Israel’s high-tech industry has been back at work for over a week as the government has continued to lift restrictions imposed in mid-March to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Most businesses in manufacturing, services, and retail have also reopened cautiously while adhering to the numerous health requirements put forth by the Health Ministry.
In the Jerusalem Venture Partners’ Media Quarter compound, which houses the Jerusalem office of global venture firm JVP led by social and tech entrepreneur Dr. Erel Margalit, each employee must undergo an advanced test to check their temperature, complete a questionnaire developed by the Weizmann Institute and other Israeli scientists, print a face shield with a 3D printer, and wait in a designated area in the complex to ensure social distancing — all prior to beginning their work.
The temperature screening device is called ThermoGate, developed by a team led by Matan Melamed, founder and CEO of telepresence tech startup Iron Drone and a veteran of the elite IDF intelligence Unit 8200.
“Normally, my company makes technology to intercept malicious drones,” he told Times of Israel. “We wanted to help fight coronavirus, but we can’t make masks and know nothing of ventilators, yet we know thermal cameras really really well.”
ThermoGate has been optimized for places where mass gatherings take place, including shopping malls, schools, offices, and stadiums.
Next, a “Good Thought” 3D printing machine produces a plastic face protector for anyone entering the complex within minutes. A short questionnaire developed jointly by researchers from The Weizmann Institute, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Clalit Health Services – and in coordination with the Israeli Health Ministry must then be answered. In general, scientists use the test to monitor, identify, and predict novel coronavirus spreading zones in the country. But the anonymized surveys also tracks the development of virus-induced symptoms on a neighborhood level.
Based on the answers, entrance to the JVP complex is granted or denied.
Inside the complex, JVP has enlisted the help of an Israeli-made AI-powered robot assistant to minimize contact between employees. The personal AI robot Temi, developed by Israeli startup Robotemi, transfers documents between the offices.
The Temi was initially conceived as a companion for senior citizens and busy families and executives and was not specifically intended to help with a virus outbreak. But in March, NoCamels reported that Temi was being used in hundreds of hospitals, medical centers, nursing homes, and corporate buildings throughout Asia to help minimize human-to-human contact.
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In addition, the elevator has been programmed to ensure only those with access can use it, and each door in the building has sanitizing materials on hand. All handles in the compound are disinfected every hour by the building’s cleaning staff, JVP has indicated.
“Israel’s high-tech provides solutions for people across the globe dealing with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, but beyond that, we are producing a higher level of best practices and standards for a return to work, which can all be applied worldwide,” said Margalit.
Guests are directed to a visitors’ building with a separate entrance. Employees use a different entrance.
Pitches from startups looking to raise money will be made in this space when both parties do not come in direct physical contact, the firm described.
This model for resuming physical operations will serve as a pilot for JVP’s NY Cyber Center, which is expected to reopen in the coming months. JVP is in talks with the New York City municipality about reopening the center with strict measures in place and with the help of Israeli technologies.
In late 2018, JVP was selected by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) to help establish the New York City’s International Cyber Center, to position the city as the next global cybersecurity capital. JVP marked the grand opening of the center in February.
The event drew guests from across the world, including state officials, entrepreneurs, executives, and celebrities including actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, who sat down for a fireside chat with Margalit.
The center is part of the Cyber NYC initiative, a $100 million public-private investment to transform the city into a global leader in cyber innovation and create thousands of jobs, in partnership with leading academic institutions such as Columbia University, New York University, CUNY, and Cornell-Tech.