Israeli firm uses computer program to save lives


There are no chairs in the conference room at NowForce, an Israeli start-up company. That makes for a very dynamic 20-minute meeting each morning where employees discuss what they have been doing since yesterday’s meeting.

Dynamic is a good word to describe this company, which was created in 2008 to answer a simple, yet potentially life-saving question: How can emergency workers arrive at the scene more quickly?

It all started when a first responder found out that he was right in the next hotel room as a young boy, who was unconscious, died before medical personnel could get to his room. Had that emergency worker known what was happening in the very next room, that boy’s life might have been saved.

NowForce is the result of some brainstorming by that first responder and others to create a computer program enabling anyone using a smartphone to be contacted for nearby emergencies. Meanwhile, there is a command central that keeps track of the location of emergencies ranging from car crashes, medical problems, fires, incidents of terrorism and many more.

If a first responder has NowForce’s app turned on, that emergency worker can check his or her own cellphone to learn exactly what is going on and where. But responders also can turn off the app if they are unavailable at work or somewhere else.

The information is all gathered at a central location, which includes NowForce’s Jerusalem office, as well as the offices of any police or other organization purchasing the software. As quickly as a new symbol designating an emergency pops up on the screen, so does the location of someone able to help out.

When that emergency call comes in, an imaginary ring around the perimeter of the scene is drawn and everyone who is in that area and meets the qualifications of what is needed, gets an alert to their cell phone.

Normally, the local fire, police or ambulance departments are contacted for all emergencies. But sometimes there aren’t enough volunteers to handle all problems in one area, or a responder gets stuck in traffic and takes longer than normal to arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, it is fairly likely that some first responder is nearby, maybe at a job, meeting friends or eating. This responder may or may not be on duty and may or may not be in his or her normal coverage area.

But, if the app is on, he or she is able to respond.

The technology also can be used by individuals who can download the application on their Android or iPhone and then use it should they need help.

Response times for emergencies have dropped substantially for areas subscribing to NowForce’s system. About two years ago, the company broadened its range into Montgomery County and now has an office in Chevy Chase. For at least the next year, the company, whose technology is in use in such varied places as Israel, Nigeria, Brazil and Vietnam, plans to focus its attention on the United States market.

CEO Assaf Shafran temporarily has moved with his family to Kemp Mill to help thrust his company into the market here, particularly focusing in on Homeland Security and other governmental agencies. NowForce received a U.S. patent for its technology about six months ago, he said.

Back in Israel, NowForce’s technology is in the hands of United Hatzalah of Israel, the country’s large nonprofit volunteer ambulance service, and was used this summer by those protecting young people on Birthright trips. It also has sold its technology to the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel, the organization that monitors all travel in the country.

NowForce has a contract with Rivers State, Nigeria, and has shortened that government’s response time by about 80 percent, Shafran said.

“We are purely a technology company, selling software to command centers,” Shafran explained as he gave a tour of his one-floor office, which consists of a lot of cubicles and a few meeting rooms.

“You can save a lot of lives in just this small place,” Shafran said.

To learn more about NowForce, visit their website at

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