Jun. 29, 2020


A new artificial-intelligence-based (AI) system, Sightbit, developed by BGU alumni, helps lifeguards monitor thousands of swimmers and identify risky situations and other water hazards.

Sightbit aims to save lives and modernize ocean rescue practices worldwide. Using the Sightbit system, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority will make Palmachim National Park, with five miles of coastline, the first "smart beach."

Sightbit received investment from Cactus Capital, a student venture capital fund established by the Yazamut 360 Entrepreneurship Center at BGU to invest in student and alumni startups, as part of a student training and coaching program.

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 320,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide. Drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death worldwide, accounting for seven percent of all injury-related deaths.

The system uses standard cameras that cover a defined area and transmit real-time information on monitors in the lifeguard tower. It sounds alarms when swimmers are in danger. Instead of relying on binoculars, the cameras zoom in for an enhanced view.

The core system is based on deep-learning computer-vision technology with convolutional neural network architectures for object detection, which feature extraction and real-time predictive analytics. 

The system rates sections of a beach according to a risk assessment model with crowd management solutions and weather conditions and offers estimates on how many lifeguards are needed on a given day to safely monitor swimmers. In addition to real-time alerts and water hazards, Sightbit analytics also enable lifeguards to anticipate risk and take preventative action before swimmers are ever in danger.

Sightbit also monitors certain at-risk populations such as child swimmers and can even be used to guard beaches where lifeguards are not present or off duty. The lifeguards can set the parameters of what warning alerts they see. Different options include dangerous currents, vessels (boats, jet skis, etc.), and riptides.

“Sightbit is, in essence, an AI lifeguard and superior to humans who aren’t optimized for tracking hundreds of swimmers with or without binoculars,” says BGU alum Netanel Eliav, Sightbit chief executive officer. “In the case of drowning, every second is critical. Our system acts as an additional lifeguard by flagging threats to swimmers and providing an earlier warning so they can act more quickly and save lives.”

“We are very proud of the Sightbit team and delighted in the decision of the student-run Cactus Capital to support a promising technology venture that could actually help save lives," says
Dana Gavish-Fridman​, head of entrepreneurship at BGU. "The role of the Yazamut 360 Entrepreneurship Center is to empower our students' entrepreneurial skills and provide them with the best-applied tools to prepare them for the job market.”

According to Amir Chen, director of Coasts in the Nature and Parks Authority: "Sightbit's innovative solution is in line with the Nature and Parks Authority's ambition to ensure as much as possible the safety of travelers and visitors to the national parks and reserves using advanced and innovative technologies, among other things at the beach."

The Sightbit team plans to expand internationally and has been invited to conduct additional pilots at beaches in the U.S. and Europe.

Media Coverage:
Breaking Israel News​
Venture Beat