Ice cream machine highlights cool stuff at DEMO '06

Keith Shaw can't wait to get the scoop on the MooBella Ice Cream System at this week's Demo 2006 show in Phoenix.

Nothing is cooler than ice cream, which is why I can't wait to see the demonstration of the MooBella Ice Cream System at this week's Demo 2006 show in Phoenix. The vending machine that can create a 4.5-ounce scoop of freshly made ice cream on demand is among the approximately 70 products and technologies being launched at the show, a mix of enterprise (see story) and consumer innovations. MooBella Ice Cream System

You might think ice cream and technology don't mix, but the MooBella machine uses lots of technology (including a Linux operating system, interactive GUI, several databases and a wireless communications system) that you would be more likely to find in a data center than a cafeteria. The system uses database components to assist in aerating, flavoring, mixing and flash-freezing the ingredients to create a customized scoop of ice cream in 45 seconds. If the machine runs out of a flavor, its inventory system detects this and tells the GUI not to display that flavor as an option (much better than a blinking "sold out" light). The machine communicates wirelessly (through satellite technology) with company headquarters to provide inventory and sales data, and to report problems with the equipment. "It's basically an ice cream-processing plant in about 12 square feet," says Bruce Ginsberg, CEO of MooBella.

Another cool launch comes from Blurb, which will debut its Blurb BookSmart publishing system. The BookSmart software provides professional authoring templates in addition to a print-on-demand engine, content library and an online marketplace. If you've ever thought, "Gee, I should write a book" but didn't know what to do next, the BookSmart templates will help.

"You have the content: What's your story? What do you want to tell the universe?" says Eileen Gittens, CEO of Blurb. BookSmart should appeal to thousands of bloggers who've been pontificating over the last few years - the system provides a way to harness the content, flow it into the templates and turn it into something you'd want to hold in your hands. After the book is created, Blurb takes care of the printing, selling individual copies to the author for around $40, Blurb says. In the initial release the system will let authors and their friends and family buy created books. (The company is in late beta, though users can go to the Web site and sign up for more details about when the system will become available.) Gittens says future releases will include a royalty system and partnerships with booksellers to let authors sell their books to a wider audience.

Beyond books and ice cream, there's some more-traditional technologies at the show. For example, maybe you want to be protected from online identity theft. StrikeForce Technologies is launching its WebSecure 1.0 Anti-Keylogging software, a browser plug-in that automatically encrypts a user's keystrokes, bypassing the several areas and messaging services that have been vulnerable to key logging attacks and software. The WebSecure software uses 128-bit encryption to secure the keystrokes, which are decrypted at the browser level (one assumes a user will then use an SSL connection from a browser to a Web server). The plug-in is scheduled to be available by the end of next month - more details are at www.mywebsecure.com. Pricing has not been completed.

That's just a sampling of the cool stuff at this week's show. Head to www.demo.com for more insights and blog posts from Network World's Demo News Team - Jason Meserve, Cara Garretson and yours truly.

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