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Insights into the future

Insights into the future

Speakers at Innovfest Unbound 2017 gave audiences a glimpse into the technologies changing the world today.

20170531 innovfest main 3

More than 11,000 participants gathered for Innovfest Unbound in Singapore to discuss the latest innovations in the ICM sector.

By IMpact team

The two-day Innovfest Unbound conference showcased groundbreaking technologies – ranging from blockchain and smart factories to human-like robots – and companies from around the world that seek to transform the way we work, live and play.

Innovfest Unbound is the centrepiece of the Smart Nation Innovations week, a series of conferences, trade showcase and public activities that bring together the newest developments from around the world. Held on 3–4 May at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, this year's Innovfest Unbound saw over 11,000 entrepreneurs, brands, corporations, government agencies, startups and universities meet, network and share new ideas.

IMpact highlights some of the insights that emerged from the various conference tracks, which featured over 250 distinguished speakers from the ICM world.

Get everyone behind your smart city

As countries around the world work towards their version of a Smart Nation connected by technology, Singapore's efforts were seen as an example of going about it the right way. Paul Scanlan, president of Business and Network Consulting at Huawei, said that a smart city initiative must involve the whole nation. He said that the Singapore government has been investing in the right skills for a digital future, be it in data science, artificial intelligence or 3D printing. 

"Doing it in bits and pieces, in my personal experience, has not been effective. One example is the cloud – if you don't have everybody connected, you don't have the ability to do analytics. Open development is based on cloud and that's how everyone can participate,” he told the audience during a session on smart cities.

2-17-531 innovfest main 2Create ‘sticky’ experiences

Parin Mehta, the director of the Host and Homes business at Airbnb Asia-Pacific, described how the online hospitality company roped in its community of hosts and guests to create and share unique travel experiences – a way to attract users to keep coming back to the platform, or “stickiness”.

“One of the new businesses that we've launched is Experiences. For users who want to host in their cities but might not have the space, they can host a trip in their own city," he said. "These experiences are another form of 'stickiness'. I recently visited India with a fashion designer and I'm not the most fashion-conscious guy in the world. And it was a very interesting experience.”

Simon Tate, vice president of Commercial Business at Salesforce in Asia Pacific, noted that creating a user experience that sticks is particularly important when engaging with today's fickle-minded consumer. According to their research, 85 per cent of consumers make their purchasing choices even before they choose to engage with the vendors.

“Two-thirds of them will drop the brand quickly to move to another brand, and this makes it difficult for companies to retain customers,” he said. Thus, it is important to create experiences which enhance or embrace “stickiness” to keep existing customers engaged with your brand.

Robots will do much more

Like a scene plucked out of a science-fiction movie, a life-like robot was engaging with its human developer on stage at the arise conference track. In his presentation, Dr David Hanson, CEO of Hanson Robotics, talked about how his company is at the forefront of the robotics revolution by creating robots that will be almost indistinguishable from humans in the future.

“We want to emulate the human being in our machines, to create a new kind of robotic animation, one that shows facial expressions, makes eye contact and can carry a conversation. These types of robots are a platform for cognitive science, and we will be able to better understand what being human is,” he said. "We’ve put out tool kits for fellow AI developers to try and develop robots that can have a social relationship with a core of positive ethics.”

Ong Jiin Joo, co-founder and CTO of Garuda Robotics, said that while robots have been helping with menial, repetitive tasks for almost a century, their future versions would have the potential to do much more.

“Twenty years down the road, why can’t HDB rooftops become drone helipads for RedMart deliveries? NUS students have built a drone that can carry a person, so why not have ambulance drones that can take you to the hospital?” he said.

20170531 innovfest main 1Blockchain: Revolution or hype?

At the fintech360 conference track, much attention was given to blockchain technology and its increasing importance in the business world. Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology, can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. It is expected to facilitate transparency and trust in online transactions.

“Blockchain is starting to become part of enterprise fabric,” said Floyd D'Costa, co-founder at the Blockchain Foundry, adding that beyond the financial sector, there are plenty of opportunities for blockchain in the media and telecom sectors.

Speakers at fintech360 also touched on using technologies to provide more people in emerging markets access to financial services. "The magnitude of both problem and opportunity in markets such as Vietnam and Indonesia are huge where many people have no access to financial services. These are big problems worth solving,” said Mikko Perez, founder and CEO of Ayannah, a provider of digital financial services for the emerging middle class.

The rise of smart factories

At the futurenow conference, panelists discussed the next wave of manufacturing technologies, also known as Industry 4.0. This involves incorporating tools such as Internet of Things and cloud computing to improve the performance of factories.

“Industry 4.0 is a digital transformation in the way manufacturers manage existing and new data, new ways of interacting with data, and how they generate insights and apply data to the physical world,” said Christian Dumont, vice president for Strategic Projects, Global Operations and Components at Flex, a firm that provides supply chain insights and logistics services.  

He added that companies are participating in a competitive environment and they need access to timely and meaningful data for greater flexibility, efficiency and agility.

Dr David Low, CEO, Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Centre (ARTC) at A*STAR, also highlighted the importance of collaboration in adopting new manufacturing technologies. “The pace of disruption is too fast, no one company can do it alone,” he said.


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