Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Observations: Demo 2012 – Back to turning over rocks!

also published in Photizo io360

Demo 2012 - Back to turning over rocks!

I was pleased to attend the Demo Fall, 2012 conference, which took place at the Santa Clara, CA convention complex on October 1-3 this year. I have been to many of these events during its 22-year reign, starting with the original early-spring shows in Indian Wells, CA, in 1995, and mixing in the fall events as well, which for awhile bore the moniker “Demo Mobile.”

Up through 2005, I attended as an HP employee, scanning for new technologies and trends, which the company’s Imaging and Printing group might use to broaden its ever-growing industry footprint. And in fact, from those pioneering trips, I can point directly to tangible outcomes of at least one acquisition and one technology alliance (leading to a novel print-from-the-Internet patent application, my one and only – so far!). This activity, often shared with others who would tag along, helped HP stay current and move toward seeing itself in a less-myopic way—for example, as more in the communications business rather than as a participant (albeit leader) in the more narrowly defined printer business.

Since 2006, however, I have made my semi-regular trips to the Demo Conference as a writer/analyst but with a similar turning-over-rocks mentality. And having taken a break since 2009, I was especially eager to get back to the fray this fall. Demo of course was never a big "printing and imaging" show but has always great for taking the pulse of the overall technology business. I remember many times when a fellow attendee, during an introductory conversation, would ask something like “Printing and imaging – what are you doing here?” and how I learned to take this as a badge of honor, as in, “You may not get it, but I can think and observe a little more broadly than others.” (That’s at least what I told myself!)

So seeking printing and imaging relevancy, this year’s overall highlight for me was the first-day keynote by legendary inventor Ray Kurzweil. He is still going strong after a career that has been highlighted by major innovations impacting our business, including development of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and speech-to-text technologies, both of which became (through acquisition) much of the core of today’s Nuance Communications. Known as more than an inventor to me, he also is a prominent futurist, with a new book coming out soon. “How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed,” coming in November, promises to drill down more into what his presentation at Demo covered: tying the future of technology to the science of the human brain and its workings. Interestingly, Kurzweil’s graphic examples illustrating the human brain’s functioning, centered around pattern recognition, used OCR as its core.

CoraCove solution converts paper forms to iPad forms
Among the 70+ demonstrating companies, nothing was the “direct hit” on printing and imaging as past Demo’s have yielded (e.g. Blurb’sprint-on-demand personal book publishing solution, Zink’s inkless photo printer, or the Anoto-technology-based Pulse digital pen from Livescribe). However, one of the “Angel Alley companies” (meaning they were in the exhibit hall but not on stage) was a Minneapolis-based startup named CoraCove I found to be of great interest. The firm’s CEO, Chris Zweber, explained their timely value proposition – the replacement of paper forms used by enterprise field personnel and others (examples being sales and delivery people) with the equivalent iPad version. The company is new and small but has a compelling group of demos and a strong value proposition that makes for a perfect case study in Photizo’s Digital Workplace Transformation Advisory Service, and I will be contributing a full-blown story there. Suffice it to say for now that Zweber’s company is indicative of a very strong trend in the overall technology business.

Beyond the previously mentioned HP acquisitions and alliances and other vivid memories from those years, aided by reflecting on the lists provided by the conference, I had fun going back through many of my past writing since 2005 to remind myself of interesting discoveries. But as I’ve learned about going back, it’s not all pleasant nostalgia – there are some cringe-worthy moments as well. In a blog post in 2009, for example, I refer to a “Tweeter photo”…ouch!

Other fun things from Demo 2012? One of the Demo God awards went to a student-initiated company form the University of California Santa Barbara, Birdeez, that has developed a mobile birding app (one of my long-time hobbies). And relating to my part-time gig currently as a marketing and economics professor, I truly enjoyed the post-demo “Sage Panels,” where venture capitalists and others who have “been around” evaluated the exhibiting companies’ future prospects on how well they understood their customers and their needs, or in Silicon Valley parlance, the “Use Case.” (And in keeping with the customer experience angle, of the sages assembled for discussion of Birdeez, two of the four panelists had some bird-watching background, which impressed me!)

Nice having Print-on-Demand show guides
There were also a few moments during the conference that are assuring to those of us with long-time print backgrounds. At the end of the first day, the conference emcee announced that what had been an online-only conference directory was now available in printed, collated, and stapled form, and the piles of hard copies disappeared by the end of the next day. And business cards? I was experimenting with going paperless and simply using social media connections with all the folks I came in contact with, but also by the end of the first day, I found myself digging through the briefcase for some old cards that could at least get me by.
Conventional paper business cards have their place too

More Demo references, from DEMO 2012 and past:

1 comment:

Mike Cornelia said...

I love my envelope printer. It saves me so much time, money, and energy especially because I am constantly mailing out stuff. It is something every business should consider because it really makes a difference.