Start-up of the Week / Is Your Phone Safe?

As new cell phone companies burst into the market, Wave Guard Technologies is keeping tabs on the levels of radiation in the atmosphere.

Two new cellular service companies have muscled their way into the Israeli market, spurring Israel's "cellular spring" – plunging prices in an industry that for many years suffered from a lack of competition.

But while customers rejoice at their thicker wallets, some wonder what the environmental cost of all this will be as the newcomers erect antennae around the country in their thousands.

Enter Wave Guard Technologies, which is eager to jump into this new niche created by concern over radiation.

Radiation in Israel is supervised by the Environmental Protection Ministry, but this is not a continuous process. Every transponder (the jargon name for "cellular antennae") is inspected when first erected. Then its radiation emission is inspected once a year. That's it.

"Our flagship product is called 'Guardian Government.' It's for governments and regulators," explains Lior Naveh, Wave Guard co-founder and vice president of finance and operations. "The product connects to the cellular companies' main network and continuously monitors the amount of radiation at each site – providing readings that are accurate to the second."

The company's first major customer was the Environmental Protection Ministry, where the system has already been installed for two years under a contract worth millions of shekels.

"There is a problem of enforcement in Israel. There are lots of antennas – around 50,000 – and they're checked once a year. But transmission output from cellular antennas fluctuate," Naveh says. "The chance of discerning an abnormality during sporadic checks is remote. Our product allows continuous monitoring."

Indeed, after a year in operation the company concluded that 8 percent of cellular antennae in Israel exceeded their permitted levels of radiation. They also found 20 antennas operating without a permit at all.

Wave Guard provides information not only on radiation, but also on quality of service. Cellular companies are often committed under their license conditions to provide network coverage and quality at a certain level, but communication authorities find this difficult to measure. The Communications Ministry is in the process of purchasing this product.

"Apart from Israel, we're in advanced development in five countries, in Europe, Central America and one country in Africa, but we're a small start-up and governments take time," says Naveh.

Apart from governments, the company also addresses the needs of cell-phone companies, for the purposes of self-regulation on the issue of radiation and network quality. Their products are also aimed at municipalities and companies in the field of radiation measurement.

Wave Guard was established at the end of 2009 and employs 10 workers in Kfar Sava. The company has raised $1.5 million, all from private investors – not venture capitali funds.

Readers worranxious about radiation are reminded that the Israeli Tawkon mobile application 1.452849 enables constant monitoring of radiation levels emitted by their phone, showing whether it is safe to use. So far, the application is only available for Android devices because Apple has refused to approve it.