Increasing safety in Baltimore and around the nation was a key theme of the Dec. 6 event “Technologies of the Future: Autonomous Vehicles, Robots and More.”

The gathering was presented by the Maryland/Israel Development Center — a  a  public-private partnership of the Maryland Department of CommerceIsrael’s Ministry of Economy and Trade and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and held at the Spark Baltimore co-working space at Power Plant Live. It highlighted Israeli companies, as well as Maryland companies in partnership with Israeli firms, that presented technology that increases safety on city streets and in crime-ridden areas. In addition, there were live demonstrations of new technologies, including robots and automated technology.

“Safety is always our top priority,” said Pete K. Rahn, Maryland’s secretary of transportation, who was the event’s featured speaker.

Rahn talked about the successful investment made by Maryland in representing the state to Israeli companies, resulting in almost 30 companies from the Jewish state conducting business in Maryland, including those at the event — Mobileye, Mantaro Networks with its partner, Beeper Israel and Roboteam.

Maryland Transit Administration CEO Kevin B Quinn Jr. said Baltimore is currently testing five MTA buses equipped with Mobileye technology.

”Initial results are very promising, and our goals are to reduce collisions and have safer streets in Baltimore,” he said.  Mobileye collision avoidance systems, which are in use by 25 automobile manufacturers, offer special applications for buses.

These “computers on wheels” have sensors mounted throughout the buses to transmit different types of alerts to drivers, including a forward-collision warning (red icon), pedestrian or cyclist detected (solid amber), and a pedestrian or cyclist on collision trajectory (blinking red alert with audio alert).  At this time, the system is not autonomous so it gives the bus driver vital information instantly for his or her reaction.

Mobileye was founded in Israel in 1999 and was recently acquired by Intel for $15 billion.

Jeremy Parsons, CEO of Mantaro Product Development Services in Germantown, said that his company was working closely with Beeper. One technology in development is used in robots capable of climbing and descending stairs and providing reconnaissance camera views for SWAT teams and search-and-rescue operations.

“For example, a SWAT team can send the robot up stairwells to see around corners, offering an advance view of what is up the next flight of stairs,” Parsons said.

Mantaro and Beeper are providing the Baltimore Police Department with wireless bridge communication technology for the latter’s gunshot detection and video surveillance systems.  Mantaro-Beeper’s highly secure communication system responds so fast that audio and video data can be received by controllers and then sent to the appropriate first responders, all in less than a second.  And the controller can be housed locally or thousands of miles away from the scene of the emergency. The controller can also be used to manage robots.

Roboteam, the third presenter, has its research and development in Tel Aviv and all manufacturing operations in Gaithersburg and in Pennsylvania.  Its robots, from miniature to two-man vehicles, are in use by its largest customers, the U.S. Army and the Air Force.

The BPD and other law enforcement agencies around the nation are also customers, enabling bomb squads and SWAT teams to deal safely with suspected bombs and other explosive devices. “Our robots can go into a house instead of a police officer or soldier,” said Roboteam CEO Shahar Abuhazira.

After the event, Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said, “Every day, so many people in our community are using technologies developed by Israeli companies – from navigation systems to medical advancements to robotics.  As more people learn of these successes, it helps build greater respect, appreciation and support for Israel.”

Barry Bogage, MDIC’s executive director, agreed. “We’re especially pleased we were able to show and demonstrate actual Israeli technologies and not just talk about them,” he said. “Everyone really enjoyed getting on the Maryland bus to see how the Mobileye technology was installed and used. Also, everyone was thrilled to see the robotic technologies from the Mantaro-Beeper team and Roboteam. Together, they really do show the ‘technologies of the future’ and how they are being developed in Israel and Maryland.”

Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance writer.

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