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BGU Student-Created Technology Used at Rio Olympics

BGU Student-Created Technology Used at Rio Olympics

August 11, 2016

Business & Management, Press Releases

A new app, SayVU, conceived as a graduate student project at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, is being deployed at the 2016 Rio Olympics. International Security & Defense Systems (ISDS), the security integrator for the Olympics, selected SayVU as one of the Israeli technologies being used to protect attendees.

SayVU, now available on the Android platform, enables a user to send a distress signal to an emergency hotline even if a phone is locked and without having to access the application. The message can be sent in a number of ways: shaking the device, tapping the camera button or simply speaking into the phone.

“SayVU strives to minimize the response time of emergency services and other authorities and makes sure the user gets assistance as quickly as possible,” according to SayVU Chief Executive Officer Amotz Koskas. We have established a hotline center at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which helps emergency and law enforcement agencies respond to alerts and ensure the safety of Olympics attendees.”

SayVU also includes the option for automatically turning on the phone’s microphone. It sends the recorded voice, GPS and other locating information to an emergency hotline. The app uses patent pending machine-learning techniques to determine the user’s patterns and checks when it senses abnormalities. If there is no reply, the app automatically sends out a distress message.


In addition to SayVU’s life-saving security benefits, the technology provides real-time event and emergency reporting to emergency medical services and law enforcement agencies. It also provides threat management, regional threat mapping and trend prediction.

The technology was conceived and developed in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli youths in 2014. One of them managed to call and report the kidnapping but the police did not immediately respond because they thought it was a prank call. Koskas, at the time an MBA student at BGU’s Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management, wondered if there was a technological means to prevent similar instances in the future.

A year later, Koskas won the joint Google and BGU competition “Students Thinking Innovation in the Public Sector” in collaboration with “Digital Israel” and the staff of the “Accessible Government” initiative to promote innovation in the public sector through information and communication technologies. The new technology attempted to meet two main needs: to give citizens the tools to send out a distress message and location quickly in an emergency, and to enable the authorities to get a clear, real-time situation report.

Recently, the company ran a pilot with kindergartens in Ofakim, Israel. It was deemed a success when a pedophile was caught by a teacher who used the app. As a result, the Ofakim municipality decided to use the app for all educational institutions, social workers and the municipal hotline, with other municipalities following suit.

SayVU has embarked on a $2 million round of funding. The company is developing strategic partnerships in the U.S., China, Europe, and Africa.

The company was also just awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S.-Israel BIRD Foundation for a project funded by Israel’s Public Security Ministry and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The goal is to provide orientation within buildings and non-failure communications under extreme conditions to first responders such as police, firefighters and emergency medicine personnel.


By supporting a world-class academic institution that not only nurtures the Negev, but also shares its expertise locally and globally, Americans for Ben-Gurion University engages a community of Americans who are committed to improving the world. David Ben-Gurion envisioned that Israel’s future would be forged in the Negev. The cutting-edge research carried out at Ben-Gurion University drives that vision by sustaining a desert Silicon Valley, with the “Stanford of the Negev” at its center. The Americans for Ben-Gurion University movement supports a 21st century unifying vision for Israel by rallying around BGU’s remarkable work and role as an apolitical beacon of light in the Negev desert.

About Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev embraces the endless potential we have as individuals and as a commonality to adapt and to thrive in changing environments. Inspired by our location in the desert, we aim to discover, to create, and to develop solutions to dynamic challenges, to pose questions that have yet to be asked, and to push beyond the boundaries of the commonly accepted and possible.

We are proud to be a central force for inclusion, diversity and innovation in Israel, and we strive to extend the Negev’s potential and our entrepreneurial spirit throughout the world. For example, the multi-disciplinary School for Sustainability and Climate Change at BGU leverages over 50 years of expertise on living and thriving in the desert into scalable solutions for people everywhere.

BGU at a glance:  

20,000 students | 800 senior faculty | 3 campuses | 6 faculties: humanities & social sciences, health sciences, engineering sciences, natural sciences, business & management, and desert research.


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