NoCamels - Israeli Innovation News NoCamels.com is the leading news website on Israeli innovations. We cover all the latest innovation in the fields of technology, health, environment and lifestyle.2015-07-01T12:21:54Z http://nocamels.com/feed/atom/WordPress David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Doctors Remotely Control Microchips That Will Disperse Medicine Inside Your Body]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39167 2015-07-01T12:21:54Z 2015-07-01T12:15:47Z

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

In-body microchips that deliver medicine in doses either pre-determined or controlled by doctors from outside the body could be the next big thing in drug delivery, and Teva Pharmaceuticals has jumped onto the bandwagon.

The company announced last week a new partnership with US firm Microchips Biotech to deliver Teva-made drugs to patients using the American company’s implanted microchip. It’s the first deal for Microchips Biotech – and the first ever that seeks to commercialize what some consider to be a controversial technology.

SEE ALSO: The Top 10 Israeli Technologies That Are Changing The World

microchipscloseup

To some, an in-body chip that delivers drugs automatically and eliminates the need to measure out meds – or to even to remember to take them – sounds like the height of convenience and safety, perfect for the elderly and others who often miss doses.

Others – including libertarians concerned over a further erosion of privacy by digital devices and technologies, as well as Christians who are opposed in principle to implanted microchips, are likely to be aghast over what the two companies are doing.

Nevertheless, both fans and foes of in-body drug delivery are going to have to get used to the likelihood that at some point in the future, a doctor will suggest that they, too, be implanted with a chip that doses out drugs in pre-determined increments.

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

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Roseanne Tabachnik, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Company Mobileye Gearing Up For Driverless Cars]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39042 2015-06-30T13:56:46Z 2015-06-30T13:32:04Z

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For many drivers who have known the grating experience of spending hours in traffic, the prospect of owning a driverless car has been a long-awaited dream. Now the prospect of an automated vehicle that allows you to take you hands off the wheel and feet off the gas, is rapidly becoming a reality as car manufacturers race to produce an entirely autonomous car.

And one Israeli company is taking a big step in that direction.

Mobileye, the world leader in advanced driver assistance systems aimed to prevent road collisions, is paving the future for driverless cars. The Jerusalem-based company initially garnered the world’s attention last August after going public in the US and setting a record$1.02 billion IPO. Today, Mobileye’s market cap is at $11.2 billion, a clear vote of confidence in its revolutionary technology.

      SEE ALSO: 2014: The Year Of The Israeli IPO

Mobileye

Over the past few years, hundreds of automakers – such as General Motors, BMW, and Volvo, to name a few – have equipped their vehicles with Mobileye’s collision avoidance technology, protecting drivers, passengers and pedestrians from crashes and accidents.

Founded in 1999, Mobileye has been developing its technology for nearly 16 years, and has been at the forefront of road safety technology since 2007 when its camera system first debuted on the Volvo S80.

“True autonomy will be transformative”

Now, Mobileye’s co-founder and Hebrew University researcher Prof. Amnon Shashua further advances the technology as he looks into the future of the vehicle industry. The first step is to introduce a consumer-grade, hands-free vehicle, which will eventually lead to a completely autonomous, or self-driving car.

“In the next 10 to 20 years, I believe cars will be completely autonomous,” Shashua, co-founder, CTO and chairman of Mobileye, tells NoCamels. “Completely autonomous cars will start being built five years from today. And true autonomy will be transformative.”

     SEE ALSO: Will Tesla’s Driverless Car Be Powered By Israel’s Mobileye Technology?

Prof. Amnon Shashua, co-founder, CTO and Chairman of Mobileye

Prof. Amnon Shashua, co-founder, CTO and Chairman of Mobileye

Mobileye works directly with the car industry, selling technology in the form of a chip with algorithms installed in new cars that helps prevent collisions. The company distributes its chip-based systems to 23 automakers, including BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Peugot, Volvo, Tesla, and truck manufacturers MAN SE, Scania, and IVECO. Mobileye also markets systems to existing fleets, such as the recently announced partnership with New York  yellow cabs.

Indeed, cab companies in the Big Apple are turning to Mobileye’s road safety alert system in hopes of improving driving experience for both passenger and drivers, by alerting drivers if they get too close to cars in front of them, veer out of the lane, or tailgate.

Collision-detecting technology evolves into driverless vehicles

Mobileye’s collision-detecting technology operates on the company’s third-generation EyeQ3 chip that originally launched on the Audi A7 and Volvo XC90 in the first quarter of this year. The goal at large, however, is to focus on developments that will lead to a new method of driving where the driver can completely let go of the wheel.

While hands-free driving has yet to be considered a mainstream form of transportation, Shashua expects to launch a technology with such capabilities next year. The Mobileye-integrated, hands-free vehicle will have two main uses, Shashua notes. The first is to activate the system when commuting along a long stretch of highway, and the second is to use the system during a traffic jam. “The car can manage itself and stop and go automatically, and then you can disconnect from the driving experience until the traffic starts moving again,” Shashua, who “drives” a driverless, autonomous Audi A7, explains.

Mobileye

Mobileye’s hands-free technology will retail at $3,000 to $5,000; as the technology becomes more commonly used, and within a 10-year time span the price range of the technology will decrease to several hundred dollars (excluding the price of the car), according to Shashua.

“Our first hands-free driving capabilities, combined with features to allow the car to detect traffic signs, curbs and traffic, will have a very high level of machine perception to carry itself autonomously on highways,” Shashua says.

This set of techniques is designed to mimic the human brain. “It is very similar to how the human brain is structured. Those layers have millions of parameters, and you find their value using a very large database of images,” Shashua explains. “Networks with sufficient data and computing capabilities could reach the human level perception.”

While the technology is not intended to completely replace humans’ role in driving, the goal is to create an improved and more convenient experience. Though the system may compensate for sudden changes on the road, the driver is still expected to be alert and awake when behind the wheel.

Photos and video courtesy of Mobileye

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Agritech Firm ‘Phytech’ Is Brining Novel Plant Alert System To America]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39160 2015-06-29T15:30:05Z 2015-06-29T15:30:05Z

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

Phytech, an Israeli agritech firm that is bringing the Internet of Things to the plant world, has teamed up with ADAMA Agricultural Solutions to sell its plant-alert system to farmers in North and South America.

The deal, said Phytech CEO Sarig Duek, is a key one for the company. “We believe that ADAMA’s grower-focused approach will ensure the successful implementation of the technology for the benefit of growers worldwide,” he commented.

adamaagrisolutions

Phytech and Adama will bring IoT tech to farmers in North and South America

ADAMA is the new name for veteran Israeli company Makhteshim-Agan — once one of the world’s largest supplier of insecticides and herbicides, and today a part of even-bigger ChemChina, which acquired the Israeli firm in 2014. ADAMA still operates as an independent unit, and is as dominant in the business as ever; the company’s 2014 revenues were about $3.2 billion, up $200 million from the previous year.

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

As a result, Phytech should have no problem reaching customers globally for its PlantBeat service, which equips crops with sensors that record information about the growing environment. The system keeps track of how much water the plants have been getting, how moist the soil is, the soil temperature, and other data. The sensors upload the information to a cloud server, where it is analyzed and migrated to a mobile app that Phytech users download. The app indicates how healthy a plant is, and what to do to improve its performance.

Like a physician who measures a heartbeat, explained Phytech Vice-President Itay Mayer, their system measures “plantbeat,” the physical signs given off by the plant — hence the name of the sensor monitoring system.

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

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Eunice Lim, NoCamels <![CDATA[Breastfeeding May Reduce Risk Of Childhood Leukemia, Study Shows]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39142 2015-06-28T13:48:56Z 2015-06-28T13:48:56Z

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More than 3,000 American children were diagnosed with leukemia last year, according to the American Cancer Society. But these numbers could potentially drop if more mothers would breastfeed their babies for longer periods, a recent study by Israeli researchers says. The study presents a hopeful correlation between breastfeeding and a lowered risk of contracting childhood leukemia, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of all childhood cancers.

SEE ALSO: Why Leukemia Recurs After Successful Chemotherapy

Patients with leukemia, a type of blood cancer, suffer from a weakened immune system, poor blood clotting, and frequent fatigue, among other symptoms. But this disease could potentially be prevented, according to the University of Haifa study, which suggests that babies who are breastfed for six months or longer have a 19 percent lower risk of contracting leukemia, compared to those who are given formula or are breastfed for a shorter amount of time.

Leukemia

SEE ALSO: Breastfed Babies Are Less Likely To Develop ADHD

While it is unclear what exact properties of breast milk lower the risk, the researchers state that breast milk contains “many immunologically active components and anti-inflammatory defense mechanisms that influence the development of an infant’s immune system.”

The study, conducted by Dr. Efrat L. Amitay and Dr. Lital Keinan-Boker, is based on a meta-analysis of 18 previous studies and was recently published in the esteemed scientific journal JAMA Pediatrics, part of the Journal of American Medical Association.

“There are so many proven benefits seen in babies who are breastfed”

Critics have challenged the findings on the grounds that they are not sufficiently rigorous to support or refute the claim that babies who are breastfed are at a reduced risk of childhood leukemia. Additionally, the studies reviewed by the Israeli research team only considered the association between breastfeeding and one specific type of leukemia known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Still, the findings are considered significant, considering that three out of four leukemia cases among children are ALL, according to the American Cancer Society.

All criticisms considered, Amitay and Keinan-Boker still vouch for breastfeeding and its health benefits, in light of the fact that over the past 50 years there has been a sharp decline in breastfeeding, especially in urban areas of developed countries, where more women are entering the workplace. “I think women want to breastfeed but they have less time to do so, and less experience,” Keinan-Boker tells NoCamels. “They don’t live in tight-knit communities anymore where older women traditionally would help them through the process.”

BreastfeedingAmitay and Keinan-Boker hope that their findings provide another compelling reason for women to breastfeed, and breastfeed exclusively. “Of course, leukemia prevention is not the main or only reason to breastfeed,” Keinan-Boker says. “There are so many proven benefits seen in babies who are breastfed, such as higher IQ, lower risk for ear infections and intestinal diseases, which are much more common in babies.”

However, others are heeding against the guilt that is assigned to women who cannot, or choose not to breastfeed. According to KidsHealth.org, “The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you decide what is best for you and your baby.”

Photos: Aurimas Mikalauskas

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Roseanne Tabachnik, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Company ‘X-Test’ Trains Mice To Detect Explosives At Airports]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39089 2015-06-25T12:24:31Z 2015-06-25T12:06:25Z

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Animals are known for their impressive ability to respond to external stimuli, and mice are no exception. While some may consider the furry creatures to be vermin that spread diseases, one Israeli company is debunking that perspective by harnessing the traits that make rodents particularly extraordinary. It turns out, these small mammals can sniff out explosives at airport security checkpoints and save travelers and authorities time and money.

Mice are currently trained by Israeli company X-Test to detect explosives at airports. These specially trained mice will be carried in cages to different checkpoints in order to discreetly smell people and their possessions, alerting officials when they sense a potentially lethal substance.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Nano-Sensor Can Sniff Out Explosives From 16 Feet Away

airport

This unique system was developed by Israeli company X-Test, a member of The Tamar Group established in 1998 by former Israel Defense Forces officers to detect and neutralize explosives. Now, the company is expanding into uncharted territories by utilizing mice’s keen sense of smell to detect drugs, explosives and foreign substances at border crossings and airports.

“You don’t have to take them for a walk”

In line with Pavlov’s classical conditioning, the rodents are trained (or conditioned) to identify and signal when they come across an unfamiliar odor. The man behind this latest development, former bomb-disposal expert Yuval Amsterdam, even claims the mice are more effective in distinguishing smells than explosive-detecting canines. “They’re as good as dogs as far as their ability to smell, but they’re smaller and easier to train,” Amsterdam told The Independent.  “They’re cheap, and you don’t have to take them for a walk. Once they are trained, they become bio-sensors.”

     SEE ALSO: BriefCam’s Instant Video Surveillance Helps To Quickly Catch Terrorists, Criminals

X-Test’s system is also designed to train mice with biological sensors to track patterns in heart rating, breathing, and other factors. Their reactions are then recorded by a computer, which analyzes the bio-data and alerts inspectors to potential suspects. When the mice smell an unfamiliar scent, they signal the security inspector to further investigate the matter. So, if the mice start going crazy in their cage, the security officer will know they’re on to something.

While no mice have yet been officially enlisted to safeguard our airports, their detection capabilities can be be utilized in identifying any contraband and foreign substances that have a scent: explosives, drugs, and even smuggled ivory!

Airplane

Photos: Kim Carpenter, X-Test, US Transportation Security Administration

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[New System Tells People Which Deadly Diseases They Are Most Likely To Contract]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39063 2015-06-24T13:15:16Z 2015-06-24T12:50:14Z

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Two years ago, Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy after she found out she was carrying a genetic mutation that greatly increased her risk of contracting potentially fatal breast cancer. This March, the actress also revealed she also had her ovaries removed due to a second health scare.

Now two major revolutions, one genomic and one in informatics, are completely changing the face of preventive medicine. Every day all over the world, millions of genetic sequences — from disease-related genes to complete genomes of plants, animals, bacteria and viruses — are resolved, identified and dissected.

One Israeli researcher is using this information to tell patients which diseases they are at risk of contracting and to construct genetic sequences that could protect people from such diseases in the future. Dr. Yuval Tabach, a researcher from IMRIC — the Institute for Medical Research Israel‑Canada at the Hebrew University – has developed a new Internet tool that will allow any investigator, physician or patient to analyze a gene according to its evolutionary profile, in order to alert patients of imminent genetic diseases and cancer.

     SEE ALSO: Study Discovers Link Between Back Pain And Your Genes

DNA code analysis

Genes are our biological fortune-tellers

One example of a known mutation which increases the likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancers is in the BRCA1 gene. Interest in this gene was highlighted when Angelina Jolie discovered that she had inherited the dangerous mutation from her mother, who died of cancer aged 56. However in the majority of cases, both for breast cancer and other genetically transmitted diseases, the identity of the gene responsible for the disease is unknown.

By using the methods of genetic analysis developed by Dr. Tabach, researchers can now identify genes within the same network as the BRCA1 gene, or other associations of genes, simply by scanning the evolutionary profiles of tens of organisms with a single click. The number of organisms that can be scanned in this way is anticipated to increase to hundreds in the near future.

The technique is simple and based on the fact that genes that work together or those that play an important role in biology will be present together in organisms that need them. Conversely, genes connected to a particular function like vision will disappear from species that have lost the power of sight, and may therefore be identified by a comparison to the genes in normal animals.

Dr. Tabach’s application is a product of his continued research, which he began as a Fellow at Harvard University in collaboration with researchers and physicians from all over the world. This research revealed the possibility of comparing the evolutionary profiles derived from multiple organisms to predict the biological functions and clinical relevance of given genes. One of the most important applications of this approach is the possibility to identify genes associated with genetic diseases and cancer.

      SEE ALSO: The ‘Memory’ Of Starvation Stays In Your Genes For Three Generations, Tel Aviv Researchers Show

“The significance of this tool is that anyone, physician or researcher, can input results from genetic mapping studies concerning suspected genes, and the tool will identify evolutionary, and probably functional, connections to known genes with association to diseases” explains Dr. Tabach. “The process is rapid, without cost or time wasted, and enables the identification of genes responsible for diseases.”

Identifying the vampires among us?

An interesting example of a gene that could be identified using this phylogenetic profiling approach is the so-called “Vampire’s Disease,” more professionally termed porphyria. Representing a family of genetic diseases characterized by abdominal pain, sensitivity to sunlight, purple urine, and psychotic episodes, porphyria probably forms the basis for the prevalent myths of vampires. These diseases are rare, but there is evidence for hereditary porphyria in European royal families, and it may have been responsible for the madness of King George III, as well as for the psychotic behavior of the painter Vincent Van Gogh, misdiagnosed as a depressive schizophrenic. Dr. Tabach demonstrated how, with one click, it is possible to identify essentially all the genes known to be associated with porphyria as well as other genes that, based on their phylogenetic profile, are very likely to be involved.

Vincent Van Gogh

Vincent Van Gogh

The bioinformatics methods developed by Dr. Tabach have formed the basis for the establishment of a company dealing with computational pharmaceutics which will identify new indications for existing therapeutic agents. This could dramatically decrease the time and expense required to bring a new drug to market, and facilitate the development of treatments for rare orphan diseases.

In the coming years, Dr. Tabach’s laboratory intends to focus on the identification of genes that prevent aging and protect against cancer, by consideration of the genes of some fascinating species of organisms with increased longevity and an almost complete resistance to cancer. In addition the laboratory is working with a model which describes almost 40 neurological diseases with a related etiology including Huntington’s disease, ataxia, and fragile X‑syndrome.

The research paper, co-authored with collaborators from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, appears in the journal Nucleic Acids Research as “PhyloGene server for identification and visualization of coevolving proteins using normalized phylogenetic profiles”. Support for the research came from Hebrew University of Jerusalem start-up funds.

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[VCs, Angels, Crowd Funds: Who Rules The Israeli Investment Landscape?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38792 2015-06-23T19:19:08Z 2015-06-23T13:57:20Z

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The startup industry is Israel’s wunderkind, the prodigious offspring everyone raves about and wants a piece of. With a record $3.4 billion raised by Israeli startups in 2014, and nearly $1 billion in the first quarter of 2015, local and global investors are pouring a sea of cash into budding Israeli startups.

But who rules the investor seas? How do venture capital firms, angel investors, and crowd-funding platforms like OurCrowd share in the bounty, and what is their respective power? For a better understanding of the investor landscape in Israel, NoCamels met many of Israel’s leading investors and experts.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Venture capital firms

VCs, or venture capital firms, are the rainmakers of the Startup Nation, pouring billions of dollars into Israeli companies every year.

The VC industry first took off in Israel around 1993, when the Israeli government funded 10 venture capital firms in a program called “Yozma” (Hebrew for initiative). Since then, the industry has flourished rapidly, and today there are more than 50 active Israeli and foreign VCs, mainly international funds with offices in Israel. In total, these VCs manage billions of dollars in funds, mostly from institutional investors such as pension funds from the US.

While Israeli VCs started out in the early 90s, the majority of foreign VCs came here towards 2000. Sequoia Capital for example, was founded in the US in 1972 and prior to venturing into Israel had been active solely in Silicon Valley. “Israel was our very first experiment,” Tal Morgenstern, partner at Sequoia, one of the world’s largest VCs, tells NoCamels. “It was our first location outside the US.”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Startups Raise Impressive $994 Million In First Quarter Of 2015

Israel’s top VCs are Pitango, JVP, Carmel Ventures, Genesis, Magma, Aleph and 83North. The largest foreign VCs with offices in Israel include Sequoia Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners and Battery Ventures. For startups, these VCs are the kings of the investment jungle, the guys and gals to impress most. Startups all know that to have VC backing significantly improves their chances of success and further financial support.

Angel investors

But if VCs rule the investment landscape, angel investors are often the matchmakers, smart lone wolves who typically make the first “seed” investments in early-stage companies. Angels, as they are called, are people who invests their own money, as opposed to VCs that invest on behalf of others. Since angels get involved early on, they have unique relationships with startup founders. “Angels usually have strong chemistry with the founders of the startup,” experienced angel investor Barak Rabinowitz tells NoCamels. “That’s why good companies have a choice who to let in, and they’re typically letting in the angels who bring real value beyond the money.”

Barak Rabinowitz

Angel investor Barak Rabinowitz

At the start of a startup, “entrepreneurs look at their angels as advisers, and they become very close,” he says. “Typically, an angel doesn’t take a board seat or special rights, but they have a lot of influence over the startup by virtue of that strong chemistry.”

While VCs invest millions of dollars in each company, angels typically invest tens of thousands of dollars for a meaningful stake at an early stage. “That’s a good deal if you believe in the team and vision,” Rabinowitz says.

Crowd-funding platforms

While angels and VCs have been around for decades, recent years have introduced a new player to the Israeli investor landscape: The crowd funds. These funds are wielding increasing power, raising tens of millions of dollars from a large number of people who want to invest small sums of money (typically starting at $10,000) in Israeli startups.

But while crowd-funding firms typically join VCs in financing rounds, they only rarely lead funding rounds themselves.

On the forefront of this industry is OurCrowd, the largest platform of its kind in the world, which has raised $130 million from thousands of investors for 70 startups since its inception in late 2012. “It’s all about building a portfolio of investments for our clients,” Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd, tells NoCamels. “If you think you can pick one startup company to invest in, go to a casino instead and play roulette.” Still, Medved agrees that crowd-funding can be risky, just like venture capitalism. “It’s a wild ride,” he asserts. “There are companies that fail – that’s just life. But the good news is that out of our 70 portfolio companies only one has failed.”

Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd

Jon Medved, founder and CEO of OurCrowd

Another newcomer to this arena is iAngels, which combines angel investing and crowd funding. Founded in 2013, this platform gives investors the opportunity to angel invest by participating in funding rounds alongside top-tier angel investors like Israeli angel Gigi Levy and American angel Joey Low, both referred to as “super angels,” since they invest larger amounts of money – as much as $500,000 in their best startups.

Corporate and private equity investments 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Along with angels, VCs and crowd funding platforms, Israel also enjoys investments from international conglomerates, such as Microsoft – which has a local investment arm and a startup accelerator. In addition to corporates, significant investments are made by Israeli and foreign private equity firms such as FIMI and Apax, providing additional channels to the local investment landscape.

But while corporations invest in Silicon Wadi (Israel’s alternative to Silicon Valley), they typically do not compete with the VCs. “Corporations provide many benefits to the startup ecosystem, including office space and funding but more importantly, partnerships and validation,” Barak Rabinowitz says. “They’re here to find innovation and are glad to partner with VCs as passive investors in funding rounds.” 

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

Despite the copious amounts of cash pouring into Israeli startups, venture capitalists say there’s no bubble to pop in Israel. “The Israeli talent is strong, with much experience, but since it’s not a very competitive market compared to Silicon Valley, companies’ valuations are typically lower and that’s why the yields are considered high – you get a bigger bang for your buck,” Daniel Cohen of VC Carmel Ventures tells NoCamels. “The Israeli high tech industry is correlated with NASDAQ, so if anything – the bubble is not local, the hype is global.”

Daniel Cohen

Daniel Cohen, partner at Carmel Ventures

“The Israeli market is hotter than it has ever been”

OurCrowd’s Medved says “there’s never been a better time to start a company” thanks to all the money pouring into Israel. “The numbers are off the charts, I’ve never seen anything like this.” He points out several major factors that play into the current investment hype: The coming of age of Israeli technology and entrepreneurs, who are now more professionally mature and experienced than ever; the influx of new investments from Asian VCs, primarily from India and China; the rise of later-stage capital – the growth of private equity firms that “write $150 million checks”; the growth of crowd-funding; and the fact the Israeli researchers and developers happen to excel in products the world needs right now: Robotics, drones, optics, machine vision, cyber security, medical equipment and big data.

Rabinowitz agrees. “The Israeli market has strong fundamentals,” he says. In 2000, during the internet bubble, “there were a lot of innovative companies that lacked earnings but saw high valuations driven by hype,” he says. “Now, companies are doing exciting things, but they’re also making money.”

Still, Israel has room for more “unicorns,” the new buzzword for companies that have surpassed the $1 billion valuation. “The yields are nice, but there’s still room in Israel to create larger companies which could be worth several billions of dollars, like Mobileye and Check Point,” Daniel Cohen says. “Such companies create jobs and breed talent that goes out and starts additional companies. It pushes the economy forward.”

Photos: OurCrowd, Carmel Ventures

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israel Launches Its First-Ever Natural Gas Powered Truck]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38980 2015-06-24T08:04:28Z 2015-06-23T13:23:52Z

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Just as the Israeli parliament deliberates the fate of its recently discovered natural gas reserves, CNH Industrial and Fiat Chrysler announced the commercialization of the first-ever natural gas vehicle on the Israeli market. According to reports, the agreement is part of an earlier Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Fiat Chrysler, CNH Industrial and Israel’s Fuel Choices Initiative (IFCI) for sustainable fuel replacements.

The first vehicle to be commercialized is an Iveco Stralis 4×2 heavy truck, a huge tractor-trailer-sized truck that is powered by an Iveco Cursor 8 Compressed Natural Gas engine. The group that manufactures the vehicles, CNH Industrial, believes that this is the first step to replacing diesel engine trucks.

     SEE ALSO: Fiat Chrysler Turns To Israel For Alternative Fuel Solutions

Iveco natural gas-powered buses that may soon be used in Israel.

Iveco natural gas-powered buses that may soon be used in Israel.

So how do natural gas trucks compare to run-of-the-mill diesel-fueled trucks? First off, natural gas is a completely clean form of fuel that has at least 95 percent less particulate emissions than typical diesel fuels. In addition, natural gas-powered vehicles emit 35 percent less nitrogen oxide, a compound that contaminates ground water and is said by critics to be one of the biggest culprits for global warming. Another harmful chemical that natural gas-powered vehicles significantly minimizes is carbon dioxide (CO2), which dangerously deteriorates the ozone layer protecting us from the sun. In fact, natural gas, or biomethane, decreases CO2 emissions from 161.3 pounds per British termal units (Btu) in diesel fuel vehicles to 117 pounds per Btu in natural gas-powered vehicles.

Then there’s the issue of price. According to studies conducted by Israel’s IFCI and CNH Industrial, the use of natural gas where it is abundant accounts for up to a 40 percent decrease in fuel expenses, which is great news for an oil-barren country like Israel.

     SEE ALSO: Israel’s Secret Project: Super-Battery To Reduce World’s Oil Thirst

The dealer of Fiat vehicles in Israel, Mediterranean Car Agency, announced that it will also import a 39 foot (12 meter) natural gas-powered Iveco bus. Trial runs and demonstrations on the bus will be conducted over a two month period in Israel. The cooperation between Fiat Chrysler, CNH Industrial and the IFCI, an initiative begun by the Prime Minister’s Office ten years ago, is meant to help the agency realize its goal of making Israel an alternative fuels knowledge hub.

 

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Bloomberg Donates $100M To Groundbreaking ‘Cornell Tech’ Program]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=39035 2015-06-22T11:25:50Z 2015-06-22T11:13:45Z

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Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg broke ground last week at the Cornell Tech high-tech campus – the new applied sciences campus of Cornell University and Israel’s Technion located on Roosevelt Island – together with his successor and current NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

After touring the campus site, Bloomberg announced that he would donate $100 million to fund a portion of the construction of the campus’ facilities on the island. As such, the first academic center on the Cornell Tech campus will be called the Bloomberg Center, in honor of Mr. Bloomberg’s two daughters, Emma and Georgina.

bloombergcornelltech

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Bloomberg expressed that the establishment has long been a dream of his for the City of New York, “New York became the greatest city in the world because we dare to dream bigger than anyone else and this project, I think, is part of that tradition.” In addition, he expressed that the school is likely to produce “thousands of jobs” for New York, a sentiment that was shared by de Blasio in his comments, “This is how you build a future and it’s happening right before our eyes.”

     SEE ALSO: Apple’s Incredible Spaceship-Like Campus To Be Built With Israeli Tech

The new campus will span over 12 acres on the 147 acre island and will include academic buildings, offices and a housing complex for student and staff use. Even the “dorms” at the Cornell Tech campus will be state of the art, marking the first residential high-rise in the world that meets “passive house sustainability standards,” consuming between 60 to 70 percent less energy than typical buildings. The campus is expected to open some time in 2017.

cornelltechrendering

A rendering of the Cornell Tech campus.

Inspired by the Technion?

Cornell Tech was founded in 2011 as a winner of the applied sciences initiative of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a call-to-action to encourage the development of a lively tech industry in the city. While it awaits the completion of what is set to be an impressive campus on New York’s Roosevelt Island, Cornell Tech students are studying out of Google’s former offices in the hip Meat Packing District in Manhattan. Since 2011, Cornell Tech’s Dean Dan Huttenlocher reports that 100 students have graduated, including 75 in the last month.

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

Currently, Cornell Tech offers Masters Degrees in a number of fields in the tech industry including: health tech, computer science, connective (social) media, as well as PhD programs and a Startup Postdoc. As part of its cooperation with Israel’s leading technology institute, the Technion, the school houses the Joan & Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute that encourages an academic partnership between the two institutions. Indeed, the partnership between the institutions was initiated as a founding principle of the school in 2010, based on the fact that Israel is home to the largest concentration of startups outside of California’s Silicon Valley.

irwinjacobs

Irwin Mark Jacobs, the Founding Chairman and former CEO of Qualcomm.

Besides communications mogul Michael Bloomberg, Cornell Tech has received donations from other notable figures in the business and tech worlds. Charles F. Feeny of the Duty Free Shoppers Group donated an impressive $350 million to the school in 2011 through his charity Atlantic Philanthropies, one of the largest private foundations in the world.

The school’s Jacobs Institute was established with a $133 million donation from Irwin Mark Jacobs, the Founding Chairman and former CEO of tech giant Qualcomm in April 2013. And Verizon Wireless gave $50 million to see the construction of the Verizon Executive Education Center and Google, as mentioned above, donated the use of its offices to the school until construction is completed on its permanent campus.

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Tel Aviv’s Norman Hotel Is Voted World’s Best Boutique Hotel]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38993 2015-06-21T18:54:39Z 2015-06-21T12:14:12Z

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Luxury American tourism magazine Jetsetter has just named the world’s best boutique hotel, and it’s none other than the stunning Norman Tel Aviv.

“The term ’boutique hotel’ can be applied to everything from major chains’ brand extensions to indie sleeps one step removed from B&B status, but Tel Aviv’s smart, stylish Norman is the real deal,” Jetsetter explained of its vote, which was based on reviews by 200 international journalists.

Overall, the magazine examined 23 hotel categories, such as business hotels and all-inclusive beach resorts.

     SEE ALSO: From Lego-Style Buildings To Mega Hotels, Legendary Israeli Architect Moshe Safdie Still Stuns The World

The Norman Tel Aviv Hotel

Located just a few steps away from Rothschild Boulevard in the heart of Tel Aviv, the plush Norman Hotel is housed in two reconstructed Bauhaus-era buildings, surrounded by a luscious Mediterranean garden. Of the hotel’s high-end interiors, Jetsetter magazine points to the beautiful “hand-painted tile floors, high ceilings, creamy leather seating and original Israeli artwork.”

The hotel – which has only 50 guestrooms, many of which boast private balconies – also has the first international branch of British-Japanese small plates restaurant Dinings, in addition to the Norman Restaurant; a cocktail bar called the Library; and a stunning rooftop infinity pool. For guests looking to pamper themselves, The Norman offers spa treatments, an in-house yoga instructor, and an ultra-modern gym.

The Norman Tel Aviv

Originally built in 1925 for a wealthy Jewish family, the Norman Tel Aviv was opened in 2014, following eight years of renovations totaling $10 million. Starting at $415 per night, the room price includes à la carte breakfast and a free shuttle ride to the beach. Managed by Olivier Heuchenne and Yaron Liberman, The Norman is famous for for its elegant suites and penthouse units, which range from $700 to $3,300 a night. The hotel is named after the late businessman Norman Lourie, whose grandson is rumored to have shares in the hotel.

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

The Norman Tel Aviv

Jetsetter Magazine’s runners-up in the boutique category are the rustic, yet elegant Hotel La Semilla in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, and the ultra-modern The Serras Hotel in Barcelona, Spain. First-place winners in other categories include The Shangri-La Hotel in Paris, France, named best hotel for “big-city sleep;” the Mondrian London, which won the newcomer category; and The Miami Beach EDITION, named the best designed hotel in the world.

Photos and video: The Norman Tel Aviv, SuitePrivee.com

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Roseanne Tabachnik, NoCamels <![CDATA[Can Vertical Gardens End World Hunger?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38941 2015-06-19T11:31:05Z 2015-06-19T06:12:37Z

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Food insecurity is a major global concern for our growing planet. Research shows that by 2050, the world will have to produce 50 percent more food to feed Earth’s population. But Israeli gardening experts have decided to act now, and they’re already marketing a unique system for sustainable, independent food production: Vertical gardens, in which residents of high-rise buildings can grow their own food, with minimal amounts of water and soil.

Will urban agriculture sustain the needs of city dwellers in the future? The founders of Israeli company GreenWall hope so, and that’s why they’re building vertical gardens around the world, allowing people to grow any plant along their walls, including rice, corn and wheat.

GreenWall is currently participating in the Expo Milano 2015, the world fair in Italy, displaying a 230-feet-long and 39-feet-tall green wall at the Israeli pavilion. This vertical garden was planted with rice, wheat, and corn.

     SEE ALSO: Ben Gurion University Warns: Increasing CO2 Levels Will Lead To Dietary Deficiencies

green wall

GreenWall, which was founded in 2009 by engineer and gardening pioneer Guy Barness, has developed an advanced technology with which it erects gardens that line the walls, both inside and outside of buildings, taking up less space compared to conventional gardens. GreenWall provides fertile soil, which is capable of growing almost every plant species with proper care. “We want to give an urban person an opportunity to grow plants in their home, using modern technology,” Barness tells NoCamels.

How does it work? Well, vertical gardens seemingly defy gravity, and that’s why the plants are densely planted in a vertical planting system inside small modular units, preventing the crops from falling out. These small pots can then be removed or replaced to refresh or change the design of the garden. The water reaches the cell of each plant through a special system, operated by a computer. In order to crop the yield, the wall is temporarily taken down and laid out at a horizontal position.

green wall

GreenWall uses cutting-edge drip irrigation technology developed by Israeli company Netafim, known for having pioneered the technique. GreenWall also developed its monitors, sensors and controls with the help of Israeli water-management company Galcon.

Growing food while conserving water 

The technology behind the vertical structures helps control and conserve water. In comparison to conventional crop-growing methods, the vertical garden only takes 1,500 liters of water to produce one kilogram of rice, as opposed to the standard 3,000 liters. Environmentalists claim that vertical gardens may be the solution to growing crops in cities as well as in areas that are scarce in water, food and energy.

     SEE ALSO: Quest For The Perfect Veggie: Israelis Create Enhanced Strains Of Fruit And Veg

For decorative flowers and plants, vertical gardens use 90 percent less water than traditional gardens, according to GreenWall. “In the city, you don’t have a lot of space, and you can use this space to grow food and a lot of other plants,” Barness says. “Now, you can have a building and use the wall space to bring the nature back to the city without taking up too much space.”

green wall

Vertical gardens have become a growing trend around the world with a variety of companies offering green wall installations: GSky, Green Over Grey, and The Living Wall. Still, Israel-based GreenWall seems to have captured the attention of large corporations: Google, Apple, Intel and Facebook are some of the company’s high-profile clients, according to Barness.

Homeowners can purchase GreenWall’s vertical gardens in small quantities of only a few yards in size, with a price point beginning at $650. In the meantime, the idea of the vertical oasis has already taken off around the world, with many gardens being built these days throughout North America and Europe. Barness notes this is only the beginning. “The world is now going toward a different direction,” he explains. “I hope GreenWall will eventually replace the regular garden in urban environments.”

Photos and video: Rob Deutscher, GreenWall, Israel Expo Milano 2015, SpaceoThelmadatter

 

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Watch The Latest Episode Of Our Series ‘TheOffice’ – Episode 2: Nautilus]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38948 2015-06-18T09:53:17Z 2015-06-18T09:31:24Z

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NoCamels ‘The Office’ – Ep. 2 AOL’s “Nautilus” on Vimeo.

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Kyla Blumenfeld, NoCamels <![CDATA[Meet The Hottest Israeli Fashion Designers Who Dress The Stars]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38887 2015-06-17T16:59:59Z 2015-06-17T15:11:39Z

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In recent years, the Israeli fashion scene has weaved itself onto haute couture runways with its silky fabrics, sophisticated embroidery and Middle Eastern pizzazz. Since its humble beginnings with fashion houses Maskit and Gottex in the 1950s, Israeli fashion has evolved into a global trendsetter, and Israeli designs are now worn by some of the world’s most glamorous women.

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

From Beyoncé and Lady Gaga to Lindsay Lohan, celebs are clamoring for dresses by these five Israeli designers:

fashion show

Alon Livné

Alon Livné‘s popularity has skyrocketed since Beyoncé and Lady Gaga were spotted wearing gowns with his signature structured metallic bodice. Beyoncé, enamored with Livné’s sci-fi chic evening wearcommissioned the quirky designer to create her wardrobe for her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour in 2013. Even the widely popular Hunger Games film series had Livné designing outfits for its protagonists.

alon-livne

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

Prior to conquering Fashion Week in 2013, the designer apprenticed at the famous Alexander McQueen and Roberto Cavalli fashion houses. Following his successful 2013 show, supermodel Naomi Campbell and fashionista Nina Garcia were added to the list of stars to be spotted in a Livné gown.

Yigal Azrouël

Yigal Azrouël is a veteran Israeli designer, whose eye-catching work promulgated him onto the international fashion scene early on. Building a prestigious fashion label in New York City, the designer showed his first collection in 1998 and has been designing for the stars ever since.

Celebrities love Azrouël for his edgy, but feminine evening and ready-to-wear collections, with bold draped patterns and cuts that enhance the female body. American model Chrissy Teigen wore his cream-wrap skirt at the Billboard Women in Music event last year; and television personality Khloé Kardashian was seen donning his organza “Eyelet” leather jacket on a night out.

Israeli-American fashion designer Yigal Azrouël and model

Israeli-American fashion designer Yigal Azrouël with one of his dresses

Other celebs to wear his designs are Lindsay Lohan, spotted partying in Azrouël’s green sequined dress, and actress Anne Hathaway, who rocked his ivory angora coat for her iconic role as Andy in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Idan Cohen

Showing at the last Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York was another esteemed Israeli designer, Idan Cohen. His bold evening and bridal collections celebrate the female figure in all its glory. “My collection is very sexy, but still conservative,” Cohen tells NoCamels.

Israeli fashion designer Idan Cohen

Israeli fashion designer Idan Cohen

Cohen first broke onto the New York fashion scene when otherwise “cut-throat” fashion author and publicist Kelly Cutrone was impressed by what she called “an impeccable collection.” Most recently, he dressed musician Nicki Minaj and his design was featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. “When you see a woman in a gown of mine, I want you to see a confident, strong-minded woman who knows what she wants,” says Cohen.

idan cohen dresses

At Mercedes Benz Fashion Week

Ronen Chen

Ronen Chen has been one of Israel’s successful fashion exports since the brand launched in the 1980s. The designer has since opened boutiques across Israel and in London, focusing on designs for “real women”, of all shapes and sizes. His collections are sold to over 400 independent stores in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Over the past five years, he has supplied American upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom with his fashions. 

Israeli fashion designer Ronen Chen and model

Israeli fashion designer Ronen Chen and model

Maskit

Rounding up our list is a veteran fashion house leaping towards an international revival. Founded in 1954, Maskit is the brainchild of Ruth Dayan, the first wife of the late Israeli army chief and politician Moshe Dayan. At age 98, Dayan, as the chairwoman of Maskit, still works closely with head designer Sharon Tal, who apprenticed with internationally acclaimed couturier Alexander McQueen. Tal says her traditional, yet chic designs reflect the roots of Middle Eastern fashion, with a modern twist.

After its dissolution in 1994, Maskit has recently undergone a makeover. Gaining the support of billionaire industrialist Stef Wertheimer in 2013, Maskit showed at Moscow’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week the same year.

Sharon Tal, head designer for Maskit

Sharon Tal, head designer for Maskit

Photos and videos: Kyla Blumenfeld, Alon Livné, Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, Maskit, Ronen Chen, Yigal Azrouël, Tel Aviv Fashion Week

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[UN And Israel Sign Agreement To Apply Israeli Space Tech To Disaster Zones]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38856 2015-06-16T12:47:05Z 2015-06-16T12:37:45Z

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During the 58th session of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna, Austria, the United Nations’ Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) signed a cooperation agreement with Israel to use the country’s satellite technology to save lives following natural disasters and in space emergencies.

According to the agreement, Israel will apply its satellite technology, namely the Earth observation satellite “OPTSAT 2000”, to gather information on issues of environmental protection, water management, urban planning, humanitarian assistance following natural disasters and more. The cooperation agreement with Israel is part of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space’s latest agenda item called “Space and sustainable development,” with the committee discussing potential applications of space technologies for developing sustainable policies.

     SEE ALSO: New Antibacterial Material Purifies Water In Space

hurricanekatrina

Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina approaching.

The newly appointed Israeli Minister of Science, Technology and Space, MK Danny Danon is quoted by the “Times of Israel” as stating that the agreement is “a small step into the UN agency, and a big step for Israel.” He continued, “This agreement proves that Israel is a leader in space technology, and that it has a great deal to contribute to humanity in this area, especially in satellite development and research.”

Israeli space tech soars

The agreement precedes the up-and-coming 66th International Astronautical Congress to be held for the first time in Jerusalem, Israel this October. One of the world’s preeminent conferences that brings together major space agencies, it is an honor for Israel to be the conference host, albeit a fitting one.

In recent years, Israel has become an industry leader in developing satellite and space technologies. The Israel Space Agency has worked closely with NASA and the European Space Agency over a number of decades to make their space programs the most advanced and impressive in the world. For instance, Israeli inventions like the Vivid-q Cardiovascular Ultrasound system is used to monitor astronaut’s health in space and is responsible for discovering that a prolonged period in space can cause the heart to shrink, a condition called cardiac atrophy. In addition, Israeli tech was used to control the Curiosity rover while it explored the possibilities of life on Mars.

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

SpaceIL

Model of the SpaceIL ship.

Israel’s national team competing for the major Google Lunar X Prize, a project aimed at landing a small spacecraft on the moon, SpaceIL is one of the competition’s frontrunners due to its innovative ideas and impressive staff roster. From experienced entrepreneurs like Yanki Margalit to leading aeronautical researchers like Yigal Harel, Israelis aren’t the only ones placing their bets that the SpaceIL team will make it first to the moon.

The recent UN cooperation to apply Israeli technology for life-saving missions on Earth and beyond is further confirmation of Israel’s impressive space tech repertoire.

Photos: EUMETSTAT/ Fernbank Museum of Natural History

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Israeli Home Device Turns Trash Into Biogas Fuel]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38650 2015-06-17T06:53:59Z 2015-06-15T12:46:07Z

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The Western world may have grown accustomed to microwave ovens and electric burners, but the majority of developing populations still cook their food and heat their homes over an open fire. While that may seem like a more “pastoral” and healthy way to live, the World Health Organization reports that up to four million people die from the direct and indirect effects of cooking with solid fuels, like wood, charcoal and coal.

This staggering statistic hadn’t come to the attention of the Israeli inventors of the HomeBioGas system, until the information was pointed out to them by none other than United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. During a visit with Israeli President Reuben Rivlin last year, Ban expressed the global need for a sustainable and safe solution to this dire issue, naming Israel’s HomeBioGas’s bio-digester as a very viable answer.

homebiogasban

The HomeBioGas team meets with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

From trash to treasured cooking oil

HomeBioGas’s TevaGas (TG) device is the first family-sized bio-digester made available on the market, which, according to Marketing Director Ami Amir, “is as easy to use as a dish-washer.” For those who don’t know what a bio-digester is, it takes organic material (like left-over food) and converts it into a fuel, known as biogas, through an anaerobic process carried out in a warm atmosphere. This fuel can then be used by a household for other purposes, like heating. According to Amir, this system does not even generate any foul odors.

“The basic underlying principles of bio-digester are, well biological,” Amir explains, “There are bacteria or microbes that thrive in conditions where there is no air (anaerobic) that are able to break down organic matter into their components. One of the results of this process is known as biogas, a combination of methane gas and carbon dioxide.”

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Company Brings Light To Third World Countries

By feeding the remains of their dinner , or any organic trash for that matter, into the bio-digester, users are able to generate clean, renewable biogas to cook three meals a day. In addition, the remaining soluble chemicals left over from the biogas breakdown process (about 10 liters according to the company) can be used as liquid fertilizers for gardens and vegetable crops, a very useful addition for agriculturalists and sustainable farmers.

homebiogasprocess

Drastically improving the standard in bio-digesters

While it sounds similar to composting, something many of us do already, Amir stresses that HomeBioGas’s system is nothing of the sort. “Composting is feel-good, but it doesn’t provide a lot of real value,” mainly because many people who compost don’t actually treat the organic matter themselves. He adds: “Composting generates methane that is not treated and is therefore much more harmful to the atmosphere.”

The bio-digester itself is no novel innovation; The Israeli inventors of the HomeBioGas system, CEO Oshik Efrati and COO Yair Teller, became familiar with cheaper home bio-digesters, but sought out a way to make them more efficient, and accessible. “People have been developing and building devices similar to ours for about 20-30 years,” Amir states of the history of bio-digester technology. However, the majority of these devices in developing countries like China and India are “very primitive and basic devices that are a pain to install and difficult to operate.”

The HomeBioGas team spent years improving on existing Indian and Chinese bio-digester models, but soon realized that underprivileged populations were in need of an entirely new model. “The intention was to develop the best product that will provide biogas from waste for the under-served populations of Latin America, Africa and Asia,” says Amir. Of course, before releasing their product to the world-at-large, the team wanted to test it out at home, which is why the first functional models of the system were introduced to a Bedouin community in Israel’s Negev Desert. Amir explains: “In these communities, there is little or no means of waste disposal and hardly any connection to utilities.”

For environmentally-minded First Worlders too

Since their launch, HomeBioGas has launched other aid projects in the Palestinian territories, supported by USAID and the Peres Center for Peace, as well as in the Dominican Republic, where rural populations contribute heavily to the problem of deforestation, because of the need for cooking wood. “People from the Dominican Republic told us that each family destroys about ten trees a year and that usually the woman in the family is made to carry up to 6 tons of wood a year,” Amir says.

Since the company serves mainly under-resourced communities, many of its clients don’t have the funds to support the shipment of the product. This means the company needs to rely on hefty subsidies from governments and non-governmental organizations, which can be hard to come by.

Yet due to a surge in awareness of environmental issues, like recycling, composting and homebiogas-ing, the company is even earning some support in developed countries like the United States, Australia and some European countries, who want the system for their own homes. According to Amir, “The need of middle class populations may not be as dire, but some still want a ‘smart can’ that can take their waste and turn it into something useful like cooking gas and fertilizer.”

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

Currently, the system is sold separately at a price of about $2,500 (NIS 10,000). And while HomeBioGas doesn’t have any direct competitors per say, the cheaper, simpler alternatives available in China and India represent a challenge only due to their drastically lower price.

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Researchers Discover Neighboring Galaxy With One Million ‘Young’ Stars]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38830 2015-06-14T09:40:43Z 2015-06-14T09:40:43Z

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It may have been written in the stars. While monitoring and studying galaxies in space, a team of Israeli and American researchers were surprised to discover more than one million ‘young’ stars forming a tiny neighboring galaxy.

     SEE ALSO: New Research Maps The Location Of Our Gigantic Galactic Supercluster – Laniakea

The astronomers from Tel Aviv University and the University of California, Los Angeles, have discovered a cluster of stars in a hot, dusty cloud of molecular gases found in a small galaxy near our own. The star cluster is buried within a massive gas cloud, and, although it’s a billion times brighter than our sun, the galaxy is barely visible, hidden by its own hot gases and dust. The star cluster contains 7,000 massive “O” stars: the most brilliant stars, each a million times more luminous than the sun.

NGC 5253 Galaxy

3 million years young 

This gas cloud is dubbed “Cloud D,” and the tiny galaxy is called the NGC 5253 dwarf galaxy. “This cloud has created a huge cluster of stars, and the stars have created an unprecedented amount of dust,” TAU’s Prof. Sara Beck said in a statement.

     SEE ALSO: Top Israeli Scientist Says Alien Life May Have Existed 13 Billion Years Ago

According to the researchers, “NGC 5253 is home to hundreds of large star clusters. The most spectacular cluster, cocooned in the massive Cloud D, is about 3 million years old, remarkably young in astronomical terms. The proportion of gas clouds, which eventually become stars, varies in different parts of the universe. In the Milky Way, for example, less than 5 percent of gas in clouds the size of Cloud D transforms into stars.” In the newly discovered Cloud D, however, the rate appears to be at least ten times greater.

“A process assumed to be ‘turned off’ 10 billion years ago is occurring today in a nearby galaxy”

“Extreme and extraordinary things are happening right in our very own astronomical neighborhood,” Beck continues. “In astrophysics we assume that, unless proven otherwise, basic processes are the same everywhere. But here we’re witnessing globular cluster formation — a process which we assumed was ‘turned off’ in our galaxy ten billion years ago — occurring today in a nearby galaxy.”

supernova, galaxy, stars

“This discovery is not an isolated finding, but the temporary culmination of a long search which began with a faint radio emission in 1996,” Beck says. “We have been working for almost 20 years on extreme star formation. Along the way, we started asking why these clusters were being born at a precise time and a certain place. We are still hard at work on this, so this certainly isn’t the end of the road for us.”

The researchers expect that in the future, Cloud D could be destroyed by stars that turn into supernovae — spinning all of the gas and elements into interstellar space. For the study, which was recently published in the scientific journal Nature, Beck collaborated with Prof. Jean Turner of UCLA.

Stars

Photos: Hubble Space Telescope

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Researchers Discover Flower That Can Treat Diabetes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38814 2015-06-11T10:30:06Z 2015-06-11T10:30:06Z

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

Israeli researchers have found that a plant that grows in Israel, as well as in other parts of the Middle East, is effective in treating diabetes.

     SEE ALSOIsraelis, Palestinians Join Forces To Explore Local Flowers To Combat Cancer, Diabetes

Dr. Jonathan Gorelick of the Judea Research and Development Center will present the results of his study of Chiliadenus iphionoides (sharp varthemia), an aromatic shrub that grows in Israel and throughout the Middle East, at the 25th Judea and Samaria Research Studies Conference in Ariel University on Thursday.

Chiliadenus iphionoides (sharp varthemia)

Gorelick and his team, who have published the results of their study of sharp varthemia in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, found that consumption of the yellow-flowering plant increased sugar absorption in skeletal muscle and fat cells and reduced blood sugar levels in animals.

According to the researchers, while many plants have traditionally been used to treat diabetes, only few have been successful as marketable medications. His research team is working on isolating the active ingredient in sharp varthemia so that it may be made into an accessible treatment for diabetes patients.

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

Photos: Eitan F.Gideon Pisanty

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Roseanne Tabachnik, NoCamels <![CDATA[How Israeli Cyber-Security Startups Are Battling The World’s Riskiest Online Hacks]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38637 2015-06-10T13:50:40Z 2015-06-10T13:07:59Z

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Remember the Jennifer Lawrence nude photo leaks? While our first reaction was to remove any photos we wouldn’t want our moms to see from the “cloud”, a recent spate of cyber-security breaches, including against SONY and even the White House, also made it increasingly clear that cyber-criminals are getting smarter, faster, and more dangerous.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Company Tracks Your Online Behavior To Protect Your Privacy

The data breach against Target stores in the US, where unknown thieves compromised millions of customers’ credit and debit card numbers, cost the chain nearly $150 million in losses. But while big-name companies were just the latest targets in a series of data invasions, the majority of victims are everyday Internet users and small companies.

Hacker at work

That’s why hundreds of cyber security startups have sprung up in recent years in the Startup Nation, battling some of the world’s most serious cyber threats. Indeed, Israel now accounts for 10 percent of global network security technology sales, which topped $60 billion in 2014, according to Israel’s National Cyber Bureau.

NoCamels reviews three of the most nepharious security threats to our digital lives, and the leading Israeli startup companies fighting them.

Spear-phishing catches you off-guard 

Spear-phishing, a form of email spoofing fraud, has become a burgeoning hacking method in recent years. Hackers target organizations and individuals with seemingly innocuous emails that pretend to be from co-workers, friends, or family members, but are actually infected with malware. According to the anti-virus company Trend Micro, 91 percent of malware is delivered through these email or downloads.

Cyber-security expert Itay Glick, CEO of Israeli cyber startup Votiro, says that 80 percent of people get fooled into opening these email messages. “If you work in HR and get a CV in an attachment, your job is to open that attachment,” Glick tells NoCamels. “Once you open that attachment, the virus will attack your computer.” “It is almost impossible to predict which email is infected,” Glick notes.

      SEE ALSO: Technology To Protect Your Children From Dangerous Online Relationships

Cybersecurity israel

Votiro’s cyber security technology inspects files and attachments that are sent digitally even before they make their way into your inbox. Incoming email messages are automatically routed directly to the Votiro cloud‑based email gateway, where its Spear-Phishing Protection Service checks all attached files for known threats. To neutralize unknown and zero-day threats, the service introduces microchanges to the files’ structure and metadata and then rebuilds the files, thus preventing exploits from attacking and spreading malware throughout your network.

Sanitized and harmless, the email messages and their attachments continue on to your organization’s email server. “The entire process is invisible to users, does not disrupt business activity—and takes less than a second!” says Glick.

Another approach is the one taken by two-year-old Israeli cyber-technology company IronScales, which teaches users how to spot a fake email that is infected with malware through a tutorial. The process is simple, yet effective: The cyber tech company sends out different emails to employees at a firm as a test, and if an employee falls for the bait, they’re redirected to an informational tutorial on safer online practices.

Celebrity nude photo scandal calls for mobile and cloud protection

According to the American information technology research firm Gartner, attacks on mobile phones are maturing and such breaches are a major concern not just for enterprises, but for people browsing the Web at home – from their smartphones. Following the massive celebrity nude photo leak of 2014, protecting data stored on your mobile phone is just as important as keeping your computers clean of infected files. Gartner predicts that by 2017, 75 percent of mobile security breaches will be the result of app misconfiguration. In other words, the misuse of personal cloud servers through apps on our devices could essentially lead to data leaks. Using Wi-Fi at public locations like airports leave our phones especially vulnerable to such occurrences.

Luckily, the up-and-coming Israeli startup Lacoon Mobile Security, founded in 2011, protects iOS and Android devices from any breaches. The mobile app, acquired by Israeli cyber giant CheckPoint for $100 million last April, runs in the background, protecting users from data theft, remote takeovers, and attacks on mobile apps. The company’s most notable customers include the Israeli Police, Samsung, and major credit card companies.

Another Israeli mobile defense startup is Skycure, which made headlines after detecting an attack on LinkedIn’s mobile application last year. This app guarantees to guide users to mobile phone safety by creating a firewall that watches for security threats, while not impairing usage and battery life. Skycure recently raised $8 million.

Social network breaches? Human intelligence to the rescue! 

While keeping up with Twitter and Facebook has become a cultural barometer of our time, many of these social outlets may in fact be full infected files. Israeli startup SenseCy, which launched last year, conducts deep-Web searches to prevent our social networks from being compromised through a unique method referred to as “virtual HUMINT” – short for human intelligence. This proactive and preventative tech scans public forums, discussion groups, and websites for viruses through the help of online avatars.

The company explains: “Our Cyber Security Analysts operate a cadre of Virtual Entities embedded in deep web platforms, on password-protected forums and in exclusive social media groups. By operating these avatars inside cyber adversary networks, we extract valuable intelligence regarding attack planning and intent, data leakage, vulnerabilities and exploits.”

While getting hacked is not a pleasant experience, to say the least, new technologies and startups are constantly working to diminish the likelihood of mass attacks. With a plethora of cyber-security startups launching throughout Israel, preventing hackers from invading our personal space has certainly become a national achievement, which will hopefully make our digital world a safer place for years to come.

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Israeli Researcher Makes Key Breakthrough In Combating Antibiotic Resistance]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38765 2015-06-09T14:28:16Z 2015-06-09T14:28:16Z

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At its annual assembly in Geneva last week, the World Health Organization approved a radical and far-reaching plan to slow the rapid, extensive spread of antibiotic resistance around the world. The plan hopes to curb the rise caused by an unchecked use of antibiotics and lack of new antibiotics on the market.

Now Tel Aviv University research published in PNAS introduces a promising new tool: a two-pronged system to combat this dangerous situation. The system wipes out antibiotic resistance in selected bacteria, and renders other bacteria more sensitive to antibiotics. The research, led by Prof. Udi Qimron is based on bacterial viruses called “phages”, which transfer “edited” DNA into resistant bacteria to kill off resistant strains and make others more sensitive to antibiotics.

     SEE ALSO: This Remarkable Discovery Proves Bacteria Are Becoming Tolerant To Antibiotics And Even Explains The Interesting Reason Why

According to the researchers, the system, if ultimately applied to pathogens on hospital surfaces or medical personnel’s hands, could turn the tide on untreatable, often lethal bacterial infections.

“Since there are only a few pathogens in hospitals that cause most of the antibiotic-resistance infections, we wish to specifically design appropriate sensitization treatments for each one of them,” Prof. Qimron says. “We will have to choose suitable combinations of DNA-delivering phages that would deliver the DNA into pathogens, and the suitable combination of ‘killing’ phages that could select the re-sensitized pathogens.”

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Reprogramming the system

“Antibiotic-resistant pathogens constitute an increasing threat because antibiotics are designed to select resistant pathogens over sensitive ones,” Prof. Qimron says. “The injected DNA does two things: It eliminates the genes that cause resistance to antibiotics, and it confers protection against lethal phages.

“We managed to devise a way to restore antibiotic sensitivity to drug-resistant bacteria, and also prevent the transfer of genes that create that resistance among bacteria,” he continues.

Earlier research by Prof. Qimron revealed that bacteria could be sensitized to certain antibiotics — and that specific chemical agents could “choose” those bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. His strategy harnesses the CRISPR-Cas system — a bacterial DNA-reprogramming system Prof. Qimron pioneered — as a tool to expand on established principles.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Researchers Discover Protein That Could Replace Conventional Antibiotics And Kill Bacteria

According to the researchers, “selective pressure” exerted by antibiotics renders most bacteria resistant to them — hence the epidemic of lethal resistant infections in hospitals. No counter-selection pressure for sensitization of antibiotics is currently available. Prof. Qimron’s strategy actually combats this pressure — selecting for the population of pathogens exhibiting antibiotic sensitivity.

“We believe that this strategy, in addition to disinfection, could significantly render infections once again treatable by antibiotics,” said Prof. Qimron.

Prof. Qimron and his team are now poised to apply the CRISPR/phage system onpseudomonas aeruginosa — one of the world’s most prevalent antibiotic-resistant pathogens involved in hospital-acquired infections — and to test whether bacterial sensitization works in a more complex microbial environment: the mouse cage.

Prof. Qimron is a member of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.

Photos: adil alkatheri/ NIAID

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Jonathan Neff, NoCamels <![CDATA[World Oceans Day 2015: Israeli Tech HARBO Cuts Down Response Time To Oil Spills To 20 Minutes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38757 2015-06-09T06:19:10Z 2015-06-08T15:13:33Z

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We’ve all seen it on the news: tragic oil spills that destroy entire marine ecosystems, often spreading hundreds of miles within the first 24 hours. Just last month, a ruptured pipeline in California leaked over 100,000 gallons of crude oil along the coast of Santa Barbara.

According to the US Environmental Protection agency, tens of thousands of oil spills occur every year, and the prevention technology to deal with their aftermath has not changed in over three decades. Moreover, recovery rates continue to hover just below 15 percent, a figure that has not improved much over the years, making many of the cleanup efforts seem almost futile.

Oil Spill

Israeli startup company HARBO Technologies aims to tackle this devastating environmental problem using an easy-to-use “floatie” it has developed, which can contain an oil spill in less than one hour. It simply circles the spill and “encapsulates” it; then, the oil “stain” is lifted and disposed of – away from the water.

HARBO’s 100-foot prototype “boom” (floating barrier) contains up to two tons of crude oil overnight, without leaking, according to the company. In the future, each location will have 6,000 feet of boom, which can contain 800,000 gallons of oil (25,000 tons). This new tech is an alternative to the traditional technology used to respond to oil spills in the ocean.

   SEE ALSO: Volcanic Rock To Clean Up Oil Spills

Until now, oil cleanup teams have attempted to contain spills with much heavier containment booms until they’re skimmed, dispersed, or burnt on site. This drag-contain-dispose protocol is the traditional method of cleaning up oil spills, which has barely changed in half a century.

The existing technology is considered bulky, sometimes weighing up to 10kg per meter, according to co-founder and CEO of HARBO Technologies, Boaz Ur. Teams typically take at least 10 hours to respond to a crisis, a time frame too long to be efficient. “By then, oil can spread too far and too deep to be contained and dealt with,” he tells NoCamels.

HARBO says its solution is less bulky, easier to operate, and requires minimal training for on-site personnel, This, in comparison to traditional oil booms, would be able to cut response time down from hours to just about 20 minutes. The size of a lifeboat, HARBO’s oil containment technology is optimized for any type of wind, current, or wave conditions.

     SEE ALSO: Harnessing Energy From Ocean Waves, Eco Wave Power Establishes First Plant In China

However, the company is keen to point out that it is not looking to replace current prevention technology, but to add an extra emergency layer. “The introduction of the sprinkler didn’t stop the use of firetrucks”, Ur says, and likewise implementation of HARBO’s alternative tech doesn’t mean the end of today’s oil spills prevention.

In order to prove its concept, HARBO’s team put their solution to the test in late 2014 in the Ohmsett testing facility in New Jersey, which is operated by officials from the US Department of the Interior to test oil spill solutions and response methods. After that initial test proved successful, HARBO is now approved to provide oil spill solutions in several US areas.

Oil spill in Israel sparks world-changing idea 

The idea was born after a spill in Southern Israel back in June 2011. HARBO’s founders tried then to apply ocean spill solutions to land leaks, only to find that they were outdated. That’s why the team began to work on a new solution, and in October 2013 received a $60,000 grant from the Office of the Chief Scientist of Israel. Since then, HARBO has raised $190,000 from private investors (a $2.5 million round is underway) and has been through over 40 prototypes of its technology.

Oil spill - Environment News - Israel

HARBO has passed the initial phases of patenting its technology, with patents pending in 30 countries – including the US, Canada, China, and most of Europe. Ur says he is expecting the first patents to be granted within the next 12 months.

By the end of 2016, HARBO expects to have its technology commercially available, at which point a price will be set. According to Ur, there are “over 50,000 potential installations for our technology – including oil rigs, tankers, large ships, and coast guard response teams,” which means the market for HARBO’s solution is huge – and so is the company’s potential to save our oceans.

Photos and video: Harbo Technologies, NASA

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Israeli Personalized Ad Tech ‘Bidalgo’ Creates Advertising Empire On Facebook]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38756 2015-06-07T14:26:42Z 2015-06-07T14:23:18Z

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

For those who wonder how a free service like Facebook can make billions a year ($12.47 billion in 2014, to be precise), Israeli ad-tech start-up Bidalgo supplies a partial answer. Bidalgo is a large supplier of automated segmented advertising on Facebook, selling hundreds of millions dollars a year worth of ads for apps and products on the social network.

That work has paid off handsomely for Bidalgo, said Niv Yemini, Bidalgo co-founder and CTO. As one of the few official Facebook Marketing Partners in Israel, the company expects as much as $100 million in revenues in 2015.

     SEE ALSO: BannerPlay: Making Banner Ads As Simple As Google AdWords

“There are hundreds of thousands of groups on Facebook,” said Yemini. “They all have a specific emphasis, and need to be reached in a specific way. Different groups require different approaches and messages.

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The team at Bidalgo

“Over the past five years, we have perfected a system of figuring out what those messages are, targeting each segment for advertisers to ensure maximum return on investment,” said Yemini. “Regarding how good the system is, I think the company’s results speak for themselves.”

Established in 2010, the Ramat Gan company has been profitable from day one, said Yemini – and has never had to raise even a shekel in outside funding.

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

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Roseanne Tabachnik, NoCamels <![CDATA[Environment Day 2015: Tesla, SolarEdge Launching Revolutionary Solar-Powered Home Battery]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38725 2015-06-09T15:44:43Z 2015-06-05T07:00:15Z

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Solar energy has long been deemed as a viable sustainable solution to the global energy crisis, and Israel – a nation barren of oil resources – is at the forefront of such renewable energy solutions. The country has been successful at manipulating its abundance of sunlight using solar panels, which turn sunlight into electrical power, providing clean and cheap energy for a number of businesses and large office buildings.

Now Israeli engineers are teaming up with master entrepreneur Elon Musk’s electric vehicle company Tesla Motors to develop a new type of solar energy solution that could power entire communities, house by house. The collaboration between Israel-based SolarEdge Technology, a major player in photovoltaic electronics, and Tesla, comes just in time for World Environment Day, shedding light on the important progress in making sustainable energy solutions more accessible.

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

Powerwall

Tesla – known for its innovative electric cars – is now venturing into residential battery products, enlisting the help of SolarEdge to develop an advanced inverter solution that will be integrated in a new home battery Tesla calls the ‘Powerwall’. SolarEdge’s inverter converts sunlight from solar panels into specific electric currents that can be used to power home appliances. The final product will be a 220-pound, wall-mounted, rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to power our homes throughout day and night, even after the sun goes down. What makes it rechargeable? Powerwall charges using electricity generated from solar panels, or it can accumulate traditional electricity when utility rates are low (if necessary) to power your home in the evening.

Tesla’s collaboration with SolarEdge is a vote of confidence in the Israeli technology. Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, a world-famous entrepreneur and inventor, is confident that Powerwall’s technology will prevail and leave a successful mark on the industry. “The issue with existing batteries is that they suck,” Musk told The Huffington Post. “They’re really horrible. They’re expensive. They’re unreliable. They’re sorta stinky, ugly, bad in every way.” Musk’s environmental ambitions – in line with SolarEdge’s goal to produce and supply clean energy – have already captured the attention of major American companies such as Target, Wal-Mart, and Amazon.

     SEE ALSO: Will Tesla’s Driverless Car Be Powered By Israel’s Mobileye Technology?

While Tesla’s electric vehicles are priced at a whopping $70,000, the Powerwall battery (integrated with the SolarEdge inverter) is expected to retail at much more reasonable prices of $3,000-$3,500, introducing a more economical approach to residential solar power generation and attempting to appeal to more customers. The latter endeavor may prove successful based on the fact that the average US household spends $400 over a three-month period in the summer, according to the US Energy Information Administration, making the Powerwall a highly appealing solution as the unit costs less than two years’ worth of electricity bills, in comparison.

Powerwall The Powerwall home battery system is expected to hit the residential market at the end of 2015. Orders are currently being taken on Tesla’s website with deliveries expected to begin this summer. “Like SolarEdge, Tesla recognizes the need and opportunity to develop innovative solutions designed to lower the cost of solar energy and make clean, renewable energy more feasible for customers around the world,” Lior Handelsman, SolarEdge’s VP of Marketing and Product, said in a press release.

Tesla and SolarEdge are also hoping the partnership will allow homeowners to become increasingly energy independent by cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the use of fossil fuels. “Together, we are taking the first step towards widespread adoption of integrated solar energy generation and storage in the residential market,” Handelsman said.

Solar Panels - Environment News - Israel

SolarEdge, which raised $126 million in its IPO earlier this year, has already shipped 1.3 million inverters and other photovoltaic products to more than 70 countries since 2010, according to company data. The company was co-founded by Guy Sella and Lior Handelsman in 2006. Before going public, between 2009 and 2011, the company privately raised $85 million in three funding rounds.

Now, with Tesla at the helm, SolarEdge’s leading photovoltaic solar panel technology could potentially reach millions of households around the world, making our homes the next sustainable frontier.

Photos and infographics: Tesla Motors

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Age Dramatically Increases Our Fear Of Everything, Study Reveals]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38660 2015-06-04T13:21:45Z 2015-06-04T13:20:06Z

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Young people’s brains cope with stress and fear in a completely different way to adults, challenging the assumption that brains of humans of all ages react similarly to fear. Whether it’s hesitancy to ride a roller coaster or the tendency to drive in the slow lane, the study’s findings may finally explain why people tend to become more cautious as they age.

A University of Haifa study conducted on rats found that young rats were able to eliminate fear in the brain more rapidly than adult rats. Adults, on the other hand, continue to feel fear, even after the fearful event has passed.

Until now, conventional wisdom in the field has been that these mechanisms operate in a similar way in young people and adults. However, Prof. Maroun, Prof. Mouna Maroun, head of the Sagol Department of Neurobiology, who conducted the study, explains that she instinctively felt that this assumption was problematic.

     SEE ALSO: Virtual Reality Therapy To Treat Fear Of Flying

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“It all began when I was knocked my head while I was in a swimming pool – a mild form of trauma, but enough to persuade me not to go back into a swimming pool for a long time. But children who were in the pool and who knocked themselves much more badly than I did didn’t think twice about jumping straight back into the water. When I saw this, I realized that this was something I needed to examine in the laboratory.”

According to the study, this increased fear with age is related to the plasticity or flexibility of the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area responsible for complex cognitive behavior. “Childhood is a period when the brain and the prefrontal cortex are still developing. So the mechanism of action in adults and young people [is not] the same,” emphasizes Prof. Maroun.

Decoding the mechanism of fear extinction

During exposure to a scary or stressful experience, two cerebral mechanisms enable us to respond efficiently to fear, on the one hand, but also to return to normality once the event ends. During the event, a mechanism located in the amygdale, an almond-shaped structure in the brain, effectively tells us that we are in a frightening situation and must act (fight or flight). After the event, a fear extinction process begins in the prefrontal cortex and effectively returns the body to its routine state.

When the latter mechanism fails to function properly, we continue to experience reactions of fear while we no longer need it, leading to symptoms of anxiety and post-trauma. According to the study, this explains why adults are usually more cautious in comparison to children regarding extreme or challenging activities, because their brains delay the fear extinction mechanism.

The young and the fearless

In the study, young (postweanling) and adult rats were exposed to a mild traumatic event. Some of them were then placed on an elevated platform, creating exposure to stress, while the control groups were not exposed to stress.

The findings showed that the adult animals reacted as expected: strong fear responses were seen by comparison to the rats that were not exposed to trauma. The group that was not exposed to stress extinguished fear more rapidly than the group that was exposed to stress. But among the young rats the picture was completely reversed. The fear reactions of the rats exposed to trauma were much lower, and the fear extinction time was much shorter, than among the adult rats. Moreover, the young rats exposed to stress actually extinguished fear more rapidly than their peers that were not exposed to stress. In other words, exposure to stress among the young rats actually accelerated the return to routine and significantly reduced fear reactions.

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Exposing the need for age-tailored trauma treatments

Following this behavioral examination, the investigators also examined physiological changes to the brain and found a similar pattern. Prefrontal cortex plasticity – the strength of the connection between the synapses which correlates with the success of extinction – in the area responsible for fear extinction was extremely high among the young rats exposed to stress. Among the adult rats exposed to stress, by contrast, the plasticity level was extremely low, showing damage to plasticity by comparison to the control group, thus further confirming the behavioral observations on enhanced extinction.

     SEE ALSO: Fear Needles? New Hebrew University Study May Make That A Thing Of The Past

According to Professor Maroun, however, the differences were even more significant. In the final stage of the study, the investigators sought to examine the impact of the NMDA receptor. This receptor controls the changes in prefrontal cortex plasticity and is responsible for the successful acquisition of fear extinction. It is known that blockage of this receptor in adult rats during exposure to stress helps restore fear extinction to the level in the control group. The current study also found that a receptor blocker increased plasticity and accelerated fear extinction in adult rats exposed to stress. However, the drug that blocked the receptor had no impact at all on the young rats – neither in terms of plasticity nor behavior.

“This implies that it’s wrong to claim that the mechanism in adults and young people is identical, and simply operates a little differently. The mechanism is actually completely different. We can therefore state that we are familiar with the fear extinction among adults, but that we still need to work out how the brain works to extinguish fear in young people. The immediate significance of this finding is that we really cannot continue treating child trauma victims with the same methods and drugs we use to treat adult victims,” Prof. Maroun concluded.

Photos: Bec/ Thijs Bos/ Keenan Turner

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[Gekkopod: Take The Perfect Selfie With This Flexible Camera Mount]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38679 2015-06-03T14:27:05Z 2015-06-03T14:27:05Z

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You find yourself in some beautiful, remote location with the perfect selfie conditions, but your arm just isn’t long enough and you don’t have your precious selfie stick! If you’ve ever experienced that moment of utter frustration, the Gekkopod could be the answer to your selfie predicament.

A flexible mount for smartphones, cameras and GoPro devices, the Israeli-invented Gekkopod, much like a real gecko, can latch on to a tree branch or a random stick to become your own well-positioned photographer. In addition, the Gekkopod can be made to stand alone as a small, flexible tripod with mounts for any device.

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

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The Gekkopod is designed with what it calls “non-slip dots” that help its five little silicon legs grab onto any surface, from a kayak paddle to a desk top computer screen. Each of the five legs is flexible and at the center of the mount there is a standard screw to attach cameras. For smartphones and GoPro cameras, users need to buy special adapter pieces, and if you want the mount to be flexible, you’ll need to purchase the Ballhead accessory that allows for full 360 degree turning of the camera.

Putting geckos to work

Boaz Zucker, the Israeli behind another interesting smartphone invention called Sticko, tells of his newest gimmick: “I am a photography enthusiast, I have owned many types of tripods and mounts for my cameras and smartphones, but none of them gave me the flexibility that I was searching for. My mini tripods are bulky and difficult to set up, and none of them were portable enough to take with me when I was out traveling or hanging with friends.” A graduate of the Holon Institute of Technology in industrial design, Boaz joined his partner Gal in making his dream of a portable, flexible and light-weight tripod a reality through their shared company Zuckerim Inc.

gekkopod

Currently, Gekkopod’s Kickstarter crowdfunding bid is faring well, with the team raising $47,337 so far, well above its initial $15,000 funding goal, with 31 days still to go. The early bird specials on the Gekkopod are already sold out, but funders can still purchase a GoPro/mobile pod for $16 or a cool glow-in-the-dark limited addition of the Gekkopod for $19. The pod is available in three colors: purple, green and black and if the company reaches its stretch goals, it will also be made available in camouflage.

     SEE ALSO: This Smart Pen Lets You Answer Calls And Send Texts Without Ever Looking At Your Phone

gekkopodportable

Initial shipments of the Gekkopod are currently scheduled for October 2015, but this date may be pushed back as excitement around the device continues to build. After all, this is the kind of fun product that many users, if not the entire selfie generation, are in need of.

Photos: Kickstarter

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[‘Cure For Terminal Cancer’ Discovered With Breakthrough Immunotherapy]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38687 2015-06-04T09:42:21Z 2015-06-02T19:48:18Z

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Clinical trials of a new drug cocktail have been shown to cure 58 percent of terminally-ill patients by shrinking cancerous tumors or eliminating them altogether. The scientific community is hailing this discovery as a major breakthrough in cancer research.

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

The new cocktail is a form of immunotherapy, a relatively new class of drugs that harness the body’s immune system to extinguish fatal tumors. Israeli researcher Prof. Jacob Schachter, who took part in the development of the drug and in the recent clinical trials, told Israel’s Channel 10 that the newfound drug cocktail could serve as the basis of treatment for many types of cancer, potentially replacing chemotherapy. “It’s an explosion,” he said.

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In one of the trials, over half of the terminally ill patients saw their tumors shrink or disappear completely. The drug, which was developed by a team led by Schachter, was used in an international study led by Dr. James Larkin of UK’s Royal Marsden Hospital. The results of the study were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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

The worldwide clinical trial involved 945 patients, suffering from advanced (or metastatic) melanoma, which causes 55,000 deaths annually and is considered the deadliest type of skin cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Since melanoma is typically treated by chemotherapy, radiations and/or surgery, this cocktail  gives new hope to thousands of families.

“Significantly more effective” 

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), to whom Schachter and his colleagues from around the globe presented their findings this week, for patients with previously untreated advanced melanoma, the combination of immunotherapy drugs nivolumab and ipilimumab were “significantly more effective at delaying cancer progression than ipilimumab alone.”

The two drugs were previously used separately, but the groundbreaking study shows  that combining them leads to much better results. This study “provides a powerful new immunotherapy option for patients with melanoma,” according to the ASCO.

Schachter, head of the Ella Institute at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center, told Channel 10 that the side effects of this new drug are fewer than those of chemotherapy. It’s important to note, however, that the new drug is still experimental at this stage, and is not available on the market.

The melanoma findings were among several cancer studies presented this week at ASCO’s annual meeting in Chicago. “These advances are expected to immediately influence oncology practice, leading to improved survival and quality of life for patients,” ASCO said in a statement.

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Jonathan Neff, NoCamels <![CDATA[No More Texting While Driving: RayGo Keeps Your Eyes On The Road, Saves Lives]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38568 2015-06-02T05:42:28Z 2015-06-01T12:46:58Z

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We’ve all been guilty of it at some point: Texting while driving, or driving while “intexticated.”

Unfortunately, this type of momentary distraction is the cause of half of all car crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Now, Israeli startup ProjectRay is developing a gadget that will help you avoid texting while driving, potentially saving the lives of thousands of people.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are close to 33,000 fatal car accidents in the US every year. Since the risk of getting into a car crash is 23 times higher when texting, ProjectRay – which previously focused on communication tools for the blind – has decided to put an end to the problem, by freeing your eyes to focus solely on the road ahead.

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

Founded in 2011, Project Ray recently completed a successful Indiegogo campaign for a new product called RayGo. It is a simple, five-button Bluetooth device that clips to the steering wheel (or handlebar for cyclists), which allows for voice control of your smartphone. RayGo lets you safely use your favorite apps like Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Gmail and Skype while driving or biking. The gadget allows you to put your phone on “drive mode,” replacing touch-screen gestures with simple key presses on the controller, which is right there where your hands hold the steering wheel. One press of a button turns your favorite apps into voice-activated ones, through which messages are read to you aloud.

“Preventing deadly situations”

Five seconds is usually the amount of time one would take their eyes off the road to look at their cellphone. It may sound like nothing, but for a vehicle going 55 miles per hour, that’s enough time to travel the entire length of a football field while not looking at the road. RayGo is aimed at minimizing that. “If you’re driving, you can spot many people texting and being distracted by their phones. We’re preventing potentially deadly situations”, Project Ray CEO Boaz Zilberman tells NoCamels.

But RayGo  isn’t the only solution; many cars now have built-in voice recognition systems and mobile apps such as Israel’s Bazz are on the rise. This startup has developed sophisticated Android-based voice recognition software that allows drivers to listen to the content of a written message (SMS and WhatsApp) and reply to it, using voice commands, hands free.

     SEE ALSO: iOnRoad Uses Augmented Reality To Warn Drivers

RayGoZilberman admits that to stay safe, the ultimate solution would be to not use your phone while driving all, but that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. Since it’s extremely difficult to deter people from doing that – hefty fines and police citations have not eliminated the problem – RayGo’s solution is “the next best thing,” Zilberman says.

The crowds seem to agree with that, as RayGo’s Indiegogo campaign, which recently ended, had raised $32,570, surpassing its goal of $30,000 in one month. The money is expected to go towards the actual manufacturing of the product (for Android only at this time) later this year. Ray GO will retail for $69, which includes both the device and the smartphone application. Zilberman says that 1,000 units will ship by October, and feedback from users will dictate development going forward.

Photos and videos: ProjectRay, Intel Free Press

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Apple’s Incredible Spaceship-Like Campus To Be Built With Israeli Tech]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38662 2015-06-01T11:46:01Z 2015-06-01T11:46:01Z

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

Like with everything else it does, Apple is expected to rock the architectural world when its new California headquarters opens for business next year – raising the fortunes of the Israeli glass technology firm that is playing a central, if indirect, role in the construction of one of the world’s most innovative buildings ever.

The building in Cupertino, California, officially called Apple Campus 2 – and unofficially called “the Spaceship” because of its circular, Star Trek Enterprise-like vibe – will feature huge panes of curved glass, as high as 60 feet (18 meters), some of it printed.

     SEE ALSO: The Top Israeli Apps Taking Over The Apple Watch

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And according to Max Perilstein, one of the world’s foremost experts on glass production, there is only one company in the world that has the technology to produce printed glass panes of that type. “In a sense, Dip-Tech is to the world of glass what Apple is to the world of computers and devices,” Perilstein told The Times of Israel.

“There were computers and music players before the Mac and the iPod, but Apple’s take on these devices puts them in a whole different – and better – category. So too with Dip-Tech – we see glass everywhere, but what they have done with glass is to elevate it far beyond what we are used to.”

Apple – then under the helmsmanship of the late Steve Jobs – has been planning its new headquarters for over a decade, and in 2013 broke ground on the complex, which Jobs told the Cupertino City Council in June 2011 would be amazingly innovative for its architecture, size, and aesthetics. “It’s got a gorgeous courtyard in the middle, and a lot more. It’s a circle, so it’s curved all the way round. This is not the cheapest way to build something.”

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

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Study Finds The Level Of Empathy You Feel Is Based On Your Sexual Orientation]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38514 2015-05-31T12:06:24Z 2015-05-31T12:06:24Z

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Empathy is a key mechanism for understanding the other; basically, it’s the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. Now a new study finds that the level of empathy you are able to feel has a lot to do with your sexual orientation. According to the Haifa University study in Israel, men and women attracted to men are more empathetic than men and women attracted to women.

“People attracted to a particular gender, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, have common social tools, and thus exhibit the same level of empathy,” said Prof. Simone Shamay-Tsoory, who conducted the study.

Women are superior empathizers

empathycomicBehavioral and brain studies show that activities related to empathy are regulated differently in men and women based on preferences that are acquired through social interaction and use different areas of the brain. According to Professor Shamay-Tsoori, past studies have demonstrated that women are superior in tasks involving empathy, such as non-verbal communication and attention to changes in tone of voice and facial expression.

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

In the current study, recently published in “Brain Research,” the researchers sought to examine the differences in empathetic responses between subjects who are attracted to men compared to those attracted to women. A total of 52 subjects were divided into two groups according to their sexual orientation. While the subjects underwent fMRI scans, they were shown different emotional situations, so that the researchers could examine how the subjects feel when they personally experience the situation or when the situation occurs to someone else.

The study revealed that sexual orientation is related to the level of empathy: based on self-reporting, heterosexual women showed the highest level of empathy, followed by gay men, then lesbian women, and finally heterosexual men.

You’re empathetic according to your sexual preferences

A similar picture arose from analysis of brain activity which was also conducted. During the empathetic task, it was found that, among other things, the area of the TPJ (Temporal Parietal Junction) related to the perception of the other, was more active in subjects attracted to men compared to those attracted to women.

     SEE ALSO: Children Feel Pleasure At Friends’ Misfortune As Early As Age Two

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“The results of the research suggest that differences in empathy between people are monitored by a person’s sexual preference. Sexual attraction determines the person with whom we have a close and intimate relationship, so it is reasonable that the gender of the person to whom we are attracted will affect our ability to empathize,” concluded Professor Shamay-Tsoori.

The study was conducted by Professor Shamay-Tsoori along with Dr. Daniel Perry from the Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Kobie Walder from the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa, and Professor Talma Hendler from the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University.

Photos: Peace Learning Center/ Ziglar

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Perfecting ‘Foodography': Tel Aviv Restaurant Offers Instagram-Ready Dishes]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38596 2015-05-28T13:44:47Z 2015-05-28T08:09:34Z

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Admit it. You too are among those who regularly whip out your smartphones at upscale restaurants to capture some Instagram-worthy pics before you’ve even smelled the food. If you haven’t, hats off. But either way, this guilty pleasure seems here to stay. Now this newest form of “art” has been taken to a whole new level by some of the most esteemed Israeli chefs and artists.

     SEE ALSO: Israeli-American Chef Alon Shaya Wins Top US Culinary Honor

"foodography"

Project Foodography, recently launched in Tel Aviv by Carmel Winery and upscale Catit Restaurant, offers a fresh new artistic experience for epicures. Using plates especially designed by Israeli artist Adi Nissani to mount a smartphone, diners can now effortlessly take beautiful pictures of the finest dishes prepared by world-famous Israeli chef Meir Adoni of Catit. Those “3D” plates were designed with the guidance of Israeli photographer Dan Perez to perfectly capture the colors and textures of each dish. No more greasy fingerprints on your precious iPhone!

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So, when Adoni serves up his famous butter-poached shrimp with white asparagus, or his roasted apricots infused with lime and vanilla, guests can rotate the plates to capture cool videos, or position them to take breathtaking still-life photographs of some of the most exceptional culinary creations, often served with edible flowers, a Catit signature.

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

To participate in Catit’s special dinner event – which offers both a delightful meal and a photography workshop – diners must shed roughly $160. So, prop up your phones and make your meals Instagram-worthy!

Photos and video: Dan Perez, Carmel Winery, Catit Restaurant, Adi Nissani, BBR

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NoCamels Team <![CDATA[Research Into ‘Supercooling’ Phenomenon Is Great News For Precise Drug-Delivery Methods]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38500 2015-05-27T14:57:32Z 2015-05-27T14:57:32Z

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Water, when cooled below 32°F (0°C), eventually freezes — it’s common scientific knowledge. But some substances, when they undergo a process called “rapid-freezing” or “supercooling,” remain in liquid form — even at below-freezing temperatures.

The supercooling phenomenon has been studied for its possible applications in a wide spectrum of fields. A new Tel Aviv University study led by Dr. Roy Beck is the first to break down the rules governing the complex process of crystallization through rapid-cooling. According to the research, membranes can be engineered to crystallize, or freeze, at a specific time. In other words, it is possible to control what was once considered a wild and unpredictable process — and it may revolutionize drug delivery processes, providing a way to “freeze” the drugs at an optimal time and location in the body.

     SEE ALSO: Nanotech Drug Delivery Method For Cancer Could Replace Conventional Chemotherapy

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An X-Ray image of supercooling in water particles

Controlling a metastable process

“We describe a supercooled material as ‘metastable,’ meaning it is very sensitive to any external perturbation that may transform it back to its stable low-temperature state,” Dr. Beck said. “We discovered in our study that it is possible to control the process and harness the advantages of the fluid/not-fluid transition to design a precise and effective nanoscale drug encapsulating system.”

For the purpose of the study, the researchers conducted experiments on nanoscale drug vesicles (fluid-filled sacs that deliver drugs to their targets) to determine the precise dynamics of crystallization. The researchers used a state-of-the-art X-ray scattering system sensitive to nanoscale structures to observe the crystallization process.

“One key challenge in designing new nano-vesicles for drug delivery is their stability,” said Dr. Beck. “On the one hand, you need a stable vesicle that will entrap your drug until it reaches the specific diseased cell. But on the other, if the vesicle is too stable, the payload may not be released upon arrival at its target.”

     SEE ALSO: Nano-Sized ‘Bullet’ Invented In Israel Used To Treat The Deadliest Cancers

“Supercooled material is a suitable candidate since the transition between liquid and crystal states is very drastic and the liquid membrane explodes to rearrange as crystals. Therefore this new physical insight can be used to release entrapped drugs at the target and not elsewhere in the body’s microenvironment. This is a novel mechanism for timely drug release.”

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All in the timing

The researchers found that the membranes were able to remain stable for tens of hours before collectively crystallizing at a predetermined time.

“What was amazing was our ability to reproduce the results over and over again without any complicated techniques,” said Dr. Beck. “We showed that the delayed crystallization was not sensitive to minor imperfection or external perturbation. Moreover, we found multiple alternative ways to ‘tweak the clock’ and start the crystallization process.”

The researchers are investigating an appropriate new nano-capsule capable of releasing medication at a specific time and place in the body. “The challenge now is to find the right drugs to exploit our insights for the medical benefit of patients,” said Dr. Beck.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, was led jointly by Dr. Roy Beck of the Department of Physics at TAU’s School of Physics and Astronomy and Prof. Dan Peer of the Department of Cell Research and Immunology at TAU’s Faculty of Life Sciences, and conducted by TAU graduate students Guy Jacoby, Keren Cohen, and Kobi Barkai.

 

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Maya Yarowsky, NoCamels <![CDATA[What is ‘FinTech’ And Why Is Israel So Good At It?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38453 2015-05-27T13:05:40Z 2015-05-27T11:56:32Z

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‘FinTech’ is a term you may have encountered in the tech news headlines and wondered what the connection is between finance, a sector heavily-burdened with century-old institutions, and technology, the constantly changing face of human innovation. In layman’s terms ‘FinTech’ involves the ability to carry out any number of financial services from the comfort of your computer or smartphone screen. But what are the forces at work behind the exponential rise of FinTech companies (and their $$$ valuations), and why does a relatively small market like Israel remain one of the main sources for FinTech innovation?

Shifting the balance in bank – customer relationships

Back on the eve of the global financial crisis in 2008, the majority of people still had to actually visit their bank in order to carry out basic financial services (the deposit “drive-in” if you are familiar with the 90’s-era concept). Banks held a firm grip over everyone’s finances and there was barely a tinge of innovation, or thoughts of making financial services easily accessible. But within months of the meltdown and with consumers’ faith in banks at its lowest, some entrepreneurs decided it was time for serious change.

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“FinTech is a big word that means a lot of different things,” says Raphael Ouzan, co-founder and CTO at BillGuard, a leading Israeli FinTech startup that has developed technology to protect users against “grey” charges. “If you look at it from an economics standpoint, it’s all about introducing alternatives to services that banks have been providing for decades.”

This is the first thing that the over 500 FinTech companies currently in existence have tried to achieve – taking traditional services like lending, deposits and payments out of the hands of the banks and putting them into the hands of the customer. For Ouzan, it’s all about rebuilding the trust breached by two centuries of financial crises with institutional banks at the helm.

     SEE ALSO: Startup ‘TipRanks’ Tells You Who Are The World’s Best Financial Analysts

“There is a massive opportunity to leverage banking data for the sake of transparency. I believe that the services we are able to provide as far as your money goes will eventually take over the banks,” says Ouzan of what he hopes will be the future of FinTech.

In the FinTech age, banks are tasked with innovating

The banks, however, don’t seem to be to be losing sleep over the arrival of FinTech. Nadav Yur, Head of Digital Concepts and Big Data at Israel’s largest bank, Bank HaPoalim, says innovation and tech is now on most banks’ radars. “Traditionally, banks are used to developing infrastructure and applications in-house, but obviously we understand that we need to open ourselves up from business, cost-efficiency and innovation stand-points,” says Yur. However, he makes it clear that while FinTech is a growing sector that must be addressed by banking giants, it hasn’t really had the disruptive affect Ouzan alludes to. “Since FinTech doesn’t affect our quarterly bottom line, it’s not the immediate concern of managers. This presents the challenge of directing enough managerial focus and resources into FinTech, including collaboration with investments and startups.”
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For a banking executive tasked with seeking out innovative companies, Yur is in the right spot. Israel is considered a global FinTech powerhouse, with over two hundred FinTech startups and other more well-established firms. From valuable Information Technology protection for large banks (a field Israel shines in), to big data solutions like BillGuard’s, and “crowdsourced” investment solutions like eToro’s social trading network, the Startup Nation has it all. Tel Aviv was even ranked fifth in the world for its adoption of cryptocurrency Bitcoin and was one of the first cities to open a Bitcoin ATM to the general public.

Israel’s comparative benefit in the global FinTech market

To lead in FinTech innovation, Israel has a number of advantages, including its small size, which acts as a great testing ground; very high mobile engagement among Israelis; and the big data skills learned in Israel’s elite army intelligence units, like the 8200 unit, known for its crop of future star entrepreneurs.

“I think the great advantage of Israeli FinTech is that there is a limited local market, which forces the local FinTech industry to focus on larger global markets,” says Yoni Assia, CEO and Founder of eToro, the social investment network that uses real-time features to let users follow and trade based on other users’ activities. “The payments, trading and Bitcoin systems that emerged in Israel are in general more global than those in other countries,” adds Assia. The “microcosm” of Israel represents a good trial market for global-geared financial startups that want to make sure that their technology really works before they launch it in the US, an economy 39 times the size of Israel’s.

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

“I really feel that Israel is a point of reference for many financial institutions, and in many aspects we are more advanced than a number of banks in the world,” explains Yur, who claims that the ability of Bank HaPoalim to test out mobile applications and new financial services far surpasses US and European banks.

This leaves room for the bank to invest and give back to FinTech startups through its support programs (as does its competitor, Israel’s Leumi Bank, through LeumiTech) and to engage international banks’ interest, CitiBank and Barclay’s most recently, in financial management technologies developed by Israeli startups.

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But for many, the secret weapon Israelis have over other countries is its elite intelligence units like 8200, where the likes of BillGuard’s Ouzan have served. He says, “Much of our work in 8200 has to do with organizing a big, bureaucratic enterprise like the army. In many ways it’s similar to the challenge FinTech presents, so it’s very helpful.”

Besides BillGuard, which processes an enormous amount of data on credit card charges to help users track their spending and identify possible fraud, other notable 8200 graduates who have moved into FinTech include the founders of ThetaRay, a threat-detection solution to protect financial institution’s infrastructure, and Trusteer, another information security company that was acquired by IBM for $900 million in 2013.

From deposit drive-thrus to App Store tellers

Other shining stars include Actimize, a big data company with real solutions for fraud prevention and risk management, as well as companies like Pricence, an intelligent pricing platform that was selected by MasterCard for the Israel Technology Award, and the breakthrough global mobile payments company Payoneer (now a Member Service Provider of MasterCard worldwide).

eToro‘s Assia believes this is all for the greater good: “Having people share their finance knowledge with one another creates more transparency in the markets and will lead to a better understanding of consumers and new kinds of products that will utilize the wisdom of the crowd.”

Despite FinTech’s tremendous progress in giving people control over their money, Ouzan’s dream of eliminating “physical” banking institutions is still far off. But he’s not giving up. “I await the day when banking will become a platform serving customers rather than a monolithic bureaucratic platform,” he says. “Just imagine the bank becoming the App Store.”

Photos: Accenture/ MasterCard

 

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David Shamah, The Times of Israel <![CDATA[Warren Buffett Invests Millions In Novel Israeli Power Saving Tech]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38591 2015-05-26T13:39:31Z 2015-05-26T13:39:31Z

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

Bandwidth isn’t the only thing the burgeoning cell network is consuming more of. Already electricity costs account for a large chunk – as much as a third – of operating costs, and that amount will likely get larger as networks get bigger and more devices come on line.

All that energy use is due to the deployment of base stations, and as energy efficient as they are now nowadays, the sheer number needed is enough to put a strain on supplies in big cities (New York, for example, has 14,000 mobile phone base stations).

     SEE ALSO: GreenRoad: The App That Uses Your Smartphone To Make Driving Safer

Cellphone - Health News - Israel

eVolution’s tech saves power by turning cell towers on and off as needed.

To solve that problem, eVolution Networks has developed a big-data solution that examines the relationship between phones, usage rates, locations, energy costs, and other factors, to activate and deactivate base stations as needed.

And although it sounds like a technical, even prosaic solution, top investor Warren Buffett likes the idea – enough to invest in the company. eVolution announced this week that Berkshire Hathaway Energy subsidiary IES Holding and GE Ventures have invested $22.5 million.

With its Smart Energy Solution (SES) technology, eVolution conducts both a thorough radio coverage analysis and a deep study of typical daily traffic patterns for each existing base station across the network and creates individual traffic and radio profiles for each. The information allows the network to list the stations that can be safely deactivated while still maintaining coverage and service integrity.

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

Photos: Serba Sembilan

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Kyla Blumenfeld, NoCamels <![CDATA[The Tinder Of Academics: GradeBack Lets You Rate Your Professors With A Swipe]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38282 2015-05-26T12:38:35Z 2015-05-26T12:38:35Z

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Though course evaluations are nothing new, when students evaluate their professors at the end of a semester, their invaluable feedback and opinions quickly slip out of their hands and into the university’s. This information is then usually lost on those who may benefit from it most, namely students’ peers, which is where GradeBack comes in.

“GradeBack was created so students can share information, decide which classes to take and be able to express their feelings towards certain courses”, says parent company Cloudents’ CEO Eidan Apelbaum.

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The ‘Tinder’ of prof. ratings

Available for Android and iOS, students are asked to “sign into” GradeBack using their Google or Facebook account so that the platform’s matching algorithm can get to work. GradeBack is able to determine what school the student attends and who their professors are automatically based on their Facebook relations and pools of friends, and using Cloudents’ social studying data. Students are then presented with the profile of a professor in their field of study that includes a picture, their name, and their average score on the platform. Students continue to swipe left or right to view more professors (much like dating app Tinder), rating them on factors like the heftiness of the workload, likeability, attitude towards students, and more in a 1-5 numbered format similar to standard professor reviews (“always” to “never”).

     SEE ALSO: The Top Israeli Apps Taking Over The Apple Watch

gradebackswipeSurprisingly, the app has not turned into an opportunity for students to bash their professors; according to Apelbaum, “You would expect that they would rant on professors, but the average rating is 4.23 for a prof. Out of 647 verbal comments, only 7 percent were bad reviews.” The positive reviews may have a lot to do with what is GradeBack’s truly stand-out feature: complete anonymity. Despite identifying students’ networks through their social media data, GradeBack’s anonymous feature gives students more freedom to express their true feelings about their professors.

Rating professors while remaining anonymous

There are quite a few edtech apps (education technology apps) that are similar to GradeBack in their mission to bring professorial ratings online, like Ratemyprofessor.com or Quiz It, yet these are full websites, making GradeBack the only available app with anonymity.

“The hope for GradeBack is that students will develop their skills through better decision making in an improved system to meet the new age of communication and technology. Our format gives students the option to casually review their professors on a daily basis, with most students spending an average of 22 minutes reviewing their professors. That’s more than most sessions Facebook,” Apelbaum asserts.

Connectivity problems

Possibly one of the biggest downsides of GradeBack’s platform is its lack of connectivity with Cloudents. Though Cloudents, a global social studying platform that aims to help students collaborate on their class work, was meant to expand on GradeBack’s features, the two platforms have not yet been connected. Cloudents, which was Apelbaum and co-founder Matan Libis’s first company, includes a bunch of useful academic information, like prior exams, assignments and syllabuses, but this is not yet available on GradeBack. Maybe most importantly, although Gradeback is a new app, the list of professors does not seem to be synching to a more updated database.

     SEE ALSO: App Of The Week: ‘Clean’ – The App That Makes It Easy To Delete Old Photos

Cloudents raised $1 million dollars in its seed funding, which the company plans to use to continue growing its platforms. Though it’s by no means a new concept, it was only a matter of time before students began rating their professors in real time from their smartphones.

 

Photos: Joseph Shemuel

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Einat Paz-Frankel, NoCamels <![CDATA[A Look Inside The Booming Startup Nation: Is Everyone Getting A Piece Of The Pie?]]> http://nocamels.com/?p=38055 2015-05-25T07:28:36Z 2015-05-25T05:14:43Z

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

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

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

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Google Tel Aviv’s office

Eight percent of the Israeli workforce is in high tech

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

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

Women and minorities are underrepresented  

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

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

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

Men and women in Israeli high tech

Manpower shortage pushes recruiters to think outside the box

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

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

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

Haredi Jews

Silicon Wadi beats Silicon Valley

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

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

Startup employees

Tax from ‘exits’ is mostly paid abroad  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An example of Telesofia’s MedTech solution.

What does it take to be ‘cool’?

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

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

Glide

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

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

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

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

CyActive

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

Wibbitz

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

ICS²

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

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

Telesofia Medical

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

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

Photos: Courtesy

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

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

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

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

phreewriting

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

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

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

phreeincar

Literally write anywhere

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

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

Photos: Kickstarter

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

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

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

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

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

medasense

“Managing pain remains a major challenge”

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

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

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

Seven years of research 

Galit Zuckerman

Galit Zuckerman, Founder and CEO of Medasense Biometrics

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

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

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

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

Photos and video courtesy of Medasense Biometrics

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

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

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

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

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

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

taboola-example

An example of Taboola’s content recommendation tools

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

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

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

Photos: Taboola

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

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

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

     SEE ALSO: Social Navigation – A New Approach to Driving

Tight parking spot

Anagog

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

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

Parko

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

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

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

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

ParkLife

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

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

Polly 

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

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

Pango

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

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

CelloPark

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

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

cars parked in San Francisco

Photos and videos: JaseMan, Anagog, ParkLife, Polly

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

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

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

playbuzzgraph

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

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

PlayBuzz relies on users to generate content

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

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

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

shaulolmert

PlayBuzz CEO and Founder Shaul Olmert

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

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

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

The king of Facebook shares, but not for long

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

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

playbuzzscreenshot

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

Photos: PlayBuzz/ DLD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roni and Oren Frank

Roni and Oren Frank

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

Eliminating the stigma still associated with therapy

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

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

talkspace

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

Photos and video courtesy of Talkspace

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

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

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

Clocks that reflect the times

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

Manifold_Clock_1

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

A big hit with the crowds

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

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

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

Perspective-Clocks-by-Studio-Ve

Perspective Clocks

Making the world a more interesting place

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

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

     SEE ALSO: Israeli Designer Uses Seaweed To Create Cool Lamps

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

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

Customer approval is a springboard for improvement

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

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

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

Photos: Studio Ve

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

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

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

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

intlhummusmap

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

     SEE ALSO: Israelis Are World’s Ninth Healthiest Eaters

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

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

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

Photos: Jaliker/ Screenshot

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

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

The downside of the Internet age

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

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

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

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Undermining your personal security on the Internet

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

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

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

anonymoushackersmoke

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

Similar goals as conventional terrorism

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

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

Photos: Erik Heitfield / Stian Eikeland/ Brian Klug

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

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

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

yokee app

A trendy and versatile library of songs

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

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

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

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

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When a recorded song becomes a viral music clip

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

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

     SEE ALSO: Startup Groovideo Edits Group Videos Into Simple Films

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

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

Photos: Yokee

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

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

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

Decoding a complex genome

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

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

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

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‘Filtering’ genes to understand their function

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Prof. Eytan Domany and Dr. Libi Hertzberg

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

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

     SEE ALSO: Research Discovers New Ways Of Treating Schizophrenia

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

Calcium channels are key

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

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

Photos: Giuila Cappelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: Wikimedia Commons/JoaquinPortela,

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

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

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

A low-tech device with high impact

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

debbyelnatan

Debby Elnatan, inventor of the Upsee harness

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

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

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

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

The best part of their kids’ day

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

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

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

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

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‘The most famous mother in the world’

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

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

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

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

Photos: Firefly

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

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

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

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

esheteilon

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

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

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

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

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

Photos: John/ Times of Israel

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

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

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

Domenica-dining

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

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

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

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

domenicapizzaPhotos: Will Blunt/ New Orleans/ Facebook

 

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