Cool startups at CES 2018: Will this AI tech make it in the real world?

I skip most of the high-end exhibits at CES in favor of Eureka Park, where little startups are getting their - often - first exposure. Here's some of the cool stuff I found on the show floor, in the first of a series.

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Big companies may spend upwards of $2 million for a fancy booth at CES. But I like to haunt the cheap seats in CES's Eureka Park, where tiny companies take tiny booths and hawk their wares. We'll never hear from many of them again, but remember, even mighty Apple, Microsoft, and Google were once tiny startups too.

One surprise this year: the number of non-consumer - B2B - startups. Companies that promise to automate taking inventory in your warehouse, or that enable blockchain-based supply chain tracking. CES is outgrowing the consumer part of the electronics industry.

Here's a rundown of interesting stuff I saw.

Artificial Intelligence

Lots of companies are jumping on the AI buzzwagon. The ones I believed might have something real were focused on relatively dumb AI that reduce human drudgery.

1a3i.com promises that its AI system will look at your unstructured corporate data - all those .ppt, jpg, and other files - and put them into a giant pivot table to make the filenames and types searchable.

Wiidii.com offers what it calls the "world's 1st hybrid assistant". This is not for consumers, but for companies and groups that travel frequently. It's a hybrid of AI and human intelligence that offers help on reservations, information, appointments, and translations.

Botmatic.ai says it makes creating chatbots as easy as writing. Based on Erlang, it enables businesses to create dozens of chatbots to engage with prospects and customers. I signed up for and may try it to review it.

Pocketconfidant.com is an AI-assisted chatbot coach. It doesn't advise or give answers, instead it asks questions to help you reach your full potential. Their technology is designed to help you learn, and as they say:

We built an intelligent language engine system so that during your conversations it can help you take a step back from a challenging situation, and find a more useful or objective way to think about it.

Again, the above are all enterprise applications, which probably means they would be pricy for individuals, even if they were available. But AI needs a large data corpus to learn from, so the emphasis on group use makes sense.

Security

With nation-states and well-financed criminal gangs hacking everything and everyone, security remains an active area. Several companies were showing products for consumers that weren't firewalls, but promised online security.

Bitdefender.com/box says it

. . . protects an unlimited number of Internet-connected devices from malware, stolen passwords, identity theft, spying, and more.

Bitdefender is an established company with a good track record, not a startup, and the Box seeks a premium price plus a subscription. But if security is important to you, it may be worth every penny.

Izzbie.com is another box getting funded on Kickstarter, which is focused on offering a highly secure VPN that allows you to access your home network from anywhere. They gave me a review copy, and I'll be reviewing it soon.

Cujo.com offers a consumer firewall and an AI platform for network operators, so the latter can build security into their services. The consumer box offers a firewall, VPN, parental controls and more to protect a home network.

Sylink offers a 3-in-1 box that performs antivirus, firewall, and VPN functions. It is aimed at small businesses, but there is no pricing info on their web site.

The Storage Bits take

There are at least two stories here: CES expanding into business and enterprise products; and, the promise of AI to improve our lives and our security. The jury is still out on how these early AI implementations will actually perform in the real world, but the promise of AI is real.

I'll be continuing this series on CES startups later this week. Stay tuned!

Courteous comments welcome, of course. The wicked flu making the rounds laid me low - despite a flu shot - which is why this post is late.

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