Sunday 8 November 2009

Hi-tech in Silicon Wadi

In its short history, Israel has developed a name for technological innovation and advancement. In this respect, Israel is often compared to the famous Silicon Valley in California which is the hotbed of world technological development. Although comparisons are validly made between the two and close connections are forged in the interests of cooperating to advance the world's technology, the truth is that the differences are as remarkable as the similarities.

Israel has been in existence for a mere 61 years. During this time, she has been forced to devote a vast slice of her human and monetary resources to fighting wars in the defence of her right to continue to exist at all. Many other countries in the same situation would have collapsed and fallen by the way a long time ago. But Israel has succeeded not only in surviving 61 amazing years, but also in developing some world firsts. Silicon Valley, on the other hand, has been the beneficiary of many millions of dollars of investment money and a stable environment to cultivate new technologies. The link has resulted in Israel gaining the nickname "Silicon Wadi" after its more famous US counterpart.

I have chosen on this occasion to focus on three amazing developments that have come out of Israel. These are true technological firsts. They are three of numerous other unique developments that have come from Israel. I hope to cover other developments separately in the future.

Telephone Transmission:
Israeli company ECI Telecom was the first to develop Digital Circuit Multiplication Equipment (DCME) in the world. This is equipment that is attached to undersea and satellite telecommunications infrastructure to allow the transmission of many more simultaneous phone calls than the infrastructure was originally designed to carry. If an undersea cable was originally designed to carry 64 simultaneous phone calls, the attachment of DCME to the cable enable the transmission of many more calls without the need to upgrade the cable infrastructure. DCME was first marketed in 1988 and is still in use by many large telecommunications companies around the world, saving many millions in infrastructure costs.

Voice over IP:
Internet Protocol (IP) is the protocol that was developed for communicating data across networks. This is more recent than the protocol that was traditionally used for communicating voice for many years before. So it was a significant development when Israeli company Vocaltec succeeded in launching "Internet Phone", the first application that truly allowed the average person to communicate using a voice call over the Internet. Vocaltec's ground-breaking technology is the base for better known applications such as Skype, Jajah, and numerous others. Unfortunately, Vocaltec was never really able to build upon its amazing invention and many other companies managed to leapfrog it whilst using its technology. But Vocaltec is universally recognised as being the first of its kind.

Camera in a Pill:
Israeli company Given Imaging is the first and only company to develop a camera that is small enough to fit into a pill that can be swallowed by a human. The purpose of the camera is to create a short video film of the inside of the patient's body, and transmit the video to computers outside the body such that physicians can analyse its details. The video can transmit images for up to 8 hours before it is expelled from the body. The technology was initially developed by Gabriel Iddan who honed his scientific skills developing missiles for the Israeli military. This technology was used and is now evident in the capsules that are being sold around the world to assist the examination of the internal workings of the human body. Recent advancements to the pill include the ability to "control" the movement and location of the capsule inside the body. In this way, doctors can focus on particular areas and gain extended exposure of certain critical parts of the body in a way that was not possible before.

These remarkable stories show that it is possible to make an impact on the world and to create business opportunities, even in the absence of natural resources or a classic stable working environment. Sometimes big dreams, hard work and great ideas are enough to make the world sit up.

I hope that the above stories have created an appetite for additional Israeli technology stories. I hope to be able to discuss other stories in the future.

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