Tech Talk: Coexistence in technology

A week ago in Nazareth, some 100 developers and programmers, both Arabs and Jews, worked for 36 hours straight and developed apps, software and advanced products at Tsofen's Make-a-thon competition.

November 3, 2014 15:54

Tsofen encourages the establishment and development of hi-tech centers in major Arab cities and communities.. (photo credit: Courtesy)

A week ago in Nazareth, close to a 100 developers and programmers, both Arabs and Jews, worked for 36 hours straight and developed applications, software and advanced products at the Make-a-thon competition that combines the Hackathon with Makers.

The event was organized by the Tsofen Organization, established in 2007 by Sami Saadi and Smadar Ivory, an Arab entrepreneur and a hi-tech woman, who made it their goal to be a catalyst for connecting the hi-tech industry to the Arab society and especially to attract hi-tech enterprises to the Arab communities. The main goal of the organization is to create a joint society through a joint economy.

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Tsofen works in two ways. Firstly, it brings Arab citizens to the hi-tech world by giving them training courses and professional placement with leading Israeli mentors.

Secondly, it encourages the establishment and development of hi-tech centers in major Arab cities and communities.

In a conversation with the event’s organizers, Saadi, the co-CEO and cofounder of Tsofen, said: “We at Tsofen are proud to lead Arab society through a tremendous change and the transformation in Nazareth in particular.

The Hackathon in Nazareth has become a tradition and a great source of knowledge for developers and great minds from across the c o u n t r y.

They also provide a great opportunity for young people to be exposed to wide technology events for the first time. I thank all the partners of Tsofen who volunteered to come and help at this event, especially the current participants who are the new ambassadors of Tsofen who bring hi-tech industries to the Arab community.”

Paddy Swidan, the director of the business incubator in Nazareth, said: “This business incubator in Nazareth is the only company that creates startups in the Arab sector.

For the past three years we have run this business incubator and an accelerator program for technological entrepreneurship to bring about a change in perception and in social consciousness to technological innovation and to build a stable ecosystem that will support entrepreneurs and will leverage their effect.”

Arab citizens in hi-tech

• Out of 100,000 hi-tech workers in Israel, only 2,000, or 2 percent, are Arabs.

• Despite the small percentage, it is on an upward trend. Since the establishment of Tsofen in 2008, the number of Arabs who work in hi-tech has increased more than fivefold (in 2008 there were about 350 Arabs in hi-tech).

• In 2008 there were only a few engineers in Nazareth; now there are more than 500, and more than 100 employees who come to work in Nazareth are Jews from the area.

Fifty percent of the employees in Nazareth are women.

• In recent years, global companies have opened three development centers in Nazareth: Amdocs, Broadcom and Galil Software. The Arab entrepreneurship scene in the city includes several business incubators.

• At any given moment the hi-tech world is missing 5,000 employees.

Today, Israeli companies are looking to open up to foreign markets overseas, and the personnel in Israel has tremendous potential. From the Arab sector, there are 3,000 university graduates who are available to work immediately.

• According to Pilat, almost 50% of placements in 2013 were by the hi-tech method of referrals, which increases the difficulty of Arabs to enter the field.

• Eighty percent of applicants who went through Tsofen over the past six years (for training or job placement) found work, and 100% of the women found a job with a connection to their studies.

• The average salary of candidates who passed the Tsofen training courses is higher per worker by NIS 1,000.

Developments created at the event

• The group that won first place took 36 hours to make a unique glove that translates sign language into written language, conveys the words to a computer or cellphone and even reads them aloud. It’s an idea designed to help people who are deaf or hearing impaired. The team had five students and engineers from Nazareth, and it was awarded $50,000 and an invitation to the big mobile conference that will be held in Barcelona in 2015.

• One of the teams – two programmers, an electronics engineer and a graphic artist – included Jews and Arabs from Nazareth who prepared a monitoring system to prevent forgetting babies in the car.

The system alerts your cellphone and gives a voice alert when the vehicle is turned off and the weight sensor in the baby seat is activated.

• A group of high school students and one engineer built a reporting system for local municipalities.

The user updates his report on the application (a hole in the ground, a bad sign, a fallen tree), and the report goes directly to the municipality without phones.

• Another group of four students studying computer science built the FingerMouse system that enables the user to control the computer without connecting a mouse.

• Two students from Al-Aliah High School in Umm el-Fahm and an electrical engineering student from Tel Aviv built a tracking device system that follows objects in the sky. The user chooses via mobile app or the computer what he wants to track (like the moon or any other star in particular) and the computer or application directs the telescope.

• A system built by a group of five software engineers from Nazareth and Jerusalem reminds the user to water his potted plants. The system senses that the plant or flower does not have enough water or light and causes it (with wheels) to move around the house until it is watered.

• A flip-flop-shaped alarm clock moves away from you and makes noises until the user grabs it.

The next generation of desktop computers is here

What else can be innovated with the desktop computers? HP brings the best of technology and manages to take the computer that many abandoned in favor of a laptop, tablet and smartphone devices of all kinds to the next level: • It has a 3-D scanner and an array of sensors that replace the keyboard and mouse. The computer can scan objects and turn them into three-dimensional models.

• Instead of a keyboard or mouse, it has a system based on sensors, cameras, projectors and a touch pad with an innovative user interface.

• The computer is integrated with a 23-inch touchscreen.

• The screen has an downward- facing 3-D scanner over the large touch surface.

• It has a number of cameras with a 14.6-megapixel resolution, infrared sensors, depth sensors, the Real sense technology by Intel, cross-scanners, powerful LED lamp illumination and DLP projectors.

• The touch pad also functions as a screen with two projectors.

• Users can drag elements from the main screen to the touch pad.

• There is the option to use a stylus pen.

• There is a variety of software and customized applications for users.

• It is intended for designers, artists and graphic designers.

It is a very powerful computer with excellent specifications, but with a price tag of $1,900 it is currently suitable mostly for professional users. In the future, when the price is cheaper, we will all be able to use it.

Translated by Maya Pelleg.

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