Going into the fourth and final day of Web Summit 2017, keynotes and casual conversations continued to focus on how we can harness tech development to benefit society. With some 60,000 attendees from 170 countries, Web Summit is one of the tech world’s largest gatherings. Many here have sounded warnings about the possible downsides of digitalization, including Stephen Hawking, but the Professor and many other speakers set an optimistic tone that will continue to inspire long after Portugal’s President Rebelo de Sousa farewelled Summit attendees last night.
Here’s a taste of what caught our attention on Day Four.
Al Gore: tech sector is the key to a sustainable future
A highlight of Web Summit 2017 was the year’s closing keynote by Al Gore. In an inspiring speech that brought the capacity crowd to its feet, he said there are really only three questions to answer about the climate crisis:
- Do we really have to change? We are in the midst of a collision “between human civilization…and the ecological system of this planet,” of which the climate crisis is the most serious manifestation, bringing extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and much more—all with terrible consequences for humanity today and the future.
- Can we change? “We are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution that has the magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution.” It’s based on technologies and tools being developed by the world’s tech sector, supported by investors, and gaining momentum worldwide. There is opposition within the world’s political systems, driven by vested interests, but the voice of the people is stronger.
- And, most importantly, will we change? That’s up to us—and especially to the wold’s entrepreneurs, start-ups, web experts and technologists. Young people will lead the movement, choosing to be involved in businesses that are successful by doing good.
Watch the replay: http://bit.ly/2AzmVJZ
Werner Vogels: use voice to unlock digital world for everyone
All the digital interfaces we have today have been driven by the capabilities of the computer. But screens and keyboards are not human interfaces—voice and conversation are. The Amazon CTO believes that natural interfaces will revolutionize how we build digital systems, and allow us to unlock these systems for the vast global population who are not computer users. Wildly popular, Amazon’s Echo and Alexa voice-controlled digital assistants are changing how people interact with digital systems at home. The devices are not smart; all the intelligence is in the cloud—so any developer can integrate the voice service into their products and get access to the complete platform.
Watch the replay: http://bit.ly/2iK5JJS
Matt Brittin: it’s time for Europe’s start-ups to think big
Google’s head of Europe sees the region’s cultural diversity and shared values as a huge advantage. For example, while people everywhere care about data privacy, Germany has particularly high standards for transparency and control of personal data. Meeting the German standards set the bar for Google across the region and benefits everyone, and this is a good model for businesses elsewhere in the world. Matt urged European entrepreneurs and developers to think, from the get-go, about serving the billions connected globally, rather than focusing on a local market. This is the time “to skill-up and think big about the opportunity in front of Europe… We’ve got the talent and ideas, but route to scale and ambition are what we need more of.”
The future of music: tech is saving the industry
Even though only 5% of the population are streaming now, the sector is helping the music industry grow for the first time in many years, says Deezer CEO Hans-Holger Albrecht. Musician Wyclef Jean urges creative people to not only create with technology but to fully understand it so they can make a living from their creativity. Tech lets musicians make music without the backing of a studio and gives people access to global music.
DJ Martin Garrix uses technology to create and share his music and connects will fans via social media. With streaming, he can release music as singles. Wyclef agrees that the habits of the younger generation have given musicians a broader canvas, allowing them to constantly feed fans great music unrestricted by the album format. They can use data analytics to see what fans want and not be pigeonholed by record labels.
PITCH 2017 winner: Lifeina
Two-hundred startups from around the world were selected to compete in PITCH 2017. Three days of intense live competition culminated in a final round on Centre Stage. For the first time this year, Web Summit added the audience as the fourth member of the PITCH judging panel. More than 2.500 votes were cast from the floor in just 15 minutes, with the majority voting for Lifeina and making it a clean sweep for the medtech innovator.
Lifeina CEO Uwe Diegel impressed with his clear vision. He explained how the need to refrigerate most modern medications restricts the lives of those with chronic medical conditions, and comes with a huge economic cost through non-adherence to treatment. The world’s smallest refrigerator is his simple solution: LifeinaBox is a portable app-connected device that it keeps fragile medicines at the right temperature and helps people manage their medicine intake while at work or travelling.
With Web Summit 2017 over, it’s time to mark our diaries for sister show RISE in Hong Kong from July 8-11, 2018 and Web Summit 2018 in Lisbon from November 5-8, 2018. We hope to see you there.