VentureBeat’s staff has chosen our top 10 picks of DEMOfall 09, the emerging technology conference that we co-produced.
These picks are separate from the official DEMOgod award winners announced by DEMO. With 56 DEMO presenters and 14 DEMO Alpha Pitch companies unveiling their plans at the conference in San Diego this week, there are lot to sift through, so here are the ones that stood out from the crowd. We’ve ranked them in order of our favorites, from first to last. While you’re at it, check out our favorites from the previous DEMO conference in March.
1. Emo Labs — This company was a winner for almost everyone we talked to. Emo Labs spent four years developing invisible speakers made out of piece of clear plastic. The speakers work by vibrating the edges of the screen in a way that makes sound come out of plastic itself. It could certainly cut the material costs of high-quality speakers. There are no separate pair of speaker boxes or cables to connect in the back of the unit. The company is licensing the technology and products with it should appear sometime next year. See our video interview with chief executive Jason Carlson where he explains how they work.
2. Tune Wiki — This company has a smartphone app that lets you view the lyrics of a song as it’s playing. If you have the video of the song, you can see the words to the lyrics as they’re being mouthed by the singer. You can also see who else in the world is listening to the same song at any given time, based on the geo-location data in the phone. It turns music into a social experience. The location information is also useful for concert planners who want to know where to schedule stops on a tour. The latest versions are now available for Nokia phones and they can translate text into foreign languages.
3. Intelius — Funny, spooky, useful, or all of the above? The Date Check iPhone app inspired a lot of discussion. Date Check will run background checks on your date in real time. It can find out things like whether your date is telling you the truth about his or her name, age, address, family situation, and even net worth. It can even look up your date’s astrological information to see if you are a good match. Intelius gathers the information from public sources of data, ranging from criminal court records to MySpace pages and property records. The free app presents you with a summary report as to whether there are criminal records. If you want to drill down on the data, then you have to pay for it. See our video interview with John Arnold, executive vice president of Intelius.
4. Tinker.com — Glam Media used DEMOfall 09 to launch a new web site dubbed Tinker.com. Samir Arora, chief executive of Glam, noted that this was his fifth time on the DEMO stage talking about a company or product. This site lets you socialize and monetize a live event by taking the feeds from the event — such as Twitter messages that are all related to the event — and then aggregating them on a web site for others to watch. It delivers the Zeitgeist of an event, but not all of the boring details. That’s because the feeds are curated so that you can zero in on comments from people who have established credibility or knowledge about the event. Ads run alongside your Tinker.com feed so that you can actually monetize what people are saying about your event.
5. Symform — Cloud storage gives you the safety of backing up your company’s data to a different location. But it isn’t as cheap as you might think. A small business storing a terabyte of data might pay $500 a month, even though a terabyte hard drive only costs $100. So Symform has come up with a way to lower the costs. It gives you storage in the cloud in exchange for the same amount of storage on your hard disk. If you want a gigabyte in the cloud, you give up a gigabyte on your computer. Symform uses that gigabyte on your computer to store bits and pieces of data from other people. It takes a file, encrypts it, then breaks it into 96 pieces that are stored redundantly on the hard drives of other users. The company is signing up small business resellers to offer its service to users.
6. Liaise — This startup helps you organize your email so that you don’t forget items that require some kind of action from you or your team. Liaise has created a plug-in for Microsoft’s email program Outlook. It looks at the contents of your emails, figures out what items require action, and then turns those items into a to-do list. The KeyPoint Intelligence technology does this by analyzing the words in the post that suggest some kind of task. It also tries to gauge the priority that should be assigned to the task and even learns from your writing style. Liaise then presents a task list of things to do, and of things you have assigned. The software is free while in beta testing but will eventually have subscription fee.
7. Hand-Eye Technologies — You can use your mobile phone to interact with some TV shows such as American Idol, where you can vote for winners via SMS text messages. But this startup goes to the next level with a software platform that lets mobile phones interact with digital media in a number of ways. You can buy items you see on the television, search, and vote. The technology works by embedding hot spots in the video content which your cell phone can detect. If you want to buy the outfit that a celebrity is wearing on a show, you could use your mobile phone to do so. Your phone almost becomes like a remote control for TV commerce.
8. Rseven — This company introduced us to the term “lifecaching.” It appeals to the narcissist in everyone, allowing you to use your cell phone as a personal recording device. With the communications and location features of a phone, Rseven can document everything you do during a day. It can, for instance, geographically tag where you were when you took photos, sent text messages or made phone calls. It preserves all of the text messages that you send and records your phone calls as well. The latter part is controversial, as it’s illegal in some states to record calls without the other party’s permission. Rseven gets around this by inserting beeps into the call every 15 seconds. You can use all of the data to analyze your life, like why you’re calling your girlfriend more than she’s calling you, or why you talk to certain people on the phone more than you talk to your mother. It’s available on Windows Mobile and Nokia and Samsung Series 60 Symbian phones. See our video interview with Rseven chief executive Hisyam Halim.
9. Article One Partners — The patent office is overwhelmed with the research it has to do on patent applications. That’s probably why a lot of bad patents slip through the cracks and, during litigation, about 45 percent of patents under dispute are invalidated. So Article One can help by crowdsourcing the problem. It pays experts — anyone who wants to do the research — who can come up with evidence that invalidates bad patents. That includes evidence of prior art, or evidence that suggests that somebody else came up with the idea first. It works on a worldwide basis, allowing it to draw upon experts who are not limited by English-language-based patent search engines. The company has tested the system for nine months and it has come up with invalidating evidence in about 33 percent of the projects it undertakes. Now the companies that post project requests can communicate directly with those doing the research.
10. LocalDirt — Critics of industrial food and large-scale farms can take interest in this company, which wants to tap into demand for locally produced and eco-conscious food. The startup connects buyers and sellers of locally-grown produce, meat, and dairy products. It’s free for buyers such as businesses, buying clubs, and individuals. Distributors can use it for $720 a year, while big sellers like cooperatives can use it for $360. You can search for farmers by user ratings and reputation. LocalDirt handles invoices for parties, but sellers have to contact customers directly to arrange payment and pickup.