Israeli companies are being founded by veterans of the IDF’s 8200 intelligence unit, who use military principles to build scalable businesses.
By: Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman/JNS.org
Did you know that the same Israeli technology used to track the virtual movements across the internet of terrorists with multiple social network accounts and various aliases is being used to protect you from fraud?
BioCatch’s software checks more than 500 bio-behavioral, cognitive and physiological parameters to create unique user profiles for visitors to banking and eCommerce sites, distinguishing between good users and criminal users.
Ron Moritz, head of enterprise infrastructure and cyber security software for the equity crowdfunding platform OurCrowd and BioCatch’s former interim CEO, said the company’s software tracks hand tremors, hand-eye coordination, the distinctive way an individual moves his mouse, taps his phone and types on his keyboard, and other behavioral traits to create a user profile that can be continuously authenticated at every stage of an online banking session.
“The software can differentiate between a legitimate user and someone who accessed your account nefariously by delivering a cognitive biometric profile of each legitimate user,” explained Moritz. “This is the next revolution in fraud protection. It’s brilliant, only-from-Israel stuff.”
BioCatch was one of 1,000 start-ups and other OurCrowd technology portfolio companies that took part in the summit on Feb. 1 in Jerusalem. The event, the largest annual investor conference showcasing the latest in mobility technology, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence and medical technology, drew 10,000 people from 90 countries, including the start-ups and 500 multinational firms.
Moritz said it has long been understood that Israel’s “start-up nation” culture was built on the entrepreneurial spirit of IDF combat veterans who were taught discipline and the need to set up systems, and then break them to survive. But he said that more than ever, Israeli companies are being founded by veterans of the IDF’s 8200 military intelligence unit, who use military principles to build scalable businesses.
“Most people outside Israel don’t see the connection between their military graduates and industry,” said Moritz. “But in the last 20 years, former soldiers in their early 20s are being given responsibility over technology, people and multi-million-dollar innovation budgets. They don’t have much formal education, but they’re being told because of the geopolitical situation that they must stay ahead and current, so they do.”
‘mPrest’ by the military
That’s how mPrest got started. The command and control management company enables the integration of multiple complex systems, dramatically reducing project development time, cost and risk for systems integrators and organizations worldwide.
Ulik Broida, marketing vice president at mPrest, told JNS that the company’s founder and CEO, Natan Barak, finished the army and immediately started leveraging what he learned to work in the defense and homeland security arenas. The technology of mPrest is at the heart of Israel’s Iron Dome short-range missile defense system.
“A missile is coming toward Israel. We have radars scattered around Israel and we need to collect information from all the radars and analyze it,” Broida said. “We could have 20 or 30 missiles coming at the same time, but some could fall in open spaces and somewhere there are civilians. We wouldn’t want to waste our resources on a missile that will fall in an open field.”
In one second, the system can calculate thousands of pieces of data, decide if it wants to shoot down the missile—and if so, which of the Iron Dome batteries throughout Israel should be used—and give the command to a specific missile to go in a specific direction at a specific time.
“It’s a classic control and command app,” said Broida.
Recently, mPrest decided to leverage its technology for the utility marketplace. Broida said utility distribution centers can use the system to optimize power distribution. The system tracks energy usage trends and can predict changes in weather that might lead to increases or decreases in energy consumption.
In New Zealand, for example, Vector, the country’s largest, multi-network infrastructure company, which distributes energy and communication services to more 1.2 million homes and businesses, deploys mPrest technology in its intelligent grid. Broida said mPrest has enabled Vector to improve operational efficiencies by unifying its varied energy resources, including solar photovoltaic systems, next-generation storage and demand response onto a single distributed command and control system.
Though mPrest cannot use its actual Iron Dome system due to national security reasons, “it is the same technology, same principle, same algorithms” as the one used by the IDF, said Broida.
He said it was easy for mPrest to make the transition to the civilian marketplace because “when you come from Israel and have a defense background, you immediately get respect and the attention of the customer.”
“Many companies have very nice brochures and presentations, but when your tech has been used in Israel’s defense system, you can trust it as battle tested,” Broida said. He also noted that companies believe Israeli military graduates know how to operate quickly and under pressure.
“You think you cannot compare between the command and control system of a tank and a utility, but it is all control and command, and this is an area we mastered,” he said.
From Syria to Kansas
Most of CropX’s 20 R&D engineers were members of an IDF technology unit, today applying their analytics acumen to the American agricultural technology industry.
CropX’s irrigation system is based on a “revolutionary spiral design,” CEO Tomer Tzach told JNS. He said the easy installation system allows farmers to get the most from their soil.
The censors measure soil moisture and temperature, and transmit the results back to an app on the farmer’s phone. The farmer can then adapt his or her irrigation plan. The censor transmits the data via SMS to the cloud, alleviating the challenge of lack of connectivity in rural areas.
“Our system works anywhere across the globe,” said Tzach.
The censors are already being used in the mass market by commodity (corn, potatoes, alfalfa, soy) farmers. The censors can be installed in five minutes by the farmers themselves.
“Talented guys from the army’s tech units are applying what they learned to the civilian space,” Tzach said. “We have one developer who was in an elite force and what he did was develop various sensors to collect data from enemy territory. Now this same technology is going to Kansas and Nebraska.”
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