From cybersecurity to drones and from navigation to imaging, products that have made the jump from military application to civilian markets, both software and hardware, are brimming up in Israel’s high-tech industry. And the more impact the technology is likely to have, when its military reputation is bigger.
The air defense system Iron Dome that knocks rockets from Gaza out of the sky is one of the most iconic names currently in the arms industry. Amir Peretz, the former Defense minister who commissioned the system over a decade ago, has seen his career revive by its success.
And making rapid inroads over the last few years into civilian applications for its systems, which seem made for the emerging internet of things (IOT) is the company that makes the command and control system at the heart of Iron Dome, mPrest.
The company’s co-founder and CEO, Natan Barak, said that inevitably, whether it’s in agriculture, electricity or anything else, its core function in Iron Dome gives mPrest a flying start when approaching global companies.
“Definitely the reputation and the attention that we got after Iron Dome helps. We find companies outside of Israel that say ‘if you’ve done Iron Dome, you can do anything’. It definitely helps credibility,” Barak said. He is proud of the work that the system is doing in “saving lives” and the company’s role in Iron Dome.
mPrest started looking at civilian commercial markets for its system a few years after the Iron Dome was first deployed in 2011, Barak says. “We realized that we built a very sophisticated, comprehensive infrastructure for a command and control system and we can make a difference not only in defense but also in commercial applications.”
Barak said that the Iron Dome rests on a firm basis even while it definitely serves as a high point for the company. “We did many things before the Ministry of Defense and Rafael (Advanced Defense Systems) asked us to do the Iron Dome command and control system. We’ve done air defense for some countries in Asia, we’ve done border control in Asia, we’ve done many very sophisticated things.”
Barak admits that some adjustments had to be made to for the shift from only working for the defense and security markets to the commercial market. “If you adopt such a model it changes the setup of the company dramatically, our sales and marketing changes dramatically, the launching of our products too.”
Per project, the civilian market if often smaller than what he’s used to in the defense sector even though it will be much bigger for mPrest eventually. “We used to work in multi-million dollar projects, tens of millions of dollars, and now when we talk about the commercial market, we’re talking about mass production but each project might cost less.”
Now that the price of sensors is coming down and connectivity is everywhere, the system that mPrest developed for Iron Dome appears to be a fit for the booming IOT market. Barak says that the company is “integrating IT with the IOT”.
And by providing the New York Power Authority with a monitoring, control and analytics system, it has moved into the utilities business.
“The New York Power Authority engineers will always know much more about transformers than we do. What we’re doing is giving them the capability to put their brain into the system without any software change,” says Barak.
He explains that because the return on investments is rapid and can be clearly demonstrated, utilities is one of the first fields mPrest moved into. But it’s not the only area that he’s active in. some examples are smart cities, telecoms, fleet management and agriculture, says Barak. “We are offering a platform that’s so flexible that it can meet the challenge of the revolution that’s happened with the IOT business.”
(Adapted from CNBC)