As the mobile industry's biggest shindig, Mobile World Congress, drew to a close for another year last week, dozens of Israeli companies will have packed up their stands and returned home from the Barcelona trade show.
Altogether, 110 Israeli companies had booths or displays at MWC – the fourth largest country contingent, behind the US, the UK, and France (and at least two dozen of the companies attending from those countries are either former Israeli start-ups that moved abroad, or have a large R&D facility in Israel). As execs from telcos and mobile operators from around the world visited the Israeli pavilion in Hall 5, Israeli companies announced dozens of deals with foreign companies.
Among those customers, for example, is India's Bharti Airtel. At an event in Barcelona, officials of the company said they purchased $100m in products and technology from Israel in 2012, and planned to spend up to $250m in Israel this year. One Israeli company, Gilat Satellite Networks, will be supplying Bharti with secure satellite-based communications as the primary mode of connectivity for up to 30,000 ATM sites across India.
Israeli companies are involved in almost all aspects of the mobile business, including hardware design, backhaul technology, security, and app development. The shows awards featured a clutch of Israeli firms: popular mapping app Waze, for example, scooped the prize for best overall app in the show, while three other Israeli apps were nominated for awards at MWC: MyCheck, an iPhone app that lets you pay restaurant and bar tabs using your cell account; uTest, which developed a mass platform for mobile and desktop testing; and Intucell, recently bought by Cisco.
Also using MWC to showcase its ware was PointGrab, an Israeli company that provides most of the world's 2D gesture technology for remote controls, laptops, and desktop computers. PointGrab has now developed the first gesture SDK for iOS – released at the show – meaning that developers can now build software that will allow users to control their iPhone and iPads with gestures. As an example of the technology, PointGrab has developed the first iPhone app that utilises gestures. Called CamMe, the app lets you use your phone for a self-portrait, taking photos not by touching the screen, but by gesturing to the camera.
On the hardware side, Israel's Radvision, recently acquired by Avaya, announced at the show, that it has signed a deal to supply its video-calling BEEHD video client framework to South Korea's Pantech, which will use the tech for an Android-based, Qualcomm-powered LTE handset it's developing.
Meanwhile, Radvision's cousin company, Rad Data Communications, took advantage of MWC to introduce to the wider world its mini-NID (network interface device) – the MiNID – which handles up to 1Gbps of Ethernet user traffic with per port in a device smaller than a pen. And Israel's WiseSec has come up with what it claims is the first "indoor GPS", allowing retailers inside shopping malls to send out offers and coupons to shoppers inside malls as they pass by, using Bluetooth beacons technology. WiseSec's technology was recently installed at the Moscow Mall, one of Russia's biggest shopping centres.
And then there are ones working in security, especially with the ongoing bring your own device (BYOD) trend, like Zimperium (proactive virus detection) and Red Bend (dual Android systems on the same for personal and business use), in mobile marketing, like Idoomoo (video ads scalable for the web, e-mail, or mobile) and Applicat (mobile business tools), and in entertainment, like Comigo (an Android-based smart TV platform) and TVTak (Shazam-like detection of TV shows).
Israel's mobile background
Why is Israel such a world centre of mobile technology? Many of the entrepreneurs who started the successful startups in the mobile space got a leg up in their army service, say many in the industry.
"The Defence Ministry has been developing communications technology for a long time, and many of the people who start companies meet while working there," a spokeswoman for PointGrab said.
Although the specifics of what they did during their service is of course confidential, entrepreneurs learn new and innovative ways of applying their knowledge, and take those techniques with them into civilian life.