After the terrible week that we’ve just gone through I was once again in two minds about writing a Good News Friday post. But the hope and the faith displayed by families Frenkel, Shayer and Yifrah during the search for their sons and then during the heart-breaking funeral, and especially the wish expressed by the parents that we need to do positive things, to do mitzvot and not despair, persuaded me to go ahead with this week’s installment.
I’ll start with a new smartphone app designed by United Hatzalah, an app that could have saved the three boys if only it had been developed sooner: an SOS app that will alert the authorities in case of kidnapping:
Following the murders of three kidnapped youths, 60,000 Israelis have already downloaded the one-swipe emergency alert application that was recently offered free to the public by the volunteer rescue organization, United Hatzalah.
Parents are urged to download the lifesaving app called SOS, which could prevent future abductions, UH founder and president Eli Beer said.
With one swipe of the finger, SOS subscribers can inform the nonprofit organization, which has an active switchboard around the clock, that they are in distress and give the security forces permission to track their location using patented GPS technology. The application, launched days after news of the abductions emerged, is available on all major smartphones.
The app places an emergency call to the police in the event of a kidnapping situation.
Until now, security forces would have to undergo lengthy legal processes to obtain permission to track a person’s cellphone signal, prolonging emergency response times and reducing the chance of rescue.
While police received a distress call from one of the abducted teens minutes after they where taken on June 12, security forces were unable to determine their exact location or whether it was a crank call.
The SOS app is based on United Hatzalah’s Irving and Cherna Moskowitz LifeCompass system, developed by NowForce, which has been instrumental in making UH the fastest emergency rapid response service in the world; volunteers arrive within an average of three minutes. The LifeCompass technology was first developed for UH to ensure that medical volunteers and its trademark 300 ambucycles closest to an emergency receive mobile alerts.
The LifeCompass system optimizes response time by using GPS technology.
In a case of serious injury, time is limited – often to a three-minute window. The SOS app takes the technology one step further with its easy single-swipe activation.
The murders have highlighted the need for additional tools and technologies to avert such disasters. In regular calls to the police, such as the one made by the kidnapped teenager, court permission is needed in order to track a mobile phone, said Beer. This procedure uses up precious minutes.
The new emergency alert incorporates a waiver in the registration process, allowing UH volunteers at the 24/7 dispatch center to track a situation from first alert until it is cleared. In addition to tracking the user via the smartphone, the system contacts any family or friends that are pre-programmed into the system during registration. Every call is taken seriously and followed up. Registration helps ensure that the app is not abused.
The app is designed to function as an emergency safety and security alert system and is not meant to replace direct verbal communication with police, fire or medical emergency dispatchers. It is available on sos.nowforce.com in English and Hebrew.
Israeli media have reported that the teens were shot by their abductors in panic after they realized a call had been placed to police. The app allows for a discrete method to call for help, its creators say.
An Israeli firm has developed the world’s first nanotech-based “electronic nose” to sniff out security threats like bombs, biological warfare agents, and toxic liquids. The developers say their new nose even outperforms dogs and will be available next year.
The system, designed by Tel Aviv-based Tracense Systems, can detect even the smallest amounts of material, according to Dr. Ricardo Osiroff, the company’s CEO.
“Our ‘laboratory-on-a-chip’ nano-sensors can detect a wide range of chemical threats, such as explosives, chemical and biological warfare agents, in air, solid and liquid samples, at extremely low concentrations, unmatched by existing technologies,” said Osiroff. “Our system meets and beats the capabilities of dogs and other animals.”
“Smell” is a manifestation of specific molecules, and each smell gives off its own specific chemical qualities. So detecting an odor is just a matter of figuring out which molecules are being “smelled” – no biggie for modern science. Several systems already do just that, using analytical chemistry-based equipment.
The problem is that those systems are generally too large and expensive to be deployed in the field, said Osiroff. Most of the equipment available, said Osiroff, besides being expensive and bulky, is “limited” to specific groups of smells, requires tedious sample collection procedures, and does not have enough sensitivity to detect small amounts of molecules. Turning it into an effective device that can be used practically by police, security officials, airport personnel, and others charged with public safety and security is the challenge.
That’s where Tracense’s innovations come in, said Osiroff. “Our proprietary inventions in the field of applied nano-technology allow us to develop arrays of hundreds of tiny sensors on a silicon chip to that mimic nature’s smelling sense, along with the software needed to analyze these tests. Nano sensors of unparalleled sensitivity are able to detect the most minute traces of chemicals, as low as a few molecules per 1,000 trillion, from air, liquid and particle samples with great reliability, ease of use and at low cost.” He did not quote a figure.
With its technology, Tracense is developing handheld devices that can be used in a wide variety of security scenarios – airports, mass transit stations, public buildings, trade flow, infrastructure, major events, malls, post offices, or in any other setting where the presence of dangerous materials is suspected. The system has been successfully tested on materials like TNT, RDX and HMX, along with peroxide-based explosives like TATP and HMTD.
With this week’s news of the US demanding enhanced security at airports worldwide from where planes fly directly to America, this Tracense development is exactly what is needed. It’s just a pity its’ not quite online yet. Travellers to America are going to have to suffer intrusive searches and long waits until Tracense is used widely.
Watch how Tracense works:
I hope that with these items I have managed to bring some measure of comfort and good news to cheer us up for Shabbat.
I wish all of Am Yisrael a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of peace and quiet and safety for all.