Consumer tech startups at DEMO Asia 2012 — It’s a jungle out there
March 4, 2012 by Sharon Lourdes Paul
The industries covered include sexy trends such as video and social, to hardware that have less online hype. There were also medical, education, and even environmental startups.
This is in contrast to the convergence towards two main trends (gamification and loyalty apps) among social media startups.
The quality of the startups occupy extreme ends of the spectrum too. Below, we go through each category to give you a run-down of how innovative they are.
“Videos are going to take over the world,” said Danny Wilson, founder & CEO of Pixelmetrix, at another session. Three startups in this category could play a big role in that revolution: Business.me, CuteChat from Pixtelz and Ctrlworks.
Business.me aims to be THE place to share and discover videos about business. Simply log in with your Linkedin account, and Business.me’s recommendation engine will curate a personalised list of videos for you. The team believes that producers of business video are currently stuck on using consumer-focused online video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo.
However, I am unsure of the prospects of creating a video platform just for enterprises and professionals. There are already TV/video channels with recommendation engines. Some good examples are Peel and Denso, although these other apps are not exclusively focused on business-related videos.
One possible way for Business.me to stand out in the crowd of video platforms is if it moves away from the business model adopted by Youtube — offering free videos and earning through advertisements. Having paid-exclusive videos could be one potential revenue model that seems viable.
CuteChat on the other hand, takes on Apple with its webcam software that allows seamless changing of backgrounds. In the demonstration, Pixtelz co-founder Boon Leng conducted a video chat with his friend Jeremy, who was able to “teleport” from Singapore’s Changi Airport, to a hawker center, to other places in the country.
It’s certainly useful for giving your boss (or wife) the impression that you’re slogging away. Just upload a backdrop of your office.
However, Michelle Guthrie, JAPAC Director of Strategic Business Developement of Google, questioned if CuteChat is able to run smoothly via mobile devices.
CtrlWorks helps bridge the geographical gap of people all around the world with its mobile telepresence platform, The Puppet. The Puppet is an affordable and fussfree way of enabling one to teleconference his/her presence to anywhere else. But hang on. Doesn’t this sound like heavyweights such as Ustream.tv, Livestream.com, and Justin.tv? The main differentiating factor for CtrlWorks is that the Puppet is a mobile platform that can be remotely controlled. This allows for a dynamic video-teleconference versus the static view camera we see on e.g. Livestream.com.
[Updated on March 6: The next phase of CtrlWorks is to enable two-way video communication between the Puppet and individual controlling it.]
Education will be a big industry in consumer technology, said Adeo Ressi, founder of Founder Institute and theFunded.com. Across all borders, individuals are increasingly wanting to get educated and share their knowledge at the same time. In this space, one startup stood out today – Qooco.
Yes yes, there are indeed many applications batting out in the sphere of teaching Mandarin. But what makes Qooco impressive is the ability to grade pronunciations in real-time.
With Qooco, you can undertake a step-by-step class on Mandarin phrases, and practice reciting these phrases on the tablet app. Qooco will then detect and assess your pronunciation, helping you to develop an accent that others are able to comprehend. That is huge. You’ll be able to learn practical Mandarin that allows you to strike conversations without any awkward, “I’m sorry, may you repeat? I couldn’t quite catch your accent.”
It’s a pity though, that their homepage design does not do justice to what they have to offer. Calling out to any designers out there, please do them a favor.
Emergence of the young ones
While the number of college entrepreneurs are surging in the West, Singapore does have its fair share of young founders as well. FIETT, comprising of a team of students from the National University of Singapore, has developed ISGloves, a patent-pending, eco-friendly, touch sensitive gloves that keeps your fingers warm while using touchscreen devices in the cold winter (our feature of them).
Another college startup is Innova Technology, founded by Rick Tan, from Singapore Management University, and Jonathan Lim. For girls who often leave their handbags around, this duo has something you might want. anti-Loss (aL) is the world’s thinnest (as claimed by them) loss prevention device.
Simply drop a creditcard-size device into your bag, document briefcase, camera bag, and so on. In the event you lose your valuables, aL will sound off an alarm and capture its GPS coordinates.
They recently came in second place at the Startup Arena competition.
The ones who help save Mother Earth
Both GreenPost and Intraix seeks to use the power of IT to help reduce wastage in our offline world.
With GreenPost, consumers can automatically receive all their electronic bills in one portal. This comes with due bills reminders and data analytics of one’s spending. One huge side benefit? Say goodbye to stacks of paper bills piling up on your desk.
Intraix, which is still in private beta, seeks to reduce household electricity consumption using a web-integrated analytics software. With just a one-line description and nothing more even on their website, it’s hard to find out more details about Intraix’s product.
Pitches that made me go, “So what?”
Know of a loved one with poor health? OOsome might put your mind at greater ease. MediWatch is a wireless health monitoring device that helps detect irregularities and immediately sends an emergency notification to relevant parties. Unfortunately, their pitch was not crisp enough to draw me in.
Although the FIETT and Innova Technology teams have done their fellow Gen-Ys proud, others still need to work a lot on their product.
Swordfish with their Virtual Instruments Online Studio (VIOS) aims to be a cloud-based platform that allow users to play virtual instruments. Looking from their demo booth however, it seemed like just another Wii game.
Another fellow college startup which I failed to comprehend was Musicjoy from SGK Group. Founder, Khiem Do Hoang Duy, emphasized on the importance of interaction in gaming. But here’s where I am stuck — I still don’t know what Musicjoy does with interactivity.
Side observation: In their vagueness, both Swordfish and SGK Group seem to be doing similar things. But given that they still have a lot of product development to do, perhaps they will need time to give outsiders a better view of their products.
Project from the Winner
Last but not least, we have Hoiio Live from the overall winners of DEMO Asia. In short, Hoiio Live helps you to update your phonebook data in real-time and discover friends near you. The latter feature sounds like something being overdone in Startupland, and the former feature sounds like Sean Parker’s Plaxo.
Nevertheless, from the team at Hoiio, they have another impressive product, Hoiio API. And it was this that made them win the People’s Choice Award.
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About The Author
Sharon Lourdes Paul - Resident Contributing Writer
Sharon is the co-founder of SPACES, Singapore's portal for creative venues. She was formerly the co-lead of StartupRoots Singapore programme 2012. Aligned to these formal pursuits, her personal raves include UX, architecture/space design, urban planning, city living and cooking. Spot her at her blog and @sharonlourdes.Read other posts by Sharon Lourdes Paul