ConTech Conference 2019

The world is changing. These are the first words we heard at the ConTech Live conference in Thursday - with a changing world, therein lies a changing mindset and the need to change how we use content and data. When we hear the words AI, data, digital - we think of technology and the key focus of the ConTech event was to think about how technology can help our business transform. 

This was not an event of theory, it was one of real practicality - we saw technology in action, and how it helps real businesses solve real problems. 

Andrew Anderson a specialist AI consultant; described AI as 'Augmented Intelligence' in his keynote speech as opposed to 'Artificial Intelligence'. Pat Chapman, CEO mentor, speaker, strategist and futurist said the same in her keynote also, as ‘artificial’ can have branding problems. AI has the ability to learn and improve, as well as offer suggestions in order to assist us as humans to solve a problem. The data must be high quality though as AI and Machine Learning (ML) are only as good as the data that feeds the algorithm.

The goal is to learn from data on certain task to maximize the performance of machine on this task. AI is decision making. ML allows system to learn new things from data. It leads to develop a system to mimic human to respond behave in a circumstances.

There are huge problems in the world of science, particularly around early career research and there are some super innovative start-up technology companies who are challenging how we look for information. Sami Benchekroun, Founder of Morressier is looking at how content can be turned into data, therefore helping the process of scholarly research to be further fed into the research process. By working with publishers, institutions, providers and socieites they are able to demonstrate an open process of research where all the steps are accessible.

Another organisation using technology to support the scientific research community is JoVE, creating cross-disciplinary video journals to mimick the ‘show me’ method of learning. Therefore challenging the reproducibility crisis, where a huge percentage of scientific studies cannot be reproduced – this hugely slows scientific advancement; it has a huge economic cost; wastes time and is hugely frustrating for scientists.

So what do all of these start-ups and technological advancements mean for us? We have AI, content, data, metadata, algorithms and the list goes on! Key recommendations were: prepare your organisation now to take advantage of AI & ML; AI is an existential threat to jobs, which means it may also threat some businesses and business models; AI & ML software has been commoditised – start experimenting now and deploy data science algorithms to improve the user experience for existing products and services.

Emerald partnered with 67 Bricks to develop a new content platform and learnt along the way that what was most important for them was whole business transformation. They learnt to be much more innovative, to challenge each other and to be super clear on the value they provide as well as what they’re there as a business not to do. They also learnt that their job as a publisher is to help their users do their job; the world doesn’t need a new content platform as long as you are delivering your best user experience. It was so important for them to select the right partner, not just to build a product, but also to build an entire capability for their organisation.

It was a hugely insightful conference and an opportunity to meet so many inspirational experts in their field. Key takeaways for me, particularly driven from a motivational and honest final keynote from Ann Michael and Max Gabriel were about being honest with yourself, what is the problem you need to solve? As humans, we also need to learn and improve – we need to change behaviour, learn to give up control and power and partner with the best people to find the solution to the problem.