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Demo gadgetsDemo has always been my favorite conference, and this past week in Santa Clara proved valuable once again. I believe this was the twenty-first year I have attended Demo. The Demo conference allows entrepreneurs to show off new gadgets, software, hardware and business ideas and enables the press, analysts, investors, key influencers and technology enthusiasts to assess what they see. The product introductions that take place reveal key technology trends over the coming 12 to 18 months. There were excellent speakers, as always. Take a look at the list.

Eighty companies were launched in two days. I view Demo as a barometer of what lies ahead and each year I comment not just on the companies but on the key trends I observed. Last year it was mobile, social media, and cloud. This year it was mobile, cloud, social media, and HTML5. There are now 5 billion cell phones in use around the world. In the U.S., 96% of people have one, and half of them are now smartphones. That is a big shift and it validates that the moible Internet is here. Cloud computing was as clear as a bell. Nobody wants to buy an application that requires having a server, as has been required in the past. Everything is in the cloud. Dropbox continues to be the best way to get an understanding of what cloud means. If you don’t have Dropbox yet, I highly recommend it. Social media is here to stay and most of the startups were offering some new way to exploit it — collaborative shopping and sharing content continue to loom large. The biggest shift is HTML5. I try to keep technical jargon out of patrickWeb, so sorry for the technical term. HTML is what makes the Web work. It is a protocol that makes Web pages accessible and useful. What is new is that HTML5 takes the Web to a much higher level than before. It means that a Web page can now be much more intelligent and, most importantly, the page can be truly cross-platform. That means that a page can be rendered on your PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, Tv, or anything that uses a standards-based browser. It is going to revolutionize the Web. To get a taste of this, get the Amazon Cloud Reader. HTML5 also means that–once fully adopted–you will never see a message that says “You need the latest version of Flash” or “You need the latest Real player” or “You need the latest Windows Media Player”. Audio and video will be able to be embedded in any page and enjoyed on any device. I love it!

Only six of the 80 companies were of special interest to me, although all of them were interesting. Three of them were related to healthcare. Here is my list — the links from them will tell you more. You can get a complete rundown on all 80 at the Demo Alumni Page.

LumoBack has a bandaid-like patch that you put on your back and it sends data to your iPhone about your posture.
Oh my meds provides a way to keep a track of a lot of meds in one convenient place–even if they were fulfilled at multiple pharmacies–and provides a lot of useful information about the medications.
SenseAide monitors what is going on at the residence of a senior. If the door has not opened for a long period of time or there is a fall, a call to a wall-mounted video phone is placed and automatically answered so a caregiver can ask if everything is ok.
Iconfinder has a slick model for selecting an image for use in your blog or website.
Upverter is a cloud-based electronic design tool. It breaks a lot of new ground and it is quite impressive what it can do without any desktop software.
Zirtu Virtual desktop takes virtualization to a new level. It does not virtualize the operating system — just all the desktop apps. It provides a virtual desktop even if the network connection is lost.

See the rest at demo.com, or better yet, head out to Silicon Valley in April for DemoSpring2012 and see the next batch of startups.