One of the most significant conferences about innovation and technology on this side of the world is the EmTech Asia 2017. This year the conference was held on 14th, and 15th February in Singapore and this half of 2geeks1city did not want to miss it.
The reason: to be able to listen to the people who are leading the change (digital-techy change) and also, to have access to the mothers and fathers of some of the technologies that are going to change our near future. If you still have doubts about whether to attend the next edition or not, continue reading to see if I convince you.
EmTech Asia, where technology, innovation, and business collide
EmTech Asia 2017 is an event organised by the MIT Technology Review. Each year they talk about emerging technologies. For example, last year, Virtual Reality, eHealth, and FinTech were some of the main topics.
This 2017 the event attracted some of the world’s most visionary leaders and innovators to lead the discussion around Computing & Cybersecurity, Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, Agile Manufacturing & New Materials, Bio-Engineering, Urban Sustainability and Space 4.0.
The level of speakers is top, and all the topics sound interesting. EmTech Asia is clearly one of the main hubs in Asia to have a “good bath of innovation”. Do you want to know what the highlights of this EmTech Asia 2017 are?
“The constant exploration of technology will drive Smart Nation, transforming the way we live, work and play. IMDA is glad to support EmTech Asia in advancing collaboration across the innovation ecosystem, bringing researchers, engineers and businesses together to tackle pressing challenges facing all of us,” said Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive of Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA).
Day 1 EmTech Asia 2017
The day started with a big question about the future. How do we continue to grow without consuming all the resources we have? In other words, due to resources are limited, how technology can help us to grow? The answer: moving to a digital future leveraging smart nations around the world. Although answer seems easy to solve, the biggest challenge for a Smart Nation is not Tech. It is changing mindsets. As Khoong Hock Yun, Assistant Chief Executive at IMDA said “Smart Nation is not something that governments had to implement, it is something that everybody needs to cooperate to achieve. Just join the dots.”
One of the topics that kept my attention was the sessions about New Materials and how is the next wave of innovation in this field. Manufacturers know how to make strong materials, but usually heavy. Julia Greer, Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics at Caltech, shows the audience how the future of materials is connected to 3D and nano-architecture in the field of material design. Can you imagine a world where bridges could be built from metamaterial the size of our hand? It is closer than you think thanks to nanolattices.
Another takeaway to have in mind regarding New Materials is how using nanotechnology in biomedical applications can speed up diagnosis processes and help in disease detection.
For example, there are 400 million infections of Dengue by year, no vaccine available yet. So rapid, inexpensive and accurate detection is of primary importance. But currently diagnosis take time, and it is painful. Using nanotechnology in biomedical applications can speed up diagnosis processes and help in disease detection. Without any doubt, an innovation with a greatest potential to change our lives.
During the first day of EmTechAsia 2017, we also have the opportunity to listen to Steve Leonard, Founding CEO at SGInnovate, about solving big problems. The problem or challenge to solve big problems is not funding, neither the need of more corporates/enterprises, neither a better education (in general), neither research and development programmes, and neither government support; the current problem there is not enough courage to take risks. One of their initiatives was the #HackingMedsSG where they put together students, clinicians, roboticists and entrepreneurs, among other people that want to take risks, during 67h and give them big problems to solve about “how social robotics can apply on eldercare.”
— IMDA Singapore (@IMDAsg) February 14, 2017
After the coffee break, it was time to talk about Technology for People and the Era of the Intelligent Enterprise. Having Paul Daugherty, Chief Technology & Innovation Officer at Accenture, was an excellent opportunity to talk about the next trends regarding the cultural-economic disruption that technology will bring us and how to take advantage of it. If you want to take a close view of them, you should take note:
:: AI is the new UI
:: Ecosystem power plays (go beyond platforms)
:: Workforce marketplace
:: Design for humans and inspire new behaviour
:: The Uncharted
Talking about AI, it is impossible not to ask about a future controlled by AI. Paul’s vision is quite optimistic, what I like, and he makes a good point about what will be the key responsibilities of any AI to avoid our own “Terminator”: accountability, transparency, fair, honesty, and human-centered design.
Before the lunch break, there were three sessions about a new era of computing and innovations after Moore’s Law. However, this topic was too advanced for this geek.
Time to talk about Cybersecurity arrived after lunch. First idea: The combination of high IQ and Artificial Intelligent can help enterprises/governments/people to mitigate risk and avoid cyber threats. This takeaway came by the hand of the CEO of Scorpion Computer System, Walter O’Brien, so he knows what he talked about.
IOT and Smart Cities are two of the most commented trends in the recent year. Well, cyber security is also important here. There will be around 50 billion connected devices by 2020, so there is no doubt about the rapid expansion of smart devices and systems across diverse sectors. But also the cost to attack them is getting low because of technology advances, collaboration and sponsorships. So the next wave of cybersecurity will transition from “content-centric” to “connectivity-centric”.
However, there is good news regarding cyber security. A future where “un-hackable” data exists is close thanks to Quantum Key Distribution technology.
Finally, time for Funding Innovation arrived. Before the event, we were excited about these sessions, and we were right. The talks about innovation at scale and investing in big ideas were super interesting. Regarding innovation at scale, it is important to think first in the areas you want to innovate (Fintech, IOT, Food…) and establish the acceleration programs where the conditions of the market are more favourable. The best example is Shenzhen and the IOT ecosystem, due to the facilities for prototyping. In fact, we talked about this in previous posts.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” Buckminster Fuller
Our first day finished interviewing Jenny Lee, the Managing Partner at Shanghai GGV Capital. But we will dedicate a post to this (amazing) session.
Day 2 EmTech Asia 2017
The future of health and disease treatment is close to technology than we can imagine. In the Brave New (Bio-Engineering) World (sorry, I had to say that I love the title of this session), the connection between technology and health make its point.
Regarding bioengineering, there are two main challenges: the complexity of the biosystem and how to validate diagnostic/drug targets. Le Cong, a postdoctoral fellow at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, talked about how the development of CRISPR technology in Genome Engineering will improve human disease treatments. Summarising, this technology can lead a future where each patient has personalised treatments based on their ADN.
But there is more awaiting shortly regarding bioengineering. Other MIT fellow, Daniela Rhodes talked about taking pictures of single molecules with cryo-electron microscopy.
The next sessions were about Artificial Intelligent and Robotics. The fourth industrial revolution has come with AI. Each day more and more data is generated (the ecosystem has changed from data deluge to data hungry), and at the same time data storage is limited, but AI technologies work better as much information you give them to process. Appliances of AI are sweeping across industries. From Internet Services to Security & Defense, from media & entertainment to medicine. And opportunities for deep learning are huge regarding Artificial Intelligence appliances
Regarding Supply Chain, Robotics and Automation will be the next revolution (if not is already).
— 2geeks1city (@2geeks1city) February 15, 2017
So the challenge is in not only in deep learning but also in scalable and fast learning. Being capable of developing connected, dexterous and collaborative hardware with a self-learning software to optimise process in small portions of times.
As geeks, we are very excited about robotics appliances and future. Main ideas about the factors that drive the future outbreak of this technology are:
1. Robotics is expected to be a new computing platform that conveys next generation interactions
2. Increasingly powerful capabilities to acquire, process and utilise data
It was fascinating to see Loomo (a Segway Robot) and some of the appliances develop during the #HackingMedsSG at the Medicine Robotic session.
Besides all of this, the Innovators under 35 showed some of the technological applications that will change our future. From apps that can predict Zika or Dengue outbreaks to studies about personalise genome and ADN. Find below this lines the list of all of them:
- Zhi Wei Seh, Research Scientist, Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)
- Angela Wu, Assistant Professor, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) & Founding Member, Agenovir Corporation
- Dhesi Raja, Cofounder and Chief Scientist, Artificial Intelligence in Medical Epidemiology (AIME)
- Simon Gross, ARC DECRA Research Fellow, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Macquarie University
- Yong Lin Kong, Postdoctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
- Gang Wang, Associate Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Nanyang Technological University (NTU)
- John Ho, Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Prateek Saxena, Dean’s Chair Assistant Professor, School of Computing, National University of Singapore (NUS)
- Sumeet Walia, Lecturer, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)
- Dawn Tan, Assistant Professor, Engineering Product Development, Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)
Thank EmTechAsia 2017 for this insightful and innovative conference about emerging technologies. Can’t wait for the 2018 edition
Also published on Medium.