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9 unheralded technology innovations

John Brandon | Aug. 10, 2012
Some of the indispensable technology that you use every day was so ahead of its time that it now goes largely unnoticed. Here the innovations that forever changed email, Web development, database management and other "givens" in today's tech finally get their due.

5. Keystroke Encryption

Here's a technology you hear about only at security analyst conferences. In the enterprise, malware infections can run rampant. One of the worst offenders is a keylogger, which is a piece of software that can record each keystroke. Criminals use them to capture business intelligence data, credit card numbers and bank records.

Fortunately, keystroke encryption prevents these attacks. Companies such as Strikeforce Technologies invented encryption technology at the hardware layer for companies to augment security detection techniques. Now it's used on more than 4 million computers, with the potential for much more.

6. Virtual Market Research

Some brilliant innovations are not widely used by the enterprise-not yet, at least. The concept of virtual market research, offered by companies such as Affinnova, takes the traditional technique of market research-in which you have people sit in a focus group and give their opinions-and makes it virtual. You can test a new product packaging design, a logo and even specific wording in a marketing campaign, present the new ideas in a Web interface and then track preferences. Companies such as Nutrisystem and Ricola have tested new marketing concepts this way.

7. Open Database Connectivity

This unheralded tech is so commonplace now, many IT experts can't imagine how in-house applications could run without it. Developed in the early 1990s, the concept was ahead of its time; as an open standard, ODBC can connect to any other Database Management System (DBMS). The drivers can run on any platform and even connect from one platform to another. In that way, they pre-date the open standards used on the Web. The only catch is that many Web apps skip ODBC and connect to databases using PHP.

8. Reputation Management

The reputation of a large company is hard to control, but it's not impossible. Reputation management systems, including for Business, can track customer sentiment for major brands.

For example, in one demo for an American automaker, the system showed reputation level at the dealer level, tracked by monitoring comments on message boards and Twitter. This can help a company track whether customers are happy with a brand, down to a regional and even a local level.

9. Local News Aggregation

While Craigslist gets all the attention as the grassroots classified advertising tool, services such as Patch also helped changed how local news is generated. Patch operates like Craigslist in the sense that there are hundreds of local hubs where people can post news stories and human interest content. Lately, this aggregation concept has lost some momentum-but the idea might make its way into the enterprise in the form of more localized content for Intranets, including employee status updates.


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