The following companies offer something new and novel. Thanks to these innovative entrepreneurs behind them, you can now use a Bluetooth headset for better security, easily visualize tons of data on your iPad, and more.

1. CloudVaults
I'm impressed a company can pull off such a unique security trick. I'm even more surprised no one has thought of this before. CloudVaults uses a Bluetooth headset as a security device. You can unlock a smartphone only when the headset is present. (The service also lets you use other Bluetooth devices, including your car stereo.) This authentication helps if you lose your phone or forget your password.

I'm planning to use this service the next time I fly on business. Unlike the plethora of travel apps available, including Kayak and Google Flight Search, this app lets you search based on more detailed criteria, like whether the seats are wide enough or if the plane is newer. The rating system is not just about quality, but overall contentment.

3. Rabbit
This video-chat portal, a bit like Chatroulette with a deeper feature set, allows you to chat with anyone, share a music stream or video, or even just watch another group of people interact. The circular interface, with hints of Google+ and Skype, is persistent in that you can have it up and running at all times and invite others to join.

4. ZoomData
You might say this company intends to change the well-known mantra about how "information wants to be free" to "information wants to be visual." Using an iPad app and culling data from services like and Twitter, you can pinch, zoom, and swipe through reams of data and see the details up close.

5. Lively
This start-up knows its audience. The Lively device, which you install in the home of an elderly parent, uses a sensor to track movements around the house. You can install multiple sensors to see if the person has visited the kitchen, the living room, or left the house. The hub connects over a cellular network and does not require a wireless router. Adult children receive alerts by text or email. And, they can bridge the tech gap by communicating via a LivelyGram, which are printed messages and photos delivered by mail.

6. SaltStack
This systems management software company started in August of last year after creating an open-source version called Salt. (As you might guess, the company is based in Salt Lake City.) Most systems management tools from companies like IBM are expensive. Salt is free, and SaltStack is the commercial, fully supported variant. The 15-person firm already has big-name customers like HP Cloud, LinkedIn, and on its roster.

7. SemaFone
Based in the UK, this start-up offers call-center software to customers including Virgin Atlantic Airways, Aviva Insurance, and Sky Broadcasting. When someone calls in to place an order, the software lets that person type a credit card number into the phone keypad. But, for added security, the button presses are encrypted and the tones all sound the same. During the call, the agent can stay on the line and assist as needed.

8. Mplifyr
The pay-as-you-go rewards company Mplifyr started in an unusual way. The four founders locked themselves in a 9×9 room for five weeks to create the unique Universal Points loyalty system. Now in an official launch after a closed beta last fall, the points earn customers rewards like a meal voucher or a free DVD player. The system is aggregated from multiple businesses as opposed to being a closed reward portal like My Starbucks. So, if customers shop at a bagel store and a bike store, they might earn a free bagel.

Published on: May 29, 2013
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of