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(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
Imagine one of John Le Carre's spy novels, taking place behind the Iron Curtain. The British mole, equipped with a cellular phone, on the trail of a spy, is keeping an eye on him through the mobile phone screen, while the spy operates inside his office or hotel room. And all this in real time.
Such a scene might have once turned Le Carre into a science fiction author, but not any more.
On the split-screen of a laptop belonging to Gideon Tahan, CEO and president of SerVision, a video surveillance solution company, you can watch passengers at Turkey's Istanbul airport as well as conversations in a pharmacy in Paris, a ceramics factory in Nazereth, a milking center at Kibbutz Nahshonim and Jerusalem's Mahaneh Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
"Here's my mother buying some potatoes right now," Tahan illustrates while demonstrating other qualities of the system, like enlarging the picture, moving it aside or focusing on a familiar face picking up the telephone inside a sensitive Mexican facility.
Is there, somewhere in the world, an intelligence agency identifying Tahan right now as a mega-spy? A terrorist?
Though the system, developed and manufactured by SerVision at Jerusalem's Har Hotzvim hi-tech complex, may stimulate the imagination, it's mainly targeted for the residential market, and will soon be supplied to private houses in an attempt to fulfill domestic needs.
For example, parents will be able to look after their children from work by watching the cellphone screen, and can maintain remote supervision of the nanny.
"Our system is securing banks, institutions and even oil fields, border lines and cars and buses on the move," Tahan says. "It's the first mobile DVR in the world to transmit video screening of the highest quality over cellular networks. We are the only enterprise in the world which can deliver picture in motion, in real time, on the cell phone screen."
Indeed, the recent opening of the border in Rafah to Palestinian control demanded remote supervision both from the Israeli and the Palestinian sides of the border: SerVision supplied the surveillance system, monitoring the border crossings from and to Israel for the benefit of Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptians and European Union officers. That way, the border security supervisors on both sides can track every suspicious movement in the area. The security inspectors at the control center, set five kilometers away from the border in Israel, monitor what goes back and forth via a live video link, around the clock.
Beyond developing and designing the software and hardware of the special server that placed SerVision at the top of world mobile surveillance systems for security purposes, the small company also manufactures the product, adapting it to various uses such as emergency cases which require a rapid response: An alarm system is installed in the servers.
According to Tahan, the high level of video compression produces the good picture results. The server can also be plugged into up to 16 video cameras.
In Saudi Arabia's oil fields, that's very useful. Hundreds of mobile video cameras plugged into the Israeli SerVision equipment, monitor the large areas, alerting supervisors at the control post if there are any intruders or infiltrators or people who try to sabotage the huge facilities.
In Dubai, says Tahan, there is a representative of the company, and he communicates through the American branch. The Saudis know it's "made in Israel" and periodically even arrest the agent, but they don't have any other choice, he reveals.
Today, the system is also being used by the Singapore police, as well as London banks, who use it to follow money deliveries and branches' activity.
The recent terrorist attacks in London's transportation system have made clear the urgent need to secure the buses, underground and mainline trains. Last year, the European football championship took place at Istanbul stadium under the surveillance of SerVision systems.
The US government also buys SerVision products, through an American supplier, and the uses they make of it are only limited by one's imagination. Israeli defense and intelligence authorities use this equipment, as well.
A contract with General Electric permits that company to put its tag on SerVision products and sell them, which makes the sales easier in several markets.
A refreshing initiative, implemented already in buses in South Africa and also in America, enables monitoring to of any problems with buses on the move, such as accidents, quarrels, terrorist attacks or even thefts.
Tahan says this system is also going to be adopted by UK transportation companies and other places around the world. This is a very good solution for buses, he says, because it can send an alert in real time about an accident or terrorist attack. The system can open the bus doors automatically, and can set off fire extinguishers. The system is also attached to global positioning systems to allow for location of the bus and the dispatching of assistance.
The system's applications are very broad, including recording the driver's behavior, allowing observation to determine if he's stealing money. It can even allow passengers to watch a video movie or a news bulletin, with advertisements that finance the expenses.
The Jerusalem-born Tahan established his first company, "Gad-Line," in 1991. He took a $5,000 loan to start this cable modem company, which he sold to an American company after 10 years. The million dollars he got for the sale were invested in SerVision.
"We decided to start marketing our product only after 3.5 years of research and development of the product. We started the marketing in 2004, and I believe we shall end this year with a small profit. I expect profits of tens millions of dollars next year," says Tahan. He also plans to double the staff from 50 workers to 100 next year, mainly engineers and marketing specialists.
SerVision has raised $5.5 million on London's AIM as well as $5m. from private investors in the US and Mexico, who share ownership of the company with Tahan, who holds a 35% stake.
"Personally, I'd rather live off our products than from public money," he says, and SerVision is going to do something about it: A big contract with one of the cellular companies for the residential market is on the way, and Tahan's imagination is still working - overtime.