The Demo Fall 2008 conference in San Diego this week gave 72 companies six minutes each in front of reporters, venture capitalists, and other industry players to make their case as to why their new technology was worthwhile. Of those, about a fifth were useful to business technologists.
Here is InfoWorld's guide to those that enterprises should investigate further. I've graded them based on likely impact and utility, with A being both the most potentially useful and the most innovative, and F utterly a waste of brain cells. I also provide links in the product names to videos of each presentation so that you can judge for yourself.
AccordiaGroup's Accordia RM. Managing clients is hard, and understanding them for sales, support, or marketing means knowing more than their contact information and order history. Accordia's spin is that by being able to understand the actual relationships of clients to each other and to your company, you can better serve and exploit the clients. So its tool provides a way to search and visualize those relationships. To me, the question is whether users will really be that methodical about discovering, then keeping relationship information updated -- that's a level of detail that seems too hard to maintain for all but the neatest of the neat freaks. What is interesting technologically is its visual approach to exploring highly structured data. Grade: C.
Adapx's Capturx Forms for Excel. We all know the paperless office is a joke, so how do you reduce the workload of converting paper-based information into digital form? Adapx provides Excel plug-in software for Windows that lets you create compositions from which a digital pen captures input -- the item has a watermark that identifies what form it is for and what the fields are, so the captured writing (converted to text via OCR) will flow into the right sheet in Excel when you attach the pen to your PC. I've seen this technology proposed before, but not really make it in the field. The creation process was easy and the loading process slow. And a person has to load each form, so I don't see how this is any better than simply batch-OCR'ing a stack of forms that also uses watermarks -- very old technology widely used in exams and surveys -- or using a digital tablet that presents the form on screen (as your UPS driver uses). Grade: D.