HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

October 2, 2006, Herald Journal

Here come some new tech-gadgets

By MARK OLLIG

Greetings from the Coco Moon Coffee Bar in the heart of downtown Brainerd, Minnesota.

It’s a beautiful fall day, with those clear blue skies, sunshine and cool autumn temperatures. The northland trees are cooperating by showing off some of their stunning fall colors of orange and red.

I am here with my trusty laptop computer and along with my favorite cup of French Roast, typing away on the keys to provide this week’s column for my faithful readers out there.

This coffee bar has a very relaxed atmosphere, with the enticing smells of that wonderful coffee aroma that makes its way throughout the room.

I am seated in a comfortable old- fashioned wooden booth, right next to a large window facing the street. Looking out, I see the corner of what was old Highway 371 before the detour (it is now it is called 6th Street) and Laurel.

This coffee place provides free Wi-Fi (wireless access to the Internet) and so I am reading my RSS news feeds I set up last week and doing some research, looking for the latest online happenings out there to write about that will keep you up-to-date and in the know.

The buzz and blogging going around on the Internet now is about the 2006 DemoFall conference taking place in San Diego, Calif. this week.

The “DEMO” is considered to be one of the premier launch venues for new high-tech products and technologies. For the last 16 years, DEMO has held two conferences each year, with one in February and the other in September, showcasing new technologies that are most likely to have a significant impact on the marketplace when it comes to computing, communications, and the Internet.

I visited the DemoFall website http://www.demoo.com/conferences/demofall2006.php and most of these companies are, for the first time, presenting their new products and technology to the public. I had not heard of most of these new companies, and I discovered that many of them are just starting out, with what they hope to be the next great techno-product that will become as popular as “Windows” was for Bill Gates.

These new high-tech companies are backed by corporate venture money as the source of their funding, which was mentioned on the website, so they have a lot to lose . . . or gain.

There are over 70 new companies that will be displaying what they are hoping will become the future trends in technology, that will further define how we live our lives.

One of these new companies is called “iBlocks,” which has three million dollars in funding from a company called Maveron, Limited.

iBlocks comments on how the Internet is becoming one of “social innovation” with the growing popularity of websites like “youtube.com” and “photobucket.com,” where you can upload photos and your own custom homemade video productions that you want (or are willing) to share with the rest of the world via the Internet.

I visited some of these video sites’ and people will upload video of their kid’s school plays, high school sporting events, the graduation party, favorite motion picture clips, today’s news broadcasts, the trip they took to Florida – just about anything.

I even found the seven-minute clip from the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon on Labor Day in 1976, when Frank Sinatra re-united Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. It was great to be able to find the film. I found this film clip on the “beta” video website operated by Google. It is at www.video.google.com. This site is maintained better then some others and does not contain much of the “questionable” content that can be found on some others. You need to register at these sites. There is no cost for registering.

What makes iBlok stand out is that not only do they allow you to send and browse uploaded videos just on the Internet, they created the technology so you can share your video works of art and send them via E-mail, web-blogs, IM (instant messaging), video iPods and cell phones.

Another new company that caught my attention was one called “Dash Navigation, Inc.,” which is pitching the ability to empower people with the information they need while driving their cars.

Dash claims that it will, for the first time, be able to provide drivers timely and relevant local traffic information. Dash says this will be the first automotive navigation device that connects people to the information that empowers them in their cars.

The “hook” Dash put out is that this will “be comparable to what the TV did for entertainment and what the cell phone did for communications.”

One of the new products is called “Dash Network Traffic,” which is a sort of Global Positioning System (GPS). It lets a driver select from up to three different routes to any destination based on accurate travel time forecasts for each route. This feature is powered by the network of Dash drivers who anonymously report their traffic conditions to other devices in the area.

Each Dash device also comes pre-programmed with historic traffic flow data for all major roads, for every time and day of the year. A car with Dash, approaching heavy traffic on a freeway, will know whether it would be faster to exit or continue on the current route.

This beats other personal navigation devices, as the Dash Express is only device that gives commuters the up-to-date traffic flow information, which sounds like it would save some time on the commute.

They also demonstrated the “The Dash Express,” which provides commuters with the best routes based on current traffic conditions.

In addition, the Dash Express uses the power of the Internet to provide drivers with relevant and timely information about destinations.

The company claims that this is the only device on the market that automatically updates its maps and software over-the-air to ensure that driving directions are more up-to-date and that consumers have the latest product features.

With two-way connectivity with the Internet, the “Dash Send to Car” feature allows a person to send an address from an Internet browser or Microsoft Outlook directly to the car. Will this end having to stop and ask for directions? Now, we can have an E-mail address for our cars.

Look for these new products to be available in early 2007.

Sounds exciting, so be sure to check it out and hopefully, you will be amazed and impressed.

Time for one more hot cup of French Roast before I go.