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What WE Learned at London Tech Week 2019

WE Communications Blog: Technology

02/07/2019
— Zoë Heimann 

The month of June brought an infectious buzz for everything tech and innovation. Luckily for WE, London Tech Week was at the heart of it.

DAY 1: HOW INNOVATIONS, TECH AND ESPRESSO MARTINIS STOOD OUT AT LONDON TECH WEEk

Hosted by law firm Taylor Vinters, this event came from two angles. The first was what tech can do to help you gain new skills. The second, Artificial Intelligence (AI). The hottest topic in the tech industry, we listened to key speakers who continued to add even more insightful knowledge to a forever controversial conversation.

According to Musitude only 3% of people can both read traditional music and play an instrument. Well, if you’re the 97% that can’t, online platform and mobile app Musitude might just be the solution.

The brains behind this tech innovation? Non-musicians can use their A-Z reading ability and typing skills to play a wide variety of music. Definitely one to bookmark, we had a great time chatting with Founder and CEO Peter Stephenson and hearing all about Musitude’s vision.

Peter Stephenson, Founder & CEO of Musitude, shows how to use the music-reading technology.

On a non-musical note, we were also introduced to the innovative company, Mitt, sitting at the intersection of health, tech and lifestyle. Turning a final-year university project into an award-winning business, Ben Lakey and Nate Macabuag are two mechanical engineers who are on a mission to radically improve prosthetic products.

Mitt’s vision is clear. Comfort, style and affordability. Getting rid of months of waiting, Mitt has created a soft, breathable and light socket comfortable to wear everyday with a range of customisable options. We were blown away not only by the product, but the team behind it. Users comfort and functionality are at the forefront, making it an unforgettable creation.

Nathan Macabuag and Ben Lakey from Mitt with their prototypes.

Every company we saw at Innovations, Tech and Espresso Martinis was worth a mention – intelligent contract pre-screening tool, ThoughtRiver, financial app, Dozens and AI-powered virtual reality company, Kagenova. Even the story behind the event caterer, Laura, from Kaleido.

DAY 2: CHALLENGING THE ETHICS AND INCLUSIVITY OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

WE joined recruitment firm Penna for a fascinating panel on challenging the ethics and inclusivity of AI.

Headline speaker Dr. Allison Gardner, from Keele University, kicked off the morning with the question often asked by everyone from politicians, to the media – should we trust AI? Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer. These are three of our key takeaways.

1. STAY TRUE TO SOLVING ISSUES, NOT CREATING THEM

Linda Whalley from Health Innovation Manchester believes we need to have more of a human and societal perspective: if we are not solving real business problems, we risk developing tech purely for the sake of it. This could result in creating more long-term problems.

2. BE TRANSPARENT ABOUT POTENTIAL BIAs

AI is based on research and data, typically based on pre-existing bias. If not managed properly, AI could end up augmenting this discrimination further. Alerting customers to any potential bias is essential. We should balance the potential long-term harm against the short-term efficiencies.

3. PARENT YOUR ALGORITHMS

Understanding why AI tech is being used and holding accountability was something Campbell Shaw from Cardlytics firmly believed. Algorithms still need parents; they need intervention to course-correct. At the end of the day, algorithms cannot think with empathy, they can only follow a mechanical decision process.

Dr. Allison Gardner, lecturer at Keele University and co-founder of Women Leading in AI.

DAY 3: LEVERAGING DATA TO TRANSFORM YOUR FUTURE

Dow Jones hosted a panel of four speakers: Patricia Walsh, Technical Program Manager, Grant Allen, Chief Product and Technology Officer and Helen Hewitt, Head of Global Data Transformation, moderated by Ramin Beheshti, Group Chief Product and Technology Officer.

Most of the discussion focused on how the data landscape is changing rapidly. How data is used, collected and valued. As a company spread across financial and editorial products, Dow Jones’ internal use of data provided some interesting discussion material.

Helen revealed that an internal interview showed that every department is increasing its use of data. Both Airbnb and M&S have either a Data University or Data Academy for all staff. There’s also a growing need to dissect data. As a communications agency, we use social listening and customer data analysis to predict trends and judge whether a project will produce great commercial results.

Ramin maintained that so long as companies explain how data is being used and give options of compliance, then people will be more at ease. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, perhaps GDPR has gone some way to legislate for companies to implement this kind of honest approach?

London Tech Week is a celebration of innovation and creativity for all things tech. A valuable and inspiring event for anyone working in tech, we are lucky to have it on our doorstep and WE can’t wait for next year. If you’re looking for an event to attend this summer in London, the Barbican is running AI: More Than Human until the end of August. The event explores our relationship with artificial intelligence, through interactive experiences and artworks.