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CES: British Start-Ups Aim To Impress In Vegas

(c) Sky News 2013

Amidst the lasers, the dry ice, the glitz and the glamour of the major consumer electronic companies and their dazzling displays at the International Consumer Electronics Show, the British are subtly making their presence felt.

In hardware, software and general innovation, small UK start-ups are punching above their weight and demanding attention.

None more so than James Woodall, of Ikanos Consulting. He and his team have designed the software for the hugely impressive Golden-i head-mounted hands free computer.

A small screen mounted on a head set is worn just below the eye line, not obscuring your view but allowing ready access to data, communications and other utilities whenever needed.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Woodall said: "The idea is that whenever you're using it you have your hands free to do the job you're supposed to do do, but the information is available just below the line of sight.

"At the moment it's being aimed at light industrial use, so police, fire brigade and those types of applications - but who knows where it could go."

Sky News tried on the head set and found it remarkably unobtrusive. Voice recognition drives the software, allowing one to focus on your immediate surroundings and then transfer your gaze quickly on to the screen housed in a small lens worn below the eye.

It's not yet on the market, but a demonstration showed its potential use by firefighters to access building blueprints, communicate with team members and keep track of their location and well-being, allowing a more effective team effort - and potentially save more lives.

James displayed the enthusiasm common among young British tech entrepreneurs and innovators. He said: "We have a very, very talented pool of engineers and we're working on some really great problems - and we're having great fun solving them."

Another British company, Cambridge Consultants, has been developing innovative products for 50 years, with a team of more than 360 staff working in the UK and Boston to provide solutions across a range of industries.

Their offering at CES was the wireless bicycle - equipped with sensors, electronic gear-changing and smartphone technology, it monitors the peddling rate and wheel speed.

A smart algorithm running on the smartphone automatically shifts the bike into a lower gear when the pedalling rate drops - a useful training tool for professionals and the growing amateur market, where regular cyclists often pay thousands of pounds for their frame, gears and brakes.

Tim Ensor, business developer in Cambridge (SES: E1:J91U.SI - news) 's wireless division, told Sky News: "I think we (British tech companies) bring a lot of innovation and creativity to what is really a pretty big show.

"There's a lot of big companies, there's a lot of technology on show.

"But I particularly like to think that some of the things we've got on show here are pretty innovative - and they're getting a lot of interest from the media."

That is also certainly true of Swiftkey, a language technology app that does not simply replace predictive text, but revolutionises our expectations of it.

The app learns every time you send an email or text message. More intuitive, and far less frustrating, it's been a global hit with millions of loyal users waiting expectantly for the next update.

The highest selling paid for app on Google Play last year, at one point the number one app in 30 right countries, it's the perfect example of how Britain is competing with the major players of the software world.

Sky News sat down with co-founder Ben Medlock, and asked what if anything is allowing British technology companies to make such inroads into a hugely competitive market.

He said: "We're a society that knows how to get our head down and work hard. And i think if you start to marry that with allowing people to dream a bit then you get something that's really quite special.

"I think if you look at the west coast of the US there's such a community that's focused around encouraging people to pursue their dreams, to grab hold of a vision however unlikely it seems and really take it forward and do something to grow it.

"And I think that's the kind of culture that we've been lacking in the UK."

Not that Mr Medlock thinks his success was a fluke.

"I think it's starting to grow. I'm excited about the tech scene and particularly in and around London.

"I think there's something special happening there," he added.

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