Three new projects show the two countries expanding collaborations in cyber security and specifically, responding to emergency situations – including kidnappings
Following the annual Cyber Week in Tel Aviv in June, a series of announcements regarding increased cooperation on security related projects began to stream out, reflecting well on the seemingly maligned American-Israeli relationship.
Leading the story was the release that the Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial R&D (BIRD) Foundation would be investing $1.9 million into two projects where companies from both countries have teamed up to create innovative solutions for First Responders. The new NextGen First Responder Technologies program is being backed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) and Israel’s Ministry of Public Security (MOPS).
Established in 1977 to help foster an environment of mutually beneficial cooperation in industry, the BIRD foundation has helped fund hundreds of projects over the years, connecting companies from both sides. The projects receiving the funding are ARTsys360 out of Holon, Israel and the Lion Group from Dayton, Ohio for a precision identification device, and SayVU Technologies Ltd in Tel Aviv and Opto Knowledge Systems Inc in Torrance, California who will be working on developing an indoor positioning, locating, and response device.
Each team is receiving $950,000 to fund their work, out of the maximum $1 million that the BIRD foundation offers for this initiative.
Dr. Eitan Yudilevich, who serves as Executive Director of the BIRD Foundation, tells Geektime that these projects are still very early stage, but that some of the elements have already been developed. According to Yudilevich, the DHS is the main driver behind the call for First Responder technologies, and their cooperation with Israeli companies is one element of their push to improve their capabilities in this area.
It is worth noting that the U.S. government has numerous channels open to attracting Israeli innovation in the field of security. In June, the Department of Defense hosted their second annual competition at Tel Aviv University, handing out cash prizes for the winning companies and opening up avenues for acquiring their technology.
Speaking with Amotz Koskas, the CEO at SayVU, he tells Geektime that the goal of his project in cooperation with Opto Knowledge Systems will be to help First Responders like firefighters, SWAT teams, EMS, and others who need to navigate through structures where other services might not provide adequate tracking. This kind of technology is crucial for command and control units to know where their people are in the field and reach them in the event of a crisis.
SayVU was founded in October 2014 following the tragic event where three Israeli youths were kidnapped and killed while hitchhiking in the West Bank. After they realized that they were in danger, being held at gunpoint in the back of the car, one of the youths called the police for help, but the police thought that it was a prank call and had no way of following up after the call was dropped.
“In an emergency, you don’t have the time or capacity to make a report,” says Koskas on their thinking in developing their technology. With their product, he says that there is no need to open the screen, adding that it can use speech to text to send a message, listening to noise and words to take indications that can build a clearer picture of what is going on and help First Responders react more effectively.
Beyond the announcement of the BIRD funding, another announcement of cooperation on a governmental level also came out, with Israel and the U.S. signing a cyber defense deal that would expand information sharing on cyber threats.
Information sharing of intelligence on cyber attacks is crucial in helping to stop their spread from one network to another. Cyber emergency response teams (CERTs) play an important role in compiling information on attacks and alerting defenders in other places, helping them to head off attacks.
While it is true that there are still suspicions of information gathering by both sides, it would appear that the desire to cooperate in both the areas of physical and cyber security remain strong. This is good news not only for governments but for entrepreneurs in the private sector, and will hopefully lead to more opportunities on both sides.