Seen, heard and alleged at DEMO

New technologies demonstrated at conference

Digital Fountain’s dip into the content-delivery network pool — DF Splash — offered among the more impressive stage demonstrations last month at DEMOfall07, was so impressive that a company executive says a couple of conference attendees accused them of pulling a fast one.

Not so, Digital Fountain’s GM of business development, Scott Monson, assured me the video being streamed flawlessly over DF Splash genuinely originated 2,500 miles away, on the East Coast, not a local drive as sceptics suggested.

Turns out that Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud is providing the infrastructure that the DF Splash software is whipping into shape so snappily that it raises suspicions at trade conferences.

While Digital Fountain is promising to upset the apple carts of the Akamais of the world, the company said it isn’t ready to release pricing information for DF Splash, which is expected to launch in January.

“We will be extremely price competitive,” said Monson. “It will make people stand up and watch.”

Conference calls that call you

Cellphone ringing in the middle of a conference presentation: bad.

Sixty-eight cellphones ring in the middle of a conference presentation: room breaks into applause. (And 68 phones ringing simultaneously don’t exactly constitute an orchestra.)

Creating this cacophony was a startup called Vello and its service of the same name.

Vello “removes the pain of conference calls,” says Mark Dzwonczk, president and COO of the company. And it does so by calling the participants, instead of waiting for the participants to figure out when and how to call in.

Dzwonczk demonstrated the service’s capability by calling those 68 ringers, who had volunteered beforehand to lend their phones to the DEMO demonstration. Quite impressive, too.

Vello integrates with Outlook and appears relatively painless to use.

“I’ll bet you’ve never been on a conference call where everyone was on the call within 15 seconds of the start-time,” says Dzwonczk.

That’s a bet he’s unlikely to lose.

The end of Photoshop funny business?

Given the ease with which digital photos are manipulated and faked, they are often viewed with great suspicion by courts and consumers — at least those uninterested in naked celebrities.

Into this credibility breach steps a French company called CodaSystem and its product called Shoot & Proof.

Shoot & Proof is software plus a service that allows customers to use a variety of phones and cameras to take and store digital photographs that are watermarked, time-stamped, localised and signed, thus assuring their authenticity and protecting the owner against fakes.

Once a photo is in the system, Shoot & Proof can determine that a copy has been doctored “if you change only one pixel in the picture”, says Frederic Vanholder, managing director of CodaSystem. If a change is found, the customer receives a message that reads: “Warning: this picture is not a certified picture.”

Shoot & Proof is being targeted at government entities and businesses that might benefit from reliable photographic documentation, including law enforcement, private investigators, lawyers, bailiffs, insurance companies, engineers, real estate agents, package delivery companies and even cleaning services.

The company says that its authenticated pictures have passed legal muster in European courts and it expects the same on US soil, although most clients use the system more for the inherent credibility it produces in photo documentation than as a legal instrument.

The service costs under a dollar per picture.

Vanholder didn’t mention them as a potential customer, but can’t you see this proving useful to the better paparazzi — at least the honest ones?

PeopleJam sounds groovy... unless you’re 51

PeopleJam promises to help me in my “pursuit of a great life”, whether we’re talking health, relationships, finance, faith or fun.

That’s touching, not to mention a tall order, given that I’ve had a heart attack and a divorce, have debts up to my armpits, abandoned the religion of my youth long ago, and, as the father of six-year-old triplets, remember fun only vaguely.

Worse yet, however, is that it seems I have only a bit over a year left to attain all of that missing greatness with PeopleJam’s help. Talk about pressure.

Why the deadline? Well, PeopleJam is targeting its ambitious social network at the age 25 to 50 demographic... and the Big 5-Oh is set to smite me come October 31.

So I went to the PeopleJam booth and asked CEO Matt Edelman straight-out why he’s looking to put me out to pasture — if not off his site — in 400 days give or take.

He looked at me like I had said I have compromising pictures of him, but after grasping the gist of my inquiry assured me that the age range was all about marketing and not about wanting to make 51-year-olds feel ready for retirement.

Being a crotchety old fella, I also asked Edelman what could possibly differentiate PeopleJam from the zillion other social-networking communities beckoning for members these days.

“Those aren’t purposeful communities,” he assured me, invoking a phrase with which I had previously been unfamiliar, perhaps owing to a lifelong lack of purpose.

The 25-to-50 age group “is going through the biggest life transitions,” Edelman told me, and hence would benefit most from the 150 “lifestyle coaches” made available on PeopleJam.

So what happens when a member hits 51?

“We don’t want you to leave,” Edelman assured me. “Please don’t do that.”

Patriots’ owners invest in ‘media discovery’

How’s this for Gridiron irony? The owners of the New England Patriots — infamous of late for having been found illegally taping an opponents’ game signals — are sinking US$10 million (NZ$13.1 million) into a “media discovery platform” that promises to, among other things, find just what you want in a big pile of videos.

Whether NFL Commissioner Roger Godell will be demanding that the Patriot’s IT department cough up any beta code remains to be seen.

A company called Matchmine and its Media Discovery Platform were enjoying the celebrity attraction that comes with backing from The Kraft Group, holding company for various businesses owned by Patriots patriarch Robert Kraft and his family.

Unfortunately for Matchmine, that celebrity has taken on somewhat of a Britneyesque hue, since news broke that the Patriots had been flaunting NFL rules that prohibit the videotaping of an opponents’ coaching staff during a game. Which isn’t to say that the start-up is likely to return the US$10 million.

Matchmine describes its product as “an expression of a user’s personal interests and tastes that they can take with them from site to site... the Matchmine platform enables users to obtain personalised recommendations for movies, music and other online content from any matchmine certified partner on any internet-connected device.”

It actually looked useful in the stage demo.

As for why the Kraft family, which made its first fortune in the paper goods industry, would be investing in such a geeky venture, Jonathan Kraft, CEO of The Kraft Group, told The Boston Globe that the Patriots were “the first pro sports team to have their own web page; tech is just something the group has always been involved in. When we come across an idea we like, we’ll put the capital in.”

They do like their technology, that’s for certain.

(Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Patriots fan and long-time, albeit former, season ticket holder. At the DEMO welcome reception, I ran into a public relations representative for Matchmine who lost me at the word “platform”, but did seem willing to arrange a meeting between the Patriots brass and me, at which I might plead my utterly meritless case for reinstatement of my revoked season tickets. So much for that idea.)

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