I recently attended the Demo '06 show in Phoenix and, while the show is hosted by Network World, I can honestly say it is one of the most exciting industry events I know. What Demo shows is that innovation is alive and well. Given that most of the 700 attendees were venture capitalists, it also shows there's money out there looking for the Next Big Thing.What kind of things? Well, developments in technologies and products. At the 50,000-foot level, a Next Big Thing is something that transforms markets, killing off the moribund or stagnant products and enabling the development and rise of new products that often create new technology or product ecosystems.At Demo there were two panels that addressed Next Big Thing technologies: Computational biology, which involves a range of topics centered around the intersection of computing as applied to genomics; and the future of security, which looked at the challenges of security in an increasingly connected and complex networked environment.The latter panel was anything but good news, with Hilarie Orman, CTO and vice president of engineering at Shinkuro, summing up the current situation by saying, "The state of security is dismal, absolutely abysmal." The panel confirmed what we all suspect: Security won't get any easier, will probably get harder, the risks will get greater and then we'll die.The panel on computational biology was more uplifting with a lot of enthusiastic discussion about the effect of personalized medicine and the enormity of the tasks of calculating protein folding and virtual biology.In terms of Next Big Thing products, a few demonstrations at the show have the potential to make an impact on how we do IT in the next two or three years.One of my favorites was IPswap, described as "a global marketplace that allows people to share, interact, solve problems and create new solutions." IPswap is intended to make it possible for people who want software and people who make software to find each other and negotiate terms of engagement not only over price but also over royalties. While the company seems to focus on consumer projects ("I want this feature on my iPod for $25"), I suspect this could become a tremendous corporate resource ("I want this feature on my server for $250").Another company with an interesting idea was Krugle. It offers a specialized search engine for easily finding open source code and related technical information. Given that interest in open source is growing, this will be invaluable to corporate developers.Avokia was at Demo showing ApLive, a product that maximizes database availability by virtualizing the data layer to support real-time transaction replication and load balancing across multiple active synchronized databases.One of my top picks of the show was another database-related solution from Panoratio Database Images. Panoratio's products, .pdi Generator and .pdi Explorer, let you, respectively, take a highly compressed snapshot of a database and then view it.Compression is achieved by applying several algorithms to datasets of as many as 2,000 dimensions with as many as 100 million rows! The result is a static database between 30 and 1,000 times smaller than the original that can be stored in memory and searched with remarkable speed. The company showed a laptop supporting a database of 110 dimensions that covered every play ever run in the National Football League!Just imagine being able to distribute gonzo databases easily to the people who need them and not having to provide real-time access for anything but current data. This is the kind of technology that will be invaluable in data-intensive fields such as medical research, demographic surveys and Web analytics.The Next Big Things are out there, rushing towards us, and Demo is the place to find them.What do you think will be the next Big Thing? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org.