Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the Disruptive Technologies UK 2016 event in London and found it both interesting and thought-provoking.
The event was the first annual UK conference on disruptive innovation and included a combination of keynotes, workshops and networking sessions. Different speakers, from academia, industry and government institutions shared the stage and presented new ideas and theories.
The event revolved around the idea of fourth industrial revolution. In the last two hundred years, three industrial revolutions shaped the way we live and work. These revolutions have been initiated by major disruptive innovations, such as the introduction of steam power, electricity and IT systems.
Nowadays, we are on the verge of the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by cyber physical systems.
The emergence of cyber physical systems, thanks to big data, robotics, Internet of Things, drones and advanced biology, holds the potential to revolutionise the world as we know it.
The Government has already invested billions of pounds in Catapult centres and the Innovate UK agency. This funding aims to create the right business environment to nurture and sustain the numerous new commercial ventures in this area.
The morning session focused on how the fourth industrial revolution can disrupt buildings and shape the cities of the future. Smart cities are not only connected and highly technological cities, but they should be analysed using a wider, holistic approach.
Citizens should be at the centre and the aim must be to improve the quality of life.
Local councils are already embracing this revolution and for example Cambridgeshire developed an API from which businesses can use the data collected by the council. Smart buildings will be a fundamental block of the cities of the future and thus the traditional concept of buildings must be re-thought. The overall experience of living and working in predefined places will change and technology, along with new workforce management ways, will allow people to work from anywhere, at any time.
The afternoon kicked off with elevator pitches from different tech start-ups which are looking to solve problems around parking, product design, teleconferencing and passports on mobile devices. After, two case studies have been presented. The first on Tekcapital, a company who invests in University intellectual property and makes it accessible to private companies, and the second on Epicardio, an Oxford based startup which developed a real-time 3D simulation of Cardiac Electrophysiology and Electrocardiography, set to revolutionise academia and hospitals.
The next talk explored the concept of bitcoin and blockchain. The blockchain, the technology underpinning bitcoin, carries many expectations on how it will impact the financial industry. However, many barriers, such as the lack of national and international regulatory frameworks, along with the lack of technical skills, are slowing its integration in our society. Another barrier to bitcoin becoming mainstream is the vast amount of energy required to power the pools of computers used to mine bitcoins.
The day was wrapped up by two final talks on financial inclusion and on how to holistically look at the technological landscape and not pick a particular innovation as the only “winner”.
The ideas shown and the great panel of speakers effectively conveyed the significant opportunities that the fourth industrial revolution carries, impacting businesses, people and government.
Disruption can only happen if people and communities are buying into the benefits that technological advancement can bring
For this happen, a change in thinking is required, starting to ask why instead of the how.