Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sunday's Globe column: Social Networking Goes to the Dogs

I'm traveling this week, so a bit slow to post the link to last Sunday's Globe column. It focuses on two Boston companies working on intelligent, wearable tags -- one for humans, and one for dogs.

From the piece:

    Entrepreneurs of every breed need to make a clean break with reality; their job is to imagine a product or service that doesn't yet exist and that fills a need none of us knew we had. Ideas that seem slightly crazy at first - Bluetooth headsets, anyone? - can become commonplace in just a few years. Or they end up as one more crazy concept that didn't fly.

    SNIF [Labs] is the second local start-up to introduce wearable tags for information exchange. Charlestown-based nTag Interactive has raised $14 million to market smart name tags that enable conference-goers to swap contact information, peruse the day's agenda, play ice-breaker games, or respond to a speaker's survey question.

    Both companies trace their genealogy to the MIT Media Lab. In 1995, the lab was organizing a party to mark the launch of a research initiative, called Things That Think. The objective was to explore what might happen when computers were embedded into all sorts of objects.

And here's the video ... a short conversation with SNIF Labs CEO Noah Paessel:

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Monday, October 1, 2007

Wireless charging: Please get here soon...and with a single standard

The day before I finished this Globe column about the prospects for wireless charging pads, I had one of those fun experiences where both my cell phone and laptop ran out of power while I was up in New Hampshire, and I'd stupidly left both chargers elsewhere. What's great about the concept of charging pads built into cars, hotel room desks, and airplane tray tables is that they'd let you charge devices without toting along their myriad power adapters. But the danger is that we might wind up with warring standards -- one charging pad might not juice a certain brand of phone, for instance.

Here's the gist of the column:

    Wireless power transfer is the next new frontier for the consumer electronics industry, and unlike a 47.3 megapixel digital camera or a combination cellphone/pepper grinder, it's something that consumers actually want. And several years after companies like Splashpower Ltd. of Britain began demonstrating charging pads, big electronics companies are starting to show interest in helping bring the technology to market.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

LocaModa Scoops Up $6.1 Million from DACE

I'm at a conference in New York this week, and yesterday one of the moderators was using Wiffiti to allow audience members to post comments or questions by sending text messages from their cell phones; they appeared on a big screen behind the stage. Turns out that Wiffiti's creator, Somerville-based LocaModa, just raised $6.1 million from DACE Ventures, the new VC firm run by David Andonian and Jon Chait. (Two other investors participated in the round, LocaModa's Series A.) Not sure if this is DACE's first investment, but it's certainly among the first.

LocaModa also has some interesting ideas about "the Web outside" -- basically, screens in public places that people can interact with using their cell phones.

Here's the PEHub item on the funding, the very Spartan DACE Web site, and LocaModa's site.

Joining DACE are investors from India and Japan. LocaModa CEO Stephen Randall writes via e-mail, "LocaModa's business is now better placed to not only grow in [the] USA but also in Asian markets, where the usage of the mobile phone is often a user’s primary interactive device."

In July, Randall was carping about the cluelessness of Boston VCs in my Globe column. Maybe this has changed his mind?

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Today's Globe column: Google's prototype phones spotted in Cambridge

As soon as I moved back to Boston in mid-July, I started noticing that a lot of entrepreneurs were brandishing their new iPhones as status symbols. But an even rarer status symbol, I discovered, was being able to claim that you'd seen a prototype of Google's new cell phone, some of the software for which is being developed in Google's Cambridge R&D office. That's the topic of today's Globe column.

In today's Innovation Economy video, I talk about the phone, and interview the founders of two local start-ups working on cool new cell phone apps, Veveo and Vlingo. Veveo is doing video search; Vlingo (once known as Mobeus) is doing speech recognition.

I'd also gotten a tip a few weeks ago that Google will triple its space in Kendall Square and move from One Broadway (the Cambridge Innovation Center) to Cambridge Center (above the Marriott); while I'd planned to include that info as an aside in this Sunday's column, the BBJ published something first. Then, Watha wrote a short piece in the Globe yesterday.

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