Samsung makes second big Israel investment in a week

After funding start-up Rounds last week, the Korean firm announces $10 million for EarlySense

An EarlySense system in action (Courtesy)
An EarlySense system in action (Courtesy)

Korean tech giant Samsung will invest $10 million in Israel patient monitoring firm EarlySense, part of a $20 million financing round.

“EarlySense has developed and brought to market a unique, breakthrough technology that will improve the lives of consumers through health parameter sensing and monitoring,” said Gonzalo Martinez de Azagra, head of Samsung Ventures Israel, the company’s investment arm. “Our investment is evidence of our belief in the need to bring sensors to hundreds of millions of consumers and we will do all that is in our hands to contribute to EarlySense’s accelerated growth.”

In business since 2004, EarlySense developed a system that monitors patients who are sick enough to require continuous tracking, but are unwilling or do not need to be connected physically to monitors and sensors. Designed for use in non-emergency room or even home settings, the system uses sensors embedded into a mattress or chair cushion to monitor heartbeat, respiration rate, and movement. It operates on the theory that the more a patient moves around in bed, the healthier they are, in general.

The data is transferred to a monitoring station, either local or remote, with the system setting off alarms in the event that something appears amiss. The system is use in thousands of hospitals, nursing homes and home settings around the world, and according to hospital studies, over 90 percent of staff said that the system was useful in stemming and preventing patient deterioration.

For Samsung, the investment in EarlySense is about far more than healthcare. Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier in January, Yoon Boo-keun, head of Samsung Electronics’ consumer products unit, said that the company was planning to more aggressively develop technology for Internet of Things. During his speech he specifically named EarlySense’s technology as one the company would be able to deploy for IoT products.

IoT, said Yoon, “is a source of infinite potential that can enrich livelihoods and protect people depending on their needs and situations, further changing society and the economy.” Calling EarlySense’s technology “revolutionary,” Yoon added that Samsung’s IoT products “will contribute to solving humanity’s issues by expanding the scope of connection from home and cities, and to the globe.”

This is Samsung’s second investment in an Israeli start-up in just the past week. Samsung was part of a $12 million investment round in Rounds, an app that, according to co-founder and CEO Dany Fishel, may be the next WhatsApp. Like that popular chat app, Rounds lets users set up chat groups with friends, allowing any member of the group to communicate with others at the same time, or individually — but with Rounds, users get to see their friends, with the app utilizing not only text, but voice and video as well. Those features also drew in investors at Verizon Ventures and investment firms Rhodium and Draper Associates, all of whom participated in the funding round.

Samsung is no stranger to Israeli technology; the company has two local R&D centers, which develop telecommunications products, and do semiconductor work as well. Samsung’s Israeli-developed technology shows up in products that Samsung manufactures alone – such as a line of freestanding cameras and cameras integrated into smartphones – as well as jointly with other companies, such as LG and Hyundai.

Samsung has been operating in Israel for about eight years after it acquired Ramat Gan-based Transchip Israel, which worked in the image sensor industry. At the time Transchip Israel was bought out in 2007, it was a very significant event for Samsung; it was the company’s first foreign acquisition in a decade.

The other half of EarlySense’s $20 million investment round is shared with Pitango Venture Capital, medical device manufacturer Welch Allyn, JK&B, Proseed and Noaber.

“We are happy to have Samsung join our vision of bringing smart sensors to health and wellness at homes, hospitals and long term care,” said Avner Halperin, CEO of EarlySense.
”As a global leader in consumer products, Samsung can increase our reach to homes and will facilitate accelerated growth in that market. We are also honored by the vote of confidence from our existing investors, including Welch Allyn and the ongoing partnership we share together. We have made great progress to date and look forward to our continued growth and introduction of our innovative technology into additional market areas, in an effort to save lives and improve quality of life.”

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