19 Jun 2017
London tech week

Building better lives: Luminous PR reviews London Tech Week

So, I just popped my London Tech Week (LTW) cherry – and what a week it was.

A festival of events punctuating the city’s uber-trendy hotspots, LTW is a must for techies of all types – from corporates, startups and media pros to tech PRs, nerd-herds and wannabes. It proved to be an international melting pot bubbling with innovators, leaders and inventors who are dedicated to making life better through technology. The pace of discussion, depth of insight and open exchange of ideas made for an effervescent atmosphere.

I’m no novice to trade shows, but I wasn’t sure what to expect at ExCeL London: how could a conventional conference space allow for an engaging tech experience and compete with (or complement) the eclectic mix of events happening in cool hubs across the city? But ‘engaging’ it was.

Snaking through the halls, I worked my way through a comprehensive mix of sub-sectors: 5G, IoT, AI, VR, AR, MR, Connected Cars, Robotics, and Startups – to have major players from each field gathered under one roof made perfect sense. Whatever your industry specialism – oil and gas, healthcare, gaming, finance, transportation and everything in between – TechXLR8 at LTW seemed to have it covered.

Vibrant debates, animated pitch-offs and insightful seminars made for an educational experience that truly represented the sheer energy of our tech world. The determination to innovate and push momentum to the max came to the fore. And the excitement was tangible.

Targeted meetings no doubt meant that deals were taking place on the show floor, and for those, like me, who embraced the opportunity to soak up the knowledge, the opportunities were endless.


A learning experience

One of the most notable take-aways for me included CEO of EE, Marc Allera’s encouraging speech on how the UK needs to get the right policies, regulations and support in place if we are to be pioneers in 5G. Most of us have read the slurry of 5G articles hypothesising its potential, but his words breathed life and substance into the debate.

Jonny Voon of Innovate UK moderated a session on Investing in IoT and posed the question, is IoT still sexy? Not something I’d ever considered before, admittedly. The panel of speakers – Ilya Pavlov of Bright Capital, Chris Kocher of Grey Heron and Martin Serrano of IEEE – all pointed towards the fact that while IoT itself may not be as sexy as innovations in VR/AR or AI, the opportunities it can generate is where its ‘sexiness’ lies. They also flagged up how some investors might be put off by public funding, but with the right team of experts in place, strategic partnerships and a new approach to communications – yes, you can even bring in drama experts to help with this – it’s a hurdle that can be overcome.

Meanwhile, Hara Mihailidou of Just Giving took us through the transformation that is happening in the charity sector in terms of contactless donations. Armed with research on consumer behaviour – as well as honing in on ergonomics – Just Giving are proving instrumental in changing the way we give and receive.Over in the Apps World corner, we learned how WiFi and Battery life.

Over in the Apps World corner, we learned how WiFi and Battery life have wheedled their way into our hierarchy of needs – right up there with self-actualisation, achievement and love! But the need to print (yes, I said ‘print’) is creeping up on the list. As people still want to print (with paper being the always-on interface) the ability to print could increase an app’s retention rate by double, according to Brent Richtsmeier of Samsung. So, app developers – it’s time to ‘think print’.

Martin Wrigley, meanwhile, of Aqua Quality Alliance, asked ‘how hackable is your app?’ A particularly dominant topic at LTW, he took the crowds through some top tips to find out how secure you are, and urged for independent testing to get real, defined results.


Mind. Blown.

Across the halls, the VR/AR zone was buzzing with live demos and speaker sessions. What did I learn here? Well:

  • Two-thirds of global VR and MR spend over the next four years will come from North America and Asia (come on, UK!)
  • By 2021 there’ll be much stronger consumer adoption so, because you can’t deploy MR, VR or AR overnight, developers must act now.
  • The evolution of interaction has become a hands-free experience and VR, AR and MR are the next gen of interfaces
  • And in the battle of ‘who will win: VR, AR or MR’ – there’s no losers. They will all win.

In fact, Francisco Jeronimo of IDC provided a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of interfaces over the years. Check this out…

To reach 50 million users, it took:

  • the good old telephone, 75 years

  • our beloved TV, 13 years

  • Facebook, 3.5 years

  • mobile, 3 months

And wait for it…It took Pokemon Go just 19 DAYS to hit 50 million users.

It took Pokemon Go just 19 DAYS to hit 50 million users.Mind. Blown.

Mind. Blown.

VR, AR and MR are undoubtedly changing the shape of digital, physical and human interfaces (and quickly, too) and Francisco urged that it’s not a question of ‘if’ they will impact business, it’s a case of ‘when’. He left us pondering the question, are our companies ready to embrace them?


Game changers and life changers

The potential impact of new tech on our businesses and lives was something that reverberated throughout the exhibition centre – and was nowhere more prevalent than within the AI and Robotics area. For me, the imminent revolution in healthcare was the real eye opener: from surgeons performing intricate procedures remotely to the vast improvement of human lives through AI.

Some pretty sleek displays from Williams and Thales, Tesla, and Bright Box on the Connected Cars stands drew plenty of crowds too and gave us a sneaky peek at the automotive future. While tech is an important piece of this particular jigsaw, it was clear that innovation needs to not only occur within R&D, but also across strategy, business models and the end-to-end customer experiences to keep pace with this fast-evolving market.

With the pace of evolution speeding up, the industry is crying out for startups and their inspired, lightbulb moments. The Project Kairos zone was, therefore, a fabulous hive of activity with pitch-offs and panel sessions galore. The energy and ideas that bounced across the floor was both invigorating and infectious.


Accelerated networking

But the buzz of LTW is, of course, not just confined to ExCeL, and I was fortunate enough to attend some vibrant events in the city.

ITPro’s 01/10/100 event at the Ace Hotel – a stunning venue with a terrace overlooking the rooftop gardens of the capital – provided a great platform for 3 startups to pitch in front of a live audience, including industry leviathan, Samsung. They each had just two, heart-stopping minutes, to lay their products bare, for all to see.

And the winner of the pitch-off was… the automated insurance tech proposition from Spixii. Well played!

Tech City News and IdeaLondon also played the perfect hosts with their Co-innovation panel session which looked at ‘if and how’ corporates and startups can work together. Cisco, EDF Energy, DoorDeck, Founder Factory and Bright Little Labs took to the stage for an in-depth discussion on the risks, benefits and challenges of accelerator programmes, mediated by Tech City News editor, Emily Spaven.

The flow of ideas was followed by an equally bubbly flow of drinks and nibbles as the networking continued late into the evening. Building new connections, sharing industry insight (and plenty of laughs) was the perfect end to my LTW week.

Reflecting on my LTW experience, I realised that it was probably the first time I had felt so deeply connected to tech – and a gathering together of both established and new minds in this field is essential to the continued growth and progression of our industry.

I grasped, first-hand, the concept of how tech will colour our human future with hope: lives will be made better because of this very special community of innovators, and to be a part of it is priceless.

See you next year!