We live in an era where ideas can turn into vast sums of money, and then disappear, in the blink of an eye. Many of today's start-ups start with a way of changing business process and then commercialise that idea. But Nir Gabay, the founder of El-Sight, focussed on solving a very specific problem. And his hardware solution has massive implications that go far beyond his original vision. EL-Sight's core product is a mobile digital video recorder (DVR) that can securely store and transmit data.
The initial application of EL-Sight's technology was focussed on military operations. Gabay was an officer in the Israeli Special Forces. From that experience, he saw the need to be able to securely transmit data from cameras being operated in the field. His initial prototypes used a single cellular connection to transmit encrypted video signals from the field to an operations centre. But when he took that idea to the Israeli military they told him that while the idea was sound, it needed to be more secure.
Rather than tossing the idea, Gabay developed it further.
As well as his experience in the Israeli military, Gabay had a strong interest in technology so he looked at how he could improve the communications capacity and apply stronger encryption. This led to the development of the RiderM-04 DVR. The device has four cellular radios - each can be used with a different carrier.
When data is sent via the RiderM, it is initially encrypted and then broken into segments which are then encrypted again. The segment sizes are optimised so that different pieces are transmitted over different cellular networks and are received by bespoke software in an operations centre where the segments are decrypted, reassembled and the final assembled data stream is decrypted.
This approach, of applying two types of encryption, a unique algorithm for breaking up and assembling the data, and sending the different segments out over different cellular networks makes interception and tampering with the data stream extremely difficult. EL-Sight developed everything from the hardware to the command-and-control software operating in operations centres.
The RiderM has a HDMI port so a camera can be directly connected. All the transcoding and encryption happens on the device. And the video-stream is transcoded so that it can be transmitted as quickly as possible based on the available bandwidth of the four cellular connections. While the video is captured at full HD, it is transmitted at at resolution that is best suited to available bandwidth.
As well as military operations, Gabay told me the company is working with police forces, first responders such as ambulance officers, media companies and others who want to securely transmit video and other data. This is where Gabay's original idea has shifted. Although it was initially about securely transmitting video, it is applicable to any kind of data.
One interesting application that Gabay showed me on a video was dealing with hijackings in South Africa. One transport company was losing millions of dollars per month as truckloads of cigarettes were being hijacked by armed bandits. A sensor was installed into the trucks that activated a camera and livestream via the RiderM to a law enforcement agency. As a result, hijackings suffered by the company fell by over 90%, waiving them tens of millions of dollars.
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The authorities could see, in real time what the hijacker was doing, including when they drew a gun during the police pursuit. The video, followed the chase, letting police know in real time what was happening in the truck's cabin. When the truck was stopped, the hijacker fired some shots and tried to make a run for it. But then a single gunshot rang out. Gabay said that was the 'end" of the hijacker.
In healthcare, the device allows a first responder to collect patient data, securely send it to a doctor or other expert in an office who can look at the information and the video stream to support the operator in the field. All this is done without compromising the patient's privacy.
"We wanted to solve a video issue," said Gabay. "We have a very high level video codec inside - H.265 video compression. But actually it's a communications unit. We can secure any kind of communication".
Television broadcast teams can transmit, live from the field, using the RiderM, without the need for satellite uplinks, he added. And this is done with very little lag - less than half a second compared to other solutions that can delay transmission by up to 30 seconds according to Gabay.
As for the future, Gabay said EL-Sight is working to reduce the size of the RiderM. It's currently about the size of a hard-cover novel but the company is working on reducing it to a system on a chip. For there, Gabay said the applications become incredibly broad with autonomous vehicles one of the "blue sky" areas the company is looking to exploit.