US, Israel set up startup competition to tap into anti-terror tech
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US, Israel set up startup competition to tap into anti-terror tech

Over $200,000 in prizes will be awarded to the most promising firms, the 2 countries’ defense ministries say

Illustrative photo of an IDF soldier operating a reconnaissance drone. (photo credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an IDF soldier operating a reconnaissance drone. (photo credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash90)

The US Department of Defense and Israel’s Ministry of Defense are joining forces for the third time in setting up a startup competition to help them tap into new technologies to beat terrorism.

Over $200,000 in prizes will be awarded to the most promising startups, the two organizations said.

Startups can play a “game-changing role” in combating the “constantly evolving threat of global terrorism,” the US and Israeli organizers said in a statement. “As terrorists become ever more sophisticated, technological innovations become an increasingly critical component of detecting and defeating them.”

This year the challenge is divided into two tracks: The first track is the General Technologies Track, which is open to startups in any technology sector. These include the fields of surveillance, social media analytics, image and video understanding, cybersecurity, drones, robotics, personal protection, biometrics, reconnaissance, and detection of explosives or water contamination.

The second track is the Urban Navigation Technologies Track, which focuses on innovative technologies for navigating without GPS — an increasingly important issue for special forces, law enforcement, and other antiterrorism professionals who need to operate indoors or in other environments where GPS is not available.  Entries in this track might include location services based on beacons, technologies incorporating pre-loaded maps, technologies that estimate a user’s position via dead-reckoning or step-counting, and any other technology for navigating or positioning with no GPS.

Both tracks are open to all startups, entrepreneurs, and research groups worldwide, the statement said.

“We chose Israel as the location for this contest because of the breadth, depth, and creativity of the local ecosystem” said Adam Tarsi, International Program Manager, US Department of Defense, Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSC ).  The tie-up with Israel enables him “to find solutions that I wouldn’t have found in my own backyard.”

The deadline for entries to both tracks is March 9. Entries will be reviewed by an international panel of judges from the US Defense Department, the Israel Ministry of Defense and other organizations.

The most promising startups will be selected to present live at the Combating Terrorism Technology Conference in Tel Aviv University on June 17.  In addition, Navigation Challenge finalists will demonstrate their technologies in a dedicated urban navigation test facility in Israel.

In each track, the winning startup will receive a $100,000 cash prize and the runners-up will each receive $10,000. All participants will gain exposure to relevant customers and sponsors in the US and Israeli governments, as well as other international investors, customers, and partners, the statement said.

“This contest reflects how governments are increasingly turning to the startup ecosystem which is able to develop and deploy innovations far faster and more cost-effectively than traditional large defense-contractors can,” said Gideon Miller, chairman of the CTTSC.  “It also reflects the trend of governments moving to adapt technologies from the commercial world, rather than developing solutions from scratch.”

The winner of 2016 competition was the Israeli startup Duke Robotics, a developer of “The Future Soldier” robotic weaponry system on a drone platform.  In 2015 the first prize was awarded to InSoundz, a startup whose technology zeroes in on and isolates specific voices of interest no matter how noisy the environment.

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