to pair with its consoles, MUV Interactive is focusing on the business and education sectors. The company believes BIRD can be used most effectively when it offers collaboration and learning.

“We are starting with those markets because there is a real need for interactivity there,” Iris Toledano, head of marketing at MUV Interactive, tells NoCamels. “I think that we are the only solution that supports all the different kinds of interaction methods. We are the only device that allows you to socialize and collaborate.”

The company claims BIRD is the first device of its kind that supports up to 10 users simultaneously, within a range of 30 meters. Moreover, its adjustable strap means that children can use it as well.

These touchscreens aren’t really screens 

The germ of the idea can be traced back to 2010. Rami Parham, founder and CEO of MUV Interactive, thought that there could be a better way to make presentations interactive. While managing IT projects at Systematics by day, Parham started working on the idea in his parents’ garage with his brother, Robert Parham, a former product manager at IBM and Microsoft, who is now an adviser to MUV. The idea grew and grew until this “home project” became a startup company in 2011.

Still, the budding startup had to perfect the design; BIRD had the relevant patents, but it wasn’t exactly user-friendly. The original prototype was large and clumsy. The user would put on a large glove-like contraption, heavy with wires, which would travel up the arm. Once in its proper place, the technology was difficult to maneuver. Engineer Rami Parham, a graduate of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, understood that if anyone was going to use the device, it had to be comfortable, easy to use, equipped with powerful computing power — and yes, small.

A few prototypes later, Parham developed a device that has since garnered $4 million in investment from Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and from Russian venture capital firm Titanium Investments.

touch-screen2-550x412

MUV Interactive is one of the few Israeli startups in this space; Israeli molecular sensor SCiO, though not a direct competitor, also works in the same IoT, almost sci-fi, arena. However, MUV faces competition in North America. For example, Leap Motion, a small butter-bar sized block that sits in front of a computer, enables mouse-free control of on-screen applications; the San Francisco-based company has already raised over $40 million since its inception in 2010.

SEE ALSO: A Year On, SCiO Is On Its Way To Revolutionizing Our Interaction With The Physical World

Meanwhile, Canadian company Thalmic Labs has raised over $15 million from the likes of Intel and Spark Capital for its ‘Myo’ wristband sensor, which allows users to flick through presentations, navigate drones, and capture extreme sport selfies with a snap, point or flick.

Yet, with Google, Apple and Facebook snapping up IoT technologies – from smart homes to virtual and augmented reality – chances are the opportunities for interactive interfaces such as MUV’s BIRD are only widening.

Perhaps the control room in the influential film series ‘Hunger Games’ isn’t science fiction anymore?

hungergames-overhead

The control room in the film “Hunger Games”

Photo and videos: MUV InteractivePushing PixelsWin Articles

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli AgTech Firm EdenShield Keeps Crops Bug-Free, No Chemicals Needed]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42772 2016-01-24T08:18:08Z 2016-01-24T08:25:05Z

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

Farmers face a major crisis today — a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” crisis. Farmers need to keep their fields free of insects that eat crops and destroy their livelihood.

SEE ALSO: BioBee To Ship 600 Million Spiders To Colombia

However, the pesticides that are effective against those insects are causing major environmental damage, killing off not only pests, but helpful insects such as bees.

tomatoes

Studies have linked the disappearance of bees around the world, known as Colony Collapse Disorder, to the overuse of pesticides. Because bees are the effective pollinators of fruit trees — scientists believe that as much as one-third of human nutrition is due to bee pollination — fewer bees means less food. But without pesticides, bug infestations would rise significantly, causing just as many crop losses.

Fortunately, an Israeli startup has developed a middle way — a system that enables farmers to protect their crops, while avoiding the use of environment-destroying pesticides. And a new study conducted by that startup, EdenShield, showed just how effective are the company’s natural pesticides, which have been developed from plants and herbs.

In the study, greenhouses in Italy where tomatoes are grown using EdenShield’s GateKeeper prevented close to 100% penetration of pests and led to a reduction of over 80 percent in the use of pesticides.

SEE ALSO: Making Crops ‘Invisible’ To Pests

EdenShield, a portfolio company of Trendlines Agtech, develops insect-control solutions derived from natural plant extracts. The products are nontoxic, so they pose no danger to growers or consumers. And they can be used throughout the growing period, especially during the critical pre-harvest period.

According to D. Todd Dollinger of the Trendlines Agtech accelerator, EdenShield’s products “have the capacity to make a major impact on our food chain, making production more efficient and consumption healthier.”

edenshield

EdenShield’s GateKeeper system

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Courtesy

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Brandon Berry, NoCamels <![CDATA[Check Out Our New Video: Tel Aviv Co-Working Space ‘WMN’ Empowers Women-Led Startups]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42830 2016-01-21T14:12:44Z 2016-01-21T14:12:44Z

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Video by NoCamels © all rights reserved
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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Study: Screening Smokers With Pneumonia Leads To Early Lung Cancer Detection, Prolongs Life]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42563 2016-01-21T11:25:43Z 2016-01-21T11:25:43Z

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Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality among both men and women in the US, and yet the disease is rarely diagnosed early. Now, a new Israeli study proposes that screening smokers admitted to the hospital with pneumonia could facilitate the early diagnosis of lung cancer and thereby save – or prolong – many lives.

SEE ALSO: Technion Creates Artificial Lung To Study Pollution Effects

The study, which was conducted by researchers from Israel’s Tel Aviv University and Rabin Medical Center, was recently published in the prestigious scientific journal The American Journal of Medicine.

Lung cancer cell dividing

Lung cancer cell dividing

“Lung cancer is truly aggressive,” TAU‘s Dr. Daniel Shepshelovich, who led the study, said in a statement. “The only chance of recuperation is if it’s caught before it begins to cause any symptoms at all. The idea is to find the tumor well in advance.”

According to the researchers, “previous studies have shown that a low-dose radiation CT scan conducted once a year on heavy smokers has the potential to lower lung cancer mortality rates. But this requires huge resources, and we still don’t know how it will perform in real-world conditions, outside of strictly conducted clinical trials.”

Heavy smokers face greater risks 

Smoking causes approximately 85 percent of all lung cancer cases, only 15 percent of which are diagnosed at an early stage. Thus, Dr. Shepshelovich and his team examined Rabin Medical Center‘s cases of heavy smokers with community-acquired pneumonia — a form of pneumonia contracted by a person with little contact with the health care system. They reviewed every patient’s medical file for demographics, smoking history, lung cancer risk factors and the anatomical location of the pneumonia. The data was then crosschecked with the database at Israel’s National Cancer Registry for new diagnoses of cancer.

The researchers found that out of 381 admissions of heavy smokers with pneumonia between 2007-2011, 31 patients were diagnosed with lung cancer within a year of being hospitalized. Moreover, lung cancer incidence was found to be 23.8 percent higher in patients admitted with upper-lobe pneumonia. They also found that the lung cancer was located in the lobe affected by pneumonia in 75.8 percent of cases.

“We discovered that smokers hospitalized with pneumonia are diagnosed with cancer after the infection because often the cancer masquerades as pneumonia, physically obstructing the airway and creating such an infection,” Dr. Shepshelovich explains. “Considering that only 0.5 – 1 percent of smokers without pneumonia have a chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer every year, the fact that 8 percent of our study group developed lung cancer is alarming.”

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare

Tumor cells lining the alveoli, the tiny sacs within our lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and bloodstream.

Tumor cells lining the alveoli, the tiny sacs in the lungs that allow oxygen and carbon dioxide to move between the lungs and bloodstream.

“Only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are detected at an early stage”

Existing diagnostic methods, such as chest X-rays, “sometimes find the cancerous tumors, but they do not change mortality rates,” he said. “In other words, people are aware that they have cancer for longer periods of time, but do not recover. This is not a solution.”

He continued to say that smokers admitted to the hospital with pneumonia should be considered for chest CT scans: “Only 15 percent of lung cancer cases are detected at an early stage. We want to increase that number in order to reduce mortality or, at the very least, extend lives.”

The researchers are currently considering a larger nationwide retrospective study on the subject.

Photos: Anne Weston, LRI, CRUK Wellcome Images; Yale Rosen, Pulmonary Pathology

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[Hollywood, Beware: Interactive Video Startup Interlude Lets Viewers Decide How The Story Will Unfold]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42729 2016-01-20T13:44:22Z 2016-01-20T10:23:11Z

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Tired of old-school films and plain YouTube videos? Imagine you could actively engage with what you’re watching, from picking the protagonist’s outfit, to changing the music in the background, and even choosing the ending you prefer. This is the basic concept behind Interlude, a successful Israeli startup that recently raised $18 million from Hollywood studios to produce and distribute interactive videos.

SEE ALSO: Faces Of The Startup Nation: Q&A With Interlude’s Interactive Video Superstar Yoni Bloch

filmmaker

The germ of the idea came from Israeli musician Yoni Bloch, who wanted to create a music video that could adapt to different kinds of viewers, allowing them to participate and make changes to the video itself. Along with co-founder Tal Zubalsky, Bloch decided to implement such technology when founding Interlude in 2011.

Headquartered in New York, with additional offices in Tel Aviv and Los Angeles, the company has since raised over $36 million for its video production platform from venture capital firms such as Innovation Endeavors, run by Google chairman Eric Schmidt, and Intel Capital.

Using software that enables multiple streaming choices for one video, this innovative technology “has the potential to change the relationship between film and individual audience members,” Bloch said in a statement.

In a recent collaboration with beverage brand SmartWater, Interlude directed its advertising campaign, starring famed actress Jennifer Aniston. To promote the campaign, SmartWater wrote on its Instagram page that the new commercial “is in trouble!” and encouraged the viewers to help “direct” it.

To date, the startup has created partnerships with giant studios such as Universal, Fox, Disney and Sony, as well as with household names such as Coca Cola, L’Oréal and Shell, whose interactive videos will soon be playing on a screen near you.

SEE ALSO: Replay Technologies To Deliver 3D Sports Replays

The most famous project thus far has been the music video requested by Bob Dylan for his 1965 song “Like a Rolling Stone,” in which viewers can zap through 16 channels and watch a number of TV hosts and personalities lip sync the lyrics. The video went viral within days after its release, and Interlude was overwhelmed by requests from other artists, such as rapper CeeLo Green, pop singer Carly Jae Rapsen and rock band Coldplay – as well as from many more musicians and bands now using Interlude’s platform.

In a deal announced last month, Interlude raised $18.2 million from Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios (MGM), Warner Music Group and Samsung, as well as from existing investor Sequoia Capital. Some of the funds will go towards creating a short digital version of the 1983 classic film “WarGames” with actors Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

Perhaps soon viewers could redirect some of the misguided scenes in our favorite movies!

Photos and videos: Robert Scoble, Interlude

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Burger And Fries, Anyone? Processed Foods Could Cause Autoimmune Diseases]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42387 2016-01-19T12:43:29Z 2016-01-19T11:08:18Z

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In today’s hustle and bustle world, processed foods are commonplace time-savers. But that convenience may come at a high price to one’s health; a new study suggests that the effects of processed foods might not be reversible.

In findings recently published in the scientific journal Autoimmune Reviews, researchers from Israel and Germany present evidence that processed foods weaken the intestine’s resistance to bacteria, toxins and other hostile elements, which in turn increases the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare

chocolate bar

The study was led by Prof. Aaron Lerner of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Dr. Torsten Matthias of the AESKU.KIPP INSTITUTE in Germany.

The research team examined the effects of processed food on the intestines, and on the development of autoimmune diseases – conditions in which the body attacks and damages its own tissues. More than 100 such diseases have been identified, including type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hepatitis, and Crohn’s disease.

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“In recent decades, there has been a decrease in incidence of infectious diseases, but at the same time there has been an increase in the incidence of allergic diseases, cancer and autoimmune diseases,” Prof. Lerner said in a statement. “Since the weight of genetic changes is insignificant in such a short period, the scientific community is searching for the causes at the environmental level.”

In their study, the researchers focused on the dizzying increase in the use of industrial food additives aimed at improving qualities such as taste, smell, texture and shelf life, and found “a significant circumstantial connection between the increased use of processed foods and the increase in the incidence of autoimmune diseases.”

Many autoimmune diseases stem from damage to the functioning of the tight-junctions that protect the intestinal mucosa. When functioning normally, tight-junctions serve as a barrier against bacteria, toxins, allergens and carcinogens, protecting the immune system from them. Damage to the tight junctions (also known as “leaky gut”) leads to the development of autoimmune diseases.

SEE ALSO: Thirsty? ‘The Right Cup’ Turns Water Into Your Favorite Drink Using Scent – Not Sugar

The researchers found that several common food additives weaken the tight junctions: glucose (sugars), sodium (salt), fat solvents (emulsifiers), organic acids, gluten and microbial transglutaminase (a special enzyme that serves as food protein “glue”).

“Control and enforcement agencies such as the FDA stringently supervise the pharmaceutical industry, but the food additive market remains unsupervised enough,” according to Lerner. “We hope this study and similar studies increase awareness about the dangers inherent in industrial food additives, and raise awareness about the need for control over them.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-05 at 2.50.10 PM

The researchers also advise patients with autoimmune diseases, and those who have a family background of such diseases, to consider avoiding processed foods when possible.

Infographic: Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Does Social Impact Investing Pay Off? Israeli Investors, Entrepreneurs Weigh In]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41031 2016-01-26T16:22:45Z 2016-01-18T11:01:59Z

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Is impact investing more than just a buzzword? The term has been tossed around in the media as a hybrid between investment and public service — but this definition can be contested.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

In his recent visit to Israel, veteran venture capitalist Sir Ronald Cohen explained at the inaugural Impact Investing Israel conference that social outcomes could be tied to financial returns. “If in the 19th century and before investors measured financial return, and if in the 20th century they measured risk and return, [then in] the 21st century, we’re already measuring risk, return, and impact.”

Sir Ronald Cohen

Sir Ronald Cohen

The jury is still out as to whether social impact necessarily correlates to net positive financial returns. However, Cohen seems to be aiming for a more basic point. If investors can consider their social impact alongside their profits, then they should – what in the economic literature has been termed the “double bottom line.”

Social impact champion

Cohen has championed the model of social impact bonds (SIBs), which like traditional bonds, are issued by governments and offer financial return to investors at a relatively low risk. Yet, unlike traditional bonds – the return of which depends on interest rates at the date of maturity – SIBs are correlated to the achievement of pre-agreed social outcomes.

In November 2014, Social Finance Israel (a branch of Cohen’s London-based advisory firm Social Finance) and the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation announced the creation of Israel’s first SIB, which will aim at reducing the dropout rates of computer science students from Israel’s University of Haifa and from the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo. Although the rate of return was not yet disclosed, it is expected to range between five and 10 percent, similar to the 50 SIBs in the UK and the US.

More than one model

While Cohen continues to advocate the public-private partnership that social impact bonds foster, other venture capital funds have been crafting their own model of impact investing. “There is a huge leverage on every dollar you invest in technology,” according to Chemi Peres, founding partner in the Israeli venture capital fund Pitango. The return on investment (ROI) could be higher than other industries (if the startup succeeds), such as retail or healthcare (30 percent higher by some estimates), but more importantly, if the technology is adopted, it scales quickly.

The speed of change that technology facilitates is key to social impact, argues Eytan Stibbe, founder and board member of the Centre for African Studies at Ben Gurion University. “The biggest cost for housing is the speed,” he said at the conference. “If you succeed in building fast, you can save the majority of your costs.”

Kora Housing in Angola, funded by Vital Capital

Kora Housing in Angola, funded by Vital Capital

Also a founding partner in Vital Capital, a $350 million private equity fund that invests in Sub-Saharan Africa, Stibbe has led a $92 million dollar investment to build 40,000 affordable, high-quality housing units in urban areas in Angola. The sale of the first 15,000 houses has exceeded $2 billion, and the fund has already recouped over half of its initial investment.

Peres has championed a similar model of investment in Impact First, a social impact investment fund, which he leads with Yair Safrai. The fund has already invested in five companies, including Catalyst AgTech, an Israeli company that has developed a technology that minimizes the environmental impact of agrochemical products, without reducing crop yields.

“We’re acting like a venture capital fund,” Peres said at the conference. “We conduct due diligence at every company we’re looking at. We want to know that the impact comes first and that making money is just an ability, because if you cannot sustain that business maybe we shouldn’t really get involved.”

Peres’ point is not uncontentious, and begs the question: Are entrepreneurs and investors in it for profit or impact? Renowned economist and former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has repeatedly argued that the government’s job of ensuring its citizens’ social welfare cannot be left at the doorstep of private companies. “To credit these corporations with being ‘socially responsible’ is to stretch the term to mean anything a company might do to increase profits if, in doing so, it also happens to have some beneficent impact on the rest of society,” he writes in his book Supercapitalism.

Community based savings bank in Cambodia

Grounded optimism

Entrepreneurs, however, have not been warded off by the unconventional paradigm of private investment for public good. Yossi Pollak is a case in point. When he set out to create a faster, more accurate malaria test, he not only had to engineer a superior test; the INSEAD graduate also had to ensure that the company he founded, Sight Diagnostics, would be profitable in Sub-Saharan Africa — a region most startups would not even consider when drafting their five-year growth plan.

SEE ALSO: Israel’s SightDx Detects Malaria In Blood In Only Three Minutes

However, Sight Diagnostics (SightDx) is one Israeli company that understands its value not only in terms of revenue and market share, but also in light of its impact on society. That is, they believe that their company should make profit and bring about a positive social change.

“A lot of Israelis are looking to work and to create a change,” says Ronny Faivelovitz, founder of Impact Investment Israel, an advisory firm that helps entrepreneurs and investors break into the field of impact investing. “Before, they would have had to stop working and go to the nonprofit sector. Now, there is a way that they can do things they like, earn money, and create a change.”

Most entrepreneurs don’t think of designing a product that has a social impact, but SightDx has been able to develop a sustainable, scalable business model for a malaria test kit. And so did Israeli startup Breezometer, which aims to raise awareness to and reduce air pollution around the globe.
SightDx

Sight Diagnostics’ computer vision blood test platform

However, these startups don’t pretend to be nonprofit organizations, says Revital Hendler, co-founder of Breezometer, which has developed an app that measures pollution. “In the end, you have to be like an ordinary startup.” Breezometer’s lead investors Entree Capital and Launchpad Digital Health are not charities, she stresses; rather, the founders won the investment by presenting a “sustainable and scalable” business model.

It seems that even if it’s the responsibility of the government to tackle social issues, it’s hard to ignore the work of companies like Sight Diagnostics, which in the footsteps of the Gates Foundation, is working to eradicate a disease that traditional charities and global health organizations have so far been able to slow, but not end.

Here’s to many more Israeli social startups!

Photos: Brett Matthews (via Wikipedia Commons), Sight Diagnostics, UK Cabinet Office, Crown Copyright, Shiri Paamony Eshel, Vital Capital

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israel To Squeeze Measurement Technology Into JUICE Spacecraft Missions To Jupiter]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42635 2016-01-17T08:04:19Z 2016-01-17T08:09:11Z

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

Is there life “out there?” If there is, it may be on one of the four largest moons orbiting Jupiter – and an Israeli-developed atomic clock will ferret out signals of that life, should there be any.

The technology-based device in question was developed by Israeli firm AccuBeat, working with Weizmann Institute’s Dr. Yohai Kaspi, Israel’s lead investigator, in collaboration with the University of Rome, on the 3GM (Gravity & Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons) Project, a part of the European Space Agency’s JUICE mission.

SEE ALSO: NASA And Israel Ink Deal On Space Cooperation

JUICE, the JUpiter ICy satellite Explorer, is likely to lift off sometime at the beginning of the next decade, and by 2030 should reach Jupiter, where it will take measurements of the biggest planet in the solar system, along with data from the biggest of Jupiter’s 67 known moons – Io, Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto, known as the Galilean moons (for Galileo, who discovered them with his telescope).

JUICE_spacecraft_illustration

JUICE spacecraft illustration

Astronomers for centuries have been especially interested in the Galilean moons, because of their topography, geology, size, orbit, and other factors. Most interesting is the likelihood, many scientists believe, that at least three of the four moons harbor underground oceans.

Where there is water, life may – or perhaps is even likely to – follow. Among JUICE’s missions will be to determine once and for all if there is water under the surface of these worlds. And the 3GM project, which Israel is participating in, is the key to making that determination. The Israeli contribution to the project is an atomic clock-based device that will measure tiny vacillations in a radio beam provided by the Italian team.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Study Solves Mystery Of Moon’s Origins

During the approximately two and a half years that JUICE orbits Jupiter, the 3GM team will investigate the planet’s atmosphere by intercepting radio waves traveling through its gas atmosphere, timing them and measuring the angle at which the waves are deflected. This will enable them to decipher exactly which gasses make up Jupiter’s atmosphere.

But on flybys of three of the planet’s moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – the 3GM instruments will help search for tides, which, if water exists under the moons’ surfaces, are likely to be present. Scientists have measured fluctuations in the gravity of the moons, suggesting that Jupiter is exerting a magnetic pull on them. By measuring those variations in gravity, the researchers hope to learn how large these oceans are, what they are made of, and even whether their conditions might harbor life.

Jupiter and one of its moons

To do that, the team has adopted AccuBeat’s atomic clock technology to build the world’s most accurate ever Ultra Stable Quartz Oscillator (USO). Oscillators, of course, can be used to measure fluctuations in radio waves, and the USO will measure variations in a radio wave beamed by the Italian team at the moons’ surfaces. Variations in that wave will indicate that something is “moving” on the surfaces – or below them.

To read the full article, click here

Photos: European Space Agency (ESA)

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Symptoms Are Evolution’s Way Of Preventing Disease From Spreading, Study Suggests]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42584 2016-01-14T11:37:19Z 2016-01-14T11:13:49Z

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When you have a fever, your nose is stuffed and your headache feels like it is spreading to your toes – your body is telling you to stay in bed. According to a new Israeli study, feeling sick is simply an evolutionary adaptation that aims to stop disease from spreading.

SEE ALSO: Hossam Haick’s Revolutionary Device Detects Deadly Diseases, Cancer, On The Breath

This hypothesis, put forward by Prof. Guy Shakhar of Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and Dr. Keren Shakhar of the College of Management Academic Studies, is laid out in a recent paper published in the scientific journal PLOS Biology.

public health sick infection spread ill Sneeze

The symptoms that accompany illness appear to negatively affect one’s chance of survival and reproduction. So why would this phenomenon persist? Symptoms, say the scientists, are not an adaptation that works on the level of the individual; rather, they suggest, evolution is functioning on the level of the ‘selfish gene.’ Even though the individual organism may not survive the illness, isolating itself from its social environment will reduce the overall rate of infection in the group.

“From the point of view of the individual, this behavior may seem overly altruistic,” Dr. Keren Shakhar said in a statement, “but from the perspective of the gene, its odds of being passed down are improved.”

SEE ALSO: Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare

In the paper, the scientists go through a list of common symptoms (mostly flu-like symptoms), and each seems to support the hypothesis. Appetite loss, for example, hinders the disease from spreading by communal food or water resources. Fatigue and weakness can limit the mobility of the infected individual, reducing the radius of possible infection. Along with the symptoms, the sick individual can become depressed and lose interest in social and sexual contact, again limiting opportunities to transmit pathogens. Lapses in personal grooming and changes in body language say: I’m sick! Don’t come near!

“Isolation is the most efficient way to stop a disease from spreading”

Some of the most extreme “sickness behavior” is found in such social insects as bees, which typically abandon the hive to die elsewhere when they are sick.

Environment News: Researchers Use Bee Hormones To Kill Pests While Protecting Bees

“We know that isolation is the most efficient way to stop a transmissible disease from spreading,” Prof. Guy Shakhar said in a statement. “The problem is that today, for example, with flu, many do not realize how deadly it can be. So, they go against their natural instincts, take a pill to reduce pain and fever and go to work, where the chance of infecting others is much higher.”

The scientists have proposed several ways of testing this hypothesis, but they also hope its message sinks in: When you feel sick, it’s a sign you need to stay home. Millions of years of evolution are not wrong.

Photos: CDCDiego Cupolo; Tim Vickers, moveboulder

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Replay Technologies’ ‘freeD’ To Deliver Real-Time 3D Sports Replays To Mobile Devices]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42527 2016-01-13T14:02:18Z 2016-01-13T13:36:50Z

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In an age of video on demand (VOD), sporting events are among the few broadcasts still watched live. More than one billion people are thought to have watched the 2014 World Cup Final and in the US alone, 100 million viewers watched the 2015 Super Bowl.

Such is the reach of Israeli startup Replay Technologies. Founded five years ago, the company has developed a method of filming called freeD, which generates instant, real-time 3D replays that have already been used at the 2012 London Olympics, in Yankee Stadium, and just last week, at Intel’s demo at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

SEE ALSO: CES 2016: The Best Of Israeli Tech

“With this technology, you’ll be able to view the game from any angle you want. You will become the director,” Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, who spoke at CES, said right before showing Replay’s shot of LeBron James’ slam dunk. The chip giant is partnering with the Israeli startup to deliver 3D sports replays not only in stadiums and on broadcast (which Replay Technologies did up until now), but also on one’s own iPad.

With Intel, the company is developing viewer-controlled imaging, so that from smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles, fans will be able to zoom in and pan out, change perspectives, and pivot orientation. “You’ll be able to walk through the field with the players,” says Jonathan Levene, Replay’s VP of corporate development. ‘It’s going to be your game.’

Such is the gospel of the new media age. According to a recent Nielsen report, American adults consume daily between two to three hours of video on computers, smartphones, and gaming consoles, a trend that is changing media content itself. As Jeff Stier and Chris Gianutsos, advisers at Ernst & Young, told Wired: “With the evolution of the omni-platform environment, television storytelling can be splashed across multiple screens simultaneously… Viewers increasingly want to be a part of the experience.”

No goofy 3D glasses are needed

Using up to 32 small, high-resolution cameras installed at the rim of the sporting arena, Replay captures a three-dimensional image of the field and the players on it. “We know where every pixel is in space and can recreate any viewing angle,” Levene explains.

Yet, Replay Technologies doesn’t use the flat, two-dimensional pixels of a standard camera. Rather, the company maps the scene with volumetric pixels (volume is what regular pixels don’t have) called ‘voxels,’ which hold data on three vectors – length, width, and depth. Says Levene: “It looks like 3D because it is 3D” – no goofy glasses needed.

According to the company’s creative director Diego Prilusky, “you can position the camera straight in the middle of the field, looking at the face of the player. That is something that you cannot do during the game but now we can really freeze the moment, and travel around from front and behind and really see what’s going on from the eyes of the player and how he perceives the game.”

From an on-site production booth, Replay Technologies can compile clips from all their camera feeds and compress what is easily a terabyte of data in less than 60 seconds. Their next-generation technology is expected to cut that processing time in half.

SEE ALSO: Intel’s 3D Vision Technology Enables Drones To ‘See’

Levene says that the technology is “galaxies apart” from what’s currently used. Goal-line technology, which is used in tennis, football and soccer to track the path of the ball, amalgamates multiple two-dimensional video frames to recreate the trajectory of the ball. However, Levene stresses it’s not just the 3D special effects that have garnered repeated attention. Rather, it’s the enhanced storytelling, especially at controversial moments. “Did the runner cross the plate before the catcher tagged it? In one shot we can tell that story,” he says.

The sports announcers love freeD; in the Champions League Finals, German media company Sky Deutschland used nine clips per game.

soccer

After raising $9 million in private financing rounds, Replay – led by co-founder and CEO Oren Haimovitch-Yogev – went on to sign multi-year agreements with American teams, such as the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They have also installed cameras in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro after signing a deal with TV Globo, and soon, their cameras will be in Asia.

But most importantly, freeD will soon be in the hands of fans!

Photos and videos: Replay Technologies, Biser Todorov, Cliff

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Exit Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For Whopping $9B in 2015]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42540 2016-01-12T09:45:38Z 2016-01-12T08:26:57Z

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Israeli startups were sold for a total of $9.02 billion in 2015, a 16 percent jump from 2014, according to a new report by Israel-based IVC Research Center and law firm Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal.

Last year saw the third-highest exit sum in the last decade, with 2006 at No.1 and 2012 at No. 2.  According to the report, which was presented during an event in Tel Aviv yesterday, 96 Israeli high-tech and startup companies were sold in 2015 (eight more companies went public), in line with the 10-year average.

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

The average exit deal reached $87 million in 2015, up 40 percent from the 10-year average of $62 million, meaning the overall valuation of Israeli startups has significantly increased.

Israeli high-tech exits 2006-2015

Israeli high-tech exits: 2006-2015

The top three exits of 2015 jointly accounted for 30 percent of the total exit proceeds. The $1.25 billion acquisition of Fundtech by D+H, an international FinTech company, accounted for almost 14 percent of the total exit proceeds in 2015. The acquisition of Valtech by HeartWare followed, with $929 million (not all proceeds from this deal were paid, and now some HeartWare shareholders are trying to cancel the transaction). At No. 3, IVC ranks ExLibris’ acquisition by ProQuest, which accounted for $500 million.

“Companies are acquired for their human resources and technology assets”

The IVC report shows that VC-backed exit deals broke records in 2015, when 52 VC-backed deals raked in a total of $4.98 billion – the highest in 10 years, bypassing even 2013’s $4.04 billion, which included Waze’s $1.2 billion acquisition by Google.

IVC CEO Koby Simana says that “the increase in the size of the average VC-backed exit has a lot to do with the patience and perseverance with which VC funds have been managing their Israeli portfolios lately. The VCs, many of which have been successfully raising new funds in the past two years, have enough breathing room to patiently wait for portfolio companies to realize their full potential.”

SEE ALSO: VCs, Angels, Crowd Funds: Who Rules The Israeli Investment Landscape?

Top 10 exits of 2015

Top 10 exits of 2015

According to Alon Sahar, partner in Meitar Liquornik Geva Leshem Tal, “companies are still being acquired for their human resources and technology assets; however, in more and more cases the companies have a real ability to penetrate markets and establish an impressive business – a fact which is translated into higher valuations.”

Other successful Israeli companies, which did not perform an exit but rather continued to grow both organically and through acquisitions include IronSource, Outbrain, Taboola and Fiverr. “They are creating a significant trend, and their maturing valuation is also representative of Israeli high-tech’s growth,” Sahar says.

Meanwhile, IPO exits slowed down in 2015, following an exceptional 2014. Eight Israeli high-tech IPOs accounted for $609 million, a mere 7 percent of the total exit proceeds in 2015, compared to 2014’s outstanding 27 percent. “The number of deals was lower than expected, as many companies shelved their IPO plans due to worldwide IPO market trends – NASDAQ’s in particular – as markets no longer seemed to offer favorable conditions for initial public offerings,” according to IVC.

Cyber-security bubble?

However, raising funds from venture capital firms could also prove challenging, especially in advanced rounds of financing. Eddy Shalev, founding partner of Israeli VC firm Genesis Partners, said at the IVC event yesterday that “it’s an illusion that there’s easy money in Israel. True, a lot of money is available here from angel investors, but at later stages it’s harder to raise money.”

In other words, the move beyond angel money to VC money is not an easy one. Carmel Ventures‘ Daniel Cohen further explains the phenomenon: “Overall, VCs have the same amount of money – the figure is not changing dramatically – but there are so many startup companies that the competition is intense.”

It’s especially intense in the much-hyped cyber-security sector: 500 new cyber-security startups were launched around the world last year, 300 of them in Israel, Sahar said at the event. “There’s certainly an inflation of cyber-security startups in Israel,” Shalev warns. “It’s a bubble; there are too many players in this arena.”

TLV Partners‘ Rona Segev disagrees. “Violence and wars have gone into cyber-sphere and we have no way to protect ourselves,” she says. “The threats are real and enormous, and we’re in need of protection.”

Cybersecurity israel

Two reports, different results  

It’s important to note that two reports released over the past two weeks show different results: IVC’s shows $8.4 billion in exits (excluding IPOs) , a much higher figure than the one reported recently by accounting firm PwC, which showed a total of $7.2 billion in exit proceeds (excluding IPOs).

Overall, the IVC report is more inclusive and considers more companies to be Israeli: IVC recorded 96 deals (excluding IPOs), whereas PwC’s report recorded only 62 exits. Both IVC and PwC tell NoCamels that the gap can be explained by their different methodologies

Infographics and photos: IVC Research Center, Gilad Avidan

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Penina Graubart, NoCamels <![CDATA[Sleepless Nights? Silent Partner’s ‘Smart Patch’ Could Help Reduce Snoring Sounds]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42497 2016-01-11T09:54:52Z 2016-01-11T09:54:16Z

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Can’t sleep because your partner snores at night? Israeli startup Silent Partner has created a new device that could significantly reduce snoring noise.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 million Americans, both male and female, snore on a regular basis. Now imagine your partner is one of them and it’s 2:30 AM. Instead of getting frustrated and even angry, you will soon be able to use a small, horseshoe-shaped device to take away the noise.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

Silent Partner has developed a lightweight and compact wearable device worn on your face, near your nose. It quiets the snoring noise by creating a “silent zone” around the person wearing it, giving their partner a better night’s sleep.

The device uses the previously developed Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) technology to muffle the sound of snoring before it spreads. To this existing technology, Silent Partner developers have added an innovative “sub-wavelength active noise cancellation” technique, which creates a more accurate noise-reduction zone around the snoring person, the company claims. The device starts at $59, and its battery is designed to last all night, according to Silent Partner.

This novel technology is based on the phenomenon of destructive interference, where sound waves of opposite amplitudes cancel each other out, resulting in a much lower sound. In other words, Silent Partner does not eradicate snoring; rather, it simply subdues the noise.

SEE ALSO: Study: Interrupted Sleep Is The Equivalent Of No Sleep At All

Unlike many other anti-snoring technologies, Silent Partner focuses on the noise rather than on the underlying medical issues that contribute to snoring. Other devices use positioning strategies to counter snoring. For example, competitor Nora detects snoring noises and then changes the position of your pillow to relieve snoring.

“Helping millions of people get a good night’s sleep”

Evidently, the crowds are fascinated with Silent Partner. The startup recently raised $262,548 during a one-month campaign on crowd-funding platform Indiegogo – more than six times its initial goal of $40,000.

This simple-to-use “smart patch” has been received with praise on Indiegogo, as it solves a universal problem that could cause tension between partners. American-Israeli entrepreneur Bob Rosenschein projects that Silent Partner is “going to help millions of people get a good night’s sleep,” according to Indiegogo.

Commenting on the significant demand for Silent Partner, co-founder Netanel Eyal tells No Camels: “We feel lucky that we can help a lot of people.”

silent partner

Last year, Eyal and co-founder Yoni Bazak (who met at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) started developing the idea for Silent Partner. Designed in Israel and manufactured in China, Silent Partner is expected to be ready for shipping in November 2016.

Here’s to quieter nights!

Photos and video: Courtesy

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Crops Can ‘Communicate’ Their Needs Through Revolutionary IoT Technology Phytech]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42409 2016-01-10T08:27:27Z 2016-01-10T08:27:27Z

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

Sygenta, one of the world’s biggest agriculture technology businesses, along with Japan-based Mitsui, one of the world’s biggest corporate groups, are banding together to invest in an Israeli agriculture tech company.

SEE ALSO: In Face Of Global Shortage, World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

Phytech, which has developed an Internet of Things (IoT) technology for crops, is to receive an undisclosed investment from the two firms for its PlantBeat service, which equips crops with sensors that record information about the growing environment.

phytech

According to Dr. Michael Lee, managing director at Syngenta Ventures, the VC arm of Swiss agribusiness giant Sygenta – the world’s largest maker of chemical pesticides – “Syngenta’s ambition is to bring greater food security in an environmentally sustainable way to an increasingly populous world by creating a worldwide step-change in farm productivity. In working towards our ambition, we put the grower at the center of everything we do. Phytech’s grower-centric solutions join our breadth of technologies in crop protection, seeds, traits and seed treatment, providing the grower with integrated offers and broad-based innovation for the future.”

Already in use on some of the biggest farms in the US, Brazil, Australia, and other countries – including Israel, where some 60 percent of tomato farmers and 40 percent of cotton growers already use the system – Phytech’s PlantBeat keeps track of how much water crops get, how moist the soil is, soil temperature, and other data. The sensors upload the information to a cloud server, where it is analyzed and downloaded to a mobile app Phytech users download, with the app indicating how healthy a plant is and what to do to improve its performance.

SEE ALSO: Rooftop Farm Grows Organic Veggies Sans Soil

The low-cost sensors can be attached to sample plants to take readings within an immediate area of several square meters, with multiple sensors set up as an array to get a full picture of conditions in a growing area. The sensors include simple lithium batteries which can last for up to a year, and the sensors upload the data in an encrypted manner using cellphone networks, with the data secured from prying eyes.

phytech

First established in 1998 on Kibbutz Yad Mordechai near the Gaza border, Phytech, now with about 20 employees, was reorganized in 2011, when it developed the plant sensor system.

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Phytech

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[CES 2016: The Best Of Israeli Tech]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42373 2016-01-07T13:14:34Z 2016-01-07T10:53:23Z

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Whether it is Mobileye’s driver-less car technologies, or the smart garden system from GreenIQ, the Israeli companies showcasing this week at CES 2016 are wowing the crowds with their cool products, apps and gadgets.

The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas this week is showcasing 3,600 exhibiting companies, including manufacturers, developers and suppliers of consumer technology systems, including a delegation of Israeli high-tech companies.

This year’s show is expected to draw more than 150,000 attendees from 150 countries, according to the Consumer Technology Association, which has hosted CES – the biggest tradeshow of its kind – over the past 40 years.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Winners: The Coolest Israeli Startups And Innovations Of 2015

CES has served as the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies, and is considered the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace. This much-hyped conference is produced by CTA, a trade association that represents the $285 billion US consumer technology industry.

Some of the world’s largest companies are showcasing several new technologies developed in Israel at CES 2016. Those include Intel’s RealSense, an Israeli-developed 3D vision technology that enables robots and drones to ‘see’ with depth perception, among other Intel technologies. Another talked-about Israeli company at the show is car tech maverick Mobileye, whose founder Prof. Amnon Shashua was one of the keynote speakers at CES on Wednesday. Mobileye is showcasing its advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving capabilities.

mobileyepedestrian

Overall, Israel has 500 consumer electronics and digital media companies whose offerings span a range of innovative solutions. They are active in the mobile device industry, smart home and smart TV, video and gaming, wearables, automotive, Internet of Things (IoT), and many other arenas.

So, take a look at some of the coolest Israeli technologies at the conference:

BreezoMeter

Israeli app BreezoMeter tracks pollutants and can determine air quality in nearly every corner of the world. “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 recently told NoCamels.

SEE ALSO: What’s In The Air You Breathe?

BreezoMeter collects pollution data from sensors located all over the world, and analyzes it to provide you with live, location-specific air quality updates, which the startup claims are 99 percent accurate.

BreezoMeter

The company, founded in 2014 by Lautman, Emil Fisher and Ran Korber, has so far raised $1.8 million in private financing rounds. Its app is available for Android and iPhone users.

GreenIQ

Israeli startup GreenIQ offers a smart garden system, which controls irrigation based on current weather and forecasts, saving up to 50 percent on the outdoor water consumption. It connects to soil moisture sensors, weather stations and flow meters. The company claims it has saved more than 8 million gallons of water since its inception in 2013.

Founded by CEO Odi Dahan, the company has so far raised $2.2 million in two private financing rounds.

ICETRON

ICETRON is an Israeli wearable technology startup that provides a personal thermostat to reduce the body temperature during or after activity. During exercise, the internal body temperature rises to 40°C, and 75 percent of our energy is wasted on heat. Research shows that high internal heat harms the body’s functioning during physical exertion, possibly causing exhaustion and nausea.

ICETRON’s small cooling/heating mobile device for sports and fitness is equipped with sensors for monitoring pulse, temperature, humidity, and more. According to the company, the device enhances performance by reducing the body temperature, improving the training level, as well as improving the recovery time after physical exertion.

How does it work? This wearable cooling system extracts heat from the body and cools the pulse point that is located on the wrist in a non-invasive way.

icetron

Lexifone

Today more than ever, businesses and individuals are seeking real-time translation services in order to communicate with partners and customers around the world. Developed in Israel by Lexifone, an innovative mobile app now makes it possible to understand almost anyone from anywhere.

Lexifone’s in-call translator allows people from different countries to freely converse, overcoming the language barrier. With this mobile app, you simply dial the person you wish to speak to and after each person speaks once, an automated translator will translate every part of your conversation.

UPRIGHT

Poor posture has become an epidemic, leading to widespread backache and other ailments. The UPRIGHT Trainer, developed in Israel, is a discrete wearable device that attaches to your lower back and trains you to stand and sit upright. Every time you slouch, it gently vibrates, reminding you to correct your posture.

SEE ALSO: AposTherapy Shoes Are A Big Step Towards Ridding The World Of Chronic Knee And Back Pain

Founded in 2012 by Oded Cohen and Ori Fruhauf, Upright Technologies claims that by training 15 minutes a day with UPRIGHT, you can correct your posture. And of course it comes with an app, tracking your progress and offering customizable training programs.

Additional Israeli companies showcasing their gadgets and products at CES this year include some of last year’s exhibitorsMUV Interactive‘s Bird, which transforms any surface into a touchscreen through its wearable fingertip sensor; Sensibo’s system that turns every ‘dumb’ air conditioner into a smart air conditioner; and HumanEyes, a panoramic video camera that can record 3D movies of 360 degrees by means of several video cameras whose output is combined into one video.

With this wide range of cool consumer electronics, it’s no wonder that Israeli technology shines in Las Vegas!

Photos and videos: Courtesy of the companies

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Startup Nation: Israeli Venture Capital Firms Raise Over $1B In 2015]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42434 2016-01-06T13:08:57Z 2016-01-06T12:57:20Z

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Israeli research firm IVC and international accounting firm KPMG yesterday released their annual Israeli Venture Capital Fund Raising Report for 2015, which recorded a total of $1.02 billion raised by Israeli venture capital firms (VCs), slightly less than the $1.2 billion raised in 2014.

SEE ALSO: Record Year For Innovation Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For $7.2B In 2015

IVC CEO Koby Simana stresses that the funding cycle is more important than any one given year. VC funds tend to raise money over a three to five year period, during which the fund will begin to make investments; in the five to seven years following the initial capitalization, the fund will manage and make follow-up investments to its existing portfolio companies.

In Israel, it is assumed that the first cycle began in the early 1990s when the first Israeli VCs were backed the government initiative Yozma, which offered tax incentives and matching investments to foreign VCs that partnered with Israeli investment firms.

IVC VC funding report 2015

Having embarked on the seventh cycle in 2015, Israeli firms are on their way to a record fundraising cycle, expected to exceed the previous cycle that closed at $3.6 billion. Based on the seven VCs currently engaged in fundraising, IVC and KPMG predict that between 2015 and 2016, Israeli funds will raise a total of $2.6 billion — more than the entire fifth cycle, between 2007 and 2010.

SEE ALSO: VCs, Angels, Crowd Funds: Who Rules The Israeli Investment Landscape?

“The many successful exits and the increased attention of the largest IT companies – Microsoft alone acquired five companies in Israel between 2014 and 2015 – improved the returns of the Israeli funds significantly,” notes Arik Kleinstein, co-founder and managing partner of Israeli VC firm Glilot Capital Partners. This no doubt has opened the “appetite of the institutional investors to enter this market,” he tells NoCamels. Kleinstein further commented that “this trend will continue as there are dozens of late-stage companies that are category leaders and are bound for success in the next years.”

Bigger and better

The biggest announcements came at the beginning of the year, when British-Israeli fund Greylock Partners spun off its Israeli arm into 83North, and in doing so announced a new $200 million fund to invest in all stages of consumer and enterprise technology companies. Its Israeli partners, including Laurel Bowden, Arnon Dinur, Erez Ofer and Yoram Snir, have already invested in semiconductor company Celeno, cyber security company Wandera, and cloud company Velostrata.

Late-stage fund Vintage Venture Partners also announced its eighth fund, only after closing their seventh fund the year before. Managed by Alan Feld, Abe Finkelstein, and Amit Frenkel, the $125 million fund has already made substantial investments in cloud company Ravello, semiconductor company ColorChip, and e-commerce platform Yotpo.

Around the same time, Singulariteam, led by entrepreneur-turned-investor Moshe Hogeg, announced its second fund. Backed by the founders of Chinese social media giants Tencent and Renren, the $102 million fund has already made at least six investments, including GeneSort, a gene-based diagnostics company, as well as a number of young companies still in stealth mode.

And if that wasn’t enough, Hogeg announced in October 2015 the launch of a $30 million late-stage fund, which will invest in tech companies with an annual income of at least $15 million. If the firm’s third fund succeeds, it will consider raising a larger late-stage fund.

Also pursuing growth was veteran VC firm Pitango Venture Capital, which launched a new $250 million growth fund that will be managed by Aaron Mankovski and Isaac Hillel. Though the announcement was only made in November 2015, the fund has reportedly raised over $100 million and has begun to make investments in startups looking to scale up and increase their global sales.

16953213747_dc471dc9b2_z

Sharp and focused

But perhaps the greatest sign of the maturity of Israeli VCs is not the size of the funds, but in fact their specialization. Last year saw a number of sector-focused funds that are shaping the local VC scene.

Glilot Capital Partners raised their second fund of $77 million, which Kleinstein and his Co-Founder Kobi Samboursky will manage, continuing their investment strategy in cyber-security and enterprise software. Though founded only four years ago, the firm has already seen one portfolio company successfully exit when enterprise security startup Aorato was acquired by Microsoft for what was estimated to be a $200 million deal.

In healthcare, Triventures closed a $70 million fund, with investments from Johnson & Johnson, Abbot Laboratories, Medtronic, and Volcano. The fund, managed by Michal Geva, Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, and Dr. Martin Leon, made headlines when its $6 million investment in cardiac implant company Apica Cardiovascular, returned 15 fold when the company was sold to Thoratec in 2014.

Meanwhile in agritech, GreenSoil Investments, raised a €50-70 million fund to be managed by its founders Gideon Soesman and Alan Greenberg. The fund attracted attention earlier this year when it was seen investing alongside Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizon Ventures in biodegradable packaging company Tipa, and with Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors in smart irrigation startup CropX.

money

Looking to 2016, IVC and KPMG expect nearly $1 billion to be raised by Israeli VCs, $700 million of which may be available for first investments over the coming year. Should be plenty to go around.

Photos and infographics: 80,000 hours; IVC; GotCredit

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Alice Menichelli and Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[By Improving Access To Basic Necessities, Israeli Technologies Transform Africa, Save Lives]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41942 2016-01-06T09:55:24Z 2016-01-05T09:44:34Z

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Israeli innovation has long been the center of attention – products like the USB flash drive or the electric epilator, as well as apps like Waze and Viber, are used by millions of people around the world. However, Israeli-developed technologies that help rural societies in Africa don’t always receive the attention they deserve, even though they’re saving the lives of millions.

“Working with and for developing countries is an enormous moral and economic opportunity,” said Dr. Aliza Belman Inbal, director of the Pears Program for Global Innovation at Tel Aviv University, which works to increase Israel’s contribution to international development through technology-based solutions. She spoke at the recent Pears Challenge event titled ‘Can Innovation Transform Africa,” held on the Google campus in Tel Aviv.

According to Inbal, “Israeli startups are developing products that will have a meaningful impact on the people who need them the most.”

drought

Turning air into water

Among several issues people living in Africa have to face, the lack of access to clean water is probably the first on the list. According to the United Nations, more than 783 million in Sub-Saharan Africa live in water-stressed environments – a figure that several Israeli companies are trying to lower.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

Rishon LeTsiyon-based company Water-Gen has developed a new way to extract water molecules from thin air. The generators can ‘suck in’ water from the ambient air humidity and separate it from dust and dirt through unique air filters. One unit of this system produces 5 to 20 gallons a day of clean drinking water, even in very dry weather conditions. The company has also developed a battery-powered device that can purify lake water, generating up to 57-63 gallons of pure water per single battery.

Water Gen's battery powered mobil water purification unit

Water-Gen’s battery-powered mobile water purification unit

Originally designed for the defense sector, these water-from-air generators have recently been adapted to civilian use, with the aim of addressing the ongoing water shortage in developing countries. Such units could be used in locations where municipal water does not exist or is unsafe to drink.

IDE Technologies, the Israeli specialist in desalination facilities and industrial water treatment, is adapting its solutions to the African market. The company, which has already built desalination plants in Israel and in California, has developed special units powered by solar energy that have the potential to provide desalinated water to entire municipalities at a low cost.

“Economies will not be able to step forward without a solution to water scarcity, and one of the solutions is going to be desalination,” CEO Avshalom Felber told Bloomberg News. Research from the World Health Organization reinforces Felber’s point: For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, there is an economic return of between $3 and $34.

Ensuring food security 

Agriculture is another area in which Israeli innovation is being deployed. Irrigation and harvesting are often left in the hands of individual farmers and very seldom are automated. Such lack of infrastructure means that farmers need ready-to-use tools in order to make the cultivation of crops more efficient.

Israeli designed GrainPro Cocoons, for example, are helping farmers to recoup post-harvesting losses, a problem that afflicts 50 percent of the crops in Sub-Saharan Africa. Most farmers in developing countries consume what they produce and store their crops in straw baskets or canvas bags, leaving them vulnerable to insects and mold. First developed by Prof. Shlomo Navarro, these large storage bags keep water and air out, and protect the grains from humidity and bacteria.

SEE ALSO: Can Vertical Gardens End World Hunger?

Another Israeli company, LivinGreen, provides inexpensive, self-sustaining and environmentally friendly hydroponics devices, which allow farmers to grow vegetables without the need of fertile soil. According to the company, a single unit can provide for a family of five; if chained together, multiple units can be enough for a whole village.

livingbox

LivinGreen’s mini-farm

Improving health 

Though malaria mortality rates have declined dramatically in the last 15 years, the World Health Organization estimates that the disease is still responsible for 438,000 deaths annually.

SEE MORE: Breakthrough Israeli Research Improves HIV/AIDS Treatment, Could Lead To Cure

While many medical and life-science companies have veered away from treating malaria because the research and development costs outweigh commercial returns, Israeli startup Sight Diagnostics has made its malaria solution a flagship product. Using computer vision algorithms, the company’s ‘Parasight Platform’ can determine within three minutes if a patient’s blood contains the malaria parasite. This high throughput device automates most of the process of taking and testing blood samples, delivering quick and accurate results for people in areas afflicted by the disease.

Founded in 2011 by CEO Joseph Joel Pollak and developed by a team of Israeli biologists, software experts and engineers, the company has so far raised $6 million from Israeli crowdfunding firm OurCrowd, investment group Clal Bio and VC fund Innovation Endeavors, founded by Google chairman Eric Schmidt.

SightDx

Sight Diagnostics’ Computer Vision Blood Test Platform

If innovators continue to develop devices that can be easily deployed to rural communities, such technologies can be scaled and distributed to developing countries across the globe, ultimately advancing the wellbeing of millions of people.

Photos: CIATBarefoot Photographers of TiloniaWater GenLiving Box; Sight Diagnostics 

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Penina Graubart and Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Green Energy: Algae-Based Biofuel Could Power Cars, Airplanes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42314 2016-01-04T14:29:38Z 2016-01-04T09:37:17Z

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In pursuit of environmentally friendly fossil fuel alternatives, corn, soybeans and palm oil have been converted into biofuels to power vehicles, factories and even the trains at Disneyland. Yet, these sources of energy, though far less polluting than petroleum or coal, occupy arable land, and may further jeopardize the global food supply.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

Now, Israeli researchers have investigated the possibility of producing fuel from sea-harvested algae, and have found that a certain strain could provide an alternative fuel source, while restoring marine life in contaminated areas.

Algae_fuel_in_a_beaker

The appeal of algae is quite simple: The green layer that covers ponds and sea rocks can be converted into biofuel faster than conventional crops, such as corn and soy — without competing with food production. According to the US Department of Energy, the genetic diversity from the many varieties of algae presents researchers with “an incredible number of unique properties that can be harnessed to develop promising algal biofuel technologies.”

The algae possibility 

Doctoral student Leor Korzen, under the direction of Prof. Avigdor Abelson from Tel Aviv University and Prof. Israel Alvaro from the National Institute of Oceanography, began growing sea lettuce in floating net baskets in the Mediterranean coast, just north of Tel Aviv. After each harvest (a cycle of 1-10 days), the team collected the sea lettuce to convert it into fuel. To expedite the process, the researchers applied ultrasonic frequencies greater than 20 kHz to the algae in order to quickly break down its complex sugars into glucose, which they then fermented into bioethanol.

SEE ALSO: Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste

The specific strain of algae they harvested (Ulva) was not only a more efficient producer of biofuel compared to other algae varieties, but when grown downstream from a fish colony, it grew 27-40 times faster than when it was harvested upstream.

Perhaps to their surprise, the symbiosis between algae and fish goes both ways: Algae serve successfully as a bio-filter for contaminated water. In this experiment, sea lettuce released nutrients back into the sea that had been crucial to marine life. “The concept of ecological sustainability in aquaculture refers to the maximization of internal feedback (e.g. recycling) within a culture system,” Korzen tells NoCamels.

Is Algae fuel scalable? 

Algae biofuel, like many novel green energies, has yet to become economically viable on a massive scale. Some companies, including ExxonMobil, which recently pulled out of a $600 million joint venture to develop algae fuel, believe that commercial viability is more than 25 years away.

Photobioreactor PBR 4000 G IGV Biotech

Photobioreactor

Yet, environmentalists maintain that the net positive effects of this green fuel could lead to faster commercialization. Compared to other biofuels, algae can be grown just about anywhere: On the sea shore, in a pond, even in photobioreactors, as pictured above. Moreover, algae can be harvested with run-off water contaminated with fertilizers, while the waste products from production can be used as a sufficient animal feed.

Such comparative advantages led the Japanese transportation and industry ministers to put algae high on their list of biofuels that could be used in jet engines, a goal they would like to achieve before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Since the announcement last summer, a handful of algae production companies have made headlines: Euglena in partnership with Chevron is testing its algae blends on Virgin Atlantic aircraft, while Toyota subsidiary Denso is developing algae-based diesel for motor vehicles.

If other governments follow with similar incentives, algae might just get off the water and into your car.

Photos: Eutrophication & Hypoxia

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[How Giraffic’s Video Technology Got Into One-Third Of The World’s Smart TVs]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42292 2016-01-03T10:58:09Z 2016-01-03T10:58:09Z

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

Made-in-Israel technology is heading toward ubiquity, not just in back-end hardware and software, but even in consumer goods. Case in point: One-third of the smart TVs sold in the world today contain an essential piece of technology made by Tel Aviv start-up Giraffic.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Winners: The Coolest Israeli Startups And Innovations Of 2015

“As of this year, both Samsung and LG are using our Adaptive Video Acceleration (AVA) technology to ensure flawless playback of streaming content on their Internet-connected televisions,” said Giraffic co-founder and CEO Yoel Zanger. “Right now, we are the industry standard for client-side video acceleration and stabilization technology. It’s pretty cool.”

Giraffic Adaptive Video Accelerator - Side-by-Side Demo Screenshot

The folks at the world’s biggest smart TV makers certainly think so. Televisions today are very much commodity items, manufactured in China and other Far East lands and sold at small mark-ups; even TVs that are sold as “high definition” (HD) can be had for barely $200 – far less than the price Samsung and LG, among others, seek to sell their top-of-the-line TVs for.

SEE ALSO: Radvision To Advance Mobile Video

Giraffic’s technology, said Zanger, makes it possible for television makers to distinguish themselves from among the pack by offering superior video display and content streaming uninterrupted by network glitches and slowdowns.

“Not only do we offer a buffer- and interruption-free video experience for streamed content, we do it at the highest video quality level available commercially. If the standard for TV display today is full HD (high-definition) of 1080p, our system allows for flawless playback at 4K. And we do it without requiring anyone to install any software or device anywhere along the network – all the quality control is done inside the television itself, using our software. Technologically, it’s a pretty unique accomplishment.”

Giraffic

With the world’s biggest tech event, CES, set to begin this week, Giraffic is expanding its offering beyond TVs – with a system that will allow for uninterrupted streaming on smartphones and tablets, even of live streaming content.

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Giraffic

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Record Year For Innovation Nation: Israeli Startups Sell For $7.2B In 2015]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42262 2015-12-31T13:37:23Z 2015-12-31T11:29:29Z

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Yesterday, international accounting firm PwC released its annual Hi-Tech Exit Report, revealing that Israeli technology leaders are not rushing to take their companies public. Instead, they are opting to be acquired by a larger company – or to hold out for the prized $1 billion ‘unicorn’ valuation.

SEE ALSO: Meet The Winners: The Coolest Israeli Startups And Innovations Of 2015

Tel Aviv, Israel

Fuel for big tech

For small- to medium-sized companies, acquisition is proving to be the sought-after path. The report recorded 62 deals this year, generating a total of $7.2 billion, compared to last year’s 52 deals that yielded $5 billion. This 44 percent increase, PwC maintains, was thanks to large multinational corporations eager to acquire innovative technologies. “We have grown accustomed to the presence in Israel of global giants like Facebook, Apple, IBM, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Intel and more,” Rubi Suliman, high tech partner at PwC Israel, said in a statement.

This sentiment is shared by many entrepreneurs. Maxine Fassberg, president of Intel Israel, said during this year’s DLD Tel Aviv conference that Intel is in Israel “because we’re after the talent and the creativity of the Startup Nation.” According to Fassberg, “Israel is crucial to Intel. Intel cannot do without the geniuses here in Israel.”

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 3.04.19 PM

That keen interest has kept the deal flow steady. Microsoft alone acquired five Israeli companies this year, including cyber-security companies Adallom, for $320 million, and Secure Islands Technologies, for $150 million. The US tech giant also bought text-analysis startup Equivio for $200 million, and N-Trig, creator of the Surface Pro stylus, for $200 million.

SEE ALSO: Startup Nation Wins Again: Two Startups Sell For Quarter Billion Dollars Each In One Day

Amazon was also among the big bidders, making a rare foray into Israel this year when it bought chip-design company Annapurna Labs for a reported $350 million. Meanwhile the Israeli ad-tech company ironSource bought another Israeli ad-tech company, Supersonic, in a deal estimated to be between $200 million and $300 million.

Apple also got in on the action, with its $20 million acquisition of Linx, maker of depth sensing cameras, while Facebook, through its Israeli virtual reality arm Oculus, acquired Pebbles Interfaces for a reported $60 million.

The largest acquisition of 2015 was HeartWare’s $860 million acquisition of Israeli valve repair company Valtech Cardio.

“Companies are unable to raise in IPOs at the same valuations as they did in private placements”

2014 brought a record number of IPOs, including that of Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based company that is developing computer cameras that prevent automobile accidents, and CyberArk, one of the fastest growing cyber-security companies. This year, however, saw a drop in the number of companies that went public, from 18 last year to 8 this year, suggesting that startups are now looking to the private market to raise funds.

“Only recently we have witnessed companies that were unable to raise in IPOs at the same valuations as they did in private placements,” Suliman says, referring to the recent IPO of payment processing company Square, which received a lower valuation than when it was a private company. “Quite a few Israeli companies find it easier to raise private capital with higher valuations, which make it less attractive to go public, if at all,” he says.

SEE ALSO: What Will It Take To Breed More Billion Dollar Israeli ‘Unicorn’ Companies?

But perhaps more telling is the trend that “decision makers in the high-tech industry no longer seek small-to-medium IPOs and want to grow companies to ‘unicorn’ status before listing, which requires a higher level of company maturity, and takes longer to achieve,” according to PwC.

PwC’s report reflects the sentiment of this year’s DLD conference, where Waze co-founder Uri Levine and USB inventor Dov Moran agreed with Gett CEO Shahar Waiser that “the appetite for creating a unicorn is there.” Waze, Gett, IronScource, and Outbrain are just some of the latest examples, and most believe more are to follow.

The China factor

The report also touched upon the Chinese investment in Israel, which has been very well publicized, but has not yet led to significant acquisitions in the technology field. Chinese companies made a number of Israeli purchases in 2015, including Dead Sea cosmetics company Ahava for $76.5 million and a $2.6 billion controlling stake in the dairy company Tnuva. However, most of the acquisition activity in technology still involves American companies, responsible for 79 percent of the deals this year.

Yet, given the number of research and development partnerships that the Chinese government has signed with Israel, future mergers and acquisitions activity between the two countries’ technology sectors could be just around the corner.

Tel_Aviv_at_Night

Photos and infographics: PwC, Pikiwiki

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The Winners: The Coolest Israeli Startups And Innovations Of 2015]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42238 2016-01-04T21:08:00Z 2015-12-30T11:59:02Z

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2015 was a stellar year for Israeli innovation. Over the past year, the Israeli startup ecosystem has made global headlines with a host of new cutting-edge technologies that include breakthrough medical devices, FinTech solutions, cyber-security systems, Internet of Things (IoT) gizmos, and a long list of cool gadgets and apps that have gained immense popularity around the world during 2015.

Furthermore, 62 Israeli startup companies were sold for a whopping $7.2 billion in 2015, compared to 52 companies for $5 billion in 2014, according to a report released today by accounting firm PwC. In addition to acquiring Israeli high-tech companies, corporations and investment firms from all over the world are pouring more cash than ever on budding Israeli startups: In the first three quarters of 2015, 506 Israeli startups collectively raised a record $3.2 billion, compared to $2.3 billion at this time last year, according to IVC Research Center. The annual report is due to come out next month, and observers estimate that 2015 could break another record, surpassing 2014.

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

As 2015 is coming to a close, it is evident that the spirit of innovation in Israel continues to justify its title “Startup Nation.” NoCamels has sifted through dozens of startups that made waves over the past year in order to make our picks for 2015; it wasn’t an easy task, to say the least. So, without further ado, meet the coolest Israeli startups and innovations that made 2015 unforgettable:

Dojo: Protecting a host of devices from cyber-attacks

Israeli startup Dojo Labs has developed a slick, stone-like device, which monitors all data sent by anything connected to the Internet – smart TVs, smartphones, smart tablets, and even smart kitchen appliances  – to determine whether they’re secure.

Irregular activity on these devices could signal that a hacker has taken control of a device and might be able to steal sensitive data. Dojo then issues an alert, which shows up on the Dojo mobile app, allowing users to remotely turn off a device or block its communications.

Dojo, the latest in a string of Israeli innovative cyber-security devices, will cost $99, including a year of monitoring service, and is set to be released next year.

Founded in 2014 by Yossi Atias and Smulik Bachar, Dojo Labs has so far raised an undisclosed amount of funds from angel investors.

SniffPhone: Detecting deadly diseases on the breath 

Last summer, Prof. Hossam Haick of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology introduced a device that can sense disease on the breath, much like a breathalyzer test. What he calls the SniffPhone uses nanotechnology sensors to analyze the particles on the breath and is able to pinpoint exact diseases, including certain kinds of cancer.

Haick’s new mobile device contains his NaNose breathalyzer test, which “sniffs out” lung cancer before it spreads (the test was developed in 2014). The smartphone device is a vehicle for the NaNose technology that’s mobile and thus can be taken anywhere, including rural areas.

sniffphone

ZUtA Labs: The world’s smallest printer

ZUtA‘s pocket printer is a teardrop-shaped robot printer that can be placed on any page and scurries back-and-forth, printing as it goes along. Instead of having the paper feed through the printer in order to print, the small robot runs on the paper and prints while doing so.
The printer, designed by Israeli firm Nekuda, works on Bluetooth and wireless networks, which means it can interact with smartphones, tablets and laptops. The company claims it’s the first mobile printer – the smallest printer in the world that can print on any size of paper, anywhere you are.

Founded in 2014 by Tuvia Elbaum and Matan Caspi, ZUtA (which means “small” in Hebrew) has raised about $500,000 in a successful crowdfunding campaign. It won the Best of Innovation Award in the computer accessories category at the world’s largest electronics show CES in early 2015.

IBM Watson: Israeli team develops cutting-edge cancer diagnosis system

IBM’s super-computer Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer. Some of its newest capabilities are being developed at IBM’s research lab in Haifa, Israel.

Among the many applications of IBM Watson, the Israeli team is developing Watson’s capacity to read and understand medical imaging. Using computer vision technology, as well as the machine learning algorithms already built into IBM Watson, the team is building what IBM calls their Medical Sieve, a system which will be able to read mammograms, ultrasounds x-rays, and MRI images – and pick out anomalies.

This artificially intelligent super computer is already participating in trials where it is analyzing medical records of oncology patients and comparing them against cancer case histories, recent medical research, and ongoing training from physicians to provide evidence-based treatment options.

IBMWatson

SkySaver: Life-saving technology

In 2015, Israeli startup SkySaver released a brand new emergency backpack that’s designed to help residents escape from high-rises when fire breaks out. This lifesaving kit comes equipped with a cable cord that, in case of an emergency, is attached to a pre-installed anchor located near a window.

When fire breaks out, the emergency device is strapped on with buckles that wrap around the waist and between the legs. Then, the individual starts rappelling down the side of the building.

SEE ALSO: Ambu-Cyclists Speed Through Traffic To Save Lives

Founded in 2012 by Eli Gross, SkySaver has so far raised an undisclosed amount from private investors.

Singlecue: Controlling your devices with hand gestures

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

Lunched in 2014, Singlecue is yet another cool gadget that joins the latest IoT movement, which aims to connect many systems – not just computers and hand-held devices – to the internet.

Founded in 2013 by Itay Katz, the startup has so far raised $11 million from investors.

Tridom: Building 3D-printed houses in space

Israeli sustainable urban development startup Tridom dazzled the world earlier this year, when it designed a 3D-printed space home for NASA. For its design of astronaut housing in space (called “Bubble Base” , the firm won honorable mention in NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

Founded in 2014 by Yaron Schwarcz and Lior Aharoni, Tridom presented in September a model of an inflatable structure that could be blown-up with a small amount of liquefied natural gas once on Planet Mars. Then, a swarm of drones would sinter quartz-rich Martian sand into blocks and fix them to their appointed location within the dome structure.

Bubble Base

Bubble Base, an Israeli designed model for a Mars habitat won honorable mention in a NASA competition.

Pixie: Locating everything you lost

Israeli startup Pixie promises to put an end to the days of frantically searching for missing valuables when you need them most. Pixie’s technology uses a Location-of-Things platform to derive the precise location of our valuables at all times – taking a step beyond typical Internet-of-Things platforms that connect objects to the Internet, but cannot always locate their whereabouts.

The system uses Pixie Points – smart tags that you can affix to just about everything (even your pet) – and a free mobile app. Once you stick a Pixie Point onto an item of your choice, the item becomes “pixified,” meaning that it joins a closed, private network of all of the pixified items that your smartphone keeps track of via Bluetooth.

If you lose your pixified remote control, just start your Pixie app, which displays an augmented reality view using your smartphone’s camera marking the location of the missing remote control. Each Pixie Point has a 50-foot range indoors and a 150-foot range outdoors.

Founded in 2011 by Amir Bassan-Eskenazi and Ofer Friedman, the company has so far raised $6 million and launched its product in 2015.

pixiepoint

G-RO: The smart suitcase that charges your phone and laptop on the go

G-RO, the ‘smart’ carry-on that charges your phone and laptop on the go, was a huge success on crow-funding platform Kickstarter in 2015. Raising more than $660,000 in just a few says – and over $3.3 million in a course of one month – this slick suitcase could very well be the world’s coolest piece of luggage.

This carry-on (along with its patented, all-terrain wheels) was developed by Israeli startup Travel-Light, founded by Netta Shalgi and Ken Hertz in 2010; the product was launched in October 2015.

HomeBioGas: Turning trash into fuel

Another successful crowd-funding campaign this past year was that of HomeBioGas. Its newly developed biodigester turns organic waste into fertilizers and biofuel for cooking. From six liters of food waste or 15 liters of animal manure, this solar-powered system can produce enough biofuel for at least three hours of cooking.

The company launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign earlier this month, which reached its goal of $100,000 in less than 24 hours.

homebiogas

Photos and videos: Courtesy of the companies, Lake Anna

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Solar Power Breakthrough: Ultra-Thin Panels Increase Energy Used For Fuel Production By 30%]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42185 2015-12-29T14:58:55Z 2015-12-29T13:45:35Z

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Hydrogen is a zero-emissions fuel that is already powering cars, spacecraft and electric devices. However, pure hydrogen does not occur naturally on Earth in large quantities. In the past, the element was extracted from methane, but this process results in greenhouse gas emissions, leading scientists to explore alternative methods.

SEE ALSO: By 3D-Printing Solar Panels, Israeli Startup Utilight Significantly Cuts Renewable Energy Cost

Now, Israeli researchers are making progress towards this endeavor, using a method by which solar-generated electricity is run through water to separate the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Their new light-trapping technique, which uses ultra-thin solar cells, has achieved a 30 percent increase in energy generation used to produce hydrogen-based fuel, which is considered a major breakthrough in the field of solar energy.

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

It’s important to note that the research team did not use traditional solar panels, like the ones that carpet the deserts of Arizona. Here, researchers used solar cells made out of hematite, a kind of iron ore that looks like rust.

How efficient really are solar panels? 

Solar cells, despite their label as a sustainable source of energy, are not actually that efficient when it comes to converting sunlight into storable and transferable energy. Theoretically, they should be able to absorb and store up to 86 percent of the energy from the sunlight, but engineering challenges and dust typically decrease their performance.

solar-hydrogen-energy_cycle

To make solar panels more efficient, researchers and companies have developed cells that are composed of multiple layers of light-absorbing, semiconductor materials; yet, these advances are not without expense, as each additional layer increases the cost of manufacturing. Thus, the challenge for solar cell companies has been to develop the most cost-effective (and often thinnest) solar cell, with the maximum efficiency.

The light at the end of the panel

Israeli researchers Prof. Avner Rothschild of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology and Dr. Avi Niv from Ben-Gurion University shed light on this problem when they revealed that an ultra-thin solar cell made out of hematite was both more energy efficient and cost-effective than standard models.

Their findings, recently published in one of the scientific journals of the Royal Society of Chemistry, detail a method in which the confinement and absorption sites within the cell are separated. The light is first trapped in a thick layer, and then fed into an ultra-thin, yet absorbent hematite layer.

SEE ALSO: Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste

By attaching a light scattering sheet (called a Lambertian reflector) to the backside of the cell, the captured light is diffused widely into the hematite layer, resulting in a 30 percent increase in comparison to the same cell with a flat mirror, which would only reflect the light in two directions.

Their proposed method is not only cost-effective because Lambertian reflectors are already commercially available, but it is also non-material-specific and thus could be applied to other types of solar cells, including the old-fashioned ones on your roof.

As for solar-powered hydrogen generation, the researchers have presented a sustainable method for industrial-scale hydrogen production that could soon find its way into the next generation of hybrid vehicles.

Environment News: Will A $20M Solar Fields Rekindle Israel's Alternative Energy Market?

Photos: ConiferGreen Econometrics; Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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Aylen Silberman, NoCamels <![CDATA[Away From Friends And Family? ‘Rounds’ Provides Group Video Chats For Up To 12 Participants]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42157 2015-12-28T11:29:08Z 2015-12-28T10:55:34Z

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Away from home this holiday season but want to see your loved one on New Year’s Eve? Whether you wish to call your sweetheart, communicate with your family, talk with your colleagues or get advice from your friends, the Rounds app offers a unique way to share experiences with your friends and family – from anywhere in the world.

Developed in Israel by Ilan Leibovich and Dany Fishel, the free video chat app combines instant massaging with a plethora of entertaining activities, from conducting group video calls and playing interactive games, to watching YouTube videos together, browsing the Web and sharing music.

SEE ALSO: The Next Social Network?

project ray smartphone blind

Contrary to many of its competitors, this “mobile hangout app” offers group video calls with up to 12 participants and an unlimited amount of groups. Each group has a unique invite code that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Simply put, this app merges communication and entertainment into one interactive social experience at your fingertips.

“We want mobile messaging to move beyond passive conversations into something that allows for more quality time spent together,” Natasha Shine- Zirkel, chief marketing officer at Rounds, tells NoCamels. “For us, it’s about offering the closest thing to a real-life encounter with your friends.”

rounds app

How does the Rounds app imitate a real-life hangout? The YouTube feature, for example, gives all group participants complete control over the screen, generating what Zirkel calls the “fighting-over-the-remote-control experience”.

Participants can play several games on Rounds, including Chess, Checkers and Backgammon. According to Zirkel, the app has built-in features that allow you to feel a sense of togetherness with your friends and family no matter how far you are from each other.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Messenger Adds Slick Israeli Video App

The free app supports both iOS and Android devices and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store. You must have a Facebook account in order to use the free app. The company declined to comment on when it plans to monetize the app: “Rounds is focused on further improving the product and ensuring continued growth,” Zirkel says. “In the future, we will implement micro payments on a ‘freemium’ model.”

Intense competition with leading apps

There’s no doubt Rounds operates in an overcrowded arena, competing with big players such as Skype, Whatsapp, ooVoo and Tango. Yet, after testing the app, NoCamels concluded that what distinguishes Rounds from its long list of competitors is the exceptional sense of engagement that it provides.

Furthermore, it supports more than 7,000 distinct Android devices. “We ensure that older models have high-quality HD experience, too,” Zirkel says.

25 million users have joined since 2009

Since its launch in 2009, the app has attracted 25 million users worldwide and raised over $17 million in funds from investors, including venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, Samsung Ventures and Verizon Ventures.

This significant amount of funding for an app (the startup employs a lean team of 30 people) suggests that top investors believe that Rounds is a solid social platform. The startup is using the money raised to expand and open an office in San Francisco this February.

Zirkel concludes: “Our vision is to be that social communication platform where you can have the best interactive experience with your friends.”

Photos and video: Rounds

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Natalia Kushnir, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet Lexifone, The Real-Time App For In-Call Translation]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42129 2015-12-27T15:29:44Z 2015-12-27T15:13:15Z

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Language is the most important form of communication; the words we use convey our thoughts, emotions and ideas. But unfortunately, not everyone has the same lexicon. Since the Tower of Babel, the use of different languages has caused division among peoples, and today more than ever, businesses and individuals are seeking real-time translation services in order to communicate with partners and customers around the world.

Developed in Israel by Lexifone, an innovative mobile app now makes it possible to understand almost anyone from anywhere – a capability that is becoming essential in our global village.

SEE ALSOnFrnds Aims To Turn 5 Billion ‘Dumb’ Phones Into Smartphones

Lexifone’s in-call translator allows people from different countries to freely converse, overcoming the language barrier. With this mobile app, you simply dial the person you wish to speak to and after each person speaks once, an automated translator will translate every part of your conversation, as if a third person is there interpreting.

woman on phone

For example, a person can speak English to someone who speaks Hebrew, and Lexifone will simultaneously translate what was said in English into Hebrew and vice versa. The translation is produced using tailored software Lexifone has embedded into its app.

To access the service, download the app from either the Google Play store or the Apple App store, and dial from within the app; no internet connection is required to do so. Alternatively, you can call Lexifone’s landline, where you will be asked to dial the number you want to reach and once the call is connected, Lexifone will start translating.

SEE ALSOThe Israeli Smartphone For The Visually-Impaired

For individual consumers, the first 10 minutes are free, and after that, the service costs $10 per hour of airtime. Certain packages and pricing options are available to large corporations, call centers and government agencies. Lexifone also offers licensing agreements to developers who would like to incorporate translation features within their own apps.

Simultaneous translation on the phone or face-to-face

There is also a complementary feature that Lexifone offers for face-to-face interactions. If you encounter someone who speaks a foreign language or if you are having a meeting with people who don’t share the same native tongue, you can put your phone on speaker, then dial Lexifone’s access number and the translating service will begin. And although Lexifone is machine-based, it can even correctly translate popular slang words!

Lexifone‘s technology works through its computer servers, which run a sophisticated speech recognition software that understands and speaks a variety of languages using a collection of “voice dictionaries.”

According to the company, Lexifone has tens of thousands of users, who are served by the company’s 12 employees in Israel and in New York. Lexifone was founded in Haifa four years ago by father and son Ike and Itay Sagie. In its initial stages, the company raised nearly $3 million from Canadian company Intertainment Media, as well as from Israeli angel investors.

lexifone app

Dr. Ike Sagie has 30 years of experience in computer engineering and computational linguistics. A few years ago, he realized that automated translation only existed for text messages and documents, but a similar service for phone calls was not yet available.

Lexifone currently supports more than 20 languages whereas most other competitors support fewer languages, Itay Sagie claims. Being the first business of its kind made it difficult for Lexifone to “educate the marketplace about what it is and why they need it”, he admits. Therefore, Lexifone predominantly targets large corporations and call centers which require translation for their business and typically pay high prices for human interpreters.

In our global village, it seems that Lexifone can come in handy, especially for global corporations and business people who seek a simple solution for effectively communicating with their counterparts around the world.

Photos and video: Lexifone

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Startup Mapal Green Energy Uses Bubbles To Clean Up Schweppes Factories In Australia]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42104 2015-12-24T08:27:06Z 2015-12-24T08:37:39Z

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

Fresh from British success with its aeration recycling system, Israeli green tech firm Mapal Green Energy hopes to pull off the same trick Down Under.

The company recently signed its first major contract in Australia – supplying a system to beverage maker Schweppes to clean up industrial waste from its factories throughout the country.

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

Mapal Green Energy

Mapal Green Energy’s floating purification devices

Mapal will work with a local engineering firm to design an aeration system for installation at bottling plants belonging to Schweppes, which has a huge operation across Australia. Mapal will supply the equipment and operate the water purification equipment it installs.

In a Mapal system, bubbles – water infused with air – are used to clean water as part of aeration systems, removing pollutants and separating sludge from water. The treatment removes nearly all the solid waste and pollutants, allowing water providers to purify and recycle water quickly and efficiently.

Among water professionals, bubbles are considered one of the more effective ways of treating sewage and water suffering from industrial pollution. But bubble purification systems haven’t been popular because they are generally limited to use in smaller, manmade pools and lagoons.

SEE ALSO: World Leaders Praise Israel’s Water Technologies

In a bubble purification system, a machine pumps oxygen into wastewater to enhance “aerobic digestion,” a bacterial process occurring in the presence of oxygen, in which bacteria consume organic matter and convert it into carbon dioxide, which is then released into the atmosphere.

But traditional aeration systems have limitations. In order to get the bubbles to all parts of the wastewater, water utilities have relied on mechanical aeration (large machines that are stationary or mobile that make bubbles by agitating the water) or jet aeration (jets pushing air into the water). Both are expensive to run, requiring large amounts of energy to diffuse the air into the water; in addition, jet aeration, while a little cheaper, is suitable only for small concrete-lined pools or lagoons.

Mapal Green Energy

Mapal’s system solves all these problems, according to company CEO Ze’ev Fisher. Mapal’s idea is to use floating aerators that “travel” across the surface of the water, diffusing oxygen throughout the pool (up to a depth of six meters). Unlike floating mechanical diffusers, the Mapal version has a series of tubes that extend into the water, requiring far less energy to push the oxygen into the lower depths of the water and ensuring that the oxygen gets to all parts of the wastewater.

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Mapal Green Energy, Adrien Séné

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The Top Israeli Startups Revolutionizing Everyday Healthcare]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42024 2015-12-23T14:34:19Z 2015-12-23T11:49:34Z

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Most of us have probably encountered at some point or another problems in our everyday healthcare. It could be waiting a long time for an appointment, taking unnecessary medications, or simply not finding enough information about how best to treat a condition.

But now, several Israeli healthcare startups are addressing some of these common issues with easy-to-use technology, potentially helping patients save money and time. NoCamels highlights five of the most intriguing startups transforming everyday healthcare.

TytoCare

Imagine you could skip the waiting time for a doctor’s appointment and save the money you would have paid for the visit. Israeli startup TytoCare has developed an innovative hand-held instrument, called Tyto, which is able to detect and classify common diseases such as flu or ear infections. The kit includes a stethoscope, an otoscope and a computer-vision camera that helps the user diagnosis the problem. In case a doctor is needed, the device can also be used to connect with a specialist for a remote consultation.

Founded by Israelis Dedi Gilad and Ofer Tzadik in 2012, the company has so far raised $18.5 million (drugstore chain Walgreens is among the investors) and is about to complete beta testing of the product.

tytocare

MeMed

Israeli startup MeMed has addressed the issue of antibiotic misuse by developing a new kind of diagnostic test, called ImmunoXpert, aimed at determining whether an infection is viral or bacterial. The distinction is made on the basis of the patient’s immune response (through a speedy blood test), as the device can tell the difference between the specific kinds of proteins released in the blood in each case.

Providing a reliable diagnosis is fundamental if we consider that several cases of misuse are caused by incorrect prescriptions. Whereas antibiotics are very useful in healing bacterial flues, when it comes to viruses they are not only ineffective, but also potentially dangerous, since the overuse of antibiotics facilitates the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, which have become increasingly common across the globe.

The company was founded in 2009 by Eran Eden and Kfir Oved and is headquartered near Haifa, Israel. In 2015, it was awarded €3 million by the European Commission through the Horizon2020 Grant Program, aimed at sponsoring groundbreaking discoveries able to impact global economy and healthcare.

immunoxpert

Medisafe

Medisafe, founded by Israeli brothers Omri and Rotem Shor, has developed an app designed to help people keep track of their medications. We all know how easy it is to miss a pill, but for people affected by chronic diseases, missing a dose could have severe consequences and lead to possible hospitalization.

medisafeMedisafe has found an easy and effective way to address the problem of medication non-adherence with a mobile app. Available for both iOS and Android users, Medisafe automatically reminds users to take their medicine through notifications and informs a family member when those messages go unnoticed.

SEE ALSO: Breakthrough Israeli Research Improves HIV/AIDS Treatment, Could Lead To Cure

Not only does this system build a safety net around the patient, it could also help reduce the overall burden of medication non-adherence, which in the US alone is estimated to cost the healthcare system about $290 billion, according to think tank HealthWorks Collective.

With 2.5 million users, Medisafe claims the app significantly improves medication adherence. Founded in 2012, the company has raised $7 million in three rounds from eight investors, including famed Israeli angel investor Eyal Gura, Lool Ventures and Microsoft Ventures.

Nyxoah

Struggling to be active at work the morning after a night out? Imagine how it would be if your sleep were disrupted regularly – more than a dozen times in one night.

In the US alone, about 50 million people suffer from sleep disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Millions suffer from a condition called sleep apnea, which consists of a series of breathing interruptions during sleep. As breathing stops or diminishes, and consequently the level of oxygen in the brain declines, the human body is programmed to wake up so that the person will start to breath normally again.

Nyxoah

If untreated, this disorder can become extremely dangerous: Chronic lack of sleep may lead to reduced cognitive functions, memory loss, depression, and can increase one’s chances of being involved in a car accident. In extreme cases, sleep apnea can increase the risk of a stroke and heart failure.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain

But an Israeli company seems to have found a simple solution: Nyxoah has developed a small neurostimulator that prevents airway blockage by electrically controlling the nerves of the tongue. The device measures 20 mm in diameter and 2.5 mm in thickness, it can be implanted by a small incision, and  then kept in place during sleeping hours by a disposable adhesive patch.

Founded in 2009 by Robert Taub and Adi Mashiach, Nyxoah has so far raised $11 million.

Archimedicx

Finding a trustworthy doctor is no easy task. In case you need surgery, choosing the most suitable hospital is crucial yet difficult because essential information is not always readily available to everyone.

After his sister died from complications of a routine operation, entrepreneur Moni Milchman funded and developed a global, comprehensive search engine for hospitals. Type in the procedure you need, and Archimedicx will find and rate the most suitable clinics, free of charge for the patient.

The search can be filtered according to countries, waiting time, budget and other considerations, and enables the user to contact the hospital directly to speak to a specialist.

archimedicx screenshot

Archimedicx was founded in 2014 and has quickly reached 30,000 users. The company has raised an undisclosed amount, though it is thought to be worth several million dollars.

Photos: MeMed, Archimedicx, Nyxoah, TytoCare, MediSafe

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Locust-Shaped, 3D-Printed Robot Can Traverse Rocky Terrain, Assist In Search And Rescue]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42076 2015-12-22T10:07:20Z 2015-12-22T10:07:20Z

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In recent years, advanced robotic platforms have provided assistance to crisis intervention teams in the wake of man-made and natural disasters. The objective of such robots, in various sizes and shapes, has been to intervene where humans cannot and send life-saving data to rescue teams in the field.

Now, a miniature robot is poised to make a major contribution to the field of advanced robotics. The new locust-inspired robot, developed in Israel by researchers from Tel Aviv University and Ort Braude College, is five inches long and weighs less than one ounce. It can jump 11 feet high — more than twice the height of similar-sized robots, according to the researchers — and cover a horizontal distance of 4.5 feet in one leap. The researchers believe the robot will perform well in search-and-rescue missions and in reconnaissance operations in rough terrain.

SEE ALSO: Robotics Star Guy Hoffman Talks About Robots With ‘Soul’

locust-shaped robot

A miniature, locust-shaped robot developed in Israel

Inspired by nature

“Our locust-inspired, miniature jumping robot is a beautiful example of bio-inspired technological innovation,” TAU’s Prof. Amir Ayali, who led the research, said in a statement. “Miniature robots are of special interest in the robotics field, attracting a lot of attention and research. The manufacture of tiny robots is cheap and efficient; their small size allows them to traverse difficult and unknown terrain; and many can be used in any given situation.”

The scientists printed out the body of the robot on a 3D printer using plastic materials that can also be found in Lego blocks. The robot’s legs were composed of stiff carbon rods, and its torsion was made of springs of steel wire. A small, on-board battery powers the robot, which is remotely controlled.

“Biological knowledge gained by observing and studying locust, was combined with state-of-the-art engineering and cutting-edge technologies, allowing biological principles to be implemented in a miniature robotic jumping mechanism,” according to Ayali.

A giant leap

The researchers did not attempt to produce an exact mechanical replica of a locust; instead, they focused on some of the specific biomechanical features of the locust’s remarkable jumping mechanism.

A locust catapults itself in a three-stage process. First, the legs are bent in the preparation stage. Then, the legs are locked in place at the joint. Finally, a sudden release of the flexor muscle on the upper leg unlocks the joint and causes a rapid release of energy. This creates a fast-kicking movement of the legs that propels the locust into the air.

Like the locust, which uses stored mechanical energy to enhance the action of its leg muscles, the robot’s “high-jump” is due to its ability to store energy in its torsion springs.

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

The researchers are currently working on a gliding mechanism that will enable the robot to extend its jumping range, lower its landing impact, execute multiple steered jumps and stabilize while airborne, expanding the possible field applications of the robot.

The robot is the result of a collaboration between Prof. Amir Ayali of the Department of Zoology at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Life Sciences, Dr. Gabor Kosa of TAU’s Faculty of Engineering and Dr. Uri Ben-Hanan of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Ort Braude College. The research for the study was primarily conducted by TAU engineering students Valentin Zeitsev and Omer Gvirsman, as well as Dr. Avi Weiss of Ort Braude College. The research was recently published in the scientific journal Bioinspiration & Biomimetics.

Photos and video: Tel Aviv UniversityAmerican Friends of Tel Aviv University

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Lucy Anderson, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Non-Profit Ofanim Turns Old Buses Into High-Tech Classrooms On Wheels]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=42001 2015-12-21T11:17:00Z 2015-12-21T11:17:00Z

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Quality education is one of the most important foundations upon which people build their futures. And yet, in Israel, like in many other countries, there is an educational gap between rural and metropolitan communities. According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, 83 percent of children who live in Tel Aviv and the surrounding area matriculate, compared to only 62 percent of children who live in the periphery.

Enter Ofanim, a non-profit organization established in 2004 to bring education to the places that need it the most. Using buses that have been retrofitted into mobile study labs, Ofanim runs educational enrichment programs for hundreds of children living in Israel’s northern and southern regions.

ofanim

In these classrooms on wheels, instructors are paired together and teach small groups of children ranging from third to sixth grade about science and technology. During the academic year 2014-2015, more than 1,200 children took part in the program covering a broad range of subjects, including medicine, comics, computerized animation and robotics.

SEE ALSO: Israeli High-Tech Method Revolutionizing US Education?

Funded by Israeli and US donors, including Friends of Ofanim, Bank Hapoalim, The Ted Arison Family Foundation, Applied Materials, and Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq, Ofanim maintains an annual budget of approximately $1.5 million to run six buses and a fleet of vans that transport the equipment from one town to another.

ofanim

Children who have participated in the program have described it as “a small place with big dreams,” and several independent evaluation reports show that the program positively affects children’s self-image, self-confidence and motivation to succeed. Their work has had such a wide-reaching impact that the Israeli Ministry of Welfare granted the organization its Excellence Award in 2009.

Most of the instructors are undergraduate and graduate students who “go through a strict and demanding process of simulations and preparations before being selected,” Adir Kan, CEO of Ofanim, tells NoCamels. “They are socially oriented and very dedicated to the children and our cause.”

Ofanim was founded by Israeli entrepreneur Haim Dahan, who grew up in Neighborhood D, a deprived neighborhood in the Southern city of Be’er Sheva. While raising him and his nine siblings, his mother was a cook at a local community center. There she met Madeline Bergman, the wife of Prof. Samuel Bergman, the founder of the first computer science department at Ben Gurion University. When Dahan’s mother invited the professor and his wife for lunch, Prof. Bergman asked Dahan if he knew anything about computers. Dahan, who was in his first year of high school, replied that he had no clue.

“A sense of direction”

Soon thereafter, the professor invited Dahan into the university and provided him with the tools needed to acquire a basic education in computers. This experience forever changed Dahan’s life; it opened up doors that may have been closed had he not met the professor. According to Dahan, Prof. Bergman is “a person who gave me a sense of direction, and who ignited my imagination and hope for a better future.” As a result of Bergman’s influence, Dahan wanted to give other children the opportunity that he was given.

SEE ALSO: Education Is The Name Of The Game

Now in its 11th year, Ofanim is experimenting with a new educational model recommended by Prof. Gad Yair, head of the education department at the Hebrew University. “There are three main changes we are going to implement into the organization: Accompanying children from third grade until high school, integrating children’s parents and teachers into the program, and including additional programs for building up personal development skills such as debate and ‘out of the box’ thinking,” says Kan.

… More like ‘out of the bus’ thinking in this case!

Photos: Courtesy

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Betty Ilovici and Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[From Creative Spirit To Innovative Startups: What Makes Tel Aviv One Of The World’s ‘Techiest’ Cities]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=40502 2015-12-19T22:34:51Z 2015-12-19T22:01:03Z

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Located in the country with the highest number of startups per capita, Tel Aviv is known as Israel’s startup capital. Situated along the country’s central coastline, “the city that never stops,” as it is dubbed, has the best startup ecosystem outside the US, thanks to its techie environment and talent pool, according to a recent report by data firm Compass.

But beyond the headlines about acquisitions of Israeli startups for billions of dollars each year, people don’t often hear about Tel Aviv’s behind-the-scenes. Its programs for sustainable urban development and increased civic engagement recently gained Tel Aviv the title of “World’s Smartest City.” Furthermore, Tel Aviv – one of a handful of cities to host the annual DLD innovation conference – is a leader in the nurturing of entrepreneurial spirit, and is home to collaborative workspaces, investment firms, and global innovation conferences.

SEE ALSO: Why The World’s Largest Tech Companies Want A Piece Of The Israeli Pie

7254691868_f91e032e86_k

Rothschild Boulevard, Tel Aviv

“Tel Aviv is the Startup City of the Startup Nation,” Gilad Uziely, director of economic development at the city-sponsored program ‘Tel Aviv Global,’ tells NoCamels. “Innovation is part of the basic DNA of the people of Tel Aviv.”

City-wide digital services for residents

Among Tel Aviv’s techie solutions for residents is the city-wide Wi-Fi Access (Tel-Net), a system launched by the municipality about two years ago. It now covers 3.7 million square meters (including the city’s beaches, boulevards, coffee shops, and startup hubs), and has seen over a quarter of a million unique users since its inception.

Another smart city solution is “Digi-Tel,” a unique personalized service that provides city information via email and text messages. The information offered by this mobile application ranges from discounts for events, to alerting residents of neighborhood road works.

SEE ALSO: Tel Aviv Named ‘World’s Smartest City’

Tel aviv

In addition to its overall digital atmosphere, Tel Aviv also supports young creatives by establishing subsidized working hubs that connect entrepreneurs and artists in various fields. Among these are “Mazeh 9,” which focuses on the growth of startups through providing stimulating working conditions, events and various services free of charge.

Shared workspaces inspire creativity

Tel Aviv is also home to several workspaces that are based on the sharing economy, offering tiny offices (with shared services such as copiers and espresso machines) to tiny startups, on a monthly basis. In Tel Aviv, the stereotypical success story which dictates that companies that “make it big” started from a garage or a basement, is slightly different: Many startups are simply born in the minds of young entrepreneurs working in shared workstations. The city’s startup ecosystem, thus, enjoys inspiring environments, with many seed-stage startups choosing to set up shop in collaborative workspaces such as WeWork, which operates two office buildings in Tel Aviv.

According to WeWork’s Ronnie Ceder, “Israelis know how to take the entrepreneurial spirit to a whole new level. We come from community-based backgrounds, and we know what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself, whether it’s a sports team, family, or the army – we work together to succeed,” she tells NoCamels. “WeWork is part of the solution to bring people and businesses together.”

WeWork provides work stations to hundreds of members, only asking that they come with their laptops and creativity. All other services, including bills, refreshments, conference rooms, lounges, and inspirational meeting spaces such as rooftops and gardens – are all provided by WeWork. Members are encouraged to take advantage of both the local and global startup networks, and are invited to a variety of events from inspirational talks, to yoga and TRX classes.

wework shared office space2

Mindspace is yet another pioneer in the emerging trend of collaborative workspaces, located in the heart of the city – on the elegant Rothschild Boulevard. If time is money, the idea is to save time and money, and allow startups to focus on their creative work. Everything from internet access, to fixing the air-conditioner if it fails, is all covered for members. The concept is to create a beautiful, comfortable environment for a community that is diverse and includes high-tech and design professionals.

“At Mindspace, 50 percent of the members work together. Everything is in-house and accessible. You walk across the corridor, and you meet your graphic designer, and on the other end you have a project developer,” Mindspace’s Dari Shechter tells NoCamels. “There is something lovely and friendly here, it’s family.”

WeWork Tel Aviv

Shared kitchen at WeWork Tel Aviv

The number of startup accelerators more than doubled in recent years

Tel Aviv’s startup ecosystem is also filled with investors of all kinds and many nationalities – venture capital firms, private equity investors, institutional investors, incubators and angel investors. According to IVC Research Center, Israeli startups set an all-time record in 2015, raising $3.2 billion in the first three quarters, compared to $2.3 billion at this time last year. Some of this money was funneled to companies in startup accelerators, which are quite easy to find in Tel Aviv.

According to the City of Tel Aviv, there are currently 50 active startup accelerators and incubators in the city, more than double the number three years ago. Whether sponsored by the city, a multinational corporation or a local venture capital firm, accelerators give seed-stage startups financial assistance and mentorship.

Tel Aviv infographic

Among the local accelerators is CREATE Tel Aviv, backed by Terra Venture Partners, the Tel Aviv Municipality and corporate sponsors. It provides startups with a six-month program, during which it connects individuals with multinational corporations, and works to establish new tech ventures.

Another accelerator focused on seed-stage startups is Elevator, connecting Israel’s innovators with international markets and investors primarily in the US and Europe. Nautilus, a local accelerator established by AOL (now owned by Verizon), aims to support startups for up to a full year. Nautilus offers fundraising, strategic support, as well as product support. In addition, startups receive full access to AOL’s network of talent and resources.

So, if you’re looking to set up shop in a creative, techie community, Tel Aviv could very well be the place for you!

Photos and infographics: Trip & Travel BlogOr Hiltch; StateofIsrael City of Tel Aviv, WeWork, Pikiwiki, Einat Paz-Frankel

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Intel’s 3D Vision Technology Enables Robots, Drones To ‘See’]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41882 2015-12-17T08:34:26Z 2015-12-17T08:40:06Z

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

Robots that move around and do the heavy lifting, drones that drop off stuff you ordered on-line an hour before, self-driving cars, even self-driven vacuum cleaners that don’t bump into the furniture – it’s all part of the big technology revolution that 3D vision is on the verge of bringing to the world.

And according to Igal Iancu, a senior manager on Intel’s RealSense 3D vision tech team, based in Haifa, none of it is going to be possible without a heavy dose of made-in-Israel technology.

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

Intel Israel

Intel Israel

“Israel is a hub of innovation in machine vision, chip development, and 3D technology,” Iancu told The Times of Israel in an exclusive interview. “Israel was the natural place for the development of RealSense, which combines hardware and software to bring human-like senses to personal devices, so they can experience the world like we do.

The idea of RealSense, said Iancu, is to enable devices to “see” in the same way humans do. “When we look at the world around us, our brains automatically build a 3D model of our surroundings. They identify objects like people, animals, and pieces of furniture and figure out how big and far away they are. By introducing Intel RealSense 3D cameras, Intel is enabling devices to see like us, so they can understand the people using them and the world around them. This will allow us to interact with our devices in a much more natural way and have an immersive experience.”

RealSense sees the distance between objects, separating objects from the background layers behind them. This gives much better object, facial and gesture recognition than a traditional camera, according to the company. This visual data creates a touch-free interface that responds to – and understands – hand, arm, and head motions as well as facial expressions.

SEE ALSO: Intel Tech Puts Backpacks On Bees To Track World Bee Collapse

3D vision technology – in which 3D cameras can be used to interact with computers, TVs, and gaming consoles – has been around for a few years. One of the original pioneers in 3D vision tech was an Israeli firm called PrimeSense, which supplied technology to Microsoft to enable it to build the Kinect 3D interface, used in Sony’s Xbox gaming console (PrimeSense was subsequently bought in 2013 by Apple for $350 million). Many other Israeli firms, such as Omek Interactive (bought by Intel in 2013) are also responsible for important breakthroughs in the field.

To read the full article, click here.

Intel robot

Intel robot

Photos: Intel Israel, Intel

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Shira Potter, NoCamels <![CDATA[Hefty Roaming Charges? Simgo’s Virtual SIM Could Cut Rates By 90%]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41961 2015-12-16T07:53:25Z 2015-12-16T07:20:07Z

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Have you ever returned from a vacation to a phone bill that cost more than your plane ticket? Now, you don’t have to pay for roaming anymore. An Israeli startup has come up with an innovative solution that allows your phone to choose the cheapest local service and data carrier when traveling to 100 countries around the world.

Simgo simply replaces the SIM card inside your smartphone with a clip-on case that connects to its cloud-based system. The software selects the best local virtual SIM card in the “cloud” and uses it to place the call – using your original phone number.

SEE ALSO: NokNok Is Trying To Reinvent VoIP With Its New iPhone App

SIMGO virtual sim card

This unique solution allows frequent travelers to avoid hefty roaming charges, the company claims. The price of the clip-on case is currently $120, and users also pay a small daily fee that’s 50-90 percent lower than typical roaming charges, according to Simgo. The case is currently available only for select Samsung Galaxy and iPhone devices.

“Our virtual SIM platform enables us to reprogram any SIM card in a supported device with any identity that we would like to have,” Simgo CEO Avi Ben-Shlush tells NoCamels. “We decouple the user from the operator.”

SEE ALSO: RAY: The Israeli Smartphone For The Visually-Impaired

The startup has already signed several contracts with cellular service providers in order to provide service around the globe. Currently, Simgo is attracting new customers by offering a pay-as-you-go plan, which can be monitored through a mobile app that keeps track of usage, and warns when you are about to pass your preset limit.

Founded in 2012 by Ben-Shlush, CTO Nir Berman, and VP of business development Eyal Shmueli, Simgo has so far raised $7 million, mostly from private investors in Israel, the US and Singapore.

Entering a crowded arena 

Simgo’s direct competitors include WorldSIM and Movirtu, but Ben-Shlush claims Simgo’s solution is more comprehensive because it offers a combination of a virtual SIM management platform and a roaming solution within one product.

In the near future, Simgo plans to expand its offering into Wi-Fi services on local and international buses. Adding Wi-Fi services enables Simgo to automatically switch between providers while their customers are traveling across borders. Ben-Shlush expects to install this technology in 3,000 busses traveling around Europe next year.

Since Simgo’s clip-on case is limited to Samsung and iPhone devices at this time, the company is developing a new solution called Simgo Inside. It will allow smartphone manufacturers to embed the virtual SIM hardware inside their products and charge extra for the roaming service.

samsung in jeans pocket

Simgo Inside “enables manufacturers to turn a one-time sale of a device into recurring revenue,” Ben-Shlush tells NoCamels.

Shmueli is confident that the Simgo platform will disrupt the cellular market. “Nowadays, if you want to switch cellular carriers, you need to call them and let them know you want to switch, and then you need to get a new SIM card, and put it in your phone,” he explains. “With a reprogrammable embedded SIM, it will be all done over the air. This is the future and this is where the world is going.”

iPhone apps

Photos: Courtesy

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Researchers Reveal What Lack of Sleep Does To Your Brain]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41899 2015-12-15T08:53:57Z 2015-12-15T08:53:57Z

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Cranky or grumpy after a long night? Fatigue puts most people in a bad mood, but a new Israeli study pinpoints the neurological mechanism responsible for increased anxiety due to only one night’s lack of sleep.

“Prior to our study, it was not clear what was responsible for the emotional impairments triggered by sleep loss,” Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Talma Hendler, who led the study, said in a statement. “It turns out we lose our neutrality. The ability of the brain to tell what’s important is compromised. It’s as if suddenly everything is important.”

SEE ALSO: Israeli Scientists Help Create First 3D Map Of The Brain

leave_me_alone__i_wanna_sleep_by_marissavoo

Hendler’s research team “assumed that sleep loss would intensify the processing of emotional images and thus impede brain capacity for executive functions;” however, “we were actually surprised to find that it significantly impacts the processing of both neutral and emotionally-charged images,” she says.

Sleep deprivation could lead to poor judgment and anxiety

To detect emotional responses, the researchers measured the electrical neurological activity in participants’ brains (using EEG and/or fMRI) and then showed the participants images designed to invoke different emotional responses. Images of cats were associated with positive emotions, while images of mutilated bodies were associated with negative emotions. Common objects, such as a spoon were deemed neutral images.

When participants had a good night’s rest, neurological tests indicated that participants had various responses, depending on whether the image was emotionally positive, negative or neutral. In contrast, responses of sleep-deprived participants were significantly less differentiated.

To test concentration levels, the researchers conducted a second experiment in which participants were asked to complete a simple task while distracting images (neutral and emotional) were displayed in the background. The team found that after one night without sleep, participants were distracted by every single image (neutral and emotional), while well-rested participants were only distracted by emotional images.

The effect was indicated by activity change in the amygdala, a set of neurons responsible for emotional processing in the brain.

According to Hendler, “these results reveal that, without sleep, the mere recognition of what is an emotional event and what is a neutral event is disrupted. We may experience similar emotional provocations from all incoming events, even neutral ones, and lose our ability to sort out more or less important information. This can lead to biased cognitive processing and poor judgment as well as anxiety.”

SEE ALSO: Revolutionary: Israeli Researcher Says He Can ‘Erase’ Memory Of Addiction

The study was recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The researchers are currently examining how novel methods for sleep intervention may help the treatment of anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress disorders in which emotional regulation may also be affected by sleep.

sleeping beauty

Photos: Roydon Joe; Marissa VooJenc

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[Train Your Brain To Be Happy With New App Happify]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41165 2015-12-14T15:53:04Z 2015-12-14T15:29:22Z

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Does your everyday routine stress you out? Do you happen to feel frustrated, angry or depressed? In recent years, a slew of apps have sprung up to target the millions of users who feel their lives could be just that little bit more happy. Now an Israeli team has developed yet another cool app that trains your brain to think positively and become happier.

Following the STAGE model, which stands for Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give and Empathize, the Happify app first asks you to insert basic information like gender, age, occupation, as well as your ability to cope with hardships and your level of life satisfaction. Then, the app creates a personalized “track” for you to follow, which it says will lead to a higher level happiness.

SEE ALSO: What Top Israeli Studies Say About What Makes Us Happy

The tracks range from “find more ‘me’ time”, to “cope better with stress,” and “mindfulness for beginners.” Each track consists of a series of games, such as “Uplift,” where you get points for clicking on positive words, and lose points when selecting negative emotions. Also available are exercises like “Today’s Victories,” where you list the highlights of your day and how they positively affected you.

SEE ALSO: To Be Healthy, All You Have To Do Is Be Happy

These activities are all aimed at boosting users’ optimism and helping them focus on positive emotions. The app’s creators claim that completing the different activities can help you release tension and relax, and allow you to just stop for a minute and think of the moments you spent with others, encouraging the development of compassion and kindness.

“What happens is, you develop these habits to become more aware, to become more grateful, to really focus on what drives you,” Happify co-founder Ofer Leidner recently told the New Yorker. He noted that every exercise proposed by the app includes a section dedicated to the scientific explanation of why such activity works.

happify app

According to Happify, these are all key steps in the educational process to become a happier individual who leads a more fulfilling, meaningful life. In their opinion, happiness is something that can be taught – a habit that our brain can be trained to maintain. The founders also claim that 86 percent of the app’s users become happier within two months.

100,000 users – and counting

The project was developed in New York by two Tel Aviv University alumni, Leidner and Tomer Ben-Kiki, together with entrepreneur Andy Parsons. The startup includes a team of six, assisted by an advisory board of four scientific advisers, three medical practitioners and five strategic advisers, mainly psychologists, neuroscientists, life coaches and business experts. Currently, Happify has 100,000 users.

The games and exercises proposed by the app were developed by experts in gaming with collaboration from experts in positive psychology, a discipline that focuses on personal growth and self-improvement with the aim of achieving a better quality of life. This branch of psychology has gained immense popularity thanks to Israeli researcher Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar, a former lecturer at Harvard and a professor at IDC Herzliya.

Entering a crowded arena 

Founded in 2011, Happify has so far raised nearly $12 million from Bridge Builders Collaborative, Mangrove Capital Partners and other investors. The hefty investment could possibly go toward competing with a growing number of applications in this arena: Happier, MoodKit and Happy Habits.

happiness

Can your smartphone become your shrink? 

Testing the app, NoCamels found that the track “overcome negative thoughts,” actually helped us focus on the positive aspects of life through exercises. However, a few minutes spent playing over a couple of days will not necessarily make you happier; only time will tell whether or not our positive thinking will increase in the long run. According to Happify, most users become happier after a couple of months.

Despite the buzz surrounding the app, some critics doubt that positive thinking and psychological wellbeing can actually be taught through smartphones. Still, you might want to give it a try – the app is free, fun to use and available both for iOS and Android. Plus, it’ll take you away from your Candy Crush addiction and force you to take a deeper look into yourself!

happify app

Photos: Courtesy

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[Thirsty? ‘The Right Cup’ Turns Water Into Your Favorite Drink Using Scent – Not Sugar]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41839 2015-12-13T09:13:29Z 2015-12-13T08:30:23Z

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Doctors recommend drinking at least eight cups of water a day. But let’s be honest: Plain water is not the tastiest drink available. Most people prefer soda and fruity drinks, but most contain an unhealthy amount of sugar, which if drunk daily, increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other chronic conditions.

A staggering 35 percent of adult Americans are obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control; moreover, the American Diabetes Association estimates that 30 million children and adults in the US have diabetes, which is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Cutting down on sugar consumption has become a public health necessity and yet soft drinks are still readily available – and they’re typically loaded with sugar.

But now, Israeli entrepreneur Isaac Lavy has invented a unique cup that eliminates sugar from our beverages – without compromising the flavor. Through an ingenious mechanism, the Right Cup, which looks just like any other plastic cup, will trick your brain into thinking you are drinking fruit-flavored soda when, in fact, all you are drinking is 100 percent pure water.

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Lavy was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 30 years old: “My doctors told me to drink only water, but I hated the taste.”

The mechanism of the Right Cup seems pretty simple: The same FDA-approved substances that make our sweet drinks delicious are positioned inside the cup itself – not in the drink. When sipping water out of the Right Cup, the nose will transmit to the brain the same signal that the tongue would send if it tasted something sweet. The basic idea is that the sense of smell is responsible for 80 percent of our taste experience, which explains why when we have a cold we can hardly taste any flavor.

SEE ALSO: Is Sushi Healthier Than Ice Cream? Not Necessarily, Diabetes Researchers Say

It almost sounds too good to be true. Could the human brain be tricked so easily? The founders claim it really works: After five years of research and development, the company tested the prototype and also recorded some of the reactions on a video; people seem to struggle to believe that all they are drinking is pure water.

In November 2015, at the conclusion of the testing phase, the founders launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo that has been incredibly successful. Aiming to raise $50,000, this miraculous cup more than tripled its inventor’s original goal, raising $163,000 in three weeks.

the right cupThe company plans to start production in February 2016 and to ship the cup in April 2016; the price for a package of four cups is currently $78. The cup will be available in four different flavors: Apple, lemon-lime, orange and berries.

SEE ALSO: It’s Official: One Glass Of Wine A Day Improves Cardiovascular Health, Diabetes

Encouraged by the outstanding results of the Indiegogo campaign, the company is now aiming to raise additional funds in order to begin research necessary to reproduce the Cola flavor, one of the most popular in sweet beverages.

Photos and video courtesy of The Right Cup
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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Japan Turns To Israel For Radiation Disease Treatment]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41727 2015-12-10T07:56:39Z 2015-12-10T07:56:39Z

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

Four years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, the country is still not out of the woods, with the risk of mass radiation poisoning a continued risk. That is why the Fukushima Medical University’s Global Medical Science Center has signed a deal with Israel’s Pluristem Therapeutics to further develop the company’s PLX-R18 cells to treat acute radiation syndrome (ARS).

Under the deal, PLX-R18 cells will be studied primarily as a potential treatment for radiation-induced damage to the skin, lungs and gastrointestinal tract. The parties intend to develop pre-clinical models of radiation damage in these tissues, and then use them in trials; Pluristem will contribute PLX-R18 cells and scientific knowledge, while Fukushima Medical University will conduct the studies and provide the required resources.

SEE ALSO: If Nuclear Disaster Strikes, This Israeli-Designed Belt Protects Against Radiation Exposure

Fukushima

Fukushima, Japan

Although out of the news, the Fukushima plant continues to pose major health risks. Four and a half years after the explosion and subsequent meltdown at the plant damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan in March 2011, radiation continues to spread, both in Japan and abroad.

SEE ALSO: Five Israeli Biotech Companies Using Stem Cells To Change The Face Of Medicine

Just last week, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution issued a report saying that more sites off the coast of the western US were showing signs of radiation contamination. And in Japan itself, as many as a million people could die in the coming years from radiation-induced cancer, according to a report last month by Fairewinds Energy Education.

So far there have been just a few documented cases of cancer directly linked to the disaster, but no one in Japan is taking anything for granted. While officials are doing what they can to clean up the site, they realize that they must also act to prevent a potential health emergency.

Enter Pluristem, a Haifa-based company that is developing a cure for acute radiation syndrome (ARS), also known as radiation disease, the mass destruction of tissues and cells caused by exposure to extremely high levels of radiation, such as a nuclear catastrophe.

ARS can cause lethal damage to the gastrointestinal tract, lung, skin and bone marrow, as well as other systems. But tests have shown that the stem-cell technology developed by Pluristem can prevent damage to cells affected by ARS. In tests conducted in Israel and the US, animals (mostly mice) that were subjected to total body irradiation and injected with human cytokines, showed significantly increased survival rates when treated with Pluristem’s PLX-RAD cells. The treatment essentially reversed the effects of radiation disease – which is especially hard on bone marrow – to a great extent.

Pluristem

Pluristem

To read the full article, click here

Photos: Juha Uitto, Pluristem

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Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Grandparents Who Were Stressed As Adolescents Tend To Have Daring Grandchildren, Study Shows]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41742 2015-12-09T13:46:23Z 2015-12-09T12:37:47Z

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As we all know, children inherit physical traits from their parents. But a new Israeli study suggests that stress experienced by the parents may be passed down not only to their children, but also to their grandchildren, a surprising conclusion considering the fact that the stress experienced is not part of the parents’ or children’s DNA. Or is it?

A team of researchers led by University of Haifa’s Dr. Inna Gaisler-Salomon found that exposing female rats to stress during adolescence, before they ever become pregnant, causes behavioral changes among their direct offspring when the latter reach adulthood. The effects vary, and include a more daring, adventurous behavior in grandchildren.

climber, mountains

The researchers also found that stress-reactive hormone Corticosterone (corresponding to Cortisol in humans) expresses itself differently in those animals whose parents were exposed to stress.

In their latest study, the researchers examined whether the effects of stress could affect not only children but also grandchildren. The researchers exposed young female rats to changes in temperature and in their routine for a week, elevating their level of stress.

It’s important to note that their direct offspring grew up without any stress-inducing intervention, as did their grandchildren. The third generation of rats (the grandchildren) underwent tests that measured anxiety-like behavior and the acquisition of fear. In addition, the levels of Corticosterone were measured, as well as the expression of its gene, CRF1.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Scientists Help Create First 3D Map Of The Brain

Rotating_brain_colored gif

The findings indicate that the effects of stress on the first-generation mother rat continue to influence her grandchildren on all three levels: Behavioral, hormonal, and the manifestation of the CFR1 gene.

On the behavioral level, the third generation descendants (mainly females) were, perhaps surprisingly, more daring, spent more time in the frightening parts of their maze, and exhibited less anxious behavior in various tests when compared with the offspring of rats that were not exposed to stress. In addition, the offspring of the rats exposed to stress demonstrated a more rapid acquisition of fear relative to the descendants of the control group.

“The rats whose grandmothers were exposed to stress displayed more adaptive behavior to their surroundings,” Gaisler-Salomon said in a statement. “Wherever greater curiosity was needed to improve their chances of survival, they displayed curiosity, but the moment they were exposed to a frightening event, they learned quickly and reacted more extremely to this event.”

However, it is impossible to talk in a dichotomous fashion about the positive or negative impact of the stress their grandmother was exposed to. “This is a complex effect that depends on the context of the situation,” she says.

Each generation is affected differently 

The study also found that behavioral differences among the first generation of rats which were exposed to trauma were different from those found among the second generation. In other words, the effect of the trauma is transmitted between generations, but it affects each generation differently.

SEE ALSO: Revolutionary: Israeli Researcher Says He Can ‘Erase’ Memory Of Addiction

stress cartoon man at desk

“Adolescence is a very sensitive period, and our studies show that exposure to stress at this stage of life affects not only the affected female, but also the behavior and stress hormone levels of her first and second-generation offspring,” Gaisler-Salomon says. “Our studies further suggest that there are processes unrelated to maternal care that can explain how information is transmitted from generation to generation. The exciting new field of epigenetics can explain some of the findings.”

Epigenetics is a sub-specialty of genetics that examines how genes and their expressions are affected by environmental factors. Initially studied by psychologists and developmental biologists in the first half of the 20th century, the field has garnered renewed attention now that scientists have genetic mapping capabilities and the computing power that enables researchers to analyze millions of genetic data points. Though the field is still relatively nascent, the growing body of research is beginning to shed light on how individual genes may be manipulated by environmental factors, thereby leading to depression, addiction and a host of other neurological disorders yet to be fully understood by scientists.

Photos: Eric Wienke; Jean Pierre Gallot

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Alice Menichelli, NoCamels <![CDATA[BioBee To Ship 600 Million Spiders To Colombia]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41743 2015-12-10T13:43:38Z 2015-12-08T11:34:16Z

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There is a way to get rid of pests without using toxic pesticides, and the solution is simpler than one might think: Employing predatory bugs that will attack and kill damaging insects.

Israeli company BioBee has been developing this chemical-free technique for years, and is now deploying it in farms all over the world, using living insects instead of chemical pesticides, which could be harmful.

SEE ALSO: Replacing Chemical Pesticides With Natural Anti-Pest Vegetable Oils

Selling its products to 50 countries worldwide, including Russia, India, Chile and South Africa, BioBee recently started to collaborate with Colombia, which will receive 600 million spider mites over the next year. The company was not available to comment on the price of the spiders, but some reports in the media have claimed that one gram of these spiders costs about $180 – more than five times the price of gold ($34 per gram)!

crop duster agri pesticides

BioBee breeds a special kind of predatory spider called Bio Persimilis, which can keep pests under control in several crops, such as peppers, tomatoes, beans, maize, cucumber, melon, strawberries and eggplants. It is specifically effective against other kinds of spider mites, but contrary to these other mites, Bio Persimilis doesn’t cause any harm to the plants.

The Bio Persimilis spiders used by BioBee are as big as the spider mites they chase, about one or two millimeters long. They move quickly, hunt their prey and pierce it, sucking out its fluids.

spider

These bugs will be shipped to Columbia in bottles of 2,000 or 4,000, then sprinkled over the crops or distributed through unique boxes hung on the plants. The company maintains that the investment is worthwhile to farmers, who would otherwise have to use chemical pesticides and thus not be able to export their crops, since international regulations limit their use.

SEE ALSO: Spider Feeds Itself To Offspring

Experts have long advocated for a decrease in the use of aggressive chemical pesticides, and their risks are known to the public, so finding a natural solution to reduce populations of noxious plant pests seems like the best way to go. Adopting natural solutions could also improve public health. In addition, pesticides damage the environment, pollute the air and water in their surroundings and beyond, as they are easily carried by the wind.

Another reason to reduce the use of pesticides is that, with time, pests develop resistance to extensive pesticide use. This encourages farmers to use more and more pesticides, while generations of powerful super-bugs proliferate.

Good bugs versus bad bugs 

The alternative provided by BioBee is inspired by what is called in the scientific literature “the biological control phenomenon,” which is the natural balance of the “good bugs” eating the “bad bugs.” According to Shimon Steinberg, head of the research and development team at BioBee, “you can see it in your backyard. This phenomenon exists everywhere, and we need to know how to exploit it.”

agri pesticides

Founded in 1984 in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, BioBee’s facility mass-produces the natural enemies of the harmful pests: The company harvests flies and bees for various purposes, along with spiders. “We take them from nature and we give them the optimal conditions in order for them to proliferate and reproduce,” according to Steinberg. The mites are cultivated without any genetic modification in an environment that allows them to thrive. The Israeli weather is perfect for this purpose, with its short winter and its hot, humid summer.

The impact of this method has been measured on crops in Israel, yielding impressive results, according to BioBee: On sweet pepper crops, it reduced the use of pesticides by 75 percent; and on strawberry crops, they were reduced by 80 percent. In Colombia and other countries in South America, the reduction in the use of pesticides would allow many farmers to finally meet the standards required for exporting their produce.

Photos: Roger Smithjetsandzeppelins, BioBee

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Study Busts The Myth: Male And Female Brains Are The Same]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41693 2015-12-07T08:19:39Z 2015-12-07T08:19:39Z

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If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, how come their brains aren’t different? A new Israeli study shatters the myth, showing that there’s no difference between the brain of a guy to that of a girl.

Historically, men and women have served different societal roles, but the question of how far these categories extend into human biology has not been resolved. Now, a team of researchers led by Tel Aviv University’s Prof. Daphna Joel has shown that if you look at the overall structure of the brain, there’s no such thing as a “male” brain and a “female” brain. Simply put, brains cannot be divided into gender-based categories.

SEE ALSO: Study Highlights Difference In Social Perception Between The Sexes

brain

Granted, some features of the brain are more common in women, some more common in men, and some are common in both. But while specific parts of the brain reveal differences based on gender, an individual brain only rarely has exclusively “male” or “female” traits, the study finds.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Scientists Help Create First 3D Map Of The Brain

Joel and her team of researchers used MRI scans of more than 1,400 brains, focusing on anatomical traits like tissue thickness or weight in different parts of the brain. They focused on those traits that showed the most obvious gender differences, dividing the scores into a predominantly male zone, a predominantly female zone, and an intermediate range.

The researchers found that individual brains rarely ended up exclusively in one of the three categories. The researchers also analyzed psychological and behavioral scores from two prior studies covering more than 5,000 participants. The results were similar.

“Gender differences in the brain are of high social interest”

Overall, the results show that “human brains do not belong to one of the two distinct categories” of male and female, the researchers concluded. The study was recently published in the scientific journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Gender differences in the brain are of high social interest because their presence is typically assumed to prove that humans belong to two distinct categories, not only in terms of their genitalia, and thus justify differential treatment of males and females,” according to the study. “Here, we show that, although there are gender differences in brain and behavior, humans and human brains are comprised of unique ‘mosaics’ of features, some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males.”

Prof. Daphna Joel, Tel Aviv University

Prof. Daphna Joel, Tel Aviv University

Photos: Tel Aviv University

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Lucy Anderson, NoCamels <![CDATA[Turning Trash Into Energy: HomeBiogas Generates Fuel From Organic Waste]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41659 2015-12-06T13:50:11Z 2015-12-06T10:45:34Z

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Last week, world leaders gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris to commit to reducing carbon emissions. But while industrialized countries tackle the environmental problem (which, many would argue, they caused), developing countries are left to face the consequences, such as polluted air and water – with very few resources to address them.

An Israeli startup called HomeBiogas aims to change that with its newly developed biodigester, which turns organic waste into fertilizers and biofuel for cooking, replacing cooking gas. From six liters of food waste or 15 liters of animal manure, this solar-powered system can produce enough biofuel for at least three hours of cooking.

SEE ALSO: Reducing Global Warming: Israel Presenting Solar Energy Solutions At UN Climate Change Conference

home biogas

The crowds seem to be cheering for this new solution: Earlier this month, the company launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign, which reached its goal of $100,000 in less than 24 hours. HomeBiogas has now reached $138,000 in pledges, with 18 more days left to go in the campaign.

“One hour of cooking over firewood is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes”

Founded in 2012 by Oshik Efrati, Erez Lanzer and Yair Teller, HomeBiogas aims to educate its users and increase global awareness on the health dangers of cooking with solid fuels such as wood, charcoal and coal. So, if you thought barbecuing is harmless, think again.

“One hour of cooking over firewood is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes,” Ami Amir, marketing director for HomeBiogas, tells NoCamels. “If you use our system for a year, it is as if you took a car off the road.”

The company is targeting two groups: Homeowners living in developed countries, who want the product mainly for its environmental value; and underserved communities that have no access to clean energy and garbage removal services. HomeBiogas provides these communities with clean energy that can be used for cooking and in turn encourages them to recycle organic waste for generating gas.

The system generates both clean energy and liquid fertilizer

Currently, one HomeBiogas unit costs $890-$995, after the company has lowered the cost of production from previous models by using aluminum instead of iron to manufacture the system. Still, it’s a hefty investment.

But according to HomeBiogas, since the system generates both clean energy and liquid fertilizer, consumers will spend less on both. “If you combine both uses, the return on your investment is approximately three years. After that, it is pure profit,” Amir says.

HomeBiogas is now racing to mass produce its device. “If we can have a purchase order for 1,000 units rather than 30, 50 or 100 units, we can significantly reduce the costs of manufacturing and we can then offer our product for a lower price to customers,” he explains. “The main goal of our crowd-funding campaign is to get as many orders as possible for our product, so we can then offer it for a lower price.”

homebiogasprocess

To further lower the cost of the device, the company has partnered with non-profit organizations that provide subsidies. “The 75 units the company installed in the Palestinian Authority and in Bedouin communities across Israel were subsidized by the Peres Center for Peace and the European Union,” Amir says.

SEE ALSO: These Israeli Companies Fight World Hunger With Innovative Technologies

homebiogas

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and the HomeBiogas team

Although small-sized biogas units are available in the market – ARTI, DOME and Sleeve, to name a few – HomeBiogas offers its customers an easy-to-use, family-sized product that can fulfill the needs of a standard home.

With 150 HomeBiogas units already up and running, HomeBiogas could bring about a revolutionary method for generating sustainable household energy and offer a solution to some of the challenges that world leaders are trying to resolve.

Photos and video: HomeBiogas

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Slick IoT Gizmo ‘Dojo’ Will Protect Your Connected Devices From Cyber Attacks]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41468 2015-12-03T08:54:19Z 2015-12-03T08:54:19Z

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

More connected devices are connecting with more databases and sharing more information than ever – and we’re just at the beginning of the data-gathering revolution that the Internet of Things will bring us. Unfortunately, according to security expert Kaspersky Lab, that provides hackers with more opportunities to steal more data, especially from IoT (Internet of Things) devices that are essentially unprotected.

“The bond of trust between users and their devices can lead them to forget about security,” said Victor Yablokov, head of mobile product line at Kaspersky Lab.

SEE ALSO: How Israeli Cyber-Security Startups Are Battling The World’s Riskiest Online Hacks

Dojo

“It’s hard to imagine that something we carry close to us at all times and turn to for everything could ever become a threat. But it can, and does happen. A digital friend can become a digital frenemy,” doing good for us while doing harm at the same time, he said.

SEE ALSO: Perfecting The Art Of Smart Gardening Is The Name Of GreenIQ’s Game

“A failure to appreciate the potential risks and to protect our devices and information accordingly could mean the loss of confidential information, money and even our identities. Security is simply not an optional extra.”

From TVs to tablets, ‘Dojo’ keeps connected devices secure

To the rescue comes an Israeli start-up called Dojo Labs, which, with a stylish stone-like device, will monitor all data sent by anything connected to the Internet – smart TVs, smartphones, smart tablets, smart refrigerators, even smart water faucets – to determine whether they are sending out data in amounts or in ways that do not fit their profile.

Such activity, according to Dojo co-founder and CEO Yosi Atias, could be a signal that a hacker has taken control of a device and is using a device as a way to get into a network and steal sensitive data.

“A hacker isn’t necessarily interested in a specific device, like a connected refrigerator,” Atias told The Times of Israel. “But they may use it as a gateway to get into a network and steal data from a computer that is on the network, or even activate a camera or microphone and upload the video via their hack.”

Dojo

In other words, a smart TV that a user thinks was turned off could be activated remotely by a hacker who breaks into the network via, for example, a connected weather station that downloads temperature and humidity information from the network, and is connected to a home heating system. If that smart TV is in the bedroom, a hacker could get hold of some very intimate footage by activating a webcam in a smart TV – with the victim clueless until they find out from YouTube that they are the stars of a porno.

Smartphones and other connected devices are more a part of life than ever, a study released last week by Kaspersky Lab said. Smart devices “are carried and used everywhere, including at work (52 percent), in a car (41 percent), on public transport (39 percent), in bed (58 percent) and even in the bathroom (29 percent).”

To read the full article, click here

Photos and video: Courtesy of Dojo Labs

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Parasite Genetically Related To Jellyfish Could Defy Everything We Know About Animals]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41444 2015-12-02T16:48:58Z 2015-12-02T08:35:50Z

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Children are taught that all living organisms — animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and unicellular organisms — belong to unique categories of organic life. But a new discovery by Israeli researchers could redefine the very criteria used to classify organisms.

Possibly changing everything we know about animals, Tel Aviv University researchers, along with an international team of experts, have found that a microscopic parasite called myxozoa, known to infect a host of organisms (invertebrate and vertebrate), is in fact a close cousin of the jellyfish.

Why is this so important? Because these parasites have become so physically degenerate that they reverted to being single cells with the smallest genome known so far – a significant finding in evolutionary studies.

SEE ALSO: Israeli Diver-Photographer Wins Prestigious Underwater Picture Award

Flower_Hat_Jellyfish_1 (1) copy

Despite the radical changes in its body structure and genome over millions of years, the myxozoa have retained some of the basic characteristics of the jellyfish, including the essential genes to produce jellyfish stings.

“The myxozoa are microscopic — only a few cells measuring 10 to 20 microns across — and therefore biologists assumed that they were single-celled organisms,” TAU’s Prof. Dorothée Huchon said in a statement. “But when we sequenced their DNA, we discovered the genome of an extremely strange macroscopic marine animal.”

“These micro-jellyfish expand our basic understanding of what makes up an animal”

The study, co-authored by Huchon and her colleagues Prof. Arik Diamant of Israel’s National Center for Mariculture and Prof. Hervé Philippe of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, was recently published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists.

Huchon summarizes the importance of the study’s findings: “These micro-jellyfish expand our basic understanding of what makes up an animal,” Huchon said.

SEE ALSO: Study Shows Sunscreen Destroys Coral Reef

The discovery of the genetic relationship poses intriguing questions for evolutionary biologists, but the new study may also have commercial applications, because myxozoa commonly plague commercial fish stock such as trout and salmon.

“Some myxozoa cause a neurological problem in salmon called whirling disease,” Huchon explains. “These fish parasites cause tremendous damage to the fish industry, and unfortunately there is no general treatment against them. We hope that our data will lead to a better understanding of the biology of these organisms and the development of more effective drugs to fight against myxozoa.”

The scientists are currently studying the evolution of genes that form the stinging organ of jellyfish. Perhaps their research could also yield an effective treatment for jellyfish stings!

Evolutionary Tree original

Tree of life

Photos and infographics: Tom Hodgkinson; Fred HsuSpindrift Press

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Alice Menichelli and Lauren Blanchard, NoCamels <![CDATA[Breakthrough Israeli Research Improves HIV/AIDS Treatment, Could Lead To Cure]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=41534 2015-12-02T08:42:56Z 2015-12-01T07:06:29Z

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For people living with HIV, the widespread antiretroviral therapy (ART) can help slow the spread of the disease and prevent it from developing into AIDS. However, ART is not effective against all strains of the disease, nor is it a cure for the virus, which still affects 37 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Several Israeli universities and scientific institutes have recently made strides towards new, more effective treatments and a possible cure for HIV/AIDS. In recognition of World AIDS Day 2015, NoCamels spotlights some of their most groundbreaking research.

SEE ALSO: One Israeli Researcher Is Outsmarting HIV To Cure AIDS

People_living_with_HIV_AIDS_world_map

People living with HIV, by country

Hebrew University: Destroying HIV-positive cells 

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a new method to destroy HIV-positive cells without damaging the healthy ones. When the HIV virus attacks, it inserts a portion of its DNA into the genome of the healthy cell through an enzyme called integrase. However, research led by Prof. Abraham Loyter and Prof. Assaf Friedler has discovered that certain peptides (amino acids) can interfere in this DNA-transfer process, and ultimately cause the infected cell to self-destroy.

SEE ALSO: Breakthrough Israeli Device Will Circumcise 700,000 Rwandans To Prevent HIV/AIDS

The procedure was tested on cultures of human cells infected with HIV-1, the most common form of the virus, and within two weeks, those cells were destroyed. The study is still in progress; the researchers have signed a partnership with Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, as well as with the Hebrew University’s technology transfer company, Yissum, in order to find investors and continue with clinical trials.

1200px-HIV-budding-Color

HIV-1 buds (in green)

Weizmann Institute of Science: Antibodies could neutralize the virus

At the Weizmann Institute of Science, research led by Dr. Ron Diskin has shown that rare antibodies may be able to neutralize the virus. Antibodies are proteins produced by blood plasma cells that help the immune system to identify and neutralize pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.

Only 10-20 percent of people naturally produce HIV-fighting antibodies, with which Diskin is experimenting. If such antibodies could be reproduced, they could one day be used both in treatment (thereby replacing conventional ART) and in a potential vaccine. “Antibody-based treatments for other diseases, primarily cancer, are already in use,” Diskin said in a statement.

Although it is still unclear how effective HIV antibodies are on a wider population, the path of investigation seems promising.

Technion: Predicting the virus’ hidden paths 

Looking for a new strategy to fight the virus, Assistant Prof. Akram Alian of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology chose to focus on how the virus enters the host cell. Normally, HIV targets healthy cells through favored pathways, but when ART blocks these entry points, the virus will look for alternative ways to access the cell, which could lead to “a new kind of viral resistance,” Alian hypotheses.

Alian and his team are “trying to map the HIV-1 rerouting landscape and capture different host virus complexes to see if we can target inescapable pathway nodes,” he recently told NoCamels. “If we can do this, then we can predict the hidden, alternative routes that the virus takes and from there develop a drug that targets the critical nodes of the host cell’s proteins, so there is no way for the virus to reroute and take a different pathway.”

972px-Stribild_bottle_Dutch_labeling

Gilead’s Stribild is one of the antiretroviral treatment (ART) drugs used to treat HIV.

Ben Gurion University: Blocking HIV’s ability to reproduce

Prof. Ran Taube of Ben Gurion University has been investigating the instances in which HIV remains ‘latent’ in the body even after the patient has undergone treatment.

ART cannot treat the virus itself; rather, it prevents HIV from making copies of itself (a process called transcribing) and spreading to other healthy cells. However, if transcription inhibitors block the virus’ ability to reproduce, as Taube’s research shows, ART will not be effective. Thus, fully understanding the mechanism by which HIV latency occurs may enable researchers to develop more comprehensive therapies that could ultimately treat the virus itself.

Considering HIV/AIDS was unknown to scientists 34 years ago, research into the field has made tremendous progress and enabled people with the disease to live decades with a relatively high quality of life. If researchers can make similar progress in the next 34 years, the disease may be curable and possibly eradicated.

The White House Commemorates World AIDS Day

The White House commemorates World AIDS Day

Photos and infographics: Ted Eytan; Wikipedia Commons/CDC; Wikipedia Commons/Jörgen MoorlagThomas SplettstoesserWikipedia Commons/UNAIDS ReportStéfan, National AIDS Trustjacinta lluch valero

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