‘I want to carry out in the personal security and healthcare sectors the same type of revolution that Apple carried out in cellular communication,” says Dr. Haim Amir, CEO of Essence Group, a leading technology company, which develops cloud-based, end-to-end security and healthcare solutions that protect people while they’re at work and at home.
“The technology we developed is kind of like the Iron Dome in that offers people complete protection and enables them to have peace of mind,” explains Amir. “Just like Apple, we are breaking down paradigms that currently exist in the personal security and healthcare prevention sectors, and offering people all over the world something they’ve never experienced before. The moment people come into contact with our products, they understand that it will be difficult for them to live without them.”
Essence builds smart home security systems that utilize innovative technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide real time security for millions of clients. The company has installed systems in over 46 countries and sells over 15 million devices annually.
Essence recently launched a new line of advanced products that has achieved international recognition. At the most recent CES trade show in Las Vegas, which is the world’s most influential technology event, Essence won two innovation awards for two of its recent developments. The first one is the MyShield cellular-connected comprehensive intruder prevention system, the first all-in-one system that can be used either as a standalone device that is not connected to the internet or to a home electrical system but instead to CAT-M networks.
The MyShield solution includes a passive infrared motion detector, a high-definition video camera for intruder verification, two-way voice communication and a proprietary smoke generator that fills a 30-square-meter room in 15 seconds with disorientating yet harmless smoke to force intruders off the premises. One million units of the previous generation were sold in Europe and here in Israel the product was purchased by Team-3 Group to be distributed among their customer base.
“The smoke prevents intruders from being able to see what they’re doing or understand where they are in the room. Since he won’t be able to steal anything he can’t see, then the intruder will simply need to leave,” explains Amir. “If the intruder gets close to the device, other methods are activated to neutralize him. In some cases, for example, intruders have not been able to find their way out and were stuck in a room waiting for the police to extricate them. The MyShield device actively carries out the work of a policeman.”
Essence also offers S5, a family of advanced sensors that includes features such as infrared detectors that measure signals and know how to differentiate between a person entering or exiting a house; a magnet that detects if a door is open or closed; and a shock sensor that uses artificial intelligence to detect burglaries. In addition, the S5 has a special sensor that can detect leaks in your home. “The system is connected 24/7 to the cloud and is actively working at all times,” explains Amir. “Using AI, it can identify unusual events and send an alert. In addition, the device can activate sirens or any other methods of deterrence that have been installed in the customer’s home.”
For years, Essence has been working with security companies, and recently it has expanded its line of products. “Customers want to know what’s happening in their homes in real time, and that the situation will be taken care of straight away. Intruders won’t wait around for the police or security guards to arrive.
Amir founded the company together with his wife, Rivka, in 1994, using the extensive knowledge he gained from his military service as an IDF naval officer. During his service, he developed strategic combat systems, such as satellite missile detection capability in missile defense systems. “It was a great privilege to serve my country,” he says. “I always felt a great sense of mission.”
Following his military service, Amir completed a master’s degree and doctorate at the US Naval Academy. “In my doctorate, I focused on cruise missile detection from satellites using infrared cameras,” Amir says. “When I was a young man serving in the IDF, I had butterflies in my stomach knowing that I was doing something meaningful, but I wanted to do more. I didn’t just want to protect people in times of war. I wanted to be able to protect people during peaceful times, too, in their day-to-day lives. That’s what our goal here at Essence is – our products are like a civilian Iron Dome. I took the knowledge I’d gained from using military technologies and used it to develop our products.”
After completing his military service, Amir understood that before he could fulfill his dreams, he’d need to learn how to build and run a company, and so he took a job at Scitex. “I didn’t love the idea of being a salaried employee, but I also had no idea how to set pricing for products. At Scitex, I learned how to manage a hi-tech team, and I used this experience at Essence.”
After working at Scitex for five years, Amir switched over to Nisko, where he worked for a decade. “Then, there finally came a point at which I had enough,” recalls Amir. “My wife and I decided to form a company together. We didn’t have any money, but we did have our brains and our hearts were full. Today, we are now ready to take the next step: To meet with individuals who can help us reach every home.”
Amir’s next goal was to expand to health products. “We began developing sensors with built-in AI and the only fall-detection radar in the world that works on batteries. Our device can tell a person what their situation is in real time – if they are under stress or have fallen, how seriously they have been harmed. When a person falls, a two-way channel automatically opens, and they can speak directly with the call center or with a designated family member.
This enables the user to receive the fastest service possible. Currently, when a person who is alone at home falls, no one knows about it and their injuries can sometimes lead to death. Our device can be lifesaving.”Essence’s device can carry out a number of medical measurements. “In the future,” continues Amir, “after we’ve carried out additional research, our device will be capable of carrying out even more measurements. None of these actions are invasive and there is no need for it to come into physical contact with the user while he is at home.
When people leave home, they can wear a designated medical bracelet that sends a message in real time if an event occurs. If the user falls while away from home, the bracelet detects the fall and immediately opens a communication channel. The user’s cellphone helps us locate the user so that emergency assistance can be sent out to the location immediately.”
Moreover, Essence has developed the VitalOn remote patient monitoring platform – also a CES Innovation award winner – that measures blood pressure and checks blood oxygen levels seamlessly. Instead of users checking their level and then registering the results each time, they are given a device resembling a small suitcase that can communicate with all of the equipment. Using voice commands, the system directs the user what to do and the data is automatically registered in the user’s personal folder.
Investing in people
Amir was always interested in the healthcare industry and in 2013, he was invited to give a lecture to 700 doctors from the Catholic community. He even received a medallion from the Pope for his service.“I laid out the statistics for them and explained that instead of investing money in building hospitals, they needed to start investing in people. If they offered higher quality services to the patients in the hospitals they already run, I told them, their costs and overcrowding would decrease, and people’s quality of life would improve.”
Essence recently joined forces with Sharan Medical Care at Home and Israel’s Clalit Health Fund to initiate a pilot project to reduce congestion in hospitals. VitalOn, one of Essence’s new groundbreaking remote monitoring technologies, was used in this pilot project in which dozens of patients were monitored from home.
“COVID-19 will disappear at some point, but it will still be important for people with chronic conditions to be able to receive medical care without having to physically enter a hospital,” explains Amir. “Currently, patients cannot have their pulse, blood pressure and other important metrics measured from home. Our system is the first in the world that uses AI and machine learning, and can connect simultaneously with a number of devices.
“Our devices for home use don’t just give peace of mind to the users, but to all of their family members. The fact that they can report in real time any significant changes or problems, such as sleeping time, meals, falls and changes in blood pressure, is life changing for everyone involved. Our devices rely on sensors and no cameras are involved, enabling users to feel free to go about their day as usual. Allowing our users complete privacy is of utmost importance to us here at Essence.”
Feeling secure when we’re at home is a basic need, and one that Essence aims to fill. Amir made aliyah from Morocco when he was 10 years old, with his parents and four siblings. “When we first arrived, we were sent to live in a ma’abara (transit camp for new immigrants). I was very young, but I clearly remember feeling how hard life was for us. We were pretty much in survival mode. It was all a lot at the same time – a new country and a new language. My parents had to find new occupations. It wasn’t easy.”
When he was 13, Amir told his school counselor that he wanted to do a doctorate in electronics. At 17, he was offered an opportunity to learn computer science at the Weizmann Institute. Due to a shortage of math and electronics teachers, while he was still in high school, Amir took on the task of teaching other students. His school recognized his special talents, and Amir received support from a special fund that paid for his first two years of study at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
For this reason, Amir created a fund that would raise funds for students who live in Ofakim – where Essence’s produced are produced. “I’ve come to understand that I have focused on safety, since I felt this was so lacking in my life in my early years. I want these services to be available to everyone.”
Amir is extremely proud that most of Essence’s products were developed in Israel. “Ninety percent of our products are built in southern Israel at Flex’s production plant in Ofakim. When you hear that Essence has supplied millions of people around the world with our devices, this means that 1,000 families in southern Israel have gainful employment as a result. When we reach 100 million devices in homes around the world, we’ll need to build other factories – this is my dream.
“Our services are priced very competitively so that we can achieve our goal of supplying our devices in hundreds of millions homes around the world. We try to keep our costs down so that we can pass on this savings to the customer.”
According to Amir, Essence is currently signing new agreements in Europe and also in Israel, and is benefitting greatly from the opening up of economic relations between Israel and other countries as a result of the Abraham Accords. For example, Essence recently signed a preliminary agreement with G42, a large investment firm in the United Arab Emirates. “We are ready to take this deal to the next level,” Amir says. “We are excited to use innovative technology to create products that are easy to use and to encourage people to make their homes truly smart, so that they can learn their behavior patterns and as a result, provide better protection.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.