Governor General of Canada David Johnston, left, with Chief Scientist of the State of Israel Avi Hasson. (photo by Sgt. Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)
On March 1, Governor General of Canada David Johnston met Chief Scientist of the State of Israel Avi Hasson to discuss innovation and how Canada and Israel can enhance cooperation in this field. During Hasson’s visit, the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation released its latest impact report.
Established in 1994 under a formal mandate from the Government of Canada and the State of Israel, CIIRDF-funded projects cross many scientific disciplines, technologies and industrial sectors. These include biotechnology, agriculture, information and communications technologies, automotive, natural resource management, public safety and aerospace.
With base funding of $1 million per year from each of the governments of Canada and Israel, CIIRDF stimulates collaborative research and development between companies in both countries, with a focus on the commercialization of new technologies; pools Canadian and Israeli know-how to provide both countries with improved market access, sustainable competitive advantage and long-term market opportunity in global economies; strengthens ties between Canada and Israel, and delivers economic benefits to both countries; and leverages additional regional and sector-based funding that is matched by the government of Israel.
CIIRDF has engaged more than 1,000 participants in partnership development activities, including more than 400 industry leaders who actively contributed to R&D collaboration discussions. It has processed more than 230 bilateral R&D applications and funded 110 projects engaging more than 200 companies from Canada and Israel.
These alliances have enabled the joint development, marketing and sales of more than 50 technologically improved new products for global markets; generated $60 million in initial sales, and $300 to $500 million in additional economic value to collaborating companies; and created hundreds of jobs in both countries.
Singlecue recognizes hand motions for remote control. (photo from Singlecue via Israel21c.org)
Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecom, set up in late 2015 a model “smart home” at its Tel Aviv headquarters and in the IKEA store in Netanya to demonstrate its Bhome subscription service – a package of wifi-enabled sensors and monitors to help keep out intruders and save energy. But you don’t necessarily have to live in Israel to take advantage of Israeli smart-home technologies. Here are some of the many options available now or coming soon.
SwitchBee is a Netanya-based startup that provides a platform including programmable switches, a central control unit, a smartphone/tablet application and cloud-based data services. The plug-and-play devices, featured in the Bhome model home, are designed to embed in existing outlets quickly and wirelessly. The company says you can convert a light switch into a smart switch in less than two minutes, or turn your whole house into a smart home in less than 90 minutes. Using the app’s secure dashboard, the user can program custom preferences for each SwitchBee-enabled light or device including on/off and fine adjustments.
Singlecue is made by eyeSight Technologies, a Herzliya company whose machine-vision systems have been built into devices made by OPPO, Lenovo, Toshiba, Hisense, Phillips and other manufacturers since 2005. It is a standalone device that lets you use touch-free gestures to control infrared- and wifi-enabled media and smart-home devices in its range of sight. You can do everything from lowering the thermostat to lowering the TV volume to lowering the blinds.
Ramat Gan digital health company EarlySense has released myEarlySense, an under-mattress automatic sleep-monitoring system designed to integrate with smart-home solutions. Users can adapt their home environment based on the sleep-cycle data collected from the myEarlySense sensor – for example, arming and disarming home security systems, turning off the TV, turning on the coffeemaker and adjusting the thermostat. The myEarlySense technology is built into Samsung’s new SleepSense IoT (Internet of Things) device.
Launched at Home Depot stores across the United States and also sold online, GreenIQ’s Smart Garden Hub allows you to adjust irrigation based on past, current and forecasted weather – without stepping outside – yielding water savings of up to 50%. The device connects to the internet via wifi or cellular connection and is controlled from an iOS or Android app. The Petah Tikva-based company’s app can also adjust outdoor lighting and can connect to a Netatmo weather station and rain gauge or a water-flow sensor for leak detection.
Sensibo’s tagline is “Give your old air conditioner a brain.” The system includes a pod that sticks onto your A/C and heating unit, and an intuitive app that lets you monitor and modify your settings from any smartphone, tablet or computer. If you’ve got a Samsung in the living room, an LG in the bedroom and a Friedrich in the study, Sensibo will control all of them with one interface. A new public API for developers will enable integration of a Sensibo device with other home appliances as well.
SmarTap’s digital shower system, currently available in Israel and the United Kingdom and next year in the United States, was chosen for Bezeq’s Bhome demo to show how the product can reduce water and energy use by enabling precise control of flow and temperature. An app lets users program actions such as preheating the shower, setting a maximum temperature and flow rate, and specifying how high to fill the bath. The Nesher-based company will be adding functions such as automatic leak detection, opening cold-water pipes to prevent freezing and monitoring usage patterns; the software will be upgraded remotely with each new feature. IBM Research in Haifa is now researching how SmarTap can help reduce water and energy use in commercial buildings.
Anything plugged into a power source can be connected to PointGrab’s PointSwitch product to enable gesture-controlled adjustments and on/off actions up to 17 feet away, even in full darkness. This Israeli gesture-control technology is already powering tens of millions of devices made by Fujitsu, Acer, Asus, Lenovo, Samsung, TLC and Skyworth. The company is based in Hod Hasharon.
ENTR is a battery-operated smart lock from Mul-T-Lock in Yavneh. It is designed to be retrofitted into existing doors and lets users control entry from a smartphone, tablet or other Bluetooth-enabled device. You can create or disable virtual keys immediately, lock or unlock the door at pre-programmed times and monitor the system remotely. The underlying algorithms were developed at the Israeli research and development facility of American chipmaker Freescale.
Evoz turns an iOS device into a virtual baby monitor. Its technology is built inside the Belkin-Evoz WeMo monitor (which stores and graphs baby’s cries and analyzes the information to provide parenting tips) and in British Telecom’s next-generation home video devices. Evoz also can be used for monitoring housebound seniors, detecting and sending alerts about safety and security, and evaluating electricity usage.
[email protected] by Essence, a Herzliya-based company, is a cloud-administered wireless system that lets users manage and communicate with a large variety of third-party-connected home devices, such as lighting, thermostats and door locks.
Attach BwareIT’s SmartH2O home water meter to your sink or shower tap or your garden hose, download the app and you can see exactly how much water your household is using, how long the water is running and at what temperature, and how much it’s costing you. Now being incubated in Startup Scaleup, the European Commission’s IoT accelerator, the device could be on the market within a year to give conservation-oriented users an unprecedented awareness of water consumption. The app will also inform you of any leaks, and show how your water usage compares with the average in your region or country. If you’re proud of how you stack up to your neighbors, you can share your rating on social media.
Last but not least, Mybitat, an IoT company headquartered in Herzliya, is partnering with Samsung to develop a smart-home solution aimed at helping the elderly remain in their own homes longer and enhancing their quality of life. The technology combines advanced sensors, cloud-based software and behavior analytics to monitor an individual’s daily routine and wellness. If it detects changes in behavior or health, the system will send alerts to preselected family members or caregivers.
Israel21Cis a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.
At the latest Empowerment session, co-hosted by Jewish Seniors Alliance and JCC Seniors on Jan. 27, Philip Morris offers advice on avoiding fraud, scams and identity theft. (photo by Binny Goldman)
It was interesting to me – a person who still enjoys using one of the “original computers,” namely, the pencil – that I was about to attend a workshop entitled Technology: Give us the Tools to Finish the Job.
On Jan. 27, about 100 people gathered in the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Wosk Auditorium to hear three experts in the field of technology at a workshop hosted by Jewish Seniors Alliance in partnership with the JCC seniors department. It was the second session of the current season’s JSA Snider Empowerment series.
JCC seniors program coordinator Leah Deslauriers welcomed the audience and outlined the afternoon’s activities, while Gyda Chud welcomed everyone on behalf of JSA. Chud explained how she was introduced to JSA via the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture four years ago and that JSA is always looking for new partners in its aim to make its workshops easily available and accessible to all who may be interested. Chud added that she hoped the Technology session would help build her own confidence when it came to computers and other aspects of the tech world.
Noting that living is learning, the first speaker, Stan Goldman, demonstrated the simplicity of mobile technology. Once one learns how to use the iPad, the knowledge can be applied to the iPhone, which uses the same system, and one may watch free movies, read free ebooks and newspapers, and get email by accessing the right app. To illustrate, Goldman and Deslauriers used voice commands to ask for directions, dictate an email and do advanced math. Goldman offered a seemingly endless list of things that can be done with this technology, including Skyping with family and friends in other countries, enjoying music, playing games, etc. – all by using apps, many of which are free. The world is, indeed, at your fingertips.
Philip Morris, an expert on fraud, scams and identity theft, spoke next. He said that, once we have let the world in, so to speak, we must be cautious when using our devices – protecting them with passwords, and keeping private our personal information (social insurance numbers, birth certificates, passports, etc.) and not easily accessible to hackers. Morris advised shredding all discarded documents and, when buying a new cellphone, making sure all of the personal information has been deleted from the old phone, as hackers can retrieve data from seemingly wiped phones. It is important to be alert in public places, to keep wallets and purses out of easy reach and to ensure that you have received your own credit card from the server in a restaurant. He also suggested taking a photograph of passports and credit cards in case of theft.
New words have been coined, such as “smishing,” the ability to obtain information from people’s texts. Morris recommended changing passwords annually and, when writing cheques in payment for credit cards, to reference only the last four numbers of the card. To report a theft or loss, Morris gave two numbers to call to check your credit profile: 1-800-465-7166 (Equifax) or 1-800-663-9980 (TransUnion Canada). For instances of fraud, he said to call the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre, 1-888-495-8501.
Mark White, “the gizmo guru,” gave advice on the latest fun gadgets, including some lesser-known ones, and where to get them. As far as finding directions, however, he warned people to keep paper maps on hand in case the technology fails to connect. White added that he reads the Vancouver Sun’s online version, and that the library offers many newspapers online to members. In order to keep Skype conversations private, he suggested using earphones if Skyping in a public place.
Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library librarian Rossana Caritey explained that the Waldman has an extensive collection of ebooks, which can be read on any device – ebook readers, laptops, for example. If someone brings in their device, a librarian or volunteer can show them how to download books. Waldman librarian Helen Pinsky handed out further information to attendees.
Chud thanked the speakers, noting that each of them had exhibited in their talks the mission and ideals of JSA – that of advocating for, inspiring, educating others to be the best they can be.
The audience retired to enjoy light refreshments. Long lines formed at the workstations set up in the auditorium, clearly showing the keen interest in the session. The workshop may have eased many fears, allowing timid souls to venture through the now-open doors leading to new technological possibilities.
Binny Goldmanis a member of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver board.
Nir Kouris addresses a Tomorrow Israel gathering. (photo from israel21c.org)
Nir Kouris is one of those hyper-accomplished young Israelis who cannot be described in a single phrase. Digital brand manager, tech evangelist, growth hacker, startup mentor, technology conference organizer, wearable-tech adviser, IoT enthusiast – these are all apt labels, but he prefers to call himself simply “a person who loves the future.”
He does not only mean that he loves futuristic technologies, though he really, really does. His passion is nurturing Israel’s future tech leaders by connecting them with peers and experts across the world.
In addition to NK Corporate Digital Strategy, the business he started in 2003 at age 20, Kouris got the ball rolling with eCamp, co-founded in 2008 to bring Israeli and overseas kids together for an American-style summer experience in technology. He founded Innovation Israel – a community for Israeli startups, entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists, angels and developers – together with Ben Lang, an American eCamper who moved to Israel five years later at age 18.
Kouris has organized Hackathon Israel, Tel Aviv Hackathon Day and World Hackathon Day, all attracting hundreds of young programmers. In 2014, he helped launch Israel’s first Wearable Tech Conference, headlined by Silicon Valley trendsetters.
Perhaps Kouris’ most ambitious endeavor is Tomorrow Israel, a movement to boost technology education and opportunities in Israel through worldwide collaboration.
“When I was 12, I read a book that changed my life, Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty,” Kouris told Israel21c. This bestselling guide to networking taught him, “If you want to be somebody, go to tech conferences.” And so he did.
“I was always the youngest person at these events and, at one of them, a Microsoft marketing manager asked me what I was doing there; I was only a kid. I promised myself to treat people equally, to listen to people of all ages, because nobody did that for me. That’s why I always dedicate time to young people,” said Kouris, who turns 34 in May.
At the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow, held annually from 2008 to 2013 at the behest of former president Shimon Peres, Kouris was dismayed to see no young faces among the distinguished presenters and few in the audience.
“I proposed creating Tomorrow Israel to take Peres’ vision into reality, a global movement connecting Israeli teens to others using the universal language of technology,” he explained. “I don’t believe in waiting for government officials and people with titles to take responsibility. I believe in regular people taking responsibility for our lives – not for fame, but because we really care and we love doing it.”
At first, Kouris rented venues to present workshops and lectures, and then Google Campus in Tel Aviv offered free space. Global technology gurus began accepting his invitations to Tomorrow Israel meetups, and he started sponsoring local and national conferences and hackathons for kids from Israel and elsewhere.
The Tomorrow movement has spread to Holland, the United Kingdom, India, America and Australia. Though there’s no official age limit, most participants are under 21.
“It’s not an age, but a way of thinking. We attract people wanting to make their countries better through entrepreneurship,” Kouris said. “It’s like a VC for people. Tomorrow is all about smart and good people because being a good person matters most.”
The Amsterdam municipality, Google for Education and other entities have approached Kouris about collaborating with Tomorrow. Members are forming teams and launching projects together via national and international Tomorrow Facebook groups. Kouris is proud that Israel is the nexus of this activity.
“Before Tomorrow, everybody heard the negative stuff about Israel and now they all want to come here to see our startup culture. We’re proving we can find new channels of communicating with the next generation of leaders and empower other nations to be startup nations,” Kouris said. “We have something strong and solid in our hands.”
eCamp becomes Big Idea
When Kouris was a teen in the early days of the internet, he’d sit at the computers in his school library in a village near Afula, earning money by registering and selling domain names.
During his military service, he was sent to work in American Jewish summer camps. “I was inspired to make something like that in Israel, combining the American camp experience with the Israeli tech story,” he related.
He co-founded eCamp after dropping out of college (“What I was learning in class was about the past, and I had to deal with the future”) and working briefly at a high-tech startup. Now called Big Idea, the camp is still going strong, but Kouris left after a year to build his branding consultancy and organize for-profit conferences supported by corporate sponsorships and ticket sales.
“Israelis usually don’t pay for conferences, so it has to be something exceptional you can’t get anywhere else,” explained Kouris, who says his favorite hobby is “meeting people smarter than myself.”
He’s persuaded big names like Robert Scoble, a top American tech evangelist, and Prof. Steve Mann, “the father of wearable technology,” to come to Israel along with participants from China, Europe and the United States. “They come on their own budget because they feel these conferences are the best,” Kouris said.
Kouris is planning two international confabs in Israel for 2016, one to present outstanding technologies to the world on behalf of Innovation Israel; the other a free Tomorrow gathering to introduce the established global tech community to the next generation.
The single Herzliya resident said he is “having great fun and traveling the world” as he helps shape the future of Israel.
The Canadian government’s policies toward local research and innovation are being streamlined with industry, making it so researchers are no longer free to look outside the box. This is one of the reasons Dr. Robert Brownstone gives for his decision to leave Canada to live in England and teach at the University College of London.
Brownstone, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, has spent most of his research career in Canada. He is a neurosurgeon who has treated people with movement disorders, pain and epilepsy, and who researches neural circuits that control movement. Prior to recently leaving the country, he was working as a professor of surgery (neurosurgery) and medical neuroscience at Dalhousie University.
“While it could be argued that there have been no cuts to the Canadian Institutes and Health Research (CIHR), funding has been flat (which is in effect a cut) and funding has been directed to specific programs (which is a cut to investigator-driven fundamental research),” said Brownstone in an interview with the Independent.
Minister of State (Science and Technology) spokesperson Scott French challenged this claim, however. “Since being elected in 2006, our government has made record investment in science, technology and innovation to push the frontiers of knowledge, create jobs and improve the quality of life of Canadians – including providing over $1 billion in funding toward neuroscience research alone,” he said.
French added that CIHR directs two-thirds of its funding envelope to basic or discovery science to strengthen Canada’s position as a world leader in health research.
McGill University’s Dr. John Bergeron – researcher, professor and chair of anatomy and cell biology for 13 years – explained the issue using a hockey analogy. “For whatever reason,” he said, “we decided that talent and accountability to genuine discovery would not be part of our funding mechanism. That decision was made by administrators and, in my mind at least, it’s sort of like saying, ‘We’re going to get the best logos in hockey and that will make us win the championship, the NHL cup, or whatever.’ And saying, ‘We don’t need talent…. We just need to look good on camera.’ Of course, that’s not sensible.”
Bergeron acknowledged that generous sums of public money are targeted for research and development. However, he said that an accountability mechanism should be considered to see if that money is targeting talent that generates genuine discoveries.
“By any deductive measure, Canada is not doing well,” said Bergeron. “The most recent is the latest rankings of research universities (viewable at shanghairanking.com). We’ve had zero Nobel Prizes in medicine since our one and only award in 1923 (for the discovery of insulin). All big pharma pre-clinical research labs have left Canada and we have only one living Lasker Award winner – James Till of Toronto.
“It is the university presidents and heads of our funding agencies who have failed the Canadian taxpayer. It is young, genuine talent that is needed across Canada, and the lack of accountability of our university presidents and heads of funding agencies is what is holding us back.”
Bergeron said we are shooting ourselves in the foot by funding research without having an infrastructure to apply the discoveries and reap the rewards of our efforts. “One of my goals is to try to use the Merck labs, get them going to put together a world-class institute to exploit genuine discoveries that are made here in Canada.”
As an example, Bergeron pointed to the work of McGill University Canadian-Israeli educator Dr. Nahum Sonenberg.
“With Dr. Sonenberg’s basic science discovery, he went from figuring out all of the machinery involved in making proteins to stumbling across the fact that if you target a small molecule with some of the proteins he’s discovered, it improves memory. So, colleagues in the U.S. and Britain teamed up with biotechs and big pharmas and have now used this discovery to develop drugs to treat senility, Alzheimer’s, memory loss.
“This is going to be a market creating hundreds of millions of dollars that we’re not going to exploit [in Canada]…. We don’t have any infrastructure to do this, all because these crazy administrators know nothing about what real discoveries have been historically.”
Bergeron sits on grant panels for the European Commission that provide 10 million euro grants a year, as well as U.S. funding agencies panels that give out more than a million dollars in grants per year.
“When you’re in Canada, the average grant in the last competition for the open operating grant averaged out to about $125,000 a year per investigator,” said Bergeron. “That’s serious taxpayer money, but it’s not competitive with what’s going on in the rest of the world. We’re spending over $30 billion a year in research and development, yet we don’t use peer review. Funding decisions are made by administrators that know nothing about discovery.”
Jim Woodgett, investigator and director of research of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Health Complex, also said that funding has been stagnant in recent years and that restructuring at CIHR has resulted in further hoops researchers need to jump through to access funding.
“To access funds here, in Canada, you have to bring to the table equivalent funds from other sources,” said Woodgett. “They can be philanthropic sources, etc. These types of programs, the government has been quite keen on promoting as a means of leveraging additional support. And some types of research just don’t have that kind of accessibility or the researchers don’t have accessibility to those matching funds, so that does become a bit of a limiting problem.”
Woodgett said there needs to be a balance, and better ways to access funding that do not require fundraising. “You need to balance discovery research and applied research, otherwise what happens is you just dry up after awhile,” he said. “All the ideas dry up and there’s nothing then to translate into applied research.
“You can argue you should spend 10 percent of your funds on discovery and 90 percent on applied … and say that the private sector shouldn’t be funding basic science … they should be only funding applied science.”
Internationally, many government-supported research funds go toward the discovery end of the spectrum. Canada needs to do the same if it wants to retain top researchers, said Brownstone.
Acknowledging that he is not a politician nor an economist, he said, “I feel there is intrinsic value in knowledge or a knowledge economy. Good things come from knowledge. Just look at leaders in the field, like Switzerland and Silicon Valley, unlike oil economies, such as Saudi Arabia.”
As far as creating change and reinventing research in Canada, Brownstone said, “Changing culture is hard, but it can be done with leadership. Look at [U.S. President John F.] Kennedy and landing a man on the moon.”
Iddo Gino at the 2014 World Hackathon Day in Tel Aviv. (photo from israel21c.org)
There’s something unusual about one of the startups renting co-working space in the newly opened WeWork building in Herzliya: its CEO is still in high school.
Iddo Jonathan Gino, 17, is a senior at the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa and hopes to finish an undergraduate degree in computer science at the Open University next year. When he’s not studying in school and online, he heads RapidPay, a year-old company whose four employees have created a mobile in-store and online payment platform for customers – mainly fellow teenagers – who don’t have a credit card or bank account.
“I try to manage my time as well as possible,” he said.
“When I was about 11, I went with my dad to his workplace and I sat with one of the programmers and saw all the cool stuff he was doing,” Iddo related. “He showed me a program he made to sort out seating for his son’s bar mitzvah automatically. Then he gave me a book to learn how to program. And, from there, one thing led to another.”
Iddo began with “some cool little projects,” learning how to build online management systems, interactive websites and iOS apps. Last summer, he had an internship at a tech startup in Israel.
“I got to experience how a startup works, and then I opened my own,” he explained.
Last year, Iddo teamed with students from the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, N.C., to develop a predictive app, SmartAlarm, which uses traffic data, flight changes and other real-time information to determine the appropriate time for the user’s alarm to ring in order to get to a destination at the right time. They hope to get funding to launch the app.
“Today, many people are referring to the so-called ‘Age of Context,’ where everything will be connected and every product or service will be enhanced using data and technology from elsewhere,” he said. “SmartAlarm is a great concept that utilizes contextual technology and real-time data sources to give users a true benefit.”
This project was part of a long-distance collaboration between the two high schools. Reali, one of Israel’s oldest private schools, boasts many distinguished alumni.
“Reali is a really great school that has allowed me to do college courses and have my own startup, and we have opportunities in school to create stuff, too,” said Iddo, a computer science and physics major.
Last May, he and fellow teen entrepreneur Gil Maman – CEO of HealthBelly and an award-winning veteran of several hackathons – helped organize the Israeli branch of World Hackathon Day, held at the Google Campus in Tel Aviv. This global initiative was the brainchild of Innovation Israel co-founder and wearable technology evangelist Nir Kouris, 32.
With the help of an ROI micro-grant and corporate sponsorships, Kouris and two Netherlands-based co-founders connected Israeli teen techies with peers abroad as they hacked apps for health, finance, music, charity and travel. Hundreds participated in the weekend event last May, leading to some potential partnerships and products.
Behind the scenes, the hackathon also afforded organizational experience to enterprising teens like Iddo and Gil, and their counterparts in Holland, India, Spain, Morocco and Germany.
Iddo said he’s motivated by “all the awesome futuristic stuff out there, like GetTaxi and Waze,” both founded by young Israeli entrepreneurs, though perhaps not quite as young as he is.
“One of my role models is Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook,” said Iddo. “He went to university but didn’t stay there long. He had one good idea to pursue and went with it.”
Iddo also admires Israeli tech legend Dov Moran, one of the early pioneers of portable data storage. “I like the way he created something nobody believed he could, and now we can’t live without flash memory.”
The Haifa whiz kid muses: “One of the things about the Israeli personality and culture is that it enables you to grow quickly and is very open-minded. I could talk to investors when I was 15, and they took me seriously. I don’t know if that’s something that could happen abroad.”
Israel21Cis a nonprofit educational foundation with a mission to focus media and public attention on the 21st-century Israel that exists beyond the conflict. For more, or to donate, visit israel21c.org.
The Israeli education revolution is here. e2 Young Engineers, which started operating in 2008, is pioneering the concept of “edutainment” in the classroom, combining education and entertainment. The edutainment method is used to develop children’s knowledge and understanding of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects. In turn, Young Engineers is helping foster the next generation of engineers.
e2 Young Engineers was founded by Amir Asor, a young Israeli entrepreneur. Asor, who dealt with learning difficulties as a child, understood from firsthand experience that the way schools teach STEM does not engage all children, challenge them or give them the desire to continue learning these subjects. Inspired to change this reality, Asor began to develop the Young Engineers’ curricula. In its first year of operation, the company opened 10 centres across Israel. During the following year, 2009, the company grew to 90 centres.
The curricula created by Asor are aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 15, and operate in community centres, after-school programs, private schools, teen centres, private homes and more. e2 Young Engineers lessons are built on a logical progression of teaching theoretical material in a lively way – using engaging stories, demonstrations and experiments – and then giving the children the opportunity to build a K’nex (for the younger age group) or LEGO bricks model that illustrates the principle being studied in that lesson. At the end of the year, children who have participated in a e2 Young Engineers lesson will be able to explain, for example, what transmission is, the difference between a power-increasing transmission and a speed-increasing transmission, what centripetal and centrifugal force are and how Bernoulli’s Law works. These concepts and basic principles of physics and engineering are not sufficiently covered by traditional school curricula, and e2 Young Engineers’ courses give children great exposure and access to these professions.
e2 Young Engineers operates from north to south in Israel, and continues to grow. International recognition arrived for the company in 2011, when Asor was awarded the Youth Business International Entrepreneur of the Year prize, presented by YBI’s founder, HRH Prince Charles. Building on this, e2 Young Engineers’ franchise operation was launched in 2012; in the space of two years, franchisees from 15 different countries spanning five continents signed up, forming a family of 40 franchisees – a number that is still growing. In addition, the University of Carnegie Mellon has chosen to market Young Engineers courses through its subsidiary, iCarnegie.
The company is continuing to develop its curricula at both the technological and pedagogical levels. An intensive project to bring digital technology to the classroom is nearing completion, with the development of a 3-D application exclusive to e2 Young Engineers. The application, which is used on a tablet, contains all the building stages for every model, which can be viewed 360°. It also contains pop quizzes, fun and educational cartoons (featuring Eureka, the e2 Young Engineers mascot), and a very popular function that allows the child take a photo of themselves with the model they built and email it to their parents – or whomever they choose – via the app. In this way, parents can receive instant insight into what their child is learning and how much they are enjoying themselves.
As an Israeli company, Young Engineers has a particularly special connection with Jewish communities worldwide and, to this end, has generated much interest from Jewish schools and educators across the world, supported by the company’s active approach to cultivating such ties. The Jewish community in Vancouver – and the wider British Columbia area – has been identified as having potential for being a flag-bearer for the company in Canada. The company is open to potential franchisees from across British Columbia. Find out more by visiting youngeng.net/franchise or by emailing [email protected].
The concept of SoftWheel was initially imagined as an improvement for wheelchairs, but its potential uses are numerous. (photo from SoftWheel)
While new patents and inventions appear all the time, they don’t often aim at a mainstay, like the common wheel, which has had the same design for thousands of years.
Many inventors have focused on how a wheel connects to a vehicle through different suspension systems. An Israeli startup has infused the suspension right into the wheel itself, with a selective shock absorption system.
Dubbed “SoftWheel,” the concept was imagined by Israeli farmer Gilad Wolf when, a few years ago, he broke his pelvis and was confined to a wheelchair.
“Sitting on one of the more sturdy wheelchairs, having to manoeuvre around his fields, Gilad decided to design an improved model with suspension,” said Ronny Winshtein co-founder, inventor and former chief executive officer of SoftWheel.
Wolf partnered with some colleagues and an Israeli nonprofit organization for rehabilitation technologies called Milbat and, together, they approached Tel Aviv-based Rad-Biomed Accelerator to assist in funding and developing the project.
“Rad-Biomed CEO David Zigdon liked the idea but decided to come up with a product that would be disruptive in technology and market orientation,” said Winshtein.
With Winshtein, they decided they would put the suspension in the wheel and make it selective – i.e., to work only at high-magnitude shocks – otherwise, the wheel would remain purely round and concentric, functioning like any other wheel.
In 2011, SoftWheel was founded with this notion in mind, and it attracted some of the best and brightest players in Israel to the wheel business. One of them, Ziv-Av Engineering, assisted them in developing the wheel’s unique mechanism.
“Putting suspension into the wheel has many advantages, like giving you the freedom to plug in the suspension onto any frame you like,” said Daniel Barel, SoftWheel’s current CEO. “You can just pick one out of a catalogue. As well, the suspension covers 360 degrees of incoming shocks, rather than [the] linear shocks absorbers provided in most frames.”
Barel explained why a design like theirs had not been done until now. “With promise comes challenges, and having the shocks in the frame of a flexible wheel creates design challenges for the rest of the vehicle’s frame – a challenge fairly non-existent in wheelchairs.”
The biggest problem with wheelchairs is adding suspension to the chair, as it adds weight. “Active wheelchair users commonly disconnect the wheels from the frame when getting into their car, etc., and pull the wheelchair components with a single hand from the ground to the passenger seat … so, weight becomes a major issue,” said Barel. “By adding suspension (meaning, adding some weight) to the wheels, which are always lighter than the frame, [it is easier to manoeuvre the chair portion].… On the other hand, SoftWheel understands the need to have the lightest possible wheels, so the overall wheelchair weight won’t be more than current lightweight wheelchairs.”
What makes SoftWheel’s wheel better than any other, according to Barel, is the embedded suspension. “It’s a real suspension with not only springs, but also dampers, which are needed to absorb the shock. Also, it’s selective, so, during a ride on a regular road, the hub won’t wobble within the frame, keeping more of the good propulsion energy.”
The company has filed several different patent applications for utility and design that they are confident will provide broad protection to their inventions.
Barel acknowledged it is difficult to reconsider one of the oldest possible technologies ever invented, but also exciting.
“We’re currently focused, first and foremost, on the market, with a first product for active wheelchair users … in the very near future,” said Barel. “We also made substantial progress in designing similar wheels for commuter bicycles, some of which also include a motor in the wheel hub.” The prototype is featured in the video below.
“We also develop concepts for other types of vehicles based on our know-how and technology, and have been in discussion with some very interesting players in Israel and abroad,” he added.
The company is very proud to be part of the Israeli startup Kaleidoscope. Winshtein believes that it is not by chance that so many innovative technologies have originated in Israel. He said it is embedded in the culture, the atmosphere, jokingly adding, “Probably, also [the] heat and humidity, but mostly the openness, from any level, to try and change the world for the better.
“SoftWheel has been a globally oriented company from day one, and we already have good and friendly ties with different global and national players from different market segments.”
One of the other companies that has shown interest is an aircraft landing gear manufacturer. Another focus for SoftWheel has been implementing the technology on city bikes, as more and more cities introduce bikes that anyone can pick up and return at different locations (for a cost).
“As the wheels reduce the impact of typical street blows, both wheelchairs and bikes that use them can move around freely without having to access ramps,” said Barel. “The suspension systems currently available in city bikes are unsuitable for such obstacles and often result in the rider taking the impact. Eventually, the product will sell itself and, in doing so, it has to answer real needs for real individuals.
“Like with any new concept, you do everything in your power to bring into the market the best possible product, under time and budget constraints. With time and growth, and feedback from the users, we’ll naturally be able to improve the product in different parameters, ones we already have in mind and ones we probably hadn’t thought of yet.”
Members of Dr. Barak Dayan’s team, left to right: Serge Rosenblum, Yulia Lovsky, Orel Bechler and Itay Shomroni. (photo from wis-wander.weizmann.ac.il)
Weizmann Institute scientists have demonstrated for the first time a photonic router – a quantum device based on a single atom that enables routing of single photons by single photons. This achievement, as reported in Science magazine in July, is another step toward overcoming the difficulties in building quantum computers.
At the core of the device is an atom that can switch between two states. The state is set by sending a single particle of light – or photon – from the right or the left via an optical fibre. The atom, in response, then reflects or transmits the next incoming photon accordingly. For example, in one state, a photon coming from the right continues on its path to the left, whereas a photon coming from the left is reflected backwards, causing the atomic state to flip. In this reversed state, the atom lets photons coming from the left continue in the same direction, while any photon coming from the right is reflected backwards, flipping the atomic state back again. This atom-based switch is solely operated by single photons – no additional external fields are required.
“In a sense, the device acts as the photonic equivalent to electronic transistors, which switch electric currents in response to other electric currents,” explained Dr. Barak Dayan, head of the Weizmann Institute’s Quantum Optics group, which includes Itay Shomroni, Serge Rosenblum, Yulia Lovsky, Orel Bechler and Gabriel Guendleman of the chemical physics department in the faculty of chemistry. The photons are not only the units comprising the flow of information, but also the ones that control the device.
This achievement was made possible by the combination of two state-of-the-art technologies. One is the laser cooling and trapping of atoms. The other is the fabrication of chip-based, ultra-high-quality miniature optical resonators that couple directly to the optical fibres. Dayan’s lab at the Weizmann Institute is one of a handful worldwide that has mastered both these technologies.
The main motivation behind the effort to develop quantum computers is the quantum phenomenon of superposition, in which particles can exist in many states at once, potentially being able to process huge amounts of data in parallel. Yet superposition can only last as long as nothing observes or measures the system, otherwise it collapses to a single state. Therefore, photons are the most promising candidates for communication between quantum systems as they do not interact with each other at all, and interact very weakly with other particles.
“The road to building quantum computers is still very long,” said Dayan, “but the device we constructed demonstrates a simple and robust system, which should be applicable to any future architecture of such computers. In the current demonstration, a single atom functions as a transistor – or a two-way switch – for photons, but in our future experiments, we hope to expand the kinds of devices that work solely on photons, for example new kinds of quantum memory or logic gates.”