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The “Upside” to International Cooperation: Starhome brings Cellular to Smart Systems

"Usually companies concentrate most of their resources in their main activity, and sometimes find it difficult to divert their resources for development in other potential directions. If there is funding and support for research projects, it helps companies explore new possibilities,” says Shai Ophir, CTO of Starhome. Starhome is engaged in supplying services to cellular operators and has under its belt a number of projects carried out in recent years together with leading European companies in the field. 
 
“In Europe, they really like R&D collaboration programs,” says Ophir. “Everyone, both large and small companies, is involved in research projects of this kind.”

Cellular World Meets Smart Home

Starhome was born over a decade ago and provides roaming services to cellular operators. “We sell value-added services to cellular operators which assist them in providing services to foreigners, or to their subscribers who travel abroad,” Ophir explains.

A small taste of the services offered by Starhome is the option to access one’s cellular voice mailbox from abroad, using the same quick dial function as in the country of origin. Services such as this are very valuable for cellular operators. Starhome boasts approximately 200 clients throughout the world (some are leaders in the cellular field), and the company can track more than half of global passenger traffic through its clients. In 2007, Starhome joined an international project led by Spanish company Telefonica. Telefonica, together with other European partners, has created the Smart Home project (homes with a smart electronic system, which allows communication between various appliances). The future vision of Smart Home will, for example, enable one to transfer a movie one started viewing in the living room to the bedroom, fridges will be able to order food from the supermarket automatically and incoming calls will be routed to either the landline or cellular phone, depending on one’s exact location in the house. And that is exactly where Starhome entered the picture.

"We joined the project as the mobile component,” Ophir explains. “We are the connection between the cellular network and the Smart Home.” “What we do is route calls according to one’s location. If one is at home and one receives a call on one’s mobile, the call will be transferred to the landline or computer, depending on one’s location.”

 "There is only an upside"

Starhome joined the project through the CELTIC Cluster, which operates as part of the EUREKA program, chaired by Israel in 2010-2011. In the framework of these various programs, Ophir attended various CELTIC conferences where the Telefonica project was presented. MATIMOP accompanied Starhome with all application and approval procedures, until it received funding from the Chief Scientist. The project also won third place in CELTIC’s annual competition.

"One of the things we developed in the framework of the project," says Ophir, “is the rerouting of SMS messages. If a subscriber receives an SMS while in their vehicle, they will receive a call instead of an SMS, which they will hear as an audio message rather than having to read the SMS while driving.”

Starhome's developments in the smart home and car sectors are complete, but have not yet reached the commercial phase, since the market is not yet ready. “There is still no smart home or smart car out there, so we can’t sell the developments yet,” says Ophir, who is quick to reassure that “the technology we developed has in any case advanced us; we have accomplished the rerouting of calls and SMSs according to the destination device (mobile, computer) and we offer this technology within other frameworks. This project, as well as other projects under the CELTIC banner, has created for us an infrastructure for the whole SIP world, for example, and that has advanced our technologies.”

The benefit of international projects is measured by more than just sales. Sometimes it is difficult in the short term to quantify the benefits of international collaboration. “Working with Telefonica is valuable in itself,” says Ophir. “We heard what they do, sat with them at meetings and studied their field. None of this could have happened spontaneously, without the support, funding and backing of an international program such as this. There is no downside. There is only an upside to these programs.”

For more information about the Celtic Program, click here.