Web Summit 2017

Tue 28/11/2017 by Richard Wilkinson

The web is digital but the four-day event in Lisbon in November was sold out, with nearly 60,000 visitors.

Naturally it was paperless: everything was on the smartphone app, including voting for the best start-up pitch, with results in real-time on the giant screen. The finalists were Jauntin, a Canadian company using smartphones for on-demand responses in the insurance field; Watr, a British company reducing water loss and wastage; and Lifeina (the winner by a big majority), with the first “connected fridge” for temperature-sensitive medicines, freeing patients from imprisonment indoors.

Almost every area was covered, though food, farming and distribution were not among the main themes except tangentially, as in “Mouthwatering Video: Gorging on Food Porn”.

Some of the start-ups work in this area, though: Foodle and Tasteplease, the new airbnb of eating at home; WeDoTech, reducing food waste, particularly in seafood processing; and Lettuce Grow, a Portuguese start-up that puts farmers in contact with consumers and SMEs for short-chain distribution and returns 95% of its turnover to farmers.

The Web Summit mostly dealt with new opportunities and looking to the future: a new society, new ways of consuming, new mobility, with an overload of all kinds of products, robots, services and innovations. Questions, too: How will we fare with Artificial Intelligence? Can you live without a screen? How far will post-truth go?

This is dizzying, bigger than the Industrial Revolution. Sir Stephen Hawkins reminded us that “All artificial intelligence systems must do what we want them to do, for the good of humanity.” Al Gore asked not to forget climate change, but is confident that we are the answer: the will to change is itself a renewable energy!

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