Widget expo

September 8, 2008 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Business, General, Technology 

The 2007 Conference of Israeli InventorsThis Thursday brings the second annual Conference of Israeli Inventors to Tel Aviv University’s Smolarz Auditorium. Touted as the biggest-ever exhibition of inventions in the history of the country, the event is being organized by Yossef Schneider, founder and director of the Israel Center of Inventors, a kind of trade group/incubator that helps innovators bring products from twinkle in the eye to consumers’ homes through Schneider’s eponymous methods.

Sure, Israel’s status as a hotbed of innovation has been well established, but when it comes to individual ideas that can sometimes come out of nowhere, the channels for moving things forward are not necessarily accessible to all. The community of inventors is far from jelled, and the government can be going a lot more to help foster grassroots development. As Schneider told ISRAEL21c last year at the first conference,

“Without our noticing it, technological advances and quality of life are getting better, and higher quality products are being introduced into the mainstream. If inventors don’t get the right kind of attention, we and the public lose.”

To that end, the 2008 conference’s guest of honor is slated to be Shas party head Eli Yishai. While at first glance, the guest seems like he may be an odd choice, he is serving as the current government’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade, and Labour, so his participation may mean that the halls of power are paying attention to Schneider’s efforts.

Planners are expecting some 3000 participants, three times last year’s turnout, with the main exhibition supplemented by booths and presentations on obtaining patents, incubating ideas, intellectual property law, environmentalism, receiving investments, branding, research methodology and marketing.

Apple Store sort of opening in Tel Aviv

August 11, 2008 by · 11 Comments
Filed under: Business, Pop Culture, Technology 

Ipod TouchTo say that Israel’s relationship with Apple computer has not been the most fruitful is somewhat of an understatement. The sole distributor of Apple’s products here never bother to market to anyone and basically ran a small sales operation for business. Their basic customer support was abysmal and even if your computer was covered under Applecare (Apple’s extended warranty) you would have to pull teeth to actually get your computer fixed. Thankfully these days are long gone. The new distributor, idigital, has gone to great lengths to not only properly market Apple products, but to treat the customer with respect. They have quickly garnered an excellent reputation among Israeli mac users.

No, we still don’t have the beloved iphone, but we are getting our own Apple Store, albeit not a real Apple Store.

The Jpost reports:

What if you don’t want to spend all that airfare just for a shopping experience? Well, pretty soon you won’t have to: Israel is set to get its own Apple Store around the beginning of September, according to an Apple rep I spoke to this week. But like so many things here, the local version is just different enough from the “real thing” to be – well, different.

According to Michal, who represented iDigital (Apple’s local licensee in Israel) in our conversation, the Apple Store Israel “will give customers the full Apple Store experience,” although the store will not be operated by Apple, as Apple Stores elsewhere are. The store will feature a genius bar – where you can pick the brains of an expert on Apple products or software. The store, to be located at the Ramat Aviv Mall, will have a layout and product display similar to Apple Stores around the world. But the Apple Store Israel is a project of iDigital.

Not necessarily a bad thing. According to the article they’ll also be offering training much like the Apple stores do in America. One item the article does not cover are iDigital’s outrageous prices. Macs are generally more expensive products but in Israel their prices can be completely inaccessible.

For example the 8gb ipod touch retails for $299 in the United States and it can be purchased here for $557! That is almost double the price. If buying a large computer it looks like it would probably be more economic to travel outside the country to buy one. Unbelievable.

Foto Friday – Solar UFOs Over Haifa

Haifa is Israel’s home to UFO activity but these objects, although flying, aren’t unidentified. They’re prototypes for the SunHopes project, a breakthrough solar energy product developed by Dr. Pini Gurfil and Dr. Joseph Cory of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology.
Joseph Cory - SunHopes
According to the project website, “Lightweight, thin-film photovoltaic cells are attached to the exterior surface of large helium balloons levitating at altitudes ranging from a few meters to a few hundred meters. The electricity generated by the cells is then conducted to the ground using electrical cables…” In other words, higly sophisticated balloon-on-a-string technology!
Joseph Cory - SunHopes
These magnificent photos document the project’s successful 2007 pilot, in which 50 watts of power were generated. That’s enough juice for only a single dim light bulb, but hey!, that’s what pilots are for. The project is seeking funding for the R&D phase for an upgraded prototype, capable of providing 1 kilowatt of power, and then, as my dad used to say, we’ll be cookin’ with gas.
Joseph Cory - SunHopes
A word about flying saucers and Haifa. In March 1950, Reuters reported that, “Flying saucers… have been reported skittering in all directions across the heavens above the Mediterranean. In Haifa today, reports circulated that they had been seen over northern Israel.” Throughout the 1980s, tales of mysterious flashing lights were periodically reported by local Haifa rag “Kol Haifa”. A quick flick through Google Hebrew reveals that UFO activity – at least on the part of those actively seeking UFOs – is alive and well. After all, wouldn’t seeing something like this floating over your home one bright day make a true believer out of you?
Joseph Cory - SunHopes

The Jurassic Park of seeds

June 15, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Environment, Food, General, Technology 

Israeli agrotech experts like to break the bounds of science every now and then – well actually pretty frequently. So it should come as no surprise that a team of Israeli researchers has now resurrected a 2,000-year-old date tree by using a seed excavated from Masada.

judean date1.gif
What a fun project this must have been.

Apparently the seed was one of three discovered at the ancient Jewish fortress in the 1960s and was radiocarbon-dated to the 1st century BCE – AD73 to be exact – around the time the Romans laid siege to Masada.

Three years ago, a team from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies bathed the seeds in fertilizer and enzyme-rich solutions and then planted them.

Lo and behold, about four weeks later one of the seeds sprouted, making it the oldest germinated seed in the world. Today’s it’s a four-foot tall Judean palm sapling called Methuselah –named by the scientists after the oldest person in the Hebrew bible.

The main researcher, Elaine Solowey – who was featured on ISRAEL21c some months ago and specializes in reviving extinct plants, said: “I really never thought we would get life out of this group of seeds because when we first acquired them, they looked so dry. Most of the seeds were dead and then suddenly, we saw that we could get life out of this one.”

According to the scientists this region was once covered in thick forests of Judean palms reaching up top 80 feet high, but they have all become extinct. Methuselah is the only living Judean date palm in the world.

date palm1.jpg

The researchers hope that by reviving the plant they can study its medicinal uses. It’s also got quite a bit of history behind it – researchers believe the seeds were most likely the remnants of fruits stored or eaten by the Zealot Jewish community living in Masada at that time.

Perhaps I watch too much Sci-Fi. Although I think this is absolutely fascinating, there’s also part of me that finds it faintly scary.

A resurrected seed… what comes next?

Yossi Vardi’s billion dollar suggestion

June 2, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: General, Technology 

Yossi Vardi is the most public face of Israel’s internet industry. Vardi has been a player in the Israeli hi-tech sector for years but solidified his status as the godfather of Israel’s internet scene when he sold ICQ for over 400 million dollars.Yossi Vardi

He is a doer, a connector and by many accounts incredibly generous with his money, so he is also a dream fulfiller – giving seed money to a myriad of young Israelis with big ideas. He’s put his money behind successful startups such as Answers.com, Speedbit and FoxyTunes, which was recently acquired by Yahoo.

Vardi doesn’t lack his own ideas, that’s for sure. Case in point: The revelation by Google founder, Sergey Brin, that Vardi helped inspired Google. “Yossi invented for us the magic formula,” he said with a smile. “He told us to devote two thirds of the [internet] page to original results, and a third to advertisements, and that is what we did.” As quoted by Ha’aretz in an event at GarageGeeks, a venture capital funded space for techies to get their geek on.

Well isn’t that the cherry on top of the malabi: On top of all of Israel’s contributions to hi-tech, we’ve also invented Google.

Kind of.

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