Could Israeli technology prevent a Meron-type disaster?

After 45 people were killed Thursday night, crushed by an oversized crowd at the Lag Ba’omer festivities at Mount Meron, many are asking whether the disaster could have been avoided and whether a similar scenario could be prevented in the future.Without assigning blame for the specific circumstances of the Meron tragedy, here is a look at some Israeli technologies designed to identify and control threats in large crowds.Tel Aviv-based Viisights offers technology that can identify overcrowding and violent or suspicious activity and report it to the authorities. The company recently won a contract with Eilat to deploy 300 cameras around the southern tourist city that are monitored by a centrally located control center. The surveillance system uses visual cues from crowd behavior to predict potentially dangerous activity and automatically notify authorities if needed.Eilat launched the system before Passover as part of Israel’s “City without Violence” initiative. Viisights said it was successfully deployed to help prevent bar fights from spiraling out of control and to identify people walking around without masks in violation of COVID regulations.“The uniqueness of our technology is its ability to analyze video content and understand different situations,” Viisights CEO Asaf Birenzveig said. “The case in Meron was an unusual event, but our technology would have been able to understand that many people were falling over and would have sent an alert in real time. The situation in Meron was unique, but it is possible we could have helped alert people in time.”

Protouch, a Petah Tikva-based provider of multimedia technologies, offers a system to detect if too many people are in a given area. In cooperation with American company Synect, it recently won a contract to install its solution at Orlando International Airport to keep travelers from gathering too closely in violation of coronavirus regulations.The maximum number of people within a radius can be defined through the system, and if the number is exceeded, a red light appears at the top of a pole, telling people to disperse. The technology does not use cameras or require surveillance of specific groups of people. Instead, it is based on artificial intelligence to count people and track traffic around the pole, Protouch said.

The system is intended to guide individuals away from overcrowded centers by using color-coded lights. It can also be connected to an external command center so that spacing can be enforced if necessary. Each pole can monitor a 30-meter radius without being plugged into an external power source, Protouch said.Protouch’s crowd control system for airports (photo credit: Courtesy)In cases where an emergency has already occurred, Herzliya-based Edgybees can help response teams respond more effectively by providing live aerial videos of the site with precision geo-tagging so that rescue teams know what they are looking at. For example, firefighters or soldiers arriving at a site can instantly know where a target is located, what nearby buildings are used for and other data gathered by the rescue unit.“We can bring in data from lots of different sources to fuse on top of live video to give rescue teams greater situational awareness,” Edgybees CEO Adam Kaplan said.The company’s visual intelligence platform has been used to aid first responders in large-scale disaster areas, including during hurricanes Irma and Florence and wildfires in California and Australia. The US Air Force and Navy are among its customers.Edgybees was founded in 2017, has some 35 employees and has raised some $15 million in funding.

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