The latest Israeli developments in artificial intelligence and data collection technology are bringing innovation to the personal and professional lives of ordinary people — and challenging conventional notions of privacy at the same time.
Representatives from start-ups Gloat, Pixoneye and IDRRA revealed some of their current projects at the 9th Ambassadors’ Roundtable on Artificial Intelligence at the Royal Society in London, an event organised by the Anglo-Israel Association.
Israel is currently ranked third in the world for innovation by the Global Competitive Index, having more than 430 artificial intelligence start-ups worth around $3.5 billion.
Pixoneye, which was listed last year in the top 100 firms by startup.co.uk, has developed an app that can be downloaded to a user’s phone to provide “hyper-personalised” information for targeted advertising.
It does this by reading its users’ photo galleries, telling companies that it predicts a user will, for example, move home or even have a baby, simply by analysing their images.
Its founders have acknowledged that Pixoneye’s concept is “so new and on the border of what is currently socially accepted in terms of privacy that companies have to decide between the great added value reward versus the perceived reputational ‘risk’”.
Its CEO, Ofri Ben Porat, who previously worked as a marketing specialist for Israel’s tourist board, told the audience at the Royal Society that the app is a response to millennials’ changing life-cycles, that a company cannot assume certain things about a customer based purely on age and location.
Instead, he said: “Young people take pictures of everything these days. On average, people take 250 photos each month. Even so, under two per cent of those photos are shared on social media. That is a huge amount of data companies don’t currently have access to.”
Mr Ben Porat reassured the audience that Pixoneye’s algorithm “is not interested in a face or an object. It looks at angles, textures, colours and breaks those down into a formula”.
The only data sent to advertisers is “broken down into in characteristics to predict what may happen in your life,” Mr Ben Porat said.
IDRRA, a security consultancy, also uses artificial intelligence and chatbots to allow companies to improve their online data security.
The firm, formed in January 2017 by Kobi Freedman, has emerged at a time when cyber crime is becoming more complex and difficult to defend against. Mr Freedman said: “The ability to attack is far beyond the ability to defend. It would be fair to say that the defenders are much more stupid than the adversaries.”
IDRRA aims to automate what it calls “the costly, inefficient, manual, labour-intensive consulting processes to save organisations time and money.”
Another Israeli start-up, Gloat, promotes itself as a “recruitment and career enhancement network”. Formed in Tel Aviv in 2015, it has been described as the “Tinder for jobs” for using artificial intelligence to “match” companies with jobseekers by creating anonymised CVs from clients’ career histories.
Ben Reuveni, Gloat co-founder, said: “The problem we see is that sometimes the best applicants won’t come across their perfect job opportunity. By using a user’s data points, we can make sure they are not only matched with that job but also given opportunities they didn’t even know they wanted.”
The Roundtable featured leading AI industry figures and academics from Israel and the UK.
Mark Regev, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, who opened the event, hailed “the strength and dynamism in the UK-Israel partnership”,
Deputy UK ambassador to Israel, Tony Kay, said: “Ben Gurion [airport] has a revolving door for UK companies. Israeli innovation is making our businesses more effective.”