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9/26/2006
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Demo Report: Internet Consumer Technologies Creeping Into Enterprise Software

The ascendancy of "social networking" applications with possible business uses is in contrast to Demo 11 years ago. Now the new ideas are flowing based on Internet-based technologies.

Consumer-led uses of social networking and "the wisdom of crowds," where the activities of large numbers of other people help dictate your choices, are creeping into enterprise software.

That pace will accelerate, predicted Chris Shipley, producer of the Demo technology show, as she fired the starting gun for a series of 67 six-minute demonstrations by startups over a two-day period in San Diego.

What looked like a car navigation system using one-way, downloaded GPS information turned out to be a two-way street: Not only does Dash Navigation send you traffic information for your present location, but it also uploads it for other users who may need to know you're stuck in traffic.

The system is meant to get you to your business meeting or next appointment on time by giving you an easy-to-read visual display of information and an automated voice to give you directions as you drive. A set of buttons on a small screen mounted on the vehicle dashboard enable the driver to input requests, so little attention is taken away from driving.

Dash's GPS-based information-collecting function allows the company's Internet servers to get updated information from its pool of customers, as the little box on their dashboards is polled for data every four minutes. The reports allow the system to calculate a driver's speed versus the speed limit for their location, providing valuable traffic information.

The ascendancy of "social networking" applications with possible business uses is in contrast to Demo 11 years ago, when then Sun Microsystems CTO Eric Schmidt first demonstrated the uses of Java. Now the new ideas are flowing not from heavy-lifting languages, but from lighter weight, Internet-based technologies.

Move over, Google. The new software systems are designed in some cases to implement new methods of search. The Internet and enterprise sites are making greater use of audio and video files, but finding the information you need in them can be a drawn-out, tedious process of listening to or viewing entire files.

Pluggd's HearHere application can search the content of an audio or video file based on speech and image recognition technologies to find the reference you're looking for. It displays its results with a color-coded progress bar. As long as the bar is blue, the search process is finding little relevant content. As it turns to green, yellow, or red, it's getting hotter and finding an increased frequency of matches within the file. Keywords are used, but aren't the only search mechanism, said Jonathan Thompson, co-founder and CTO.

"Why sort through the entire oyster bed to find those pearls?" asked Alex Castro, co-founder and CEO.

And if Wikipedia can tap consumers around the world to compile an encyclopedia, why can't a similar system compile information inside your company, or between your sales force and its prime prospects?

Tim Barker, VP of Koral, a supplier of a content management system, said enterprises should store key files online, using Koral's tagging system to make it able to be referenced for the future. When preparing a new product for launch, there are many different documents and pieces of content associated with the product that need to be worked on and tracked simultaneously. The Koral system can search for and coordinate updates on related content, judging the relevance of what may or may not be a related document.

"Wikipedia has proven the case for consumer collaboration," noted Barker. Now it's time for enterprise users to collaborate and make their own information more useful, he said.

"Enterprise software isn't what it used to be, and that's a good thing," said Shipley. "More applications are being designed from the consumer-in point of view rather than the engineer-out [to users]."

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