TECH020: There are no visitors. Only participants.

A while back I was fortunate enough to receive a ticket for TECH020 as VU (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) alumni. I had never heard of this conference, but I was surprised by the number of quality speakers (A few found their way into this story) and informal vibe. The conference was held in the Amsterdam Arena, a venue hosting many (music) concerts, conferences, and is Ajax’s home base, so a great location for such an event. The conference was opened by Ger Baron, CTO of the municipality of Amsterdam, explaining the need for a more technology-minded government (a trend called GovTech) and talent to achieve it (so if you are interested!). The city should have a more active role in assisting its citizens and the environment. For example, autonomous robots cleaning the canals while delivering packages or apply machine learning solutions for the housing problems and energy efficiency.

First presentation I attended was by Adyen, an international payment service with its HQ in Amsterdam. They demonstrated the future of payments and mobile. At wehkamp, we have seen how important mobile has become compared to a few years back. Something also payment services, such as Adyen, must adapt their business models to. Big events, like Black Friday in the US, have shown this with an 80% mobile traffic rate. They also demonstrated their anti-fraud algorithm, ShopperDNA. Thanks to all the data Adyen collects with payments running in the billions, the algorithm supports Adyen in making real (unbiased) data-driven decisions and work together with law enforcement to detect and prevent fraud. Something we at wehkamp (or I have to say Lacent) are also actively working on in The Netherlands. Unfortunately, they did not go in too much detail of this algorithm.

Sandjai Bhulai, my former professor at the VU, data analytics evangelist and profound keynote speaker, shared his vision on data analytics and the disruptive nature of technology in changing our era. Data analytics allows us to make data-driven decisions, hence, unbiased. Continental started their marketing campaigns for their new winter tires in July. Weird, right? Well, based on the data they collected, not really! July (and a bit of August) is the period most (potential) customers are looking for winter tires. Data analytics plays a crucial role in making the best (although it doesn’t “feel” right) decisions. If you get the chance, you should watch Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, where a coach applies data analytics to create an unordinary baseball team. Technology continues to disrupt (traditional) business processes. According to Peter Diamandis, cofounder and executive chairman of Singularity University and founder and executive chairman of XPRIZE, technology follows a particular growth cycle. This takes place in six key steps, which he calls the Six Ds of Exponentials: digitization, deception, disruption, demonetization, dematerialization, and democratization. Check them out below!

The six D’s of Technological Disruption

An example of technology that went through such cycle are the TomTom Navigation systems. From huge (offline) maps in your car to navigation systems on your windshield to an app on your smartphone. Can you think of any more, please share in comments :)

Jim Stolze, tech entrepreneur and teacher at Singularity University, gave an interesting talk on Artificial Intelligence. As we all know, artificial intelligence has lead to great and innovative ideas in medicine, music or transportation, but also delivers in creating a few laughs along the way. By training the AI application with loads of (training) data on zebras, they were able to create a horse with identity crisis:

Or Nicolas Cage starring as Lois Lane:

There are many more out there, do check them!

Artificial Intelligence has come a long way and keeps evolving and improving, but it is not rock solid. Just look at the example below and guess why it can be tricky to distinguish a muffin from a chihuahua.

Muffin or Chihuahua?

Jim Stolze later focussed on digitalizing our DNA, or genomics, allowing us to work on our DNA like it is a regular text file. This means we are able to copy (e.g. cloning), edit, save, delete, and create new DNA. Although it can come across as something from Star Trek, this is already happening as we speak. In South Korea, they successfully clone dogs with an incredible sense of smell that can track people in no-time. Researchers are soon able to (digitally) enhance or delete certain parts of your genomes to reduce your chance of certain diseases. A company called 23andMe, (, digitalizes your DNA and uses big data analytics or AI to return an incredibly accurate medical report, such as allergies, heritage, or if you have a high risk of Parkinson or other medical conditions. The latter one can be, of course, terrifying.

This was just a fraction of the conference speakers that set the stage at TECH020. Also KPN, Keylane, the IRS, and military gave presentations on broad and interesting topics ranging from technology, design and innovation. TECH020 was a great conference and hope to visit it next year!

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