There’s nothing like becoming a victim of a break-in to get you thinking about a home-security app. Haggai Meltzer, founder and chief executive of Salient Eye, can tell you this first-hand.
Meltzer and his wife had gone south for the weekend. "When we came back home, we found the house totally trashed. An awful experience,” he said. “We called the police. They came a day later. They said nothing could be done."
That night the Meltzers went to his parents to stay. "The next day we had to look around for what was missing, start organizing things … They took money, a laptop, perfume, alcohol, jewelry … The trauma lasted for weeks.”
The crooks opened every drawer in the house – but, Meltzer says, they didn’t bother with one particular set of items: “I had several old cell phones in a drawer which they didn’t take. I guess they thought [they weren’t] valuable enough … Some of them weren’t working and some did.”
That omission led Meltzer to his “Eureka moment” and the birth of Salient Eye, a new app that turns Android-powered phones and tablets – whether they're the ones you use daily or those lying unused in a drawer – into mobile surveillance systems, suitable for your home, office and, if you're away, your hotel room.
Moreover, this app has the side benefit of being environmentally friendly since it takes advantage of the millions of cell phones powered by Google’s Android operating system that are sitting idle and likely to end up in toxic trash mountains.
Everything but the algorithm
Meltzer established Salient Eye with friends and family money. He is now looking to raise seed capital and to expand the business – particularly in the Americas.
Mobile phones provide just about all the required equipment for a security system: sensors, a camera, power supply, control panel, speakers, outside connectivity, backup power, data storage and a central processing unit, the CEO explains. What’s missing is “something to combine it all … and an algorithm for the logic,” which is where Salient Eye comes in, he notes.
The need for a simple-to-use and mobile security system exists, Meltzer continues, yet during his research, he found that people often resisted the idea.
“A security system is a preventive product … and people don’t want to think about bad moments,” he says. “Usually you think about this only after something happens to you or to someone very close to you. Otherwise you repress it and put in the back of your mind. It’s much like medical insurance.”
Meltzer, who is 33 years old and from Tel Aviv, holds a B.Sc. in software engineering from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and an MBA with a specialty in innovation and entrepreneurship from the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya. He formerly worked as a software architect at Dalet, the Paris-based provider of content solutions to the media.
The term "salient eye" is a reference to the characteristic that enables the mantis shrimp – a strong and aggressive crustacean with eyes that move independently of each other and provide a large field of vision – to survive in coral reefs.
Simplicity was the watchword
A user of Salient Eye simply sets the phone in an area he wants to secure, turns on the app and leaves. If someone enters the room, the app will detect the movement and do three things: trigger an alarm through the phone to scare the intruder, begin silently shooting a continuous stream of photos, and send alerts to the homeowner by text message and e-mail. (The user can enable or disable any of these functions.)
In the e-mail sent by the system is a link to the Salient Eye website, to which the photos are automatically and immediately uploaded.
“Our users are very creative with it,” Meltzer says, using it for everything from securing their homes and hotel rooms to keeping cats off the kitchen counter. He jokes that kids use the app to find out whether their parents or younger siblings go into their rooms, and to scare them away.
The system works with phones powered by Google Inc.’s [GOOG] Android version 2.2 (known as Froyo) and newer iterations.
On the to-do list at Salient Eye: enabling the phones to stream video of an intruded site.
“We are trying to make the product as simple as possible. We want every grandmother to be able to use it,” says the CEO, adding that streaming video “requires all kinds of configurations, firewalls and routers … We’re trying to avoid anything technical … You just press a button and that’s it.”
Also in development: adapting Salient Eye so it can use of the phones’ voice recorders.
Meltzer says he considered developing Salient Eye for the vast numbers of older Nokia Corp. [NOK] phones out in the market, but he found that installing apps on older phones from the Finnish firm is difficult. He is aiming, however, to develop Salient Eye for Apple’s [AAPL] popular iPhones and tablets. To that end, he is looking to hire a developer who specializes in Apple’s iOS operating system.
As for the greening of the used-cell phone market, Meltzer says “electronics are very polluting and very toxic.” Salient Eye can potentially help repurpose countless numbers of cellular devices.
The Salient Eye app is free. Meltzer says that as part of the business model, he’s considering featuring some premium services, but for now, he prefers not to elaborate.