There’s a reason Israel has been dubbed the “start-up nation,” as innovations coming out of the holy land are so numerous, it’s hard to narrow down the top ten. Israel ranked a close third in the US-Israel Innovation Index this year, an indicator of high-level innovation in cooperation with the US. From Google’s purchase of Israeli traffic app Waze to a booming trend in 3D printing, Israel is on the cutting edge. Here are a few interesting stories from this year:
This bionic exoskeleton enables paraplegic users to stand upright, walk and even climb stairs using powered leg attachments. A battery pack is carried on the user’s back and the whole thing is controlled by wrist-mounted remote. This empowering device was named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 25 Inventions of 2013.
Developed by Haifa-based Technion professor Hossam Haick, the Na-Nose, or Nanoscale Artificial Nose, is intended to detect lung cancer from exhaled breath. International clinical trials have demonstrated the Na-Nose can differentiate between different types and classifications of cancer with up to 95 percent accuracy. The device will be commercialized in a joint venture between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and Alpha Szenszor, a Boston-based manufacturer of carbon nanotube sensing equipment.
What Israeli innovation list would be complete without a new app? Parko, which technically got its start late last year, spread this year to the US, sharing the joys of crowdsourcing a common problem: lack of parking. Parko connects users leaving a parking spot with other users in the area seeking one. Notifying other drivers that you are leaving comes with incentives — Parko credits that can be used to continue to access the service. Parko beat out 80 other startups and app developers to win the Israel Mobile Challenge last year.
Bob Dylan’s 1965 classic, “Like a Rolling Stone,” never had an official music video until Israeli start-up Interlude created one this year, taking the internet by storm. Interlude turns music videos into remarkable interactive and multi-layered digital experiences, and “Like a Rolling Stone” is no exception. The interactive video features sixteen television channels, which viewers can flip through using keystrokes, each showing different TV personalities lip-synching to the famous song. One station even has footage of Dylan himself in concert. As Interlude CEO, singer-songwriter Yoni Bloch put it, ”You’ll always miss something because you can’t watch everything at the same time.”
Professor of Biology Shimon Gepstein of Haifa’s Technion University discovered quite by accident that his experimentation with genetically modified plants created a strain that was resistant to drought. According to Gepstein, “The vegetables and fruits now last double and sometimes three times more after they are cut if they come from the genetically modified plants. I took a modified lettuce home and it took 21 days for it to start getting brown, whereas normal lettuces go bad in five or six days.” The plants sustain the production of the hormone zytokinin, which prevents aging and facilitates continued photosynthesis. “These plants can survive droughts, they can go on for a month without water and even if you water them, they only need 30 percent the amount of liquid normal plants do,” Gepstein says. These superplants could have important implications in drought-affected areas.
This remarkable young Israeli woman was named one of MIT’s 5 Young Innovators under 35 for 2013. She started university at age 15, earned a PhD by 26, and now, at 27, she’s making headlines around the world for predicting the future. Her software culls information from over 500-years-worth of literature, including every New York Times published since 1880, and finds patterns which can be applied today. She predicted Cuba’s first cholera outbreak in 130 years by examining weather patterns and their relationship to epidemics. She was also able to predict riots in Sudan, Turkey, Syria and Egypt before they occurred.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s “First Hebrew City,” got its first electric bus this past August. The electric bus is outfitted with batteries on the roof, under the seats and under the front wheels. It takes about 4-5 hours to charge at a Gnrgy charging station set up in the Dan parking lots at either end of the route. The bus can run up to 250 km (about 155 miles) on a single charge, more than enough for its daily urban needs.
Tamar-Tech was created to reduce the level of chemical exposure we receive through pesticides. System creator Agro Shelef studied the natural pest-fighting resources of plants to develop an emulsion that can be sprayed harmlessly on plants and protect them from unwanted invaders. “We basically collected a lot of different oils and chemicals like this from different plants, found out what they each did. Then we created a formula that balances the different actions,” Agro Shelef founder Almog Yaish explains. “A key advantage of using vegetable oils is that pests cannot easily develop a resistance to them.”
The cornerstone of Israel’s future Refuse Derived Fuel plant was laid in October, at the Hiriya Recycling Park in the Dan region, not far from Tel Aviv. The plant will use a process of dry combustion, known as RDF, to extract fuel from waste. “This is a project that is going to generate a whole revolution in the treatment of waste in the Dan area and the whole of Israel,” said Gila Oron, head of the Tel Aviv region at the Interior Ministry. Ultimately, the plant will receive 540,000 tons of trash annually, making it the largest RDF plant in all of the Middle East and one of the largest such facilities in the world, according to Veolia Environment, one of the partners involved in the project.
On the subject of water shortages, students Yossi Taplitzky, Ofer Zakun and Guy Almagor of Ariel University have developed a water conservation system to deal with a common problem: cold shower water. Under the guidance of Dr. Shimon Leinkin and Dr. Irit Avrahami from the Department of Mechanical Engineering & Mechatronics, the three created the Has-Ham, which is installed in showers and reserves unwanted cold water for future household use. Has-Ham, which comes from the Hebrew words for save and hot, redirects the initial cold water that runs from the water tank towards the shower head, releasing the water into the shower only when it is finally running hot.