How The Cloud Enables A New Set Of Personal Applications - InformationWeek
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1/21/2009
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Charles Babcock
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How The Cloud Enables A New Set Of Personal Applications

Moving applications to the cloud is what the Cloud Connect conference is all about. But cloud services at this stage tend to be somewhat self-referential. They're about working with what's already available in the cloud. Look at Lasso2Go, for example, a service I didn't know I needed.

Moving applications to the cloud is what the Cloud Connect conference is all about. But cloud services at this stage tend to be somewhat self-referential. They're about working with what's already available in the cloud. Look at Lasso2Go, for example, a service I didn't know I needed.Lasso2Go takes an image of a business card that's been captured on an iPhone and uploads it to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. There it gets inspected, transcribed, and returned as useful contact information to the submitter. This is a service that I didn't know I needed before I saw it. But the minute I saw it, I could see the beauty of it.

Lasso2Go is the brainchild of a young Chicago software firm, Model Metrics. John Barnes, CTO, explained it at Cloud Connect, a TechWeb conference, in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday. Barnes showed how the iPhone business card image is sent into the Amazon cloud, then farmed out to one of 300,000 workers who take jobs assigned by Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The Mechanical Turk is simply an automated way of taking a very large manual task and breaking it down into many small ones, then regularly parceling out doses of work. The workers -- some of whom, for example, are stay-at-home moms -- use open source image-enhancement software in EC2 to identify what's on the business card image and capture it. They manually transcribe the card's contents and send the information to a Lasso2Go site, which is actually a Salesforce.com portal dedicated to Lasso2Go users. There the information can be loaded into a spreadsheet, an Outlook virtual card, or sent to a Salesforce.com CRM application. Service subscribers find their data from a pocketful of business cards preserved, organized, and ready for follow up use before they get home from the conference.

"If you wrote stuff on the card, that will be in the notes field" of the form to which it's saved, noted Barnes. The employment of random workers via the Mechanical Turk, the ability to manipulate and inspect images at a shared computing work site, the ability to record data and then deliver it in a preferred format are all services that are delivered more economically via the cloud than through an enterprise data center. Indeed, it's the existence of the cloud as a platform that makes a next generation of applications, of which Lasso2Go is a mere forerunner, possible.

We may all find ourselves using services that we didn't know we needed, simply because they can be marshaled in the cloud better than they could be created before. Remember, once upon a time, we didn't know we needed a personal spreadsheet.

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