Startup nations | Israeli innovators looking to win big at CES in Las Vegas

Imagine being able to wear a device on your finger that could turn any surface into a richly interactive touchscreen, or attaching a sensor to your air conditioner that would automatically conserve energy. These are just two of the technologies under development by Israeli companies that will be on display at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 6-9 in Las Vegas.

CES is one of the biggest conferences of its kind in the world, drawing some 3,600 exhibitors and 150,000 people, with plenty of media coverage on the latest and coolest gadgets to hit the circuit. The Israeli delegation will feature 16 companies displaying their inventions as they aim to demonstrate to the world how innovative the startup nation really is.

Traditionally, many technologies coming out of Israel have served business needs, with tech giants like Check Point, NICE Systems, Xura (formerly Comverse) and Verint focusing on enterprise software, catering to organizations rather than individuals.

However, the trend has been shifting, with more Israeli companies focusing on consumers and end users. The most prominent example is probably navigation app Waze, used by millions of drivers in the world. It was acquired by Google in 2013 for around $1 billion. The Israeli consumer electronics industry includes more than 500 companies in a variety of industries, including cellphones, smart devices, gaming and the Internet of Things — the idea of connecting the web to ordinary devices, such as thermostats or refrigerators, that enables the collection and use of data.

One of the companies presenting at CES is MUV Interactive, makers of a device worn on the finger that reportedly can turn any surface into a touchscreen. Internet of Things company Sensibo — originally crowdfunded through Indiegogo — is an energy-saving smart device for air conditioners that aims to establish itself alongside Nest. Also joining the delegation is SwitchBee, which has developed a wireless solution for upgrading homes to smart-homes without the need for invasive wiring or time-consuming work on infrastructure. SwitchBee says it only takes 90 minutes to upgrade with nothing but a screwdriver.

BreezoMeter measures local air-pollution levels on a mobile app, providing a way to measure air quality where you live or work. It also gives advice regarding healthy activities given the current level of pollution. It can even help users make informed choices about where to live based on a history of air-quality data at street level. BreezoMeter representatives impressed at this year’s DLD, the innovation conference in Tel Aviv. The city was hit by a freak sandstorm — an excellent occasion to showcase BreezoMeter technology.

Other Israeli technologies on display will range from water-saving smart-home devices to 3D wearables.

Israel had its first national pavilion at CES last year, hosting 12 companies and receiving rave reviews from consumers and the media. One such company was ZUtA Labs, which makes a portable printer measuring only 4 inches across. The printer is a mini-robot that runs over paper on small wheels, giving users the ability to print via their smartphones anytime and on any size paper.

Another past presenter was StoreDot, which makes an ultra-fast charging hub for cellphones that the company reports can charge any phone in just one minute. Following StoreDot’s success at the conference, it secured an $18 million round of funding that will help it develop instantly charging batteries for electric cars.


Startup of the month

Haystack has created a mobile app that produces free digital business cards and automatically updates the cards users receive — simplifying and streamlining the transfer of contact information. When one of your contacts gets promoted or changes jobs, offices or phone numbers, all contact details are automatically updated on your phone.


Exit of the month

S.F.-based Prosper Marketplace acquired Israeli financial technology startup BillGuard for a reported $30 million in cash and an undisclosed stock package. Heralded as the “Best Finance App of 2014” by the Google Play store, BillGuard helps consumers detect fraudulent charges on their credit cards, an ever-increasing global problem affecting millions of people. The BillGuard app offers spending analytics, credit score reporting and credit usage tracking.

Gili Ovadia
is the S.F.-based Israeli consul for economic affairs to the West Coast.