the technology industries oldest new product launchpad always highlights new technologies that push the boundaries of existing hardware or software, or which create new categories.
DemoFall 2014 was no exception and I came away thinking that I had just seen at least two key disruptive companies.
the first was a new home automation startup called Umbrela, which will let its users remotely control their homes environmental and security systems remotely Umbrela is much different than most of the existing systems that provide some of these feature.First, it can be installed by the homeowner and it alerts the home owner of power usage, providing them with information on energy costs that can be displayed on owners’ smartphones.
Unlike many home automation/security systems, Umbrela uses existing household electrical wiring for communications, plus the Umbrela system is designed to be sold as a stand alone system that communicates directly with a homeowner. It doesn’t require a connection to a remote call center, so it’s less expensive than conventional systems (some of which can be used with smartphones) because there’s no maintenance fee.
The heart and soul of Umbrela is an intelligent controller with a programmable interface.Because it can be controlled by a smart phone, users can invoke preset or customized lighting, heating or entertainment modes before or after they arrive home.
Umbrela’s founders didn’t announce retail or other partnerships at Demo, and they said they expect the unit to cost up to $400 when it goes into production and is sent into the retail pipeline.
This is one of the best technology launches I’ve ever seen at Demo.Umbrela has built in sizzle and it disrupts the existing home automation/security model, which is subscription based and often requires professional installers.
A new version of the tag manager Ghostly was a stand out among the enterprise technologies at DemoFall 2014. Designed for enterprise users, the new version of Ghostly lets Corporate IT managers map the interconnections of redirection tags that are part of many commercial websites. Redirection tags have been the subject of considerable negative media coverage recently (including a 12 minute segment on 60 Minutes).
Like some other technologies, Ghostly for the enterprise gives corporate IT the ability to evaluate the effect of tags on website performance and grant or deny them permission.
Not all tags are bad, since they are an important aspect of web marketing.
Commerce Tags can help retailers give and track commissions on transactions that happen when a sale is redirected or referred from Third party websites.
Although there are other tools that do this, Ghostly’s technology is extremely straightforward and is helped by the information provided in its displays.
Top Flight Technologies-- which has hard ties to the MIT showed an important new propulsion technology aimed at the quad copter drone market. Erick Schonfeld is the first Demo producer to give gear heads in the a chance to see new hybrid power solutions. His pick for the mechanically intrigued was this company/
Top Flight’s hybrid engine is a replacement for pure battery powered drones such as quadcopters. the new hybrid has greater endurance than most commercial drones and has a demonstrated endurance of more than 2.5 hour on a single gallon of gas, according to the company. Many gas-powered commercial drones use a four cylinder horizontal in-line motorcycle engine with open stacks. TOp FLight’s power plant (which uses batteries to meet peak poower demands) is much lighter than a motorcycle engine and is aimed initially at the commercial drone market.
Potential applications for Top Flight’s technologies ( which also include large quadcopters) include agriculture, powerline inspection and other flights needed to inventory spaced out resources (think large groves of trees, natural resource and some ranching assets).
I suspect this start-ups management has never worked in the western beef industry where cattle and sheep operations spread across thousands of acres.All domesticated and wild herd animals are born with an innate “fast flee” response when it encounters anything it perceives as a predators-- including airborne camera platforms carried in noisy gasoline powered quadcopters.
What was missing in this company’s presentation I believe was a discussion of how loud its hybrid power plant is under normal operating conditions.
As TopFlight left the stage I had to smile at the image of an MIT engineer trying to count cattle, without causing a stampede that would result in calves being separated from their mothers from the cab of a truck parked out on the Oklahoma wiregrass.
Traditionally, most Demo companies are reluctant to talk about the Defense industry as a potential client, but Top Flight could be successful in this lucrative segment.
Although there were only about 40 demonstrators at DemoFall 2014, the conference pioneered fertile ground by offering workshops designed to help improve the overall success of the entrepreneurs who launched products at the show, and other entrepreneur attendees.
Demo is the grandfather of all technology launch events and continues to attract, entrepreneurs, venture capital and institutional investor attendees.--Jim Forbes on 11/23/2014
(disclosure: I was the original producer of DemoMobile and co -produced Demo with it’s long time executive producer, Chris Shipley)