New mobile technology and startup ventures dominated at the DEMO Fall conference Nov. 18-20 in San Jose, Calif., and there was a good reason for that, according to industry analyst Benedict Evans, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
“Mobile is eating the world. It’s the first time the tech industry is selling to everybody,” way beyond even almost universally adopted PCs, said Evans, who predicted that 80 percent of the world’s population will have online access driven largely by the smartphones by 2020.
“We now spend more time on mobile apps than we do on the Web in total,” said Evans, who said that mobile and other advances, particularly in e-commerce, have given consumers and businesses far more innovative options for products and services. “Ten years ago, Airbnb would have sold to Hilton and Uber would have sold to taxi companies,” said Evans, noting that instead these startups have thrived on their own.
The bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend is widely credited with helping drive adoption of smartphones and tablets in the enterprise, starting with executives who demanded that IT make their personal devices, notably the iPad, work on corporate networks. The result has been wider adoption of these devices and more companies making smartphones and tablets standard issue to an increasingly mobile workforce.
“As devices get more sophisticated, there’s less need for laptops and PCs,” said Pooneet Goel, vice president of business development at mobile business software developer PowWow. The company’s Virtual Application Delivery Platform is designed to bring legacy apps to mobile devices in a fraction of the time and cost it traditionally has taken to redevelop these apps.
PowWow was one of several dozen exhibitors at DEMO Fall, which also included about 30 brand new startup ventures competing for the DEMO Gods award that goes to the startups judged to be among the most promising and innovative that appeared at the conference.
Goel told eWEEK that a pharmaceutical client wants to move 20,000 users from laptops over to tablets. The advantage is the tablet’s portability will make it easier for salespeople to engage clients with the most up-to-date sales collateral and pricing information.
On a more prosaic level, Christian Lund, CEO of Templafy, says tablets are the perfect device for working with forms and business documents, especially if they’re managed correctly, which he argues is not always the case. Thanks to office productivity and myriad other apps for the iPad, it’s easy to access and work with documents on a tablet. But managing those documents and adhering to compliance and even design rules is another matter.
DEMO Highlights Novel Mobile Apps, Services, Drones for Enterprises
Templafy bills itself as a content management system for templates that lets brand managers and administrators ensure documents on mobile devices as well as on desktops follow compliance rules. For example, changes to a company logo or disclaimers in standard documents are pushed out to all users in a matter of minutes. “We’ll even alert you if the logo or disclaimer you’re using is outdated,” said Lund.
Mobile users often don’t have a lot of time to spend on traditional business apps like email, especially when their only option is to look at a small smartphone screen or tablet when traveling. GlanceAt aims to help with that. The company’s app promises to “dramatically enhance your productivity with email.”
The GlanceAt app, currently in beta for iOS, will send you a “smart alert” when any email arrives that it determines—based on the context and contact info—requires your immediate attention. The app also highlights actionable items in a “smart card” that’s displayed separate from the email. For example, a smart card might have extracted the key message in the email “Can you meet me Monday for coffee at 2 p.m.?” The app then presents you with a ready response you can edit along with a calendar invitation.
“We’re using semantic data, some machine learning and natural language processing to make email smarter and more actionable, but more importantly providing you with a fun and easy way to be more productive,” said GlanceAt co-founder and CEO Atif Siddiqi.
Mobility isn’t limited to communications devices. Drones made a surprise appearance at DEMO, specifically a new gasoline-powered “micro hybrid electric engine” from startup Topflight Technologies. The company designed its own drone, though CEO Long Phan says the engine, which is about the size of a bowling ball, can be adapted to other models.
While drones have a strong hobbyist following, Phan says he’s aiming squarely for the enterprise and is already working with a few Fortune 500 insurance companies. The advantage of his company’s hybrid engine is that it can power drones to fly for up to two hours versus the 15 to 30 minutes more typical of lithium battery-powered drones that currently dominate today’s market.
Enterprise applications include pipeline, railway and power line inspection, as well as security and humanitarian aid as these drones can handle bigger payloads than consumer models, he said. Declares Phan: “We’re here to change the world.”
From smartphones to tablets to drones, the world is getting more mobile and more changes are inevitable. Even smartphones will eventually have their comeuppance. In 10 years, “the chances we’ll be rubbing away on a black plastic rectangle seems unlikely,” said Andreessen Horowitz’s Evans, reflecting on the rapid evolution of mobile technology.