Emerging Tech at MIT Conference Worth Investigating

Opinion: Text messaging and the resurgence of enterprise applications were among the items discussed at the three-day event.

Texting your way to social network nirvana, a renaissance in enterprise applications and Web services that hide a huge amount of complexity behind a simple interface were all agenda items at MITs Emerging Technologies Conference held in Cambridge from Sept. 25 to Sept. 27.

The range of new, and slightly new, companies talking about the continuing emergence of new technology on the techiest campus on the East Coast provided me with a good counterbalance to the "not another social networking company" syndrome Im convinced has blinded the West Coast to truly interesting developments.

Given that syndrome, why would I start out with a look at Helio and its CEO, Sky Dalton? Although it is still unclear to me whether Helio can bring in new customers as fast as it is shoveling its SK Telecom investment dollars out the door, Dalton at MIT did touch on some key technology developments.

The Helio phone network riding on Sprint does bring to the United States the text, multimedia and location capabilities that have long been available to countries including South Korea (the home of SK). And the Helio Ocean device (you really cant call it a phone) offers the robust text and Web access that the iPhone sorely lacks.

In fact, the Ocean packs more capabilities than your friendly laptop and will become the business executives constant companion as more biz apps find a home in the mobile world. Helio might stumble, but the device and network are the right combination for the business world.

The renaissance of enterprise applications was championed by Ann Winblad, the co-founding partner of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. Count Hyperion and VMware among some winning bets, and Winblad is someone worth listening to. She has become the champion of open source and, more interesting to me, of a new range of companies in the business intelligence arena.

"Actionable analytics" and "turning data into action" are Winblads current mantras, and I hope she is right.

The amount of information both structured and unstructured coming at a company executive these days can quickly lead to business paralysis as each new set of data seems to contract the previous. The traditional business intelligence companies do not seem to be particularly well-suited to a realm of open-source business analytic requirements driven by data that does not fit into neat rows and columns. Google, Salesforce.com and NetSuite, meanwhile, have made a great business of hiding a lot of complexity behind a simple Web interface.

My favorite thing at the MIT conference was CEOs Guillaume Cohens company, Veodia. The company bills its product as a live TV studio in a browser, and it works as advertised. When I think of all the hassles associated with recording, storing and broadcasting video that Veodia eliminates, I really am convinced that the current crop of emerging technologies are worth investigating.


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