The Demo conferences allow entrepreneurs to show off new gadgets, software, hardware and business ideas. It has always been my favorite conference and DEMOfall 2005 did not disappoint. Sixty-five companies showed their stuff and, although there were some cases of companies showing solutions looking for problems, there were a lot of impressive ideas and plans. I could not possibly do justice here to what I saw and learned but I will mention a few of the highlights and encourage you to google away to explore things you may want to learn more about. Another good source is to read the Demo blogs. Here are my comments about some of the things I found most interesting.
If you had any doubts about Lenovo continuing the stream innovation started at IBM, fear no more. Lenovo rolled out their new Z Series wide screen ThinkPads. The new laptops were a real head turner, sporting biometric fingerprint readers, light weight, and stunning wide screens — great for watching DVD’s or putting multiple applications on screen to increase productivity.
YackPack is a new way to stay connected with a group of friends, family or work colleagues. YackPack is simple voice messaging for groups. You can click and send a voicemail to one or all the members of a board committee, a non-profit group planning a Saturday morning volunteer event, or to family members. The recipients do not have to be connected to receive the message.
1-800-FREE-411 (1-800-3733-411) was one of my favorites. More about it coming in a separate story.
FilmLoop is free software that enables you to create "loops" of pictures that stream across the top of your PC display. The loops can tell stories, showcase products, communicate ideas, and link to web sites. A loop can contain photos of your family’s latest vacation, images of the latest happenings around the world, or pictures that link to the latest properties in your local real estate market. And, changes to a loop automatically update on the desktops of everyone connected to your loop, whether it’s two, ten, or a million people.
LightZone may have solved the problem of enabling photographers to touch up and improve digital photos without having to master Adobe Photoshop.
Peerflix introduced a service for trading DVD’s. Turns out that the purchase market for DVD’s is larger than the rental market. The Peerflix service is very similar to Netflix but oriented around trading rather than renting. If you own any DVD’s it is worth a look.
United Keys showed a new keyboard that has programmable function keys. Each key can not only be programmed but it will display an icon on the surface of the key. Very clever innovation in something that has not changed much in decades.Take a look at the homepage to see what the keys look like.
My friend Buzz Bruggeman showed off ActiveWords. This is a product I use every day and would have trouble being without it. It is a huge productivity enhancement. Here is a story I wrote about it previously.
Everdesk showed a program that integrates files and email. The idea is to have everything related to a particular topic or activity shows up in the Everdesk window.
Tendril is merging the physical and the digital. They have sensors that can be attached to physical things (like a fence) and be programmed to provide an alert in the event that the fence is broken, or if something bumps into it, or if someone approaches it.
Workshare Hygiene inspects documents that are sent from a company employee and checks them for privacy or legal problems. For example if an email includes some account numbers or other sensitive information, the Hygiene program deletes the sensitive data.
Echelon has a vision to give the motors, relays, and electronic parts inside of appliances and factory machines a “voice”. They have developed an embedded control network that is “self organizing” to allow tiny sensors to be connected into a network. The result is to tap the “electrically muted” voices of a large number of “things”. Echelon demonstrated a “smart carpet”. As a person walked on the carpet, lights were turned on, and the footsteps of the person were tracked. An asset placed on the smart carpet is tracked so if a person steals the asset an alarm is triggered. The possibilities are endless.
My friends at Six Apart continue to do well. They have expanded their business dramatically and are adding new features all the time. If you not yet a blogger, try http://www.typepad.com and you will see how easy it can be. I use their Movable Type for https://www.johnpatrick.com/
Phantom Technologies has developed an iPod accessory called soundUP. All attendees were given one. You plug the soundUP into the iPod and plug your headset into the soundUP. The difference in the sound quality is very nice. The soundUP enhances the sound quality by producing fuller, richer, more vivid tones. The soundUP expands the music “envelope” by 20-25% revealing instruments and voices that were “trapped” during the original compression of the music. soundUP produces a very nice listening experience.
Disclosure: The producer of the Demo conferences is Guidewire Group and I am a member of their "Sounding Board". I am also a limited partner (investor) in First Round Capital. First Round Capital invests in companies that come to it through an exclusive partnership with the Guidewire Group. First Round is currently a minority investor in fourteen companies.