As War Threat Recedes, Israelis Seek to Export Security Know-How
Oct. 04, 1994
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ Want to make your phone calls untraceable? Need to shoot through the windows of your bulletproof car? Or just looking to replace the old picket fence with an Israeli army-tested perimeter security system?
These and other security devices were on display in Tel Aviv Monday, part of a growing effort by Israeli firms to pound the tools of conflict and isolation into a peacetime export industry.
Standing next to a sign that said ''The CIA, KGB, Mossad and now you,'' Jacob Solan recalled how for decades he provided ''various institutions'' with the only phone link from Israel to surrounding Arab countries via a special exchange in London.
Today's budding ties - and phone links - with the Arab world could have put him out of business.
Instead, the experience gave him the idea of incorporating phone line scrambling techniques in his exchange to provide untraceable international dialing, Solan said.
The state-owned weapons industry lost nearly a record $1 billion last year, part of a worldwide slump. But with security exports accounting for almost a fifth of Israel's $15 billion in exports, reviving the sector is vital to the economy.
Displays at the International Exhibition On Security, Protection, Safety and Defense ranged from computerized smoke detection and alarm systems to devices to expose forged bills.
Some of the smaller startup companies are joining established weapons giants in converting military technology to civilian use.
In one successful cooperative effort, Magal Security Systems jointly developed its surveillance system with Israel Aircraft Industries and tested it at army bases.
''I can adjust it to any size intruder in any light and it can distinguish between man and object,'' said Magal marketing head Dov Topaz, regaling onlookers with little plastic dinosaurs whose every movement was recorded by a rotating video camera and computer.
Military experience also aided a company called Oran, which outfits Israeli army jeeps with bullet-resistant glass with a twist - you can fire through it at assailants outside.
''We developed the glass to meet the dangers of the intifadah,'' the six- year Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, said Yossi Gershon, the company's marketing head.
He said the company moved several years ago into exports, which now account for two-thirds of its $15 million in sales.
Some items came from Israel's relatively advanced hi-tech academic research, like Zamir Systems' license plate recognition system developed from recent computer vision breakthroughs at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.
Business development director Mark Simon demonstrated the product with an electronic race car whose four-inch license plate was read, deciphered and displayed on a computer screen in a split-second whenever it passed a unit beside the circular track.
Simon said the system was used in Israel and Spain to allow selective access to parking lots and was being extended to identifying traffic violators. This would be an improvement over the photo- and video-based systems now used by police worldwide.