Stellar Startups: IBM’s happy (smart) campers

Israel is one of nine hi-tech hot spots that IBM is trawling for the “next big thing”; five israeli companies to compete in SmartCamp competition.

By DAVID SHAMAH
September 19, 2011 22:21
4 minute read.
IBM Israel director presents the SmartCamp winner

IBM Israel director presents the SmartCamp winner award. (photo credit: IBM)

Camp is usually a rewarding experience, a nice break from the humdrum of school and work. And the companies attending IBM SmartCamp Israel (ibmsmartcamp.wordpress.com) may have a rewarding experience all their own – a prize package designed to bump up the startup that wins the contest, and a chance to compete in the worldwide SmartCamp competition that could bring a very bright future to the winning company.

It’s a long and exhausting process, picking the companies that are good enough to wear the IBM “winner’s medal.” When the call for participants in the contest first went out several months ago, over 70 Israeli companies answered and presented their ideas and projects to impress IBM Israel executives. At the end, only five remained – and those five will go head-to-head in the Israel finals of IBM SmartCamp this week.

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The winner will receive all sorts of goodies – a mentoring and guidance package from IBM, help with patents and presentations, a free year’s membership in the High-Tech Industry Association – and a plane ticket to the finals of SmartCamp, to be held at the beginning of 2012 in the US (final venue still pending). If IBM is one of the top tech companies in the world, the company that wins SmartCamp could be considered one of the top startups in the world. Quite an honor!

Israel is one of nine hi-tech hot spots that IBM is trawling for the “next big thing.” Events have already been held in Bangalore, Austin, Barcelona, and New York City, and will also be held in Istanbul, China, Rio, and London. Each location supplies five finalists, with one selected by a panel of local IBM executives, as well as top managers. Companies need to be five years old or younger (early stage), with a maximum turnover of $1,000,000 in the last 12 months.

So what does it take to get into a contest like this – let alone win it?

“Obviously we want the best of the best startups,” says Ahuva Kamar, organizer of the Israel event. “We are looking for companies that will enhance IBM’s vision of a smarter planet. The startups we are looking for are more likely to be working in enterprise, as opposed to the consumer space, and they will answer to one of our ‘three I’s’ – with products or services that are more instrumented, intelligent, and/or interconnected. The five finalists certainly meet these criteria.”

Those three I’s says Kamar, will be driving the smarter computer systems of the future that IBM is developing. “Instrumented” means capturing or integrating data using devices like sensors, kiosk, meters, PDAs, appliances, cameras (still and video), smart phones, implanted medical devices, or the web – anything that captures reliable digital information and feeds into a system is eligible, as long as it uses an instrument to do so. “Interconnected” means integrating data in order to enhance the data’s value – like a better way to connect people using Web 2.0 technologies. And “intelligent” means just what it says – a better, smarter way to do things that makes life easier or better for users.

The five finalists certainly answer to these criteria. C-B4 Predictive Analytics, for example, developed a system for identifying and analyzing hidden data patterns in large scale data warehouses, something that can make things more efficient – and more profitable – for retailers and corporate sales managers.

Mintigo offers a solution that enables businesses in various industries to intelligently leverage internal and external data, turning it into customer insights and new sales opportunities, doubling sales conversion rates.

FST21, founded by former Military Intelligence head Aharon Zeevi Farkash, developed an access management system, called SafeRise, designed to enhance security levels at residential and office buildings. Seculert’s novel cybersecurity system enables early-detection and blocking of cyberborne threats targeted at the organization’s network. And Wave Guard Technologies offers an efficient and inexpensive solution for monitoring and controlling cellular radiation emanating from cell towers and antennas.

Last year’s Israel winner was Panoramic Power, which provides on-line monitoring of energy use and power flow, allowing managers to more easily figure out how to save energy – and money. The worldwide winner was a Silicon Valley company, Streetline, which uses sensors to determine where there are available parking spaces in a city, and a cellphone app that directs drivers to those spots.

Ultimately, SmartCamp, and IBM’s “smarter planet” strategy, is about using more computing power to use resources – environmental, business, government, security, etc. – more efficiently. In a “smart city,” you would have a system that would save drivers’ time and frustration, using the Internet to supply real-time information on where parking spots were available, instead of forcing them to endlessly drive around looking for a spot. And in a smart city, you would have an office building or mall where a computerized system would tell you where electricity is being wasted, as Panoramic Power’s solution does, so you could save energy – and of course, money.

Ditto for the other finalists, including last year’s and the ones chosen so far this year. There are lots of great ideas out there – so what are Israel’s chances?

“This year I think they are very good,” says Kamar. “We have a lot of good companies with projects that are unique, and are not being done elsewhere, so I think the judges at the finals will be impressed.” Meanwhile, there is the local contest to get through – and IBM Israel invites you to watch it live online tomorrow at www.livestream.com/ibmsoftware.


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