This year saw an unprecedented 69,304 visitors in Lisbon for Web Summit. The sheer diversity of guests, brands, sectors, start-ups and technologies that came together was an immersive marvel and cemented Web Summit’s reputation as Europe’s leading Technology conference experience.
The talks, debates, private meetings, networking and Night Summit provided those all-important moments to discuss ideas, discover new approaches, revise plans and explore new opportunities.
We certainly feel this tremendous platform for meaningful conversation is the life blood of Web Summit, so here are 5 big themes Team Imagination picked up on:
Emotional Intelligence x Artificial Intelligence
The functional side of AI and machine learning sparked a great deal of discussion, including algorithms in digital advertising and autonomous vehicles, but there was a notable trend around the limitations of AI and the need to see a partnership between artificial and emotional, or human, intelligence.
To help tackle this, Microsoft’s Brad Smith shared that tech companies developing AI systems are recruiting more and more professionals from humanities backgrounds, to ensure that emotional intelligence will continue to underpin its foundations. Looking ahead, our children are not just going to learn computer science, humanities and the liberal arts will become even more critical.
Start ups and healthy grass roots
From its conception, Web Summit has always been about Startups and despite the tendency of huge brands to leverage this term against an effective communication platform - this focus has continued to be prevalent at this year’s Web Summit.
The various booth/displays, investor sessions, machine demos and pitch stages all served to encourage and nurture the tech talent of the future. Our teams here at Imagination felt honoured to be a part of that this year!
It was the perfect set up for a launch, so we met this opportunity with a proposition; using VR will allow analysts to better ‘visualise, discover, explore and share their data.’ as Marcomm News wrote in their release about our latest innovation.
‘Lume leverages the power of immersion and data analytics to make highly complex data intuitive to understand, patterns easier to recognise and insights more compelling to present and share with everyone.
This technology can help researchers and analysts uncover and publish new insights from their data across different industries, as data is becoming increasingly hard to digest and articulate to different audiences. Imagine exploring Lidar scans from self-driving cars, identifying outliers in financial data … or finding patterns in astronomical data’
The article also tells the story of how our Imagineers Kitching and Spark came up with the idea of harnessing the power of Virtual Reality and together with the University of Cambridge crafted Lume into compelling product, which you can explore further here.
A beautifully Intelligent and Connected Experience
Web Summit remains to be a prime example of a Connected Experience by cleverly integrating Content, Social Media, PR, Digital Interactivity, Analytics and CRM into a memorable and effective experience platform.
Once again, our team was struck by the high quality content and information emanating from Web Summit long before we even arrived through their CRM platform and Mobile App.
On arrival the QR code system underpinned our entire physical customer journey with a sophisticated system monitoring user flows around the venue to not only manage security but also improve the layout over the course of Web Summit. As part of this Connected Experience, Web summit also created social ‘selfie’ spots, various pop-ups and eye catching experiences that were amplified online.
This approach is aligned with Imagination’s approach to experiences - our bespoke XPKit system has been connecting guests in a similar fashion for a variety of live experiences we’ve had the joy of imagining for many of the brands we partner with.
The media was also superbly looked after and given high quality access to the people shaping the future, whilst Web Summit also timed some big announcements to a media broadcast and drove engagement directly from the event.
China as the new Tech Accelerator on the block
The increased presence and influence of Chinese brands was notable this year and the insights gleaned from the stage fascinated our teams.
Chadwick XU from Shenzhen Valley Ventures debated how society and government should respond to current forecasts predicting that 80% of jobs will be replaced with automation. He told us how this has impacted one Zowee factory in China that used to employ 55 workers but now only employed only 4. Yet astonishingly, the factory managed to increase output by 20% using this set up.
There was also debate about the differentiated approaches to the internet and social media, with China having a more centralised and integrated approach through platforms such as Tencent’s WeChat, compared to the more fragmented systems used in the US and Europe. Beyond the debate, the real insight here is that consumers and users of technology will choose the technology systems they want to use and that best serve their communication needs.
Online security and the future of web based technologies
Given the continuous mutations of the world wide web and its use, there has also been a growing theme around its future and how it could be better served to protect users.
The rise of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain has seen such a surge in both its discussion amongst consumers and its creation amongst the vast number of companies surfacing, that they have even been awarded its own platform this year for the entire duration of the conference. Whilst Cryptos are the driver behind solving some real world issues surrounding privacy by providing a reliable infrastructure to trade that is almost immune to hacking, Blockchain continues to be power up the infrastructure required to increase trust and transparency in all our transactions.
However, whilst these technologies sit at the centre of securing people's privacy by decentralising the web it is still largely misunderstood.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee opened Web Summit with a call to unite around 9 key principles referenced in the 'Contract for the Web'. In its conception the web was created in optimism, regrettably over time it had become rather pessimistic and prone to abuse such as fake news, fake communities, privacy concerns, profiling and easy manipulation by ads, thereby creating a somewhat restricted web that was no longer as open as it once was.
You can find out more about his interesting take and join the global campaign here.
Arguably, it seemed the most politically charged Web Summit yet - it's clear that people want change and it's attracting some big voices. Another overarching focus of this debate was on the disparity between the governments’ understanding of technology and their impractical structure to address technological change. For years, technological advancement has sped ahead with little involvement from the government in terms of regulation. However, this may no longer be the case.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed how tech leaders must work with policy makers to educate them on how best to deal with the challenges ahead.
In addition to this In addition to this, European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager, outlined how she is working to ensure our future is protected by ensuring innovation is not monopolised by the larger firms.
Lastly, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie made a politically charged speech and called for regulation, whereby he put it in simple terms - "if we can regulate nuclear power, we can regulate the internet."