Last week, I attended Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal as part of the Women in Tech community with 5 other ladies from MyDrive.
The annual event hosted various A-list speakers including Microsoft’s President Brad Smith, Netflix’s CPO Greg Peters and a number of prominent executives from the tech industry, startups, media, and investors. The conference was attended by close to 70,000 participants, from 159 countries and addressed by 1,200 speakers. For the first time, the number of women attendees has risen to about 45 percent from 25 percent in 2013.
This year, there was a sense of unease about the role of technology in society among the different speakers. Although this was felt last year, it seems to have increased in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, joined Microsoft President Brad Smith onstage to stress the importance of tech regulations. “It really is necessary for those in the tech world to educate the policy makers as to what these issues mean”.
Set in 2035, highly intelligent robots fill public service positions throughout the world, operating under three rules to keep humans safe. This is the plot for the movie “I, Robot”. 2035 is just around the corner and we got to see a lot of robots at Web Summit.
“In ten years time there will be robots in our stores, what they do there exactly, how they are used, I do not know yet, but they will be there, I’m sure.” That’s what Daniel Grieder, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger declared on stage. How do you feel about that?
I personally attended 3 talks on Robots. The first one was by Stockholm-based technology startup Furhat Robotics who unveiled Furhat, a social robot that is capable of displaying humanlike expressions and emotions on a customisable face (ie: woman, man, animal). This social robot can even teach you a new language or screen for a medical condition.
The second one was a panel where Israel-based company Intuition Robotics presented ElliQ. ElliQ is a proactive Artificial Intelligence driven social robot designed to encourage an active and engaged lifestyle by suggesting activities and making it simple to connect with loved ones. It is targeted at an older population.
Sophia the Robot and her brother Han were one of the main attractions on Centre Stage. Although they responded less flawlessly than Ben Goertzel, the founder and CEO of SingularityNET would have probably hoped, his presentation offered a glimpse into a future where robots are living among humans.
Crypto and Blockchain
Another major topic this year related to crypto currencies and blockchain technology. The eToro trading platform partnered with BTC.com in order to give away pre-loaded cards with Bitcoin Cash to attendees visiting their stall. Unfortunately I missed out on it (sad face)!
BitStamp also promoted virtual currencies at the event. The popular virtual currency exchange decided to educate traders about how to use cryptocurrencies.
Autonomous mobility in the air
Finally, Web Summit was also the place to be for aviation geeks. For the last few years, we’ve been hearing the term “Flying car” to describe many different types of aircrafts (personally it reminds me of the Fifth Element). Nowadays though, it primarily refers to low-powered crafts which take off vertically, and that can carry just one passenger. Volocopter for example is currently building the first manned, fully electric and safe VTOL in the world.
Other companies like Airbus, Virgin Galactic are working on challenges in this domain to reduce the number of pilots and soldiers working in high-risk environments or send civilians into orbit for example. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how autonomous flights will impact airspace.
Forbes listed Web Summit as “The best technology conference on the planet”! I can’t speak for the whole world but it’s definitely the best conference I’ve been to!
See you next year!