When Rabbi Yonatan Frankel did construction on his house in Philadelphia, he looked at the open walls as a chance to see what could be done. The father of three wanted to add an intercom system. Frankel was disappointed to learn that the technology available for an intercom is the same clunky, wired system that has been around for decades, and still costs thousands of dollars. “I knew there had to be a better way to do this,” explained Frankel, “So I started researching wifi options that could be used for an intercom in my house.”
As a YU musmach and Harvard-educated lawyer, Frankel did not expect to play the role of innovator, but that is exactly what he became. Soon after Frankel began his research, Amazon’s Echo was released and gained popularity. Frankel saw the opportunity to take this existing hardware and integrate it with something that would work for his family. The result? The 2014 birth of the Nucleus.
Known as an anywhere intercom, “Nucleus is a family-friendly touchscreen device that creates an on-the-spot point of communication for natural audio and video conversations in the home, between homes, or with any mobile device,” explained Frankel. “There’s tremendous value in having access to my home and family when I can’t physically be there.”
The Nucleus touchscreen allows instantaneous communication for its users, whether in the same house, or across the world. There is a free download available for smartphones to turn any phone into another intercom device. Frankel even described how he can walk to his office in Manhattan, and connect to his home to speak with his wife, just by pressing the “Kitchen” button.
With the proverbial click of a button—or in modern technology, touch of a screen or voice command—Nucleus can be used in a multitude of ways. “Nucleus was designed with the frum community in mind,” explained Frankel, citing large families that are spread across coasts and continents.
What differentiates Nucleus from existing video communication is its ease of use. Skype is typically not an instantaneous connection, and even Facetime or Google Video have static and slow connections that interfere with clarity. “Because Nucleus was built for communication, it is optimized for this, and meant for clearer connections.” But, Frankel explained, “The real point of differentiation is really the simplicity—one tap and you’re there—and the superior quality and usability of the system. The wide-angle camera and high-quality microphone where you can walk around your room while having a conversation.”
Additionally, the Nucleus screen does not come with internet browsing, making it an ideal unit for children to operate independently. Its only connection is to Alexa—Amazon’s voice-based assistant—and that can be turned off, a choice Frankel and many other families take advantage of for the devices in kids rooms. “Otherwise they’d be ordering from Amazon all day,” he joked. For families that prefer minimal internet usage, or just limited connection for children, this is yet another advantage Nucleus has over traditional video chat software.
While Frankel was the innovator of this system, he credits a top-notch team with design and implementation. He worked with Morley Ivers, the co-founder and president of Nucleus, who brought his vast experience as an entrepreneur to the team, as well as co-founder Isaac Levy, with experience in research and development in video software. Frankel also credited the tremendous amount of hashgacha pratit that was involved in making this idea come to fruition, including the seemingly coincidental (or as Frankel asserted, “Everyone knows there is no such thing as a coincidence,”) meetings that led to the co-founder partnership.
For anyone looking to step up their home into the 21st century and beyond, with the so-called “smart home” becoming more the rule than the exception, Nucleus provides that technology. With wifi-enabled lights, door locks, alarm systems, cameras and more constantly under development, Nucleus integrates with many of these features, with updates becoming available constantly. With Alexa built in, it has all the features of an Amazon Echo in addition to all the communication features.
By Jenny Gans