The Web Summit kicked off this morning with Paddy Cosgrove speaking about the journey from 400 attendees at the first conference to outgrowing the current venue. While not actually discussing Lisbon, there were well placed on screen graphics advertising the 2016 event just before Paddy’s entrance.
Beyond all the speakers, pitching and start ups exhibiting, Paddy told us that feedback from previous events all stated that networking was the most beneficial aspect of the Web Summit.
Following the opening comments, first up for me was listening to Jamie Heaslip discuss his Tech investments and how he uses the experience gained from the top level of sport to augment his business acumen.
Questioned about how he chooses companies to invest in, Jamie drew parallels with the type of people he has encountered in sport who perform consistently at the highest level and have a clear passion for what they do.
It was clear from listening to Jamie that what he brings to the table as an investor is the high performance aspects of sport that can make a business a success. Always looking to “upgrade” the team, creating the right environment to succeed and, in an honest appraisal of his own business knowledge, when he lacks the necessary experience to take things forward he brings in people who can fill the gaps.
Inevitably the questions turned to Rugby and then to Ireland’s World Cup performance. Interestingly, when questioned about what he believed was the biggest tech breakthrough in rugby, Jamie said the introduction of player GPS had revolutionised how they now train and perform. Not only have you video footage but you can also now combine it with the exact movements of players and monitor their output.
From here I moved to the Machine Summit. The early morning theme was Smart Cities but first off we listened to a discussion called “Eye, Robot: are machines finally catching up to science fiction?”
— Irish Tech News (@Irish_TechNews) November 3, 2015
The discussion was lead by Gaia Dempsey from DAQRI with Remi El-Quazzane from a company called Movidius and it centred around artificial vision intelligence. While the speakers concluded that these systems are not at the level of human sight just yet, they are now at a level where they can be of real benefit and hopefully free some time up for us by completing mundane tasks. Wearable cameras, drones and advancements in augmented reality systems were all used as examples of artificial vision systems that are being deployed right now with the speakers promising more developments to come in the new year. “A smart city is only as smart as the data it uses”
Next up was Gary Bloom from MarkLogic who discussed the difficulties of achieving a truly smart city. Most systems in a city such as transport and utilities are all based on old technology and are not easily made smart. Gary used several examples of areas where there is no joined up thinking. Big events being ran but poor communication with government/ councils. Traffic congestion trying to get to the event but no system to manage it. Electricity supplied to everyone’s home but yet there is a lack of smart metering. The list goes on. Even then with the data that is being collected there is no central location to access it and it usually ends up in silos at source. “Securing a Smart City”
The next panel discussed the Internet of Things and addressed the often raised security concerns about the data being collected by this new wave of connected devices. The panel consisted of Kari Martin (Nymi), Phil Moynagh (Intel) Bay McLaughlin (brinc.io) Adam Grennan (Cisco) and Mark Bennett (Bikelook). Philip Moynagh was clear in his disdain from the IoT term and pointed out that connected smart technologies have been around since the Apollo missions. The difference now is that we’ve reached a tipping point where affordability and manageability are achievable.
While some security concerns are valid and you should always have a healthy paranoia, these concerns should not stand in the way of progress. As things stand, there are already systems in place that secure the transmission of our personal data such as when you purchase something with your credit card online and the same technologies are being used or can be adapted to deal with the data from IoT devices. Again something that was agreed on by the panel is that personal data is needed to make progress in these fields and it was even suggested that people should offer their data in an anonymous format. “How smart can a city be?
That last discussion about smart cities gave us an insight of what is possible when these systems are built in from the ground up. Jonathan Reichental, who is the CIO for the City of Palo Alto, explained a system they have in place which allows citizens to report issues such as pot holes or rubbish dumps to the council in Palo Alto. Citizens can track the ticket raised from start to finish and get real time updates on their request. The data that is generated and collected from their systems is then made available for free for anyone to use. The advice Jonathan gave for other cities was to incentivise use of systems such as this for citizens so they can see real benefits and buy in while also providing access to the data so enterprise can get involved. There is clear empty space for companies to expand into.
We’re off to visit some of the many start ups exhibiting now and get a feel for what might be coming next.