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Digital Society: Revisit the morning session of ICT Spring Day 2

How we can shape tomorrow's society through digital technology was the topic at the top of day two of the ICT Spring Digital Summit, which took place September 15th. Experts in the field from around the world discussed how to build smarter cities and improve access to eGovernment, among other topics.

“This event is one of Luxembourg’s finest.” This is how Master of Ceremony Christopher Ponterotto (Communications Specialist, Docler Holding Luxembourg) opened the second day of ICT Spring’s Digital Summit. He then invited Gabriel Paal (CEO, Docler Services) to the stage to offer some welcome words from Docler Holding. “We at Docler are proud to be an active member of this community and to support this conference,” the executive said. “You will have the opportunity to cultivate your understanding and point of view on how tomorrow’s society is shaped by digital technology.”

An introduction talk was delivered by Marc Hansen (Luxembourg Minister Delegate for Digitalisation) who spoke of Luxembourg’s goals to become one of the most advanced digital societies in the world. He then outlined some of the steps the government is taking to get there, including a joint strategy to promote the use of digital technologies in public administration, a TrustMyData initiative to help citizens get official documents in a secure and digital way, and the development of a European Blockchain Partnership. “These projects are important for providing solutions and creating an infrastructure to share data between public and private sectors,” Hansen said. “We must build our digital society all while ensuring the protection and inclusion of all citizens. Together we have a lot to do—let’s do it.”

The session topics then kicked off with Jean Lancrenon (Head of the Standardization Department, ANEC GIE) who discussed  “Technical Standardization for a Digital Society”. He underscored the importance of creating international technical standards for a variety of industries, including health, manufacturing, and security—the result of which will be efficiency and the establishment of a more common language. He said Luxembourg, ranking 10th in the EU’s digital society index, has a strong voice in this process. The county’s standards bodies ILNAS and ANEC are working to create standardization strategies to support this vibrant digital ecosystem. “But we’re missing a piece of the puzzle. Who are we missing? We are missing you,” Lancrenon said. He invited the participants to get involved in the process by becoming national delegates to these standards bodies, with the option to join committees on topics such as software engineering, AI, cybersecurity, and more. Getting businesses involved in the application of these technical standards is another key avenue for involvement. “Using a standard should not be viewed as some monolithic affair,” he said, adding that companies can cherry pick a few good requirements to start with. 

How to create smart cities for a more sustainable future was the theme of the next talk presented remotely from France by Clotilde Cochinaire (IOT solutions and smart territories expert for Western Europe, Huawei Technologies). “Half of the world’s population lives in cities and issues start to rise,” she said, calling out problems with traffic, food safety, and healthcare. She explained that better connectivity can help smart cities to address these issues, sharing Huawei’s successful projects in Goaquing and Weifang, China and Amsterdam, as well as Duisberg, Germany, and Lyon France.  “The ultimate goal is to set up a benchmark for smart cities,” she said. In Goaquing, for example, they assessed the project based on three categories: Better governance, better livelihood, and better industries. In Duisberg, the city reinvented itself with a smart city project based on the cloud platform, and the main goal of the Lyon project was energy consumption reduction. Creating common shared goals for sustainability provides “a foundation for growth,” Cochinaire said.

A tour of how Dubai has positioned itself as one of the most future-based cities in the world was delivered by Dr. Patrick Noack (Director of Future Foresight, Dubai Future Foundation). Presenting live from Dubai, Noack described the city as a global test bed for emerging technologies. “Dubai is a lab to get the city and the world more broadly onto a firm footing to the future,” he said. His organization, a government-based entity, is helping to shape Dubai’s future based on this experimentation, with the goal of making “the most future ready and forward-looking city in the world,” he said. A key element is the flow of data between public and private entities, allowing for forward-thinking initiatives such as the tokenization of digital assets, 3D printing, and driverless transportation. “The future belongs to those who can imagine design and execute,” he concluded.

A session on ideas for connecting with startuppers worldwide was led by Nelson Pinto (Project Manager, Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy). He began by introducing the work of the Luxembourg Trade & Investment Offices, a network of 9 offices spread all over the world established to attract foreign investment in Luxembourg. He then introduced three startups who had the opportunity to present their company, starting with Shiho Tanahashi (Global Marketing Lead, HACARUS), who spoke of his Japanese startup’s ability to provide big insights from small data. Tanahashi said HACARUS is ready to enter the international market with their unique AI tool using sparse modeling technology. Gaurav Mittal (Co-Founder and CEO, GingerMind.ai) went next, presenting an AI application which allows people with visual impairment to be more independent in their daily tasks. Using just a smart phone, a person with no vision can walk safely without the use of a white cane. Mittal said GingerMind leverages technology to increase the quality of living for people with vision impairment. The final startup presentation came from Paulette Amthauer C. (Founder, Serland Data Análisis) who explained how her Chilean startup, Data Análisis, uses machine learning to make decision-making more efficient, processing data so that it can be easily accessed in only place.

“Congratulations! You have all chosen to be born at the best moment in human history.” This is how Calum Chace (Best-selling writer on artificial intelligence) opened his talk on how to survive the digital transformation. The author of techno thrillers like Pandora’s Brain, Chace took the audience on a tour of the history of AI as a science and showed how it will continue to improve our quality of life. “The roaring 20s will be a very impressive decade,” he said, referencing advancements like talking machines and self-driving cars. “At the end of the decade, Siri is going to be smart and sexy. You will have conversations with your digital assistance and will send them off to the Internet to do errands for you,” he predicted. This will bring about the need for companies to rethink how they operate, with a focus on automation and lateral thinking. Chace thinks optimistically about this shift, seeing it as neither an unattainable utopia nor a Hollywood-inspired dystopia, but rather a society which is always improving itself. “A world in which machines do all the jobs is a world in which humans have all the fun,” he said. His advice for thriving during in a digital world? Get R.E.A.L (resilient, excited, agile, lifelong learner) and “watch a lot less TV.”

“Towards Explainable AI: Gaps and Perspectives” was the title of the talk delivered by Benoit Otjacques (Head of Data Science and Analytics Unit, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology). He went into detail on the reasons we need AI that is trustworthy. First, he said, new technologies need to be trustworthy or they will be under-utilized or rejected. Also, the regulatory frameworks of the future will require trustworthiness in the systems being deployed, and it will be key to providing risk mitigation. The EU has started to set up groups to consider issues such as privacy, transparency, diversity, and environmental sustainability. These issues will continue to evolve along with our society’s values and priorities, he said, but the bottom line is that trustworthiness is not an option for AI. Companies in the digital society of the future “will be trustworthy or they will more than likely be out of the market,” Otjacques concluded.

Emmanuel Libeau (photo) (Data Practice Lead Luxembourg, Accenture) added his expertise on digital society in his talk “Mirrored World: The Power of Massive, Intelligent, Digital Twins.” He explained the concept of digital twins in this way: “Whatever we do, we are producing data and leaving traces in the digital world that are mirroring the way we are behaving and interacting in the real world.” This mirroring can provide valuable insights and predictions as long as “the problem statement that this is meant to be solved is well-designed,” Libeau said. To extract value from your data, he advised, a robust data strategy should be established. “We all agree that the world is changing. It’s time for your company to embrace the change, and consider data an asset.”

The morning ended with a discussion on how disruptive technologies may shape the future of sports, delivered by Viktor Huszár (Co-founder of Teqball, Chairman of the International Teqball Federation). Huszár is one of the inventors of Teqball, the world’s fastest growing sport, which is essentially football played on a curved ping pong table. He described how Teqball, like many sports, is being revolutionized by goal line technology, which uses computer vision and object detection to ensure fair decisions. The future of sport, he said, will also see more hybrid versions which combine human activity with virtual sport. Huszár said he hopes this will renew an interest in physical education for kids, showing the audience how new ball technology detection will allow kids to compare their skills to famous football players. In response to skeptics of virtual sports for kids, he said, “Do you want your kid to play first-person shooters or to do an activity? Is it going to replace playing sport? I hope not. This is for pandemic time…so that kids can do sports at home using their smart phone.”

Article by Johanna Sorrentino

Read more about the Digital Summit:

Reconciling Tech & Education: Re-live the first morning of ICT Spring’s Digital Summit

Digital Supply Chain Europe: Challenges and solutions

Solving Healthcare's Greatest Challenges: The essential wrap-up of ICT Spring Day 2