Mellanox CEO: ‘You’ll be much healthier... life will be better’

Head of $2.3 billion firm sits down with the Post to discuss how quicker data will transform the world.

Computer keyboard [illustrative]. (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
Computer keyboard [illustrative].
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
CEOs often brag about their company. Yet for the head of Mellanox Technologies Ltd. – which produces semiconductor chips to speed up server and computer communication – CEO Eyal Waldman prefers not to, instead opting to talk generally about how faster data will transform the world, from preventing automobile fatalities to permitting doctors to offer "personalized for you" drugs.
“If you want to do more car crash stimulations, we’ll be able to drive more data faster and in a much sooner period of time. You’ll be able to drive in a much safer car,” Waldman said, as the quicker data sequencing will allow automakers to test out an infinite number of fatal scenarios.
When it comes to your health, faster data will allow doctors to pinpoint problems and administer precise biologic drugs that can target DNA and RNA, helping to make your body more immune to illness. “We’ll be able to run way more permutations that will detect the right level of molecular medicine that can help your body. Each person has their own [DNA] genome sequence, and with millions of permutations, we’ll be able to run it faster.”
“Today, you can’t even do some of things because there’s not enough power to do these kinds of permutations,” Waldman told The Jerusalem Post at Tel Aviv’s GPU conference on Wednesday.
“There’ll be drones that can take you from place to place. There’ll be no traffic jams, no parking problems,” as algorithmic driving will behave like Waze, directing cars to unused roads. An automated car will be able to find parking by itself, without you, the driver, spending countless minutes circling the Tel Aviv beach or Manhattan block for that elusive spot. “The flight or the time between your office and your home will be a fraction of what it is today.”
With faster computing power, the majority of people’s lives worldwide will be transformed, the CEO added. Mellanox, which is publicly-traded on NASDAQ and has a market valuation of some $2.3 billion, develops data processing solutions for autonomous cars, personal assistants, robots and cybersecurity.
The company is based in Yokneam Illit and employs some 2,900 employees in five offices across the country. Despite potential pressure from shareholders to relocate to the United States, home to 50% of the company’s revenues, Waldman continues to insist on local roots. “We think that there’s a big advantage to be in Israel in terms of culture, solving problems, loyalty, and so on.”
A tenth of the staff is Arab, and the company is unique among Israeli tech firms to maintain offices in the Palestinian territories, employing more than 100 engineers and staffers in Ramallah, Nablus, and Gaza. Waldman preferred not to dwell for too long on the politics behind the personnel locations.
“There are a few right-wingers who think we shouldn’t be doing that, but I think it’s very important for the geopolitical situation in the area,” Waldman said. “Sometimes [Palestinian colleagues] get some flak for working for an Israeli company. One [Gazan employee] saw an article saying that if you work for Mellanox, you must work for the Mossad.” For the CEO, the Palestinian employees cost less than relocating operations to Eastern Europe, and they are also paid in Israeli currency.
Aside from contributing to efforts at co-existence, some of the data-mining technologies Waldman promises will make life better could portend a number of downsides.
“The streets will be monitored, you’ll know where everyone is, and there’ll be very little fraud. You’ll be able to identify people who have committed a crime. And you’ll be able to identify people who are planning to do a crime, by tracking their phone calls” said Waldman.
While tracking down criminals may sound like a good thing, universal surveillance raises privacy questions. Computerized forecasting systems – which mine enormous amounts of data – could highlight “false positives,” or lead to innocent people getting swept up in the police net. Currently, algorithmic predictive tools are used by Israeli security services to try to detect would-be Palestinian attackers before they strike, albeit sometimes the suspects are innocent.
When asked about possible privacy infringement and the potential for abuse or unfair racial profiling — since the IDF is a client of Mellanox’s – Waldman said such concerns were outside his purview.
“It’s a question I don’t deal with. What I want to do is identify the behavior of the desire and the plan to do something illegal. Whether they execute it or not, that’s a second question. It’s enough that they have the plan to do that, to have them being stopped.”