gm-design Attends Unbound London for a Celebration of Innovation

Mark Mirko
  • Creative & Interactive Design Services Director
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On the 18th and 19th July, Unbound arrived in London, and given my love of tech and design, I went along to represent Team gm. and get the latest insights into the future of tech innovation.

Unbound is the festival to attend if you want to experience the very latest technological advancements, dig deeper into how they integrate into business and the wider community, and network with some of the most influential innovators in the world. With speakers from across the globe attending the two-day conference, it was an incredible opportunity to listen to their opinions and objectives about instigating change. The festival was based in the Old Truman Brewery, just off Brick Lane, which formed the perfect setting for such an inspiring event – even the walk from Liverpool Street Station to the venue was littered with eye-catching design, from beautifully-presented shop fronts, quirky independent eateries and backdrops of artistically-tagged graffiti lining the streets.

When I arrived at Unbound, what hit me first was the incredible vibe at the venue. It is an impeccably well-organised event, with a friendly and approachable feel – everyone involved is dedicated and passionate about what they do, and that enthusiasm is infectious! It’s events like this that really help to fuel our creativity back in the studio. As well as the various stalls situated around the site, there was a full schedule of seminars and hosted-talks that you could dip in and out of, depending on your particular interests. I had to be quite strategic about what I could fit in during my time, whilst also checking out some of the must-see innovations on show (if I could have spent a week there, I would have!).

Check out my round up of some of the standout talks I attended during the conference…

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Irene Mcleese, Co-founder & Chief Strategy Officer – See.Sense
John Davies, Chief Researcher, Future Business Technologies – BT
Rayan Jawad, Co-Founder – Growth Studio
Dan Klein, Chief Data Officer – Valtech

I went to this talk a little apprehensive of the term “Smart City” – my first thoughts were of 1984’s Big Brother (…think mass surveillance!). However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the key focus of this theme was around how Smart Cities can combat road use and pollution. John Davies, BT, and Irene Mceese, See.Sense, spoke of their latest collaboration. Joining forces with cyclists in Manchester and Dublin, their innovative 2-year project sees them giving anonymised, data-collecting bike lights to 200 subjects; the purpose of which is to record and submit data to help improve public safety, lower transport pollution, decrease congestion and reduce future road repairs. The lights can monitor road surface quality (e.g. potholes), as well as other road issues that contribute to city pollution.

The general thoughts from the panel were that due to government budget constraints, although the technology is ready, the UK is far from having Smart Cities rolled out across the country, as the infrastructure of cities nationwide would need re-modelling. However, it is important to continue to drive smaller initiatives such as the bike light scheme, with companies sharing data for mutual benefit, so that we can edge toward greater change in the future.

My parting thought from this talk is if we are struggling to maintain and repair the current state of roads, where will the budget be found to implement this technology in the long-term? Perhaps with all positive change, it will be driven by the individual – with greater access to data from such projects, new facilities and clever marketing, it will entice us all to do more to improve our communities and convince the government of what matters most to us.

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Charbel Aoun, AI City Managing Director EMEA – NVIDIA
Fergus Weldon, Director, Data Science – Trainline
Finlay Clark, UK Country Manager – Waze

In the chaotic world we live in, powered by information, this talk really struck a chord with me. To set the mood, check out this HumanKind animation that my super-talented friend Rich Nosworthy collaborated on for TEDxSydney… Pump up the volume!

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This talk was one of my favourite of the event – the speakers’ views came from different business areas in both software and hardware, so they were able to paint an extremely extensive picture of the AI landscape. Charbel, in particular, was an interesting character – with NVIDIA driving both hardware and software, they are fully integrated when it comes to what’s possible with AI!

I found the theme of ‘acceptance’ the most interesting, where Charbel addressed the different generations’ acceptance of AI. He summarised that older generations are much less motivated and accepting of this type of technology compared to the next generation. Acceptance comes from familiarisation – each generation has spent a greater portion of their lives surrounded by media and technology, with Generation Z not knowing a world without it! Charbel went on to touch on some more detailed points, one of them being about ‘Deep Learning’, terminology he prefers to use instead of the acronym ‘AI’. He explained that this is due to the bad press AI has received in recent years and the fact that the AI as we know it is an old technology. We will now see an era of Deep Learning where machines will write code for themselves to enhance their performance without human intervention – simplifying and improving the efficiency of processes for both businesses, and within our personal lives.

To be clear, this is not future technology, we are now in the early stages of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is bringing together digital, physical and biological systems…

There were a lot of positive suggestions of how AI or Deep Learning can integrate and enrich our communities, but one question posed at the end of the talk was quite concerning and only served to reinforce my own apprehensions of AI technology… we can only hope Finlay is right on this one!

“Do you think ‘The Singularity’ is a possibility – the theory that AI will eventually become so advanced that it will trigger technological growth outside of our control and human civilisation as we know it, will end?”

Charbel Aoun: “Yes.”
Finlay Clark: “No.”
Fergus Weldon: “AI will get to the point where if it’s as good as we want it to be, we won’t realise it’s there… therefore if ‘The Singularity’ does happen, then its already too late.”

For further insight into this topic, check out the 2016 TED Talk – Generative AI for Product Design

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One of the features of this fourth industrial revolution is that it doesn't change what we are doing, but it changes us.
Klaus Schwab
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Alex Marquez, Founder – Propellerfish
Dan Walsh, Portfolio Head of Marketing – BBC
Elizabeth Knights-Ward, Senior Manager, Strategic Enterprise Marketing – Hootsuite
Jennifer Quigley-Jones, Founder and Managing Director – Digital Voices
Raja Saggi, Head of B2B Marketing, Google UK & Ireland – Google

Extremely relevant to us as a creative marketing agency, this was a fantastic discussion around behaviours in the digital environment and what shapes us as a generation, with a particular focus on ‘Gen Z’.  Speakers from the likes of Hootsuite and Google outlined the need for more sophisticated strategies in engaging a generation that demands more from the technology and media that surrounds them… and not necessarily through the traditional channels. Some argue this generation expects information to be delivered to them based on their connections and the circles in which they mix, in order to influence their purchasing behaviour, whilst others think that with the amount of research they carry out when approaching a buying decision, they already have the information they need to make a choice, so targeted advertising techniques could actually be less effective.

Generation Z sounds like it is edging ever closer to superhuman… the ultimate multitasker! This certainly makes for more of a challenge when it comes to targeting them with your content, brand, product or service. Accessing and absorbing unprecedented levels of information through various social channels, they constantly seek authentic, honest information… if they suspect this is not the case, they switch off. They are the first truly native digital generation, with a larger number of digital connections than friends. They are more ethically conscious and fully immersed in the content they consume.

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If the content never stops. Then the scary parts of life never have to start
Jennifer Quigley-Jones
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Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman – Ogilvy

One of the most inspirational speakers I’ve had the pleasure of being in the same room with, from the get-go Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy connected with the entire audience – his presentation examples were engaging and imaginative, his subject matter was inspiring and something we can all relate to. The stories Rory focussed on during his talk about Behavioural Economics, Innovation and Beyond were incredibly enlightening. He also shared a clever piece of tech and possible game-changer: the 360o smart video conferencing camera, “The Meeting Owl”, which was exciting to see.

Rory blitzed through 40 minutes of non-stop information, packed full of marketing insights, amusing anecdotes, and thought-provoking takeaways. If you are a Digital Marketer, or simply have an interest in technological innovations, this talk will be sure to influence the way you approach the world in the future.

If there is one talk you should watch instead of reading about (before the rise of the AI machines!!)… then this is it!

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The Unbound festival certainly left me with a buzz and plenty of inspiration to drive a year of creativity until the next event. The Unbound team’s next stop is Miami so if you’re in the neighbourhood, I would definitely recommend getting tickets early and checking it out – there is something of interest for everyone!

Considering the innovations I had the opportunity to hear about and see in the flesh at the 2-day event, the BIG question has to be, where will technology take us in the coming years? …AI’s super-intelligence is at the helm of countless software initiatives currently in development, the accelerated Deep Learning program is happening, plus so many other advancements… so it’ll be exciting to see what the world will be like over the next 5 years!

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