Piecing together smart cameras at DemoFall 09

At Demo on Tuesday, Third Iris pitched Viaas, a video-monitoring system for business that's simple to install and use. Plug the cameras into just an Ethernet cable (if it's enabled for Power-over-Ethernet, that is), log into the Viaas Web site, and you can get your own business surveillance system up and running in a snap.

From a business perspective, Viaas follows the mobile phone model: the cameras, which sell for a low price ($199.95) considering their high-end sensors, are subsidized by the monthly fee you pay to access them, $29.95, or more if you want to … Read more

Dot Go could be 'the Internet for text messaging'

SAN DIEGO--For better or worse, text messaging has become, according to a company called Scientific Media, the most popular mobile application on Earth. And while many companies are trying to build marketing efforts around people's use of texting, it's clear there is a long way to go before those efforts are coherent.

At the DemoFall 09 conference here Wednesday, Scientific Media unveiled its Dot Go service, a tool it hopes large numbers of companies will employ to try to boost their text messaging-based marketing.

The idea? Blow apart the current texting/marketing dynamic, in which companies try to … Read more

BOL 1069: 80 percent of life is exhaust

We're not real sure about the iRex reader, Microsoft's Courier is a lot of smoke, Palm gets told to sit down and be quiet about iTunes syncing, and a PlayStation 2 for you car. And finally, Brian imparts a valuable life lesson for everyone listening.

Subscribe with iTunes (audio) Subscribe with iTunes (video) Subscribe with RSS (audio) Subscribe with RSS (video) EPISODE 1069

New iRex reader

Verizon and Best Buy both make moves into e-readers

Microsoft Courier “booklet” computer … Read more

Time for Demo to change--a lot

The 13-year reign of Chris Shipley as the Diva of Demo is coming to an end. The writer, consultant, and longtime content chief of the conference series, started in 1991 by Stewart Alsop, is leaving the show. Demo is now coming under the direction of Matt Marshall, founding editor of the VentureBeat blog.

I've been going to Demo since 1992, when I was working at IDG, the conference's owner. It's been my favorite conference for years. But it's an old structure and it's time to give it a thorough inspection and probably change out some of the foundation. Here's what I hope Marshall and his team consider as they take the reins of this warhorse.

Make the Web site work The site is a half-decent archive of Demo info and videos of presentations. But with that killer domain and with what the conference stands for--innovation in technology and risk-taking in business--it could be so much more. could be a hugely trafficked site for consumers interested in the next big thing, a competitor to TechCrunch, or an active community of starving entrepreneurs and the moneyed elite. Any direction would be better than the brochureware the site is today.

Take the show on the road Shipley was responsible for kicking off Demo conferences in Asia and Europe. That's ambitious and difficult, and I'd rather see Demo focus more on the U.S. start-up community. A series of "farm team" Demo conferences around the country could help entrepreneurs elsewhere hone their skills and might be a good way to improve the breadth of technology and ideas that make it to the big mother ship Demo conferences.

Move the main show to Silicon Valley It's fun to travel to sunny San Diego or another warm location for this show, but it's wasteful and the era of fancy-pants resort-driven conferences for the tech industry is over, at least for now. Thirty percent of the presenting companies this year are based in Silicon Valley. Probably more of the venture capitalists are from the area. Move the conference to a more central location.

Dissenting view: co-worker Daniel Terdiman says, "They should definitely do it in Hawaii."

Clear up Demo management The Demo conference is not, strictly speaking, Shipley's, and it never was. Demo is run by tech publishing company IDG, and for bizarre reasons probably having to do with corporate politics, it's now run by the group that publishes Network World. That's strange enough, but the core work of choosing the content for Demo is outsourced, until recently to Chris Shipley's Guidewire Group, and now to Matt Marshall, who's keeping his gig as VentureBeat's publisher. Demo deserves to live in a group that is focused solely on it and not split between two companies.

Loosen up with the press embargo nonsense Demo, and other start-up conferences like TechCrunch50, jealously guard their lists of presenters so as to not spoil the big reveal they get when companies hit the stage. That might have made some sense in the time before blogging, when writers could take a day or two to file a report from the field. Today, the strategy makes it difficult for journalists to write cogent commentary timed for publication when the conference starts; and after the conference is over, interest in the show fades rapidly. So readers get weak commentary and writers get limited traffic from their efforts.

At least the Demo companies often reach out to writers ahead of time; TechCrunch50 companies are so terrified of being dropped from the presenting lineup they won't talk to anyone before that conference. But it's time for conference organizers to let their presenting companies decide if they want advance coverage or not.

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Faculte makes producing video slideshows quick and easy

SAN DIEGO--Sometimes, elegant, innovative ideas come across as incredibly simple and feel like they've been around all along.

That was my thought after watching a company called Faculte make its case Wednesday morning at DemoFall 09. It's a new service that makes building multifaceted video presentations as easy as creating PowerPoint slideshows.

It's not that there aren't other ways to make video presentations. Other companies like Brightcove, SlideRocket, and WebEx all offer ways to build them. But what Faculte showed off onstage here looked intuitive, easy, and about as drag-and-drop as could be. It almost seemed … Read more

Big bucks for patent-invalidating research

SAN DIEGO--It's been very clear for a long time that the American patent system is deeply flawed.

According to information provided on stage at DemoFall 09 here Wednesday by a company called Article One Partners, as much as 45 percent of all litigated patents are eventually found to be invalid. But the U.S. Patent Office is obviously overwhelmed by the sheer workload it faces, and its investigators' inability to keep up with the research that would help them reject many applications.

There are some solutions in the works, including Peer-to-Patent, a nonprofit system that would spread out the … Read more

Weels moves toward keyboard-less browsing

SAN DIEGO--It's not that today's Web browser users don't have keyboards. It's that we don't really need to use them.

That's the business case of Weels, a start-up that presented at DemoFall 09 Wednesday: that much of what we do in browsers, including sharing content between users, can be done strictly with a mouse.

The idea is that, in a browser, everything can be manipulated--moved around, copied to folders and shared--solely by being dragged and dropped with the mouse. After a simple registration, users see what amounts to a toolbar at the top of … Read more

Infochimps looks to build business based on marketplace for datasets

SAN DIEGO--It might not make immediate sense to everyone why someone would want to buy datasets, but to an early-stage start-up called Infochimps, there's an entire business to be built around the market for such products.

At DemoFall 09 here Tuesday, Infochimps got its chance to explain what the market for datasets is and how it works.

The company, in fact, is building a marketplace for collections of data, which could include anything from weather information to the number of people who have appeared in Rambo movies to the full collection of words in the Scrabble dictionary. And everything … Read more

Local Dirt aims to help focus on local food

SAN DIEGO--Earlier this summer, I wrote about the blossoming transition movement, in which local communities around the country and the world are beginning to prepare themselves for a post-peak oil world.

One of the best ways for communities to do this is to focus on local food supplies. With oil prices at peak prices, it won't be economical to truck in food from around the country, and those that do continue such a dependence are likely to experience major financial problems.

But those towns and cities that do put an emphasis on building more sustainable local food infrastructures are … Read more

Scenes from DemoFall 2009

Twice a year, well-funded entrepreneurs face off with venture capitalists and the press at Demo events. DemoFall 2009 is currently under way in San Diego, where 70 companies are pitching their new products or strategies.

Here's a walk-through of the main pitch sessions and the Demo Pavilion, where the deals start to take shape. Click on a picture for the full slideshow.