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Bristol Technology Showcase: 7 things that will change how you see the future of tech

The inaugural Bristol Technology Showcase, hosted by Aerospace Bristol and supported by Alastair Currie Events, took place on Friday 8th November, where it was our privilege to hear some amazing insights from first-class speakers in the tech industry.

Technology’s rapid evolution and the transformative impact of Industry 4.0 across the globe were the main focuses of the event, with revolutionary tech products and ideas shared under the wings of the iconic Concorde. 

These discussions were framed by one key question: in the modern digital landscape, businesses have a responsibility to use this reality to build a stronger economy and a better world; but how can we ensure that every innovation does this and doesn’t end up harming humanity?

Over the course of the day, this was addressed in depth by many speakers, businesses and exhibitors – and seven things stuck in our minds:

1) Revolutionary tech is on our doorstep 

Investment in connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) is growing, with the UK Government making multi-million-pound pledges to related research. The Bristol-based Venturer project is a great example of this progress and a move towards reducing the number of vehicles on roads by up to 90%; a huge plus for the environment.

 2) A new spin on AI

No surprises here – AI was a big talking point. However, Dr Paul Neil of XMOS steered clear of any cliches by explaining that applications of the technology will require an increase in processing capability that the cloud can’t support. This is where the edge comes in. By moving a majority of data processing into the edge, large-scale smart applications with low latency will be made possible. Moreover, by not storing your data, suspicions about personal privacy invasion will be no more.

Next, imagine Iron Man touching and swiping AR projections around his latest piece of tech – this is what Ultraleap believe the future of interaction will be, and their technology is developing fast. The team are using AI to create accurate hand-tracking that can make predictive assumptions about your movements with extremely low-latency. This tech is changing the game with natural haptic feedback that will make wearables redundant.

3) Technology innovators have society’s best interests at heart

Paul Perera of GKN Aerospace boldly stated that businesses need to be mindful about how they’re impacting future generations with their actions. And various other speakers echoed his sentiments.

According to Perera, the aviation industry in particular has targeted an emissions reduction of 50% by 2050, paving the way towards sustainable air travel. GKN are also putting this into practice with their eco-friendly demonstrator that is testing hydrogen as a clean fuel.

Adam Waterman of LettUsGrow also said that a 70% increase in food demand is predicted by 2050, which could result in more habitable land being given over to agriculture. However, he discussed how their tech-driven vertical farming system will instead reduce land usage and improve the efficiency, sustainability and ROI of indoor farming.

4) The circular economy is the new wave production model

Instead of the traditional linear economy that follows the take-make-waste model of production, the circular economy looks to innovatively place waste back into the supply chain as an input.

With the aid of technology, Mark Dempsey of HP shared how their business is transforming to sustain a low carbon and circular model. For example, their IoT enabled HP printers use recycled printer cartridges and ocean bound plastics are used in their new monitors. Dominic Hogg of Eunomia also revealed that 82% of EU beach litter is plastic, highlighting just how in need we are of technology enhanced recycling processes and the implementation of a circular economy.

5) Society needs to collectively adapt to technology

With the technology landscape changing, we need to change how we work as a society on political, social and economic levels. According to Jane Ginnever of Shift Work, a huge 65% of children today will be entering jobs that don’t yet exist because of Industry 4.0. But how are we supposed to prepare them, and organisations for that change?

The most valued skills of the future will be those that can’t be mechanised, and educational models are changing to reflect that. Transferable skills such as entrepreneurship, innovation, emotional intelligence and communication are becoming an integral part of teaching young generations. Industry specific skills will soon be a thing of the past. This calls for a workplace built on trust and interdisciplinary collaboration instead of compliance; and the acceptance of technology to increase the efficiency and capability of humans. 

6) Regulation is key if the public are to accept rapid technological development

The Apple credit card was recently caught in a media storm after its algorithms appeared to discriminate against women when calculating credit loans. As Bethany Jarroussie of Sopra Steria said, if people feel their agency is being taken from them by technology, they’ll reject it.

So how do businesses avoid this fallout? The key element is to understand the customers and help them understand they are in control of their choices. Sharing information about algorithms and data collection, and talking about regulations for AI and technology, is the only pathway to success for a digital product or service.

7) Technology may be powerful, but humans are the ones powering it

Gerd Leonhard, CEO of the Futures Agency and keynote speaker of the event focused on the human agency behind innovation. There are many fears around whether technology is essentially “good” or “bad”, but in reality, technology is neutral until humans use it. As ever, there’s huge potential for technology to improve lives, but we need to ensure that its development is responsible. And with more considered discussions like those that took place at BTS 2019, we can make sure this happens. 

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