Living in Israel has enormous benefits, but it also has drawbacks, and anyone who follows the news can readily see the downsides. Not to get into politics, but the more difficult aspects of Israeli life seem to be more interesting for viewership and subscriptions to electronic and print news. The benefits, however, far outweigh anything else, and not just for fellow citizens, but what it has done for the world. You see, there is an old Latin saying, Mater artium necessitas, which we know as “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and in Israel, that idiom has rang true and has brought so many wonderful creations that have truly impacted our lives here and enhanced lives around the world, too.
When Israel was first formed, agriculture was tough, but crucial. It’s an arid atmosphere, desert all around, and heat often prevails. Our farmers mastered terracing and drip irrigation in order to grow some of the most beautiful landscapes, forests and a bounty of edible vegetation that is sold around the world. They took what they built out of necessity and brought to it developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America to help feed millions.
A large technology company called NICE Systems built one of the biggest global customer relations software platforms that literally reads a person’s emotions while on the telephone with a call-center representative, and helps steer the call center toward improved responses and crisis abatement. This technology was developed from technology used by the military to monitor for terrorist plots and antagonistic operations. A program founded for a critical need became an everyday tool for credit card companies, airlines and just about every industry that has come to rely on call centers for customer care.
Whether it is advanced mobile technology, breakthroughs in medicine and biotech research, or creating needed drinking water from the salty seas, Israel’s necessity has generated global applications for health and consumer needs that just touches just about everyone’s lives today.
And there are even more breakthroughs being made every day.
Years ago, the world feared the threat of biological warfare stemming from a thought-to-be WMD-weaponized Iraq. Today, there is speculation that Syria may have biological agents ready to be launched at population centers within Syria and elsewhere. In addition to a trend upward in drug trafficking from within Israel, the military set out to work on detection methods that would help identify and warn law enforcement and the military of potential threats from biological and chemical agents and drugs.
Once heavily into the research, we discovered ways of sensing the presence of certain chemicals in the air and on surfaces. That led to new technologies being created that can truly “snif” drugs at an airport, much like well trained police dogs are capable of doing. If you have traveled by Amtrak recently, or have been to a parade in New York City, then you are likely familiar with the canine crews that are brought in to look for both explosives and illicit drugs. The new Israel technology does the same job, but much more effectively than trained dogs, and it is being used in airports around the world.
When broken down to its smallest element, everything we are looking at here, be they drugs or explosives, are chemicals or biological in structure. The technology to detect these with small, inconspicuous devices was created out of necessity for war and policing, but is now being applied to consumer life in schools and police departments across the world.
The US Constitution and Bill of Rights offers its citizens and foreign visitors a level of protection from various intrusions. The National Security Agency’s electronic communications intercepts and hacking aside, schools cannot easily test the urine or blood — or even hair — of a student without proper probably cause. Police departments also have to deal with an individual’s rights over their desire to discover criminality. Yet, the availability of consumer-sized versions of sniffers and the like, sold either in drug store chains like Walgreens or direct to end users, has made it possible for school administrators to use trace elements found in lockers, on desks, bathroom sink counters and the like, or for parents to take dust from a car dashboard or lint on a seat or bed and see what a child may be doing.
Police departments have found that the portable test kits are not only safe for an officer to use, but just as effective as using what they find legally to test for illegality without violating any rights or laws.
We have seen the news on recent ricin attacks, and almost every post office today is prepared for the frightening reality of an Anthrax filled letter or package coming through the US Postal Service system. Most of this is detected today because of what was once only a military necessity. Today, that research, and the science behind it, are applied locally and in small enough doses to pack into a pocketbook sized kit that anyone can use.
Naturally, we’d prefer to irrigate dry regions and feed the hungry around the world, but if we can prevent kids today from using drugs and getting addicted, and testing for potential biological terrorist weapons, with methods learned from being prepared for war, then what is seen as an existential need for a country is aptly put to the very real existential threats that the drug trade and terrorism causes to families every day.
Yaacov Shoham is CEO of IDenta Corp., the creator of the first non-biological at-home drug test. The testing he created is used by law enforcement, airports, customs, Army field kits, schools and inquisitive parents. Yaacov assisted in developing the first field test kit to identify explosives. IDenta Corp. was established in 2002 with the mission of developing, manufacturing and marketing of on-the-spot field kits for the identification of drugs, drug precursors, explosives, bullet hole testing kit and develops other forensic products. The company’s products are used all over the world with a variety of customers in every field of homeland and national security and law enforcement.