Israeli Tech a Key Factor in Rescue of Thai Kids

YERUSHALAYIM -
Police officers walk near Tham Luang cave complex, as a group of teenagers were found alive, in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand, Tuesday. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

As the world has watched the drama in Thailand surrounding a group of children marooned in a flooded cave, it has emerged that an Israeli communications firm has been a key factor of the rescue effort. In an interview with Yisrael Hayom, Uzi Hanoni, CEO of Yavne-based Maxtech, said that when the youths went missing over a week ago, the government of Thailand placed an order for his company’s ad-hoc mesh network communications devices – and when he found out what they wanted them for, Hanoni donated the system to the rescue cause.

“Assaf, one of our people, is responsible for sales in Thailand,” said Hanoni. “We offer communications systems that create networks on the spot, designed for areas where there is no communications infrastructure. We gave them our devices and the rescue teams in the caves used them to communicate. That’s the Israeli contribution to this rescue effort.”

The 12 members of a Thai youth soccer team were found alive and well Tuesday after nine days of searches by hundreds of rescue team members. The boys, ages 11 through 16, and their coach went missing after they went exploring in caves in the area of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. The group apparently entered a cave just before a huge downpour, which flooded the entrance to the cave, stranding them. Since then, rescue teams – including groups of scuba divers – have been searching the caves for the group, and on Tuesday morning, a group of British divers reached them. Rescuers are now trying to figure out how to get the kids out of the cave.

To communicate with each other, the teams used the Maxtech devices, which have the capability of connecting to other devices in a network configuration created on the devices themselves. The network allows for the transmission of data, voice and video – and it was through the Maxtech devices that footage of the youths from inside the cave was transmitted by divers who reached them Tuesday.

“We didn’t ask for any money for this,” said Hanoni. “When I heard the story, I and my partner decided to donate the systems. Understand that these systems cost over $100,000, and we are a small company that lives off its sales. But it is worth it. Assaf, our representative there, has been crying the entire time – and he, like us, is ecstatic that the kids have been found.”