Netanel Eliav, CEO of Sightbit – Interview Series
Netanel Eliav is the CEO of Sightbit, a global development project that harnesses advances in AI and image recognition technology to prevent drowning and save lives.
How did the concept for Sightbit originate?
Friends Netanel Eliav and Adam Bismut were interested in using tech to improve the world. On a visit to the beach, their mission became clear. Adam noticed the lack of tech support for lifeguards, who monitored hard-to-see swimmers with binoculars.
The system uses standard cameras that cover a defined area and transmits that information in real-time to lifeguards. What type of range are the cameras capable of? Also, how much of the accuracy becomes reduced with greater range?
Sightbit’s innovation is in the software. We work with various off-the-shelf cameras of different ranges, customizing camera setup to meet the needs of each customer and to ensure that the desired area is protected.
At Israel’s Palmahim Beach, where we are conducting a pilot, we built a dedicated cement platform that holds three cameras. Each camera covers 300 meters out to sea in normal conditions, the range required at Palmahim Beach.
A monitor displays a panoramic view of the water and beach, like a security camera display. A dashboard is superimposed over the video feed. Sightbit alerts appear as flashing boxes around individuals and hazards. Multiple views from different camera vantage points are available on a single screen. When a lifeguard clicks on an alert, the program zooms in, allowing the lifeguard to see the swimmer much clear than is possible with the naked eye. Four additional cameras will be installed shortly.
Can you discuss some of the computer vision challenges behind being able to differentiate between a human swimming and a human struggling to stay afloat?
We can detect some of the signs of distress base on the following: Location of person who might be caught in a rip current, located far from shore or in a dangerous area. Movement/lack of movement or lack of movement. Our system can distinguish swimmers bobbing up and down in the water, floating face down, or waving for help as signs of distress.
Sightbit has developed software that incorporates AI, based convolutional neural networks, image detection, and other proprietary algorithms to detect swimmers in distress and avoid false positives.
What are the risk factors for false positives such as misidentifying someone as drowning, or false negatives such as misidentifying a potential drowning?
The drowning detection feature sometimes generates a low-level warning when a swimmer has remained underwater for long stretches of time.
Like lifeguards, Sightbit primarily detects swimmers in distress. A drowning alert is an alert that has come too late. We focus on dangerous situations that can lead to drowning, allowing for de-escalation before they get out of control. For example, we warn when swimmers are caught in rip currents so that lifeguards or other rescue personnel can reach the individual in time.
Our real-time alerts include:
- Swimmers in distress
- Rip currents
- Children alone in or by the water
- Water vessels entering the swim area
- Swimmers entering dangerous areas. This may be choppy water, deep water, are hazardous areas alongside breakwater structures or rocks.
- Drowning incidents – soon to be deployed at Palmahim
- And other situations
What type of training is needed to use the Sightbit system?
No special training is needed. Sightbit’s user interface takes five minutes to learn. We designed the system with lifeguards to ensure that it is easy for them to use and master.
Can you discuss what happens in the backend once an alert is triggered for a potential drowning?
The beach cameras feed into a GPU for video analysis and a CPU for analytics. When the CPU detects a threat, it generates an alert. This alert is customized to customer needs. At Palmahim, we sound alarms and generate visual alerts on the screen. Sightbit can also be configured to call emergency rescue.
Could you discuss some of your current pilot programs and the types of results that have been achieved?
Sightbit is conducting a pilot at Palmahim Beach in partnership with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. The system is installed at the Palmahim lifeguard tower and is in use by lifeguards (see above for details about camera placement, warnings, and the Sightbit monitor). The pilot went live at the end of May.
At Palmahim, three lifeguards, all stationed at one central tower, guard the one-kilometer beach. Sightbit provides instantaneous alerts when swimmers are in danger and camera views of swimmers far from the tower.
Prior to the pilot partnership at Palmahim Beach, we conducted proof-of-concept testing at beaches throughout Israel at the invitation of local authorities.
How have government officials reacted so far when introduced to the technology?
Extreme enthusiasm! Cities and major government-run beaches as well as private beaches in Israel, the United States, the Balkans, and Scandinavia have invited Sightbit to conduct pilots. We have been granted permissions by all relevant government bodies.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about Sightbit?
- We are currently raising funds as part of a seed round. Investors around the world have reached out to us, and we have already received funding offers. We previously received pre-seed funding from the Cactus Capital VC fund in Israel.
- Long-Term Potential: People are not optimized for tracking dozens, and certainly not hundreds, of swimmers from a watchtower. Looking long term, Sightbit can enable agencies to guard more shoreline at lower costs by using Sightbit systems for front-line monitoring. Lifeguards can be assigned to headquarters or patrol duty, allowing teams to respond faster to incidents anywhere along the beach. This is lifesaving. Currently, even during peak summer months, lifeguards monitor less than half of the shoreline at designated public swimming beaches.
- Sightbit can safeguard sites 24/7, all year round. Where there is no lifeguard service, Sightbit alerts emergency dispatch or local rescue services when a swimmer is in danger (for example, a swimmer swept out to sea in a rip current). Sightbit software can also pinpoint and track a swimmer’s location and deliver rescue tubes via small drones.
- Sightbit can bring monitoring to many different aquatic sites that do not currently employ lifeguards. With Sightbit, aquatic work sites, marinas, reservoirs, and other sites can benefit from water safety alerts.
Sightbit also provides risk analytics and management insights, which allow customers to anticipate hazards in advance and improve operations. Customers can track water and weather conditions, crowding, and more.
Thank you for the interview regarding this important project, readers who wish to learn more should visit of Sightbit.