Archive for 'Gadgets'

Traveling Geeks meet 11 Paris startups

by on December 8, 2009 at 5:34 am

On day 2, we arrived at the Paris Developpement Incubateurs an incubator of French tech start-ups. The Travelling Geeks, now with one added Robert Scoble, saw a rapid-fire set of 11 presentations from some very interesting companies and people:

Int13: is a French developer of next-generation games for Smartphones (iPhone, Windows Mobile, Symbian S60, Linux…). They are experimenting with mobile augmented reality games.

CityZeum: provide travel guides for the web and mobile phones, mixing UGC, with expert content and content from journalists.

Scan & Target is a 1-million-euro-funded startup, providing solutions around real-time text mining for web and mobile content (email, SMS, IM, blogs, forums, Twitter).

Rue 89 is a pureplay news website, something between and HuffingtonPost. They focus on creating news in a collaborative way via a mixture of journalists, experts and users.

Gostai: Focuses on building a common software platform for Robots, almost like a universal Robot operating system. These guys are way ahead of most mortals.

Zoomorama cares about the “art of information” and is focused on creating a new visual way of surfing the internet and creating presentations. Not too different from innovative Hungarian presentation company, Prezi. Check out more here

Stribe A b2b, Techcrunch50 canditate that’s a plug and play service, allowing a site to instantly create a social network on any website. Sounds quite similar to something else I’m doing actually…

Path Motion. A web 2.0 recruitment play that offers users “friendly questions” to identify their ideal career path, also providing jobs that match them.

MLstate think that web development is “broken” and they want to “rethink web development for the 21th century”. They’re developing One Pot Applications (OPA), a common platform enabling easy development of SaaS web applications.

Teacheo: Is an online tutoring community with virtual classrooms. They make money by linking tutors and students. Simple, but effective. They use 3D modelling to demo items between students and tutors and have good video chat.

Stupeflix: A web service that turns your pictures, videos, and text into professional videos on the fly, just like that!

tags: Paris startups, Traveling Geeks

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(From an original article by Matthew Buckland)

European Entrepreneurs Come to Life with their Latest Creations

by on August 1, 2009 at 8:14 am

Seedcamp jpeg I spent a day at London’s Seedcamp earlier this month, where I met with a number of England and France-based startups, some of which have a presence in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

Seedcamp’s goal is to provide a catalyst for the next generation of great European entrepreneurs and help them take risks, think big, and succeed.

Participating in Seedcamp gives startups enormous validation and access to a world-class network of advisors, which helps entrepreneurs with every aspect of their business, plus a direct route to seed and venture capital. (more…)

A Chat with Think London’s Barbara Grull-Cacao

by on August 1, 2009 at 8:12 am

I had a chat recently with Think London’s Barbara Grull-Cacao. We ended up engaging in a bit of a Q&A. Her thoughts below.

Renee: what technology saves your life every day and the one you are most grateful for?

Barbara: It’s quite simply accessing emails and the Internet on the go. My PDA is more valuable than my office access card as I win at least an hour per day to get things done.

I usually liaise with people in both the US and Asia, and in the early mornings I can still juggle night workers on the West Coast and queries from Asia at the same time. Now all I need – at the moment – is a solar charger to untie myself from the need for a plug.

I’m actually most grateful for the fact that I never have to set foot into a supermarket again, thanks to online shopping. That’s another important time saver and may be symptomatic to the way Londoners embrace online consumerism.


Renee: what technology and/or gadget or both makes you more productive than any other?

Barbara: Again, it’s my PDA, which allows me to crunch time for accessing emails, online news and information and tweet live from events.

Renee: What’s your role at Think London?

Barbara: I manage Think London’s ‘London Now’ marketing program. This is all about reaching out to potential overseas investors into London, stakeholders and partners, making the case that there has never been a better time to invest in London.

This program is the umbrella for a huge number of marketing activities, ranging from campaigns, events and webinars to media outreach and messaging support for influential partners and stakeholders.

Renee: what’s your goal for Think London in the next year?

Barbara: Find the web 2.0 or possibly web 3.0 key to engage most efficiently with our vast number of communities, which are spread across a dozen different sectors and more than 40 countries.

Help even more fast growing companies from the US and other countries to jump on the opportunities that the current market conditions have created in London, before that window is closing.

This city has been maintaining an incredible buzz and is now cheaper to live in than New York, has got more affordable top property and talent readily available than ever before, is on the path to transforming itself into a sustainable city and has the 2012 Games and 75,000 business opportunities on its doorstep.

Protecting People Against Surveillance & Fraud

by on August 1, 2009 at 8:10 am

During my recent trip to Cambridge, I ran across Steven Murdoch, who is a post-doctoral researcher and developer at the University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory and is working on the Tor Project, which is free software and an open network built to help protect people against surveillance.


The Tor Project is being used today by human rights workers, journalists, bloggers, law enforcement, and ordinary people.

Tor also helps resist censorship, allowing people to access websites which are being blocked, and protect themselves when publishing sensitive material. I am working on how to improve the performance and usability of the Tor.

Another project Steven has been working on is around banking security.

Since 2006, the UK has moved to using smartcards for credit and debit cards — so called Chip & PIN. While in many ways this is an improvement of security over the older system, there are a growing number of fraud victims who are not being refunded by their bank.

The banks claim that Chip & PIN is secure, and so anyone who states that they are the victim of card fraud is either mistaken, lying, or has been negligent.

Steven’s research evaluates the security of the Chip & PIN system and, along with a team, they have been able to show that there are numerous security vulnerabilities which can (and sometimes have) been exploited by fraudsters.

Further information on the banking security work can be found here.

A Kiwi’s Mission to get Millions of Women Pregnant

by on July 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Below is Shamus Husheer, the genius behind DuoFertility, which is being launched in the UK this month. Shamus’ Mission? To get millions of women pregnant.

Shamus and Duo Fertility (1)

Below Shamus holds the monitor that consists of a discreet, hand-held reader and a small sensor, roughly the size of a £1 coin, which is worn underneath your arm. The sensor measures your temperature continuously and uses this information to pinpoint your ovulation and identify when you are most fertile, helping you to get pregnant more easily.

Shamus and Duo Fertility (2)

Below Shamus talks to me in a video interview during a dinner held at the oldest college at Cambridge University: 1284, hence the quality of the audio.

Ribbit for

by on July 28, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I met up with the guys from Ribbit in London at BT’s offices earlier this month.

We saw the latest developments for the consumer market as well as Ribbit for Salesforce, which is a recently launched application from BT Business that features voice-to-text conversion. Ribbit for salesforce

Ribbit for Salesforce saves time and improves productivity for sales professionals and other mobile workers by making it easier for them to record customer information on the move.

Says BT’s Sandeep Raithatha, “think of it as an online personal sales assistant.”

Sandeep at BT

Available in both the US and UK markets, any user can now dictate notes and memos verbally on their mobile phones.

If you hover over any of your messages, they’re converted into text. If a call comes into your mobile and you miss the call, they flow into

Ribbit’s technology takes the message and converts voice to text. It also assigns it to a sender and their account.

“The notes are transcribed and flow directly into and into the user’s inbox, eliminating the need to type updates, increasing user productivity,” says Sandeep.

The solution simplifies sales management by storing and organizing voicemail as email in, categorizing leads, contacts and in-progress deals.

All voice messages are delivered as SMS or email, so users can respond or forward immediately without dialing into voicemail.

British Telecom is the first supplier to integrate voice with the CRM solution through a cloud computing platform.

Ribbit has dragged the phone world over to the web world, whether it be for Salesforce or applications that can be used by consumers. It’s independent of VoIP.

Says Ribbit’s Crick Waters who was over from Silicon Valley during our visit, “we’re not just VoIP, so you can opt to take Ribbit on Skype, MSN, your mobile phone or over the web. We let the system figure out how to get in touch with you.”

Crick from Ribitt

He adds, “our objective is to make it easy to adopt for anyone.”

Toward the era of (printed?) sentient things…

by on July 22, 2009 at 9:06 pm

When I wrote Smart Mobs in 2001 and launched the blog with the book in 2002, I made a number of forecasts about the convergence of the mobile phone, the personal computer, and the Internet. Some of these forecasts, particularly in regard to the use of mobile communications to organize political demonstrations, were accurate. Some of them haven’t happened yet. Some of them might not happen at all. I looked back at Smartmobs Revisited when I spoke at Mobile Monday Amsterdam in June, 2009. And I recently blogged about some reasons why the mobile Web hasn’t developed as rapidly as the tethered web did. Another 2001-2 forecast that has not come to pass by 2009 was what I called “the era of sentient things:”

Different lines of research and development that have progressed slowly for decades are accelerating now because sufficient computation and communication capabilities recently became affordable. These projects originated in different fields but are converging on the same boundary between artificial and natural worlds. The vectors of this research include:

* Information in places: media linked to location.
* Smart rooms: environments that sense inhabitants and respond to them.
* Digital cities: adding information capabilities to urban places.
* Sentient objects: adding information and communication to physical objects.
* Tangible bits: manipulating the virtual world by manipulating physical objects.
* Wearable computers: sensing, computing, communicating gear worn as clothing.

Information and communication technologies are invading the physical world, a trend that hasn’t even begun to climb the hockey stick growth curve. Shards of sentient silicon will be inside boxtops and dashboards, pens, street corners, bus stops, money, most things that are manufactured or built, within the next ten years. These technologies are “sentient” not because embedded chips can reason, but because they can sense, receive, store, and transmit information. Some of these cheap chips sense where they are: the cost of a global positioning system chip capable of tracking its location via satellite to accuracy of ten to fifteen meters is around $15 and dropping.

Watch smart mobs emerge when millions of people use location-aware mobile communication devices in computation-pervaded environments. Things we hold in our hands are already speaking to things in the world. Using our telephones as remote controls is only the beginning. At the same time that the environment is growing more sentient, the device in your hand is evolving from portable to wearable. A new media sphere is emerging from this process, one that could become at least as influential, lucrative, and ubiquitous as previous media spheres opened by print, telegraphy, telephony, radio, television, and the wired Internet.

But…not yet. However, I’ve seen a couple of recent indicators that this forecast might have been more premature than totally off the mark. First, one of the most reliable early indicators I turn to all the time, one of the few RSS feeds that I rarely miss scanning at least once a day, ReadWriteWeb, recently noted that IBM might be getting into the act:

In the Web world, you know that a trend has major traction when IBM is all over it. Like any large Internet company, Big Blue is careful about which trends it latches onto. It was a good couple of years before they were spotted at the Web 2.0 conference, for example. However in the case of Internet of Things, IBM is proving itself to be an unusually early adopter.

I recently spoke to Andy Stanford-Clark, a Master Inventor and Distinguished Engineer at IBM. Yesterday we wrote about how Stanford-Clark has hooked his house up to Twitter. Today we delve more into what his employer, IBM, is doing with the Internet of Things.

IBM is involved in some very interesting projects at the intersection of two big trends we’ve been tracking in 2009: The Real-time Web and Internet of Things. They have a website devoted to this topic, called A Smarter Planet. As the name implies, it focuses on environmental matters such as energy and food systems. Sensors, RFID tags and real-time messaging software are major parts of IBM’s smarter planet strategy. The catchcry for the site – Instrumented, Interconnected, and Intelligent – is about outfitting the world with sensors and hooking them to the Internet to apply the ’smarts.’

My spider-sense might not have tingled as strongly at this tidbit about IBM if I had not met Dr. Kate Stone in Cambridge, UK, a few weeks ago. Although the Travelling Geeks had seen dozens of remarkable startups in London and in Cambridge, the hint of what-might-be-news came when Dr. Stone approached me after a series of pitches and told me about Novalia, a company that is combining current printing techniques, electroconductive ink, and ultra-thin control units to make paper an interactive medium, capable of sensing visual, auditory, or touch inputs, connecting to the Web, displaying audiovisual information. At least in theory. I didn’t see any prototypes. But if you put together the clues from Novalia’s website with the more concrete news from IBM, it seems like the era of sentient things might still be ahead of us – and maybe not too far:

Control module
We have developed and supply a ‘printed electronics control module’; this self contained unit consists of a power source, integrated circuit (I/O control and interaction flow), and sound transducer.

The module is very simple to integrate with the printed item, in fact it’s almost as easy as putting a stamp on an envelope (but for now it’s not quite as thin).

The integration of the module and the conductive inks enables the printed item and the user to communicate through the senses of touch, sightand sound.

UK Diary: Friday – Cambridge Consultants, Nokia And Microsoft Research Labs

by on July 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Friday afternoon the Traveling Geeks visit Cambridge Consultants and visit the William Gates III building for meetings with researchers from Nokia Labs and Microsoft Research Labs (MRL).

Cambridge Consultants has helped bring to market products such as:

Virtually waterless washing machine

The “connected patient

Low cost cellular base stations.

More here.

The Microsoft Research Labs are part of the academic community at Cambridge university and the work is open and peer-reviewed. In the video our guide is Cambridge university lecturer and successful entrepreneur Jack Lang, also Ken Wood, deputy director of MRL, Tim Regan, Research SDE at MRL, and presentations from their colleagues. The video also shows some of Microsoft’s research projects.

Turning Science into Product: Cambridge Consultants #TG2009

by on July 15, 2009 at 7:11 pm

One of our stops on the tour of Cambridge innovation centers included a trip to Cambridge Consultants. This “consultancy” takes new discoveries in science and technology, helps with patents, and envisioning and creating products for companies around the world. The show and tell was intriguing and here are some of the devices showcased:

Holographic Radar

Holographic Radar

Conventional radar sensors scan the field of view by mechanically rotating a narrow-beam antenaa. You’ve seen them in a million movies. New active phased arrays still capture information from a small area of the wider view. Now, holographic radar covers a whole field of view using many beams simultaneously. This data requires Teraflops of processing, but what it lets you do is actually “see” through solid walls and track multiple moving items. This is an excellent application for SWAT teams to see humans inside buildings in a hostage situation.

This radar was actually created to help air transportation spot the new windpower generators, which look like other airplanes to traditional radar.

Here’s what the device looks like:

Holographic Radar Device

Holographic Radar Device

We also saw some wireless medical devices of the future incuding devices that connect to the web and record you taking medicine from an inhaler, activity monitors and prescription dosing tracking systems.  As we age and become more connected, there’s a burgeoning area of technology supporting proactive disease management.

Here are some examples of devices created for Cambridge Consultants’ clients:

Web Connected Medical Devices

Web Connected Medical Devices

Satellite Internet connectivity was another big area for CC. Iridium is their client and they are working on phones and plug in devices for remote locations that allow you to jack into the web.

Iridium Satellite Phone

Iridium Satellite Phone

When we launched @Home Network’s broadband cable modem service here in the Silicon Valley in the late 90’s, we used to create a “Home of the Future” every year in New York and invite our advertisers, the press and our partners in to see what a broadband connected home might be like. Everything we used to show is now in my house, from a celestial jukebox, to WiFi to computers in many rooms. The only thing still missing is the refridgerator that keeps a shopping list. Now at Cambridge Consultants, the focus is on energy management and conservation.

Energy Management Devices from Cambridge Consultants

Energy Management Devices from Cambridge Consultants

Another company with whom we met that has a terrific range (see how British I’m sounding?) of home energy management systems is by founder Pilgrim Beart. After six years working in Silicon Valley in the 1990’s for the likes of Atari and Chromatic Research (now AMD), in 1999 Pilgrim headed back to his home town of Cambridge. Here he founded two companies:activeRF Ltd., an early implementer of asset-location systems, using a variety of short range RF technologies and antenova Ltd., a manufacturer of innovative mass market antenna technology that provides WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity to mobiles and laptops. Now he’s on to saving energy with this terrific bundle of products: Home Energy Mangement Systems Home Energy Mangement Systems

Meeting with Cambridge Consultants on the tour helped me see another facet of the Cambridge infrastructure for bringing the innovation from the colleges (did you know there are 31 colleges that make up University of Cambridge and that Trinity, the college noted for science, computer science and technology has had more Nobel Prize winners than any other college in the world?) to the marketplace.

Cambridge is strong in the sciences and computer technology. They have a Angel and VC infrastructure. They have consulting companies to patent and develop products. But what they consistently said they are lacking is “commercialization” skills: PR, marketing and sales. If I didn’t have my own early stage company with Personal Life Media, I would love to move to Cambridge and set up a launch services business. After launching so many companies in Silicon Valley, it would be a delight to bring some of Cambridge’s innovation to market.

Here are two final pics of our time at CC. Thanks to Patrick, Gordon, Duncan, Alastair, Ray and Steven for their gracious hosting of the Traveling Geeks.

Geeks Hanging with Cambridge Consultants

Geeks Hanging with Cambridge Consultants

Suz at Cambridge Consultants

Suz at Cambridge Consultants

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Handhelds for Doctors

by on July 12, 2009 at 11:49 am
Innovator of Handheld Digital Medical Records

Innovator of Handheld Digital Medical Records

At the Cambridge University Pitt Building, in a program led by Omobono Digital Services, we viewed show and tell presentations by some of Cambridge’s most promising start-ups. Among several good ideas was a great one presented by Dr. Al-Ubaydli. Conversion to digital medical records has been an American national quest for the past decade and a priority for the Obama Administration. Dr. Al-Ubaydli has been working with the Feds (NIH) for the past six years to bring his hand-held medical records download program to fruition. He suggested that University of Cambridge is a great incubator to work from and he collaborates with doctors and engineers in the States and elsewhere to bring the technology to market.

Great example of global technology development, incubated in university labs, solving big problems through collaboration of doctors, hospitals, governments, and industry.

Photo Credit: Renee Blodgett

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