Israeli tech helps Mexican rescuers locate quake victims

Camero-Tech’s radio wave technology, which can ‘see’ through walls, helps rescue workers in Mexico search through rubble for trapped victims

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Israeli rescue workers look for survivors in Mexico City on September 23, 2017, four days after the powerful quake that hit central Mexico. (AFP Photo/Pedro Pardo)
Israeli rescue workers look for survivors in Mexico City on September 23, 2017, four days after the powerful quake that hit central Mexico. (AFP Photo/Pedro Pardo)

Radio-wave technology developed by Israeli firm Camero-Tech that can “see” through solid walls is helping rescue workers in Mexico search through rubble for buried victims, Amir Beeri, the CEO of the firm, said.

“We got reports from our representative in Mexico that our technology is being used there by the rescue workers and he sent us TV images that show our systems in use,” Beeri said in a phone interview.

The company’s “sense-through-the-wall” imaging technology uses radio waves to map the layout of areas that are blocked by bricks or any other material. The radio waves penetrate the rubble and get signals back from within. These signals are then analyzed by powerful algorithms which are able to detect in real time if there is movement or breathing within the destruction, indicating there is someone alive that needs to be rescued. The system also allows users to pinpoint the location of the person or people trapped within the building, even if they are unconscious, Beeri said.

“We know from reports in Mexico that our system helped rescue a number of people alive,” said Beeri, “And that gave us great satisfaction, because the possibility of finding survivors under the rubble in a short and effective manner is a main tool for saving trapped people after earthquakes and collapsing buildings.”

Camero-Tech’s Xaver 400 sense-through-the-wall imaging technology was used by Mexican rescue workers after the September 2017 earthquake (Courtesy)

The death toll from the quake in Mexico has climbed to 326, CNN reported on Monday, and efforts to locate people still trapped under the debris could last for at least two more weeks as volunteers continue their work. Earlier this week, volunteers for the Mexico branch of the emergency response organization ZAKA found the body of Rabbi Haim (Jaime) Ashkenazi of the Kehillat Magen David community in a collapsed office building, ZAKA said.

A 71-member Israeli delegation from the army’s Home Front Command  has been working in Mexico since Thursday. Two Israeli aid organizations — IsraAID and iAid — also sent delegations to help with the search and rescue efforts.

Above: Miguel Angel Coronel Vargas, a Mexican rescue commander, demonstrates Camero-Tech technology in a TV interview.

The Camero-Tech systems can see up to 20 meters through a large number of walls with different thicknesses, enabling users to form a picture of the internal structure of the place. They also can detect the movements of small animals.

The company has developed three main products for search and rescue operations: the Xaver 100 is a portable, hand-held “life detector” that provides real-time information about the presence of life behind a wall; the more refined Xaver 400 provides a two-dimensional image that allows users to discern static and dynamic objects and figure out their location, along with an analysis of the size of the space; and the Xaver 800 provides users with a three-dimensional image that allows them to more easily understand and classify what sort of object has been found, whether an adult or a child for example, explained Beeri, and is suitable for use in more complex situations.

IDF soldiers search for survivors in a building that collapsed during an earthquake that struck Mexico on September 24, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Mexican forces are using the 400 and 800 systems, which Camero-Tech sold to the Mexican security authorities a few years ago, Beeri said. “We sold the Mexican army and their rescue services some tens of these systems,” he said, with the firm also training them on how to use the technology.

The Israeli army and its search and rescue teams also use the technology, as do more than 40 countries. It is not, however, being used by the Israeli rescue team operating in Mexico, Beeri said.

Camero-Tech, founded in 2004, is a 30-person firm based in Kfar Netter, Israel, founded by Amir together with Aharon Aharon, who today heads the Israel Innovation Authority and was the former CEO of Apple Israel. Camero-Tech is part of Israel’s SK Group, privately held technology and innovation holding firms focusing on defense and paramilitary technologies.

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