Anthill is just back from Web Summit in Lisbon, the world’s biggest digital technology conference. Rather than a single conference, Web Summit is now 21 conferences running simultaneously. Among the speakers there are those that you might expect – Facebook, IBM, Linux, Google, PayPal and eBay – and perhaps those you wouldn’t: the Vatican City, supermodels, football players, activists, racing drivers, politicians and Hollywood actors.
The scope of the event, in itself, shows the extent to which digital technology is transforming every aspect of life. The rate of change is accelerating, with ideas appearing everywhere – which is precisely why Anthill attends.
By also looking at what’s happening outside the life science industry we get inspired to develop solutions that create new opportunities for our clients.
Anthill delegate report
So what caught Anthill’s attention in huge ‘info dump’ that is Web Summit? Here’s some highlights of what our delegates reported back:
“There remains a strong focus on the attention economy – the basic need to get noticed. Even now that digital communication is so much better at matching content to people’s needs, it’s still hard to break through.”
“All the talk about AI is no longer just talk. There is a great deal of activity in ‘deep learning’, with its use everywhere from medical diagnostic techniques to marketing communications and user profiling, as well as the application of ‘cognitive computing’ solutions (IBM Watson Health) in areas like assisting oncology diagnosis and treatment identification.”
“There’s a lot of excitement around virtual reality. The feeling is that we are only seeing the beginning of the possibilities of VR. Another key trend was ‘connectivity’ – not only online but also in the physical world. For example if you indicate on Facebook that you like organic foods, then when you are out shopping groceries there will be an in-store response.”
“There were interesting presentations on open data and the interoperability of systems. For example, EuroStat and the US Dept of Commerce have developed a program to allows users to query and compare economic data from both European and American sources. This enables users to combine data about economic outcomes with other data sets to investigate the social and health-related causes and effects of changes in society.”
“Understanding and leveraging smaller datasets using techniques adapted big data techniques was much discussed. With wearables and mobile health applications for example, applying advanced learning algorithms to user data can bring a lot of benefits from a relatively small dataset.”
“Collaboration – or rather the lack of it – was a hot topic. Companies are not good at working together. A good example was the virtual reality industry where there already exist many different systems, but content cannot be used across the platforms. It’s interesting to think about what great collaboration could achieve – especially in the life sciences if we are to realize all the opportunities and improve the lives of patients.”
“Crowdsourcing is now established in life sciences, as demonstrated by the quality and ingenuity of the new medical devices and technologies at the Patient Innovation Awards. Patients, care-givers and inventors have crowdsourced an amazing set of relatively simple but well-designed solutions to problems that have not been addressed directly by medical devices companies.”
“Even with all the data, companies are still struggling to affect behaviour change. In the case of weight loss apps or even diabetes management, helping people adapt their lifestyle – as they want to – is incredibly difficult. Learned behaviour, habits, setbacks, not getting the right positive reinforcement or message at the right time, all need to be overcome.
As Mike Lee from sportswear manufacturer Under Armour put it, ‘Behavioural change is the next blockbuster drug’.”
New technology old problems
Web Summit stimulated a great many ideas that are already bubbling away in Anthill’s innovation lab. (Watch this space for developments.) Yet it’s also interesting to see how a conference of this kind helps you see what doesn’t change.
For example, among the exciting developments highlighted at Web Summit – deep learning, cognitive computing, virtual reality – it’s interesting to note the continuing focus on affecting real behaviour change. In other words, technology is amazing but only part of the answer.
Anthill has always stressed that technology has to be combined with creativity and strategy. To produce results, you need all three. You can learn more about our unified approach to digital communication by downloading our methodology ‘The Anthill Way’.