Hundreds of entrepreneurs, company representatives, doctors, and medical industry executives gathered on Thursday to hear more about what Israel is doing in the realm of mobile and digital health. And many industry experts paid special attention to the start-ups that, they said, are making Israel a world-wide hub for mobile health tech.

“Israel’s enormous contributions to the medical technology industry have not gone unnoticed,” said Dr. Ashish Atreja, Chief Medical Technology Innovation and Engagement Office at Mount Sinai Hospital of New York. “We are excited to see new developments for the medical community at the mHealth conference and are looking forward to building relationships in Israel.”

The mHealth event is one of a series of similar events held around the world to highlight mobile health technologies. mHealth Israel has about 1,400 members. According to Levi Shapiro, a founder and lead organizer of the group, and General Partner at Veritas Ventures, Israel is an ideal setting for mobile health technologies due to its start up culture and health care system.

Israel has also had electronic medical records for 26 years, Shapiro added, giving start-ups a huge trove of historical data to tap into.

Eye on the prize

Seven of the most innovative Israeli start-ups working in the mobile health space – which “reduces” medical technology to fit into a smartphone or wearable device – were chosen to participate in a start-up contest held Thursday at the 5th annual mHealth Israel Conference in Tel Aviv Thursday.

The start-up contest is always the highlight, said Shapiro. This year’s winner, 6over6, was “a great example of the innovation at work in the Israel mobile health ecosystem.”

The company has developed a technology to enable anyone to figure out whether they need glasses, enabling them to “self-prescribe” a pair via a smartphone app. Using a combination of math, physics, vision technology, and advanced algorithms, said 6over6 CEO Ofer Limon, “we offer a full range of services for consumers, just as good, if not better – more accurate – as they can get at an optician or optometrist.”

Ofer Limon (Courtesy)

Ofer Limon (Courtesy)

Not that 6over6 (the name refers to a measure of perfect vision) is trying to put members of that profession out of business. “We are aiming our GlassesOn app at the many consumers who want to buy glasses online, but have a hard time because sending in a prescription and measuring PD (pupillary distance, the proper distance between lenses to ensure they sit squarely on each eye), as well as using the other online tools and faxing in prescriptions is difficult.” With GlassesOn, Limon said, users could create a new prescription or duplicate an existing one – without a visit to the optometrist.

“We use light-based tech to discover eyesight,” said Limon. “Instead of sitting in front of the refractor machine where the optician puts lenses in front of your eye and asks you whether you see better with lens A or lens B. With our technology, a user could put their phone in front of their eyes for a few minutes, and get as accurate a reading as they could at the optician, if not more so, since there are no subjective feelings or environmental factors involved in our measurement.” According to Limon, regulations in most US states allow for this kind of prescription.

With the Copyglass function in GlassesOn, said Limon, “you could quickly find out your most recent prescription. The app will give you a completely accurate prescription within a range of +/- 0.25D error for near and farsighted vision.” With the iPrescribe function, “it’s just like being in an optometrist’s office. iPrescribe manipulates the optical and perceptual phenomena to give you a completely accurate prescription for nearsighted vision, including astigmatism.”

Although GlassesOn uses a camera to read the data from a user’s glasses or to measure their eyesight, “we are not bound by the quality of the camera,” said Limon. “We have been working with a Samsung Galaxy S3 as our base device, certainly not the newest technology. I have seen specs for very low-cost phones from India and the Far East, and those would work too.” The power of the app is in its algorithms, said Limon, not in the power of the camera.

The app will be available at the beginning of June for iPhone and Android devices, said Limon. “We are already working with large online glasses retailers, with whom we have a revenue sharing program. The app will be free for anyone, and if a customer buys a pair of glasses through our app, we will get a commission.”

But Limon is thinking beyond Internet shopping. “There are hundreds of millioms of people in the world who need corrective lenses of some kind but cannot afford them,” said Limon. “We intend to donate our technology to international organizations that are supplying glasses to these disenfranchised people, many of whom do have access to smartphones.

With the app, organizations like LightHouse, which help people in the developing world to get glasses, will be able to examine people anywhere with just a smartphone, instead of having to buy and ship expensive equipment to remote areas.” The company has already raised several million dollars in two financing rounds. “We are growing, and we invite talented mobile developers and image processing engineers who wishes to harness their skill for the greater good to join us,” he added.

The mHealth conference (Oleg Luft)

The mHealth conference (Oleg Luft)

As winner of the start-up contest, 6over6 gets an all-expenses paid business development trip to the Medical World Americas Conference, set to take place in April in Houston, Texas, in association with Texas Medical Center, the world’s largest medical complex, where they will have an opportunity to show off their tech to the world, said Shapiro. “Israel is a world leader in digital healthcare technologies,” he said. “There are more than 200 digital health startups in Israel, and funding has continued to reach record-breaking levels. The startup contest and mHealth conference are premier platforms for Israel’s burgeoning medical technology field to showcase their innovations to the world.”

“We are honored to win this incredible competition, especially given the caliber of startups we were competing against,” said Limon. “This is a major milestone for us, as mHealth has enabled us to promote our idea with healthcare entrepreneurs, potential investors, and industry giants from around the globe.”