Amazon.com Expands Israeli Operations

David Shamah of Times of Israel reports that Amazon.com plans to expand its operations in Israel. In his Start-Up Israel newsletter, he explains what this means:

In just a year and a half, Amazon has gone from simply supplying Israeli companies with cloud technology, to developing that technology here – and it’s hiring more than a hundred engineers and other tech personnel to fill new positions that are opening up in Israel.

And that’s likely just the beginning, said Harel Ifhar, Country Manager for Amazon Israel. “Our purchase last year of Israeli tech firm Annapurna, which is now an Amazon research and development lab, and the hiring of more engineers for separate R&D efforts, shows the faith Amazon has in Israeli technology, and affirms the company’s plans to continue investing and expanding here.”

Amazon made the announcement last week at a major tech event for Israeli customers of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, which allows companies to run their entire operations — from administration to development to product distribution — using Amazon’s cloud network.

AWS is especially popular in Israel among start-ups. Just how popular the company won’t disclose, but according to Ifhar, there were over 2,000 people at the AWS Tech Summit in Tel Aviv last Thursday.

AWS now counts some of Israel’s most well-known start-ups and fastest growing businesses as customers, including Wix, Kensho, Meerkat, Moovit, GetTaxi, Glide, Capriza, Iron Source, GameFly and Viber, as well as some of Israel’s most established enterprises such as Yes, Comverse, Bank Hapolim and Tadiran Telecom.

Most people know Amazon as a retail product site, aiming to become the world’s largest on-line department store (Wal-Mart retains that title) that long ago outgrew its original mission of becoming the world’s largest bookstore (which it is, by a wide margin).

But Amazon also seeks to be the world’s biggest cloud services provider to business (Microsoft is bigger, but not by much), and to expand its markets. The company has in recent months released a slew of new services, from machine learning systems and advanced cloud-based databases to an Internet of Things interface – the same kinds of services other cloud tech firms, including IBM and Microsoft, have been touting as well.

“The difference between us is that you don’t have to learn special skills or languages to use our interface,” said Ifhar. “The purpose of the [AWS] summit was to show how those technologies worked in the field. Instead of just putting up PowerPoint presentations, we actually had someone working with these services, producing a final product that was activated on a server. I can’t speak for other companies, but when we provide a service, we make sure it works as needed before introducing it.”

“As a result, customers are very happy with what we are giving them, and that is why we keep growing, in Israel and around the world,” Ifhar added. “We are very customer-focused; when customers ask us for new services, we develop them and thus stay ahead of the market, helping our customers to grow their business.”

 

Amazon.com and Israel
For proof of the effectiveness of AWS, said Ifhar, one need go no further than a report issued by US tech industry market research, analysis and advisory firm International Data Corporation (IDC), which analyzed how AWS impacts business.

In an in-depth study of 10 organizations, IDC said that on average “we calculate that these Amazon customers will capture five-year business benefits worth over $1.5 million per application they are running in the AWS environment, and earn a return on their investment in AWS of 560%. On the whole, interviews with AWS customers demonstrated that they are not only leveraging Amazon cloud services to build and support applications more efficiently and cost effectively, but that running these applications in the AWS environment is enabling them to better serve their customers and drive their business transformation initiatives.”

Israel, said Werner Vogels, CTO and Vice President at Amazon, is an important source of customers – and technology – for the company.

“We have been active with Israeli customers through Amazon Web Services for years, working with them as they move to the cloud to be more innovative, agile, lower their costs, and scale their IT operations globally in minutes,” he said. “During this time, we have been extremely impressed with the creativity and strong engineering talent available in the country. Locating the development of key parts of Amazon’s business in Israel further accelerates our efforts to deliver innovation to customers around the world.”

Among the jobs Amazon will be seeking to fill: research scientists, systems modeling, software and application development engineers, account managers, solutions architects, technical account managers, business development managers, silicon designers, verification engineers, operation managers, system engineers, signal integrity engineers, and something called “Software Ninjaneers,” staff who can deep dive into the techiest parts of Amazon products to solve vexing programming problems.

“We welcome Amazon’s continued investment in the Israeli technology community,” said Chief Scientist Avi Hasson. “Having Amazon here is an important and valuable asset for Israel as we continue to build the country into a world leading center for technology development.”

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The Jewish Man Bitcoin Built – and Then Destroyed

Originally Posted in the Forward by Nathaniel Popper

This article is excerpted and adapted from “Digital Gold: Bitcoin and the Inside Story of the Misfits and Millionaires Trying to Reinvent Money” by Nathaniel Popper.

Charlie Shrem sits in prison in central Pennsylvania, the cautionary face of the futuristic movement that developed around the virtual currency Bitcoin.

This can seem a rather unlikely position for a 25-year-old college graduate who grew up in the cloistered world of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn and kept a copy of the Israeli Declaration of Independence on his bedroom wall. But his past was, in fact, an integral part of the journey that has left him in USP Lewisburg Satellite Camp.

Shrem first discovered Bitcoin in the summer of 2011, when he saw a story on Gawker about the online drug bazaar, Silk Road, where Bitcoin was the resident currency.

At the time, Shrem was a senior at Brooklyn College, still living in the basement of his parents home in Midwood. He had been born cross-eyed and, after surgery to fix the problem, had to wear thick glasses. He was almost always the shortest one in his classes. As with so many other techies, Shrem’s real-world struggles led him to cultivate an active life online, where he knew many of his friends by their screen names.

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Arabs Hack Major Israeli Websites

Arab hackers known as Desert Falcons have stolen over 1 million files in 50 countries. It’s possible that this hacking groups could be government-backed. According to the Times of Israel website and David Shamah, Desert Falcons, which “distinguish themselves from the Gaza porn-hacker group and other lesser cybercriminals by the highly advanced methods they use to attack high-security sites and in the amount of damage they have caused. According to the researchers, the group, which has been operating since 2011, but only recently got into the full swing of hacking, have stolen over a million files from some 3,000 victims in 50 countries. Those include countries throughout the Middle East and Europe, but their main focus has been Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt, targeting military and government organizations — particularly employees responsible for countering money laundering — as well as leading media outlets, research and education institutions, energy and utilities providers, activists and political leaders, physical security companies, and other targets in possession of important geopolitical information.”

The researchers said they had identified several of the hackers, and while not revealing their identities, said they were mostly residents of the PA, Turkey, and Egypt. They have also been surprisingly open about their exploits, using Twitter and other social media to brag about their exploits. They all appear to be native Arabic speakers, Kaspersky Lab said.

israel-hacked

The level of sophistication and the sites they were targeting, the researchers said, indicated that they were being sponsored by someone – maybe a criminal organization, or maybe even a government.

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Tim Cook and Apple Opening Israel Headquarters

Apple CEO Tim Cook will inaugurate Apple Israel’s new headquarters. During Tim Cook’s visit to Israel next week, Cook will meet with former President Shimon Peres and senior figures in the nation’s high-tech industry, the Israeli business daily Globes reported Thursday, citing unnamed sources.

Apple Israel headquarters will be located in Herzliya Pituach, a wealthy beachfront district in central Israel. The Apple Israel offices will be 12,500 square meter and house 800 employees. Last year Apple’s Tim Cook met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Apple’s international headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.

Tim Cook - Apple in Israel

Apple Israel’s development center is based on the acquisitions of flash memory developer Anobit ($390 million in 2012) and movement sensor developer PrimeSense ($300 million in 2013). Apple Israel also took in 150 employees being laid off in Israel last year by Texas Instruments.

Last August, in the midst of Operation Protective Edge, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak arrived in Israel to participate in the EduAction Forum, an annual education conference that kicks off at the start of the school year.

 

 

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Tablet Magazine Charges Users to Comment

Want to comment on a Tablet Magazine article? From now on, you’ll have to pay money to do that. Will that work? I don’t think it will, but I’m not going to pay money to tell them that!

Now, if you could pay money to a news website to keep certain people from leaving comments (a defensive move), that might work.

Read more about Tablet Magazine’s new pay-to-comment policy on Rabbi Jason’s blog or at The Verge.

Tablet Magazine Charges Users to Comment

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Israeli Sports-Tech Companies Demonstrate Better Ways to Play

David Shamah in The Times of Israel writes about twenty Israeli firms with ideas for fans, athletes, broadcasters and trainers will participate in Future Sport 2015:

Last week, some of the biggest names in British sports joined together to choose 20 Israeli start-ups that will present their technology to teams, sport organizations, networks, and medical professionals who are members of the UK’s sports universe.

The British are considered among the world’s most enthusiastic fans of sports of all types, and the Israeli firms selected for the Future Sport 2015 all have technologies that will make playing and watching games more enjoyable, more safe, and more fun, the judges said.

Israeli SportsTech

The Future Sport 2015 program is a three-day road trip that takes place March 24-26. Israeli companies will visit London and Manchester, and meet officials at the head offices of some of the biggest British sports organizations, such as major clubs, stadiums and broadcasters. The start-ups will meet with leading industry players and have the opportunity to demonstrate how their technologies can complement the UK’s sports infrastructure.

The program is being organized by Israel’s Economic & Trade Mission to the UK, with the support of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute (IEICI), which promotes Israeli exports, trade relations, cooperation and strategic alliances with overseas companies. The judging panel was chaired by Daniel Saunders, Chief of Staff at Israel’s Economic & Trade Mission to the UK, and judges included Lord David Triesman, Former Chairman of the Football Association and Shadow Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs in the British House of Lords; Terry Venables, Former England Football Manager; Jonathan Lenson, Business Development Director of PR firm WPP; Mike Hodgson, Head of Innovation Engagement at British Telecom; Daniel Shakhani, Chief Executive, RDS Capital; and Frank Meehan, Founding Partner of UK venture capital firm SparkLabs Global.

The participating companies offer a wide array of sports-worthy technologies, including player analytics, wireless transmission, image manipulation, injury prevention, fan engagement, monetization, interactivity, ticketing and others.

Among the companies: FanZone, a social platform for sports fans that enables them to connect with one another and share their game-day experiences, as well as rides, hotels, and even drinks before and after the match; Pixellot, which has a unique technology that allows broadcasters to get a full 360 degree view of a sporting event; udobu, which uses machine-learning technology and predictive analytics to figure where, when, and how much to sell tickets for in order to maximize profits; and Biogaming, which uses Kinect cameras to enable physiotherapists and athletic trainers to create personalized exercise programs that are automatically transformed into interactive social computer games.

The program is just the latest of many recent ones aimed at promoting tech relations between Israel and the UK. Among other projects, for example, the UK-sponsored TexChange program brings Israeli entrepreneurs to London (and other UK locations) to meet with entrepreneurs, investors, and potential customers. The program is targeted at start-ups and entrepreneurs working in the hottest technologies, such as gaming, advertising technology, mobile technology, e-commerce, video, convergence, social media, convergence technology, and other cutting-edge areas. Participants attend networking events, conduct mentoring sessions with top industry pros, and network with their British business counterparts.

The linchpin of the program, and of other tech cooperation between the two countries, is the UK-Israel Tech Hub, a Foreign Office-run organization dedicated to enhancing the digital relationship between the two countries. Britain is the first – and only – country to have established (in 2012) a special government-sponsored mission in Israel for this purpose. The program has been such a success that in 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron, announced the appointment a special Tech Envoy to Israel, an appointment Cameron said he hoped would even further enhance tech relations between the two countries.

Future Sport 2015 will further enhance that relationship, said Meehan of SparkLabs Global.“The Future Sport initiative showcases the recent rapid growth of tech startups,” he said, “and it brings innovation to a wide range of sport and health related sectors.”

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Israeli Company’s Mobile App That Saves Lives

As I walked around the massive convention center at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last week in Las Vegas, I heard three words echoing in my head. These three words, “Make it practical,” have become something of a litmus test for me when it comes to technology innovation.

Each year so many of the exhibits at CES dazzle and delight the 200,000 attendees, but I’m a practical techie. I want to make sure that tech innovators are developing with a sense of purpose. Augmented reality video games are impressive and get points for their “wow factor,” but there is so much potential for tech innovation to improve our lives and the world around us. I find myself most impressed with the new technology that has true utility for us in our lives.

One thing that makes me happy is that I’ve noticed that each January at CES companies continue to build on previous innovations and find ways to use the technology in meaningful ways. A few years ago the few booths showcasing 3D printers simply created little plastic tchotchkes. In 2015, dozens of 3D printing companies were experimenting with ways these printers could revolutionize the medical industry. A handful of years ago at CES wearables were the big rage, but it took a few years to realize how these devices could make us healthier. The same is true with drones. The Internet of Everything is only impressive if it improves our environment. The technology of the future isn’t just technology that has utility; it is technology that has the power to save your life.

mobile-app-taking-medication

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Israel Gets Google Street View Back

Three years after it first photographed the streets of the Jewish nation, Israelis will once again see Google Street View in Israel.

The Google cars and tricycles, fitted with 360-degree cameras to take panoramic images, will visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other cities in order to update the online mapping tool.
Google Street View provides a 3-D view of buildings, landmarks and streets around the world. The images from Israel were posted on the Internet in April 2012.

Google Street View Israel
Israel’s Justice Ministry set several conditions for its approval to photograph city streets, including the right for Israelis to request further blurring of residences and license plates. Israeli officials reportedly had been concerned that terrorists would use the service to plan attacks in Israel.

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Great Moments in Israeli Tech and Innovation from 2014

Many Israeli tech firms have done just that, essentially transforming the way the world works today – and here, too, there are a lot more than 10. While what follows is by no means a comprehensive list that was originally published in The Times of Israel, it is a good place to start. Some of these technologies you may be familiar with, and perhaps even use, while others may be less well-known – but all of them are having a major impact on the way the world does business, treats health problems, deals with environmental issues, or keeps its data safe.

The ReWalk in action (Courtesy)

ReWalk Robotics

The Israeli-developed exoskeleton system that enables the paralyzed to walk was praised by US President Barack Obama on his visit to Israel in 2013, and has been used by paralympics champion Claire Lomas, paralyzed from the chest down, to complete the marathon course at the London Paralympics. Using computers and motion sensors for the heavy lifting, ReWalk allows independent, controlled walking similar to that of an able-bodied person. The system controls movement using subtle changes in the center of gravity, mimics a natural gait and provides functional walking speed, enabling even paraplegics to move independently.

If computers and sensors can enable the paralyzed to walk, perhaps they can be used to control other “additions” — like a bionic hand, or body parts to take the place of worn-out or damaged organs or muscles. ReWalk went public this year and the company now has the funds it needs to develop its technology further.

“We are going to be using the money raised in the IPO to expand our research and production, almost all of which is done in northern Israel,” said ReWalk CEO Larry Jasinski. “On our short list of R&D projects is adapting the ReWalk technology to enable quadriplegics — those who cannot use their limbs at all — to be able to function.”

Dr. Amit Goffer, inventor of the system, is working to adapt the technology for other uses as well, said Jasinski, with components and devices that will eventually assist people suffering from multiple sclerosis, palsy, paralysis due to stroke, and other conditions. Read more ›

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Shomer Shabbat Hackathon – Jewish Technology

 

From the Jewish Standard

By Larry Yudelson
Published: 26 December 2014

Akiva Lipshitz, a Teaneck high school freshman, demonstrates his winning Pong game.
If your idea of a good time is staying up all night writing computer programs, you’re no doubt in the minority — and you’re also doubtlessly familiar with hackathons, which gather programmers together to do just that.

But if you’re a Shabbat-observing Jew who thinks a hackathon — with its race-the-clock challenge to create something high-tech and arguably functional — really would be fun, then you’ve probably already discovered the sad truth that most hackathons start when the weekend does, on Friday night. And while it may be fun, is anything less in the spirit of Shabbos than hacking down bugs in a computer program in the middle of the night?

Of course, real hackers — among computer cognoscenti, the term refers not to the malefactors who break into computer systems and disrupt lives, but to those able to put together quick if not always elegant solutions to difficult problems — see problems as challenges to solve. So it was only a matter of time before New York hosted its first shomer Shabbat hackathon.

That’s the back story to Hackathonukah, held two weeks ago for 25 hours starting 7 p.m. Saturday night December 13, and ending 25 hours later.

Jewish Hackathon

It was organized by two Paramus brothers, Oren and Donny Kanner. Both are graduates of the Yavneh Academy and the Frisch School in Paramus, and Cooper Union in New York. Oren, 28, is studying for a Ph.D. in robotics at Yale. Donny, 23, works for The Hackerati, a Manhattan engineering consultancy.

“Donny and I had some random conversation over the summer venting our frustrations about the lack of frum-people-friendly hackathons,” said Oren. “As a result, we just decided to make one.”

They formed a company to run it. They solicited sponsors. Theirs was not an amateur production.

“Sometimes Jewish events can be cute or kitschy,” said Oren. “We didn’t want it to be cute or kitschy. We wanted it to be at the same level of technical rigor as any hackathon.”

Donny explained some of the special fun of hackathons for programmers.

“There’s the element of doing a complete product from start to finish in a short period of time. You don’t often get the opportunity to very quickly come up with a concept and execute it.

“You get to meet people with other skill sets and other backgrounds. You get exposure to other technologies you may not be using in your day-to-day work,” he said.

The Kanner brothers decided to add more variety by focusing on hardware and, in particular — appropriately enough for the season — lights. Lighting manufacturers have begun enabling their products to connect to computers and smartphones in what is being called “the internet of things.”

Hackathonukah had corporate sponsors such as Philips, which not only donated some of their computerized Hue bulbs, but flew two engineers from their Netherlands headquarters to guide the hackers in using the technology.

Oren and Donny had never been to a complete hackathon before. “We were able to make it to the end” — after Shabbat — “never to the beginning.”

Of course, having finally organized a post-Shabbat hackathon, the brothers were too busy running the show for much hands-on geek fun. They were mostly busy making sure the food showed up (all kosher) and the participants could find places to sleep. Oren did spend “a few hours between midnight and 3 a.m.” building a menorah out of programmable light bulbs whose lights changed color based on stock market data.

About 60 hackers showed up. The youngest was 14. Most were in their 20s. Some came from as far away as Buffalo and Pittsburgh and Washington. More than half had never been to a hackathon before. “Probably half of our attendees were Jewish, and half were not. Which was great. Our message was accessibility and openness — that Jewish people didn’t have access to most hackathons.”

“We were really impressed with the work that was done,” said Donny.

At the end, the finished projects were judged on creativity, technical accomplishment, and aesthetics. The winning team, which included two teens, used a motion-sensing armband (lent by a sponsor) to play the video game pong. “You could move your arm to control your panel, and the color of a light would change depending on who was winning the game,” said Oren.

“We had a group that put together a whole solution for controlling lighting based on arm gestures, in a way that would be useful for theater. We had a group that had a small panel of LEDs that could be sewn on your clothing that would display sports scores. It would be a ticker, if you wanted to keep up on your scores and not watch television on Shabbat,” he said.

Looking ahead, “at the very least we’re going to want to do a repeat of this event next year,” said Donny.

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Jewish Techs: The Jewish Technology Blog

This blog looks at how modern technology affects Jewish life, particularly the impact of the Internet on Jews across the globe. The Internet has made the Jewish community seem smaller. The Jewish Techs blog, written by blogger Rabbi Jason Miller (The Techie Rabbi), explores the places where Jewish culture, education and faith intersect with technology. Of course, like anything, Jews will continue to ask if technology is good or bad for the Jews – the age old question of our people. Good or bad, it is undisputed that technology has changed Jewish life. If you’re Jewish or interested in technology or both… you’ll enjoy the conversation. Thanks for reading the Jewish Techs blog.

The Techie Rabbi – Rabbi Jason Miller

Rabbi Jason Miller, the Techie RabbiJason Miller is NOT your typical rabbi. Known as the Techie Rabbi, he launched Access Computer Technology in 2010 and has grown it into a full-scale technology firm that provides social media marketing consulting and web design in addition to IT support. Ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary a decade ago, Rabbi Jason has made a name for himself as a popular blogger, social media expert, educator and entrepreneur. Based in Detroit, his congregation includes more than a million people who read his blog and follow him in Cyberspace. He began the Jewish Techs blog in January 2010 as the New York Jewish Week's technology expert.

An entrepreneurial rabbi and an alum of Clal's "Rabbi Without Borders" fellowship, Jason Miller is a rabbi and thought leader whose personal blog has been viewed by millions. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most tech-savvy Jewish leader" and the Huffington Post ranked him among the top Jewish Twitter users in the world. A social media expert, Rabbi Jason is a popular speaker and writer on technology and its effect on the Jewish world. He writes the "Jewish Techs" blog for The Jewish Week and the monthly "Jews in the Digital Age" column for the Detroit Jewish News.

Miller won the 2012 Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce and is one of the winners of a Jewish Influencer award from the National Jewish Outreach Program.