In 2011, the government of Chile issued a tender for installing a cellular network to warn of a tsunami through text messages. Tonight, this investment paid for itself: Millions of Chileans left their homes in the course of the night [April 1] after receiving notice of the approaching wave through a text message, with the help of a system provided by an Israeli start-up called eVigilo.
The company also operates a similar system for the Israeli Home Front Command, and for a number of European countries. The company won the Chilean bid after competing against giants such as the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE and the Japanese company NEC.
For the sake of comparison, in 2010, at the time of the last earthquake and tsunami, 560 people were killed as a result of a warning that didn’t arrive in time. That was despite the fact that the authorities knew about the wave an hour and a half before it reached the coast. “This time the system worked amazingly well throughout the coast of Chile, resulting in millions of Chileans evacuating their homes in a timely manner. Nobody was killed by the tsunami itself, in fact,” said Guy Weiss, the CEO of eVigilo, who is in constant contact with the Chilean authorities regarding the system’s operation.
The system, which cost $5 million, enables millions of text alerts to be sent within about three seconds to cellphones and smartphones, bypassing the SMS system. The eVigilo system, located at a government site, actually connects to the cellular networks and causes only antennas in the geographic region in danger to send text messages to subscribers located in its vicinity. The message isn’t sent to a specific telephone number, but simply to all the phones found in the coverage area of the relevant antenna.
The No. 1 client: the Israeli Home Front Command
The eVigilo system is now installed in Chile and Israel, is at the pilot stages in Singapore and Azerbaijan and is being installed in Austria and Belgium. Its biggest client up to now is Israel’s Home Front Command, which ordered systems from the company at an estimated $20 million. eVigilo is now installed through the “Personal Message” project of the Home Front Command, which sends location-specific text messages according to exposure to emergency situations.
When a snowstorm hit Israel in December, the system was used in order to send targeted messages to besieged communities. The company also won other bids from the Home Front Command, such as “National Message,” to transmit emergency messages through various media, and the “Islands of the Home Front” tender. In an emergency situation, eVigilo could send text messages to 11 million devices in Israel within 3 seconds.
The company, founded by Guy Weiss and Felix Vainik, employs about 25 people. Up to now it has raised about a half a million dollars from Jonathan Medved’s angel investment group, OurCrowd.