Lessons from the future: The 2019 BIMA Conference

Posted in Digital on 7 October 2019 By Peter Cain, Digital Strategy Director

This year Emperor attended the first ever full-day conference held by BIMA entitled “Lessons from the Future”. A couple of weeks have passed now and we’ve had the chance to decompress from a day of digital that covered everything from the climate crisis, flying taxis to designing for users with disabilities. So what lessons did we learn from the future?

1. Learning from failure: how Microsoft got its mojo back

Kicking off the day, Microsoft's UK CEO Cindy Rose gave the opening keynote with an honest and open talk that covered Microsoft’s ‘lost decade’. After years of pretty much constant success with Office and Windows, Microsoft gradually fell into complacency, viewing the world through the lense of their past success and failing to evolve. They found themselves disrupted and at a critical juncture, being overtaken by cloud-first technology companies like Google and Amazon who were changing the game. It was clear the world had moved on and Microsoft hadn’t.

Thankfully, the arrival of their third CEO (Satya Nadella) in February 2014 was the catalyst for change. In his first address to the business he stated:

“Our industry doesn’t respect tradition, it only respects innovation.”

From then on, Satya and his leadership team focused on building a culture of innovation and creativity at Microsoft, one that fostered talent and encouraged people to bring their best every day in order to collectively unlock the innovations of the next decade. Today we have a very different Microsoft. One with a fundamentally different mission, culture product set and strategy. One that is now making phones, contributing to the open source community and has most recently even partnered with Google to leverage their Android OS. 

Overall, the talk was a stark reminder that even the biggest businesses are not immune to disruption. Blockbuster - Netflix. Kodak - Instagram. History will repeat itself if you’re not able to recognise and adapt quickly when the inevitable wave of change hits.

In a tweet: Success is a lousy teacher; it seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose - Bill Gates.

2. Roads!? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Congestion is a nightmare, cars produce way too much CO2 and the views from street level of back-to-back traffic just aren’t that inspiring… the good news? The flying cars that used to be just the stuff of sci-fi movies are now fast becoming a reality. 

The technology of mobility has generated the major shifts in humanity, from the invention of the wheel, to rail travel, our own cars, and widely available global transport. Right now in Detroit, Airspace Experience Technologies are working on the next evolution of taxis that will leverage vertical take off and landing capability to fly you around like an airborne Uber.

Dr Anita Sengupta, Co-Founder and COP of ASX, gave us a glimpse of what’s to come with a preview of their MOBi-ONE e-VTOL passenger & cargo aircraft. Not only will these alleviate congestion by using the currently untapped vertical plane for transport, but they’ll also be greener, cheaper and up to 5 times faster than traditional cabs.

Not convinced? Just recently in London there’s been a ‘Rooftop gold rush’ taking place as forward-thinking companies look to snap up potential landing / takeoff space.

In a tweet: Flying taxis are coming. For real.

3. XR, VR, AR, MR… I’m confused

Throughout the day there were a number of talks and showcases on XR, we saw some pretty impressive demos and also got to understand where the medium has the opportunity to really come into its own: when it drops you in places you couldn’t normally be with complete immersion.

For example - football fan? XR will make watching from the sidelines obsolete; you’ll soon be on the pitch, live with the players and standing wherever you like. Sounds incredible, right? It’s closer than you’d think.

As the cost barrier to XR continues to come down and it becomes more accessible to everyone, the opportunities to leverage this medium en mass becomes bigger. As the technology becomes smaller, the question becomes more ubiquitous of how creative businesses can leverage XR as an integrated medium just like web was when it first came out...

In a tweet: VR is a way to escape the real world into something more fantastic. Palmer Luckey (Oculus Rift Founder)

For the purposes of this article, XR is used as a collective term for Virtual, Augmented, Mixed and Extended Reality.

4. The voice revolution. Alexa, are you listening?

According to comscore, over 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. Whether we hit that number or not, there’s no denying that right now voice is covertly revolutionising one of the most fundamental ways we’ve used the internet since it arrived.

Max Amordeluso, the Lead Evangelist for Amazon Alexa in Europe, gave the penultimate talk of the day around how they’ve built Alexa in an open way, allowing anyone to unlock the power of their assistant by leveraging the Alexa Skills developer suite. 

Perhaps the most surprising thing we took away from the talk is how accessible and do-able leveraging services like Alexa are today. And the outcomes can be endearingly helpful, from allowing the elderly access to services like Spotify to play their favourite songs to solving children's arguments with Alexa playing the role of virtual judge!

In a world where convenience is king and the traditional interfaces we’ve always used continue to gradually dissipate, the ability to effectively leverage voice search presents not only first mover advantages but a real space for differentiation for those who move quickly.

In a tweet: If Alexa isn’t always listening… how does it pick up your wake word?

5. Can digital solve the climate crisis? 

In a world where convenience is king… convenience is also killing us. It was impossible to not be affected by two sessions in this year’s BIMA conference that addressed the current state of the world and the role digital can play in the climate crisis.

The content was at times difficult to hear, and even harder to process. All scientific signs point towards the fact that our planet is right now, today, experiencing a sixth mass extinction. Things are not getting better, they are getting worse and they are happening far too rapidly to stop the future effects of Global Warming. Humanity are likely now facing an adaptation scenario, and not a reversal scenario.

Whilst that last paragraph is undeniably bleak, there is still hope. Digital alone can’t fix the climate crisis, but it is absolutely one of the most powerful tools we have to raise awareness, to inspire action and potentially at the most ambitious scale, even power a new kind of global economy one that works in the collective interest of mankind. 

Nell Watson, Futurist and Tech Philosopher, gave an awe-inspiring closing keynote about how we could leverage technology to safeguard people, the planet and profits through automated externality accounting. To find out exactly what that is and perhaps be a little more hopeful, even inspired, you can read more about it here: https://www.pacha.org/

In a tweet: "I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is." - Greta Thunberg. 

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