Belfast Telegraph

Appy days! Innovative tech comes your way

The 50 finalists in a new start-up mentoring scheme hint at the innovations heading to a computer near you soon. Katie Wright takes a look at what the future might hold.

A company that wants to help consumers build their 'personal brand', a system that reads human emotions via webcam, and a customer service tool that uses artificial intelligence - these are just some of the finalists chosen by Unilever as part of its inaugural Foundry 50 start-up scheme.

The initiative, in conjunction with Lions Innovation (the tech arm of the Cannes Lions festival), awards the most promising companies, as chosen by a team of experts from more than 100,000 entries.

In order to qualify, fledgling businesses had to be clearly innovative, under five years old, relevant to the marketing industry and have raised less than $10m (£6.4m) in funding.

The winners were given free access to the Lions Innovation event, in order to 'speed date' brands and sell their wares.

Looking at the final 50 certainly gives us a glimpse at the kind of tech that could soon be the norm.

While some of the ideas are only relevant to marketers, plenty are appealing for us consumers.

Love fashion, but hate that online shopping doesn't let you try before you buy? RainCheck, the only Australian app on the list, lets you save items to a wish-list, then gives you a nudge when you enter a store where you can find the item.

Similarly, SyncSpot uses 'geo-fencing' to place exclusive content, like a song or video, in a certain location - meaning fans have to visit, say, a shop or concert venue in order to access it.

Some of the tools could even replace humans. DigitalGenius uses artificial intelligence to answer customer queries in a conversational style that's difficult to distinguish from a real person.

It's already being used by companies such as BMW.

Realeyes uses a 'facial coding platform' to measure emotions while you're watching videos (with your consent, of course), so that even if you're not compelled to write an angry/adoring comment on YouTube after watching an ad, your annoyance/adoration will be conveyed.

"Foundry 50 shows big brands what's possible by embracing new tech," says Realeyes CEO Mihkel Jaatma.

"It's well on track to become a role model in how to scale up innovations for radically better marketing."

So if those 'speed dates' with the big wigs went well, our nifty 50 start-ups could be well on the way to tech success.

Belfast Telegraph