With technology, it's easy to get stuck using the same services that have proved their value over time.
You might rely on the same streaming service for movies, email provider or one particular backup service for your documents - even though there are better products out there.
So here we're championing companies that offer something new and innovative - new companies are developing products constantly, challenging the existing services we all use.
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Here we'll look at various ideas that are pushing the boundaries.
An early stage start-up in Germany, Veodin makes a unique product that could aid even the most jaded technophile. The free beta app, called KeyRocket, runs in Windows and shows helpful keyboard shortcut suggestions. The product is free for one Microsoft Office app or charges a small fee to use the suggestion app for Word, Excel and PowerPoint (either the 2007 or 2010 versions). You can also look up any hotkey, and the interface shows icons for the keys you need to press.
Although the site works only in the US and India for now, GetHired.com is a new job search site offers powerful features. You can post a video or audio introduction about yourself and apply directly. Companies looking for candidates can see thumbnails of applicants, schedule interviews and track applications through the service.
Custom goods on the Internet is gaining some traction. You can create your own sweatshirt, of course, but new sites like Chocomize.com let you choose the ingredients for food. Now UFlavor, a new soft drink creation site allows you to mix and match ingredients to make your own custom drink, which you can then order and ship to yourself or post your beverage mix for others to purchase. You can also choose the level of carbonization and design a label for your new drink.
This startup has created a silicone gel keyboard you lay on top of your iPad. The idea is to provide a bit more tactile feedback to typing. The keyboard snaps into place using magnets, similar to how the iPad cover works. The 1-ounce keyboard is thinner than the iPad case. The springy keys feel more like a real keyboard, but TouchFire enables you to type much faster than the soft keyboard on the iPad.
This peer-to-peer car rental service only works in San Francisco and Silicon Valley for now, but plans to expand after an initial beta test. At the GetAround site, you can look for cars near your current location – from commuter cars to convertibles. Once you find one, you can then rent that car for an hour or several hours. Those renting their car can use a kit that allows a renter to tap in a code to unlock the car.
This start-up intends to change how people get to work and go on travel trips. Once you sign up to Ridejoy, you can look for those who are driving the same route you are going. For now, that usually means longer trips – say, from San Francisco down to Los Angeles. The fees are cheaper than a bus ticket.
One of the problems with handing out a thumbdrive to a customer or new business contact is that you have to first create the content for the drive. This all-in-one product, called an Interactive Flash Drive, allows you to assemble the content you want and load it onto the drive. GigMark can also help you custom-design the thumbdrive. Most importantly, there's a content management system that allows you to track which content you have placed on the drives and update as needed.
A big hit at CES this year, mostly because everyone enjoys seeing an iPhone sprayed with water, this chemical treatment adds a protective coating to your smartphone. You order the treatment online and use it with a specific model - see the list. There's also a kit that includes the protective treatment and a clear cover.
This new start-up works a bit like your own personal Netflix in the cloud, or an equivalent of Google Music that also works with TV shows and movies. You first configure the desktop app to watch folders on your computer. When you place content into those folders, the app syncs the files to the Qvivo Cloud service. Then, you can access that same content from your phone, tablet, or laptop.
10. Burn Note
This single-use site allows you to create a custom message and send to recipients. Once they read the note online, the message self-destructs. Each note is encrypted using the rijndael-256 module of the PHP mcrypt library. That means even the administrators of the site can't read the messages. Burn Notes are held in an SQL database but there isn't a way to query the messages. To find messages, the system uses an anonymous ID that is updated every 24 hours for both the sent and received messages.