Israel boasts the highest number of scientists, technicians and engineers per capita and spends more on R&D relative to GDP than any other nation. (1) It is little wonder that this nation of about eight million people has established itself internationally as a centre for technology and innovation. (2)
From 16th to 20th February, some of the brightest stars in the Israeli technology firmament gathered at Red Hat’s R&D centre in Ra’anana near Tel Aviv to take part in the Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI) Multinationals Israeli Development Centers (MNC) Weekathon – a week long developer event focused on collaboration and openness.
With the roots of open source in collaboration, openness and sharing, it is often stated that necessity is the mother of invention, and necessity in a modern economic sense is driven by competition. But today’s global economy will only prosper through bilateral and multilateral cooperation. We’ve long believed that when you bring people from different disciplines and areas together, ideas are shared and the magic can happens.
The Weekathon created four days of fun environment that exposed engineers to different devices and hardware, enabling the exchange of ideas and providing the opportunity to learn from others regarding different new methodologies and technologies.
Along with Red Hat engineers in Ra’anana, the Weekathon drew top engineers from the R&D centres of General Motors, General Electric, Microsoft, eBay, Citi Bank and 3M met with Red Hat engineers in Ra’anana and formed eight cross company teams to develop eight proof-of-concept innovations using a variety of hardware supplied by the companies themselves.
- Using a combination of camera and the facial recognition technology, Team 1 created the foundation for a new doorway entry system. In residences that do not have quick or easy access to the front entrance, – such as large apartment buildings or private houses – intercom systems are popular, with some of the more security conscious systems including video capability for added security. Even with these features, generally though, the owner needs to visit a fixed position to grant entry.
Team 1 developed a doorframe -mounted camera that picks up an image of the visitor, and then, using facial recognition technology, identifies the visitor. The system can either grant automatic entry to the visitor or send a picture to the owner’s smartphone, who can then use that device to enable the owner to either grant or refuse entry.
- Smartphone and camera technology was also embraced by Team 2 to create an ingenious app for blind or visually impaired people that could potentially improve and potentially even save lives. The device sits on a camera as a set of "eyes" to view traffic lights, alerting the user as to whether or not it is safe to cross the road. While many pedestrian crossings have alerts or buzzers that sound when it is safe to cross, just as many don’t, which is where this app comes in.
- Combining a Linux-based Raspberry Pi and an ultrasound reader, Team 3 created an incontinence early warning system. They developed a wearable device that includes a low cost sensor and small form factor computer that measures the capacity of the bladder using ultrasound. When its capacity reaches 70 percent, the wearer or a carer giver is alerted automatically.
- Physiological actions and reactions were also used by Team 4 who created software for use with another wearable device that could potentially help save the lives of both drivers and pedestrians. Using a Fitbit to measure the wearer’s heart rate, the software can detect whether a driver is nodding off or falling asleep at the wheel, which then triggers a series of different alerts, including flashing lights, increasing the volume of the car’s radio, and vibrating the wristband of the owner — all of which should wake up the most somnambulistic of drivers.
- Another connected car service was created by Team 5. Using a Kinect camera and an on-board GPS, cross-referenced against a database of the car operator’s personal preferences, Team 5 created a solution that alerts occupants to the location of nearby services, stores and destinations that align with their tastes. This could prove a potential boom for retail stores that are otherwise hidden away, helping users discover new places they otherwise would have missed.
- A further boom to the retail market was developed by Team 6 which developed a spin on mobile wallet payments with a piece of software that enables Pebble smartwatches to be used at a retail point of sale (POS) as a payments device. The system links the POS to the Pebble and automatically initiates a payment wirelessly, which can then be accepted or rejected by the wearer.
- The final two innovations are targeted at the entertainment industry. The first, by Team 7, sought to modernise one of the first mass market electronic entertainment systems by doing for radio what video-on-demand has done for TV content. How often have you found yourself listening to a show while driving into work, only to arrive and miss out on the rest? This innovation lets the user record radio on-demand and play back at a more convenient time.
- Team 8 took a step more towards the future of consumer electronic entertainment by linking the virtual reality capabilities of an Oculus Rift headset with the gesture control functionality of the Kinect, delivering an immersive 3D gaming experience that lets the user control the action through gesture alone, without the need for VR linked special gloves or other peripherals. Next generation gaming will move off the flat screen TV/monitor and into VR virtual reality headsets, and this is part of that evolution.
Over the course of the working week, 30 of the Israeli technology industry’s top engineers worked from 9:00 to 20:30 in harmony under Red Hat’s roof. Outside this environment these engineers would not naturally share ideas to deliver projects from conception to prototype. In fact, competitive forces would close them off form one another. Together, these eight projects – created in less than one week by 30 engineers really represent the tip of an innovation iceberg. They highlight what can be created in an open, collaborative sharing environment when great minds come together. Red Hat is proud to have hosted IATI’s MNC Weekathon! It’s no surprise that many of the greatest innovations in enterprise computing come from the open source world!