What's Hot at Demo

The DEMO conference is underway here in San Diego and some clear trends are emerging among the 67 exclusively selected companies presenting. Many of the products are just launched and still less developed than they could be, but they are exciting none the less. The following are some of the most prominent themes of the conference and my favorite examples of companies working in these directions.

Breaking it down

Lots of companies presenting are focused on making data and online objects more granular for portability and user manipulation.

Pluggd is demonstrating a new technology called HearHere, which uses speech recognition and semantic analysis to let users search inside audio files for key words and related terms that are displayed on a heat map for skipping to relevant parts of a podcast. I posted more details and a screen shot in this post on Pluggd.

BuzzLogic is showing off an enterprise social media tracker that’s been two years in development. It discovers and ranks influential blog posts and mainstream media stories about any topic of interest, displays circles of influence in a nice UI and tracks actions taken in response to emerging conversations by a team of users. Priced very low, the company gathers and presents the same kind of data that sophisticated search and RSS could acquire but in one place and a usable format. I think this could be a winner in the race to make the new web usable for non-technical users.

MindTouch is unveiling their DekiBox enterprise appliance that, among other things, extracts data from email messages and attachments with one click and places it in a secure wiki.

SportsStatz works with high schools and colleges around the country to capture video and stats on sporting events. The company provides cameras and software loaded laptops to the schools and the teams get free game tapes and stats. Just four seconds after real time, individual subscribers to the service can search inside games to find particular highlights and view them on the web or with a mobile device. Highlights from favorite players can be subscribed to and delivered automatically. Clips can be saved, shared and commented on in a social networking environment. The service is in early stages but has completed tracking one season of high school basketball in several states and aims to secure partnerships with 1000 schools by the end of the year. Though the site is still being developed, the company’s demo is really impressive and there’s a clear market for capturing and using content like this.

Pixsense uses a patent pending compression algorithm to compress multimedia files up to 85% and is targeting mobile content creation. Established companies from several sectors are expressing interest in the company and making mobile multimedia that much more lightweight is something everyone would love.

My Favorite:
Adaptive Blue launched its Blue Organizer out of beta at DEMO. A Firefox extension for social bookmarking, Blue Organizer combines its own ontology with your tags, lets you perform a very long list of functions with each item you’ve saved and does a lot of smart little things like gleaning tags from topical databases and bookmarking pages automatically once you’ve visited them three times. Social bookmarking is a crowded space, but for people who seek a well constructed tool that balances an intuitive user experience with features to please the power user, Blue Organizer may be a very good option. The beauty is in the details in this one.

Rolling Your Own

Personalization is a key goal for Web 2.0 and a number of companies are making it easier than ever for content providers to make it happen.

PrefPass is going live at DEMO and Adam Marsh’s service targets a key pain point online. Users identify URLs they like in an anonymous profile. PrefPass extracts tags from those pages that are used to generate personalized content on participating sites that would otherwise offer either a dreaded registration requirement (which makes a site the opposite of sticky) or impersonal advertisements and supplemental content. When users go to a participating page, they can click the PrefPass badge to grant access to their anonymous list of preference tags and the site can then offer targeted content or ads. You can see PrefPass in action, sorting TechCrunch posts to your particular tastes at CustomCrunch.com.

NanoLearning is an easy way to make educational games or training modules in Flash. Users provide the content (text, graphics, audio, video, questions and answers) and NanoLearning provides the templates and forms to create your modules. Here’s one example, but I can imagine lots of people rapidly developing tutorials and interactive presentations with this tool.

My favorite:

Widget marketplace Widgetbox just keeps coming up with more ways for publishers to embrace the small pieces loosely jolned ethic and pull live data into their websites. The Hummer Winblad company now lets users place on piece of code on their sites to create a widget field that can then be managed by drag and drop to move any of 200 widgets on and off of the published page. Today the company showed me a browser sidebar popup that lets site visitors continue to interact with your widgets even if they leave a particular URL. For more details check out our initial review of Widgetbox. Widgets might have a silly name (and Cute Overload is right now one of the most subscribed widgets on the site) but just like blogging changed the world by letting non-technical users publish original content easily online, so too are widgets a harbinger of a new era when users are mixing and mashing dynamic data from all around the web.

Let’s talk untethered

Some of the most interesting companies are launching services that will enable communication beyond previous limitations.

JaJah released a mobile product at DEMO that lets users make very low cost VOIP calls through their mobile phones. See Mike Arrington’s longer review of this launch and last night’s news about competitor SoonR’s partnership with WebEX to enable mobile web conferencing.

Flurry is showing off their service that lets more than 200 Java enabled mobile phone provide simple push email and read RSS feeds.

TotalView is unveiling an enterprise VOIP video conferencing product called BeHere that captures a 360 degree view of conference rooms and provides easily configured views on each participant’s desktop. Users can share the view of applications across the system. I wish that the company was doing a lot more with the technology, like offering actual file transfer, chat back channels and conference recording – but the product as it stands is in a good position to be distributed through resellers to VOIP enabled conference rooms everywhere. They’ve raised $7 million in Series A funding, are nearing the end of a B round and will sell the service for less than $2000. It definitely beats a VOIP speaker phone.

My favorite:
Grand Central uses VOIP and a web interface to provide one phone number that can route calls by incoming number to any phone of your choice, manage voice mail on the web, record calls and much more. From the execs harkening from Yahoo! acquired DialPad, GrandCentral has a long and impressive feature set that I reviewed here.

Other companies that a lot of people are talking about at the conference include SystemOne, an enterpise wiki CMS that analyzes your documents as you write and searches for related keywords on the web, in your feeds, files and the rest of the wiki. I reviewed SystemOne a few weeks ago. Koral is another hot topic; it’s an enterprise CMS that offers drag and drop file organizing, recommended tags and IM notification if a user accesses an out of date version of any shared file. Wallop, the Microsoft spin-off social networking service, is obviously a hot topic as well.

All of the companies selected to present at DEMO are worth a look – here’s the list and videos. Excitement is in the air here and the innovation is tangible.