January 2, 2005, Updated September 13, 2012

An Israeli invention that provides early warning for earthquakes could enable every homeowner to rest easier. 


An Israeli invention that provides early warning for earthquakes could enable every homeowner to rest easier. The size of a shoebox and costing $170, the sensor device is the brainchild of Meir Gitlis, who has been inventing things since… well, he was a child.

The world received an horrendous reminder last week about the power of earthquakes. The 8.9 tremor that struck off Indonesia’s shore has claimed over 120,000 victims, almost all from the tidal waves it caused. Gitlis doesn’t claim that his early warning system could have made much of a difference, but argues that any advance warning would have been better than none.

The Earthquake Alert – developed by Gitlis’s R&D company Avtipus, and marketed by EQ Technologies – is based on the seismological principles of global earthquake monitoring systems. It contains an array of pendulums that naturally react to vibrations and send a signal through an electronic circuit to a chip. The chip analyzes the frequency and determines whether it’s a sonic boom, a bomb – or an earthquake. Having that advance warning, according to Gitlis, can mean the difference between life and death.

“An earthquake is like lightning and thunder,” Gitlis told ISRAEL21c. “First comes the primary waves which run through the ground very quickly. The instrument can sense the primary wave which occurs tens of seconds before the secondary wave, which is the destructive wave. The pre-warning of a half minute enables people to find cover.”

According to Gitlis, Israel’s tallest office building – The Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv – has installed the Earthquake Alert in its elevators. In the event of a quake, the system halts the elevator at the nearest floor, giving people a chance to get out and protect themselves.

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo recently tested the sensor and deemed it reliable and credible, backing Gitlis’s claim that the sensor doesn’t react to sonic booms or other false alarms. According to SUNY Buffalo’s National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (NCEER) director, Prof. A. Reinhorn, “the pre-warning devices provided a consistent response under the simulated ground motions, regardless of whether this was repetitive ground motion or another earthquake. No false alarm which could have involved spontaneous triggering or detection within the background noise (pretest noise) occurred.”

The Earthquake Alert is just the latest manifestation of Gitlis’s obsession to create something new, a lifelong passion he plunges into freely at Avtipus.

“Avtipus Patents & Inventions Ltd has 25 years experience in developing a variety of very successful products and new inventions ordered by clients all over the world. Avtipus takes ideas and develops them into products. We do a lot of inventing to order,” said Gitlis. “We work with independent inventors as well as with universities, research institutes, army facilities, companies and corporations. We specialize in construction of prototypes and models, help and advice in finding applications for the invention. We’re an R&D center for inventions.”

The company also takes prototypes developed by others and turns them into products. One recent success was a unique evacuation system invented by Israeli company Advanced Evacuation Systems. An escape chute for skyscrapers or any large building, that can be used in the event of a fire, terrorist attack, earthquake or any other type of disaster, the Advanced Modular Evacuation System (AMES 1) looks a bit like a giant slinky toy.

The device, invented by AES head Eli Nir, consists of steel coils which are covered with smoke and flame resistant fabric. The chute is installed in the outer wall of a building and in an emergency, it automatically springs open and uncoils to the ground in about 90 seconds. With Gitlis’s help, Nir’s device was named one of the top 10 inventions of 2003 by Time magazine. “It was their patent, but we developed it,” said Gitlis.

Gitlis said his lifelong interest in inventions has resulted in dozens of inventions over the last 25 years, some of them successful and some of them just for fun.

“From the age of 10, I began inventing things and haven’t stopped. Maybe it’s genetic, because it runs in my family – my uncle was an inventor in Europe,” said Gitlis.

His prolific efforts flourished due to a friendship and partnership with world renowned Israeli psychic Uri Geller.

“In the late sixties, I met a young fellow named Meir Gitlis,” Geller wrote in his autobiography. “He had a small workshop in his back yard, and was apparently able to repair just about anything that had broken down. He was the electrical genius I needed, and we soon became good friends.”

Their first joint venture was in the field of security and alarm systems and fraud detection. Among successful patents include the Diamontron which determines the authenticity of diamonds, and the Moneytron which distinguishes at once between real and forged banknotes.

“Those were my first successful inventions,” said Gitlis.

Geller cited other inventions like the one he called ‘Electronic Canary’, although it is sold under several names. Its purpose is to detect the presence of gas, and when it does, its red light starts blinking and it emits an alarm signal louder than any real canary could manage.

Another invention, which Gitlis said is being used by the Israeli army along the security fence is called the GS Inertial Sensor. From a distance, it looks like an ordinary chain-link fence, but by the time you get close enough to have a better look at it, it has already taken a good look at you and the duty operator monitoring the central control unit will have taken appropriate action.

But the Earthquake Alert – which cost $3 million to develop – is the device that Gitler feels can help people the most.

“Since the disaster occurred in the Far East, we’ve gotten requests from companies to take our sensor technology and develop an instrument against tsunamis,” he said.

And knowing Gitlis’s track record, it won’t be surprising if he does.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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