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Web Summit 2016: Tech Leaders Talk AI, 3D Printing, Digitisation And FinTech

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Leading figures from Cisco, Facebook, Accenture and others talk about the future of technology at Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon

At the first staging of the Web Summit outside its native Ireland, tech figures from around the world have convened on Lisbon to discuss the future of innovation.

Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D printing and fintech are all being discussed in Portugal, with some of the biggest names detailing their vision for how this digital revolution will impact business and our lives.

Accenture: Artificial Intelligence

web-summit-2016-autodeskPaul Daugherty, CTO at Acccenture, talked about the present and future of AI and what impact it would have on business.

While some believe AI has the capability to make us more productive, protect us from cyberthreats and open up new markets, others have concerns that automation will impact jobs or even herald the end of the human race.

Daugherty’s view is that AI will comprise smart technology with an understanding of business processes. He told the audience that greater availability of big data would help advance AI and that there was no danger the tech would eliminate human jobs entirely.

“AI is not a way to create supermen but make men ‘super’,” he said. “We are just warming up.”

Read More: Why AI and machine learning are the future of cybersecurity

Autodesk: 3D printing

3D printing is another area that could transform industry, lowering the barriers of entry to production and making it easier and cheaper to create complex components.

While it might never replace traditional manufacture, Autodesk is confident about the potential of 3D printing for design.

CEO Carl Bass said the two major things in 3D printing’s favour are that it could handle complexity and was easy to use, suggesting that areas like dentistry and jewellery were areas that could be immediately impacted.

When asked by the moderator what the last thing he created using a 3D printer was, Bass replied “a chair.”

“Is it comfortable?” he was asked.

“It is hard, he replied.”

Read More: How 3D printing will change your industry

Cisco’s John Chambers: “All countries will be digital.”

He may no longer be CEO any more but Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers was invited to give his views on digitisation at Web Summit.

He said the peak was last year but that the movement had gained momentum since. Indeed, he felt startups would account for the next wave of job creation.

“[Digitisation] is becoming mainstream,” he said. “All startups will be digital, all countries and cities will be digital.”

Chambers believes the future of conflict would be cyberware and that nations would battle to bring down their enemies’ digital infrastructure.

He was interviewed on the day of the US Election, which has of course been won by President-Elect Donald Trump. Chambers suggested his vote was made for defeated Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, but regardless of the outcome he said he hoped the new leader would work for the tech industry and the entire population.

“We need to put America back on track,” he said. “We need a leader who will unite us because elections were brutal.

“Let’s see if this happens or not.”

The future of fintech

web-summit-2016-fintechThe current state of fintech had its own session, with innovation, banking and Blockchain the topics of discussion.

Most panellists were unanimous that there was much to explore in terms of markets, banking and insurance and were unconcerned about an apparent slowdown in growth. In 2015 there was significant expansion but in the second third of 2016, this has fallen by a half.

“A lot has happened in a short period of time,” said Mattias Ljungma , a co-founder of Atomico. “We are still in the beginning. There is much to explore. This [slowdown] is normal and can even be healthy [for the industry].”

While some are unconvinced about how far Blockchain, the digital distributed ledger that underpins Bitcoin, can extend into the financial industry until it works across multiple systems, one startup is hoping to accelerate adoption. The Blockchain company is working on data, a wallet that records 200,000 transactions each day, and an API.

Its CEO Peter White believes the relative stability of Blockchain when compared to physical currencies meant it had an advantage, citing the dramatic fall in value of the pound following Brexit as an example.

“What’s really interesting is how we can take this technology and apply it,” he said.

What do you know about Bitcoin? Try our quiz!

Information from our sister site B!T Magazine Portugal was used in this report