Exploring the Tech of Tomorrow: Takeaways from Web Summit

Another year, another Web Summit. We headed to Lisbon to go down the rabbit hole of technological innovation from all corners the world. A six iLabbers share their best insights from one of the world’s largest tech summits.

Taking time out of your daily work to attend conferences near and far can seem like a big expense but the investment truly pays off on many accounts.

From networking and brand exposure to staying aware of the latest trends within your industry, the possibilities for professional development are borderline endless as you, infused with an array of inspirations, return to your team with new challenges and innovative solutions to take your aspirations to the next level.

If you work in the tech industry, Web Summit is one of the places to be. Their tagline says it all: “Where tech meets the world”. With 70.000 attendees from more than 160 countries and 24 tracks to follow, there’s an abundance of opportunities to gain new insights into technological breakthroughs from all over the world from both innovative startups and Fortune 500 mastodons.

And lets not forget the added bonus of experiencing the buzz of Lisbon with its magnificent architecture, vibrant nightlife, and its chaotic charm when you wander the streets.

We set out to explore some of the latest trends within the digital revolution. A group of iLabbers share their favourite takeaways from this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon and what you should be on the lookout for in the future:


More Women in Tech

Manita Dosanjh, PR & Communications Manager, LEO Innovation Lab

“The most inspiring thing about Web Summit this year? I didn’t see any dedicated speeches or debates about ‘the women in tech issue’. I simply saw more women. 45 percent of the 70,000 attendees this year were women, and there were sessions run by some truly outstanding female leadership profiles, such as Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP for environment, policy and social initiatives, or Gillian Tans, one of the few female executives we see in tech.

What did I learn? Being brave and showcasing your knowledge can be a powerful tool against the the problem of diversity in tech. In a recent Web Summit poll, only 17 percent of the 1000 female respondents believed that the gender ratio in their workplace had improved in the past year — we need to change this. And the way to do it is to get out there and showcase our knowledge”.


Using AI to Help Doctors do their Jobs Better

Miron Derchansky, Venture Partner, Head of LEO Innovation Lab in Israel

“I participated in the Venture Track, where I met venture capitalists, private equity managers, angel investors, family offices, sovereign wealth funds and politicians from around the world. With LEO Innovation Lab’s strong focus on merging artificial intelligence with healthcare, it was interesting to hear that while most of the AI hype has been focused on diagnostics and treatments (e.g., will machines ever replace doctors?), when it comes to actual funding, most of where the capital is flowing is into business automation and enhancing operational functions and processes, like scheduling optimisation, research and development, and documentation. So in short, there was a common feeling that we will not be replacing physicians anytime soon, but rather helping physicians do their jobs better using AI”.


The Future of Health Tech and Patient Data

Maria Freitas, Head of Growth in Imagine, LEO Innovation Lab

“In health tech, the big debate is how we will see patient data going forward. While the consensus seems to be that the power of data is to provide the right care to the right people, there is also a very apparent divide between public vs private healthcare, but also on how tech can help frontline healthcare workers manage patient populations with diverse needs, incomes, and backgrounds. This message resonates very strongly with our mission: ‘Expert level diagnosis for people regardless of location, income, and background’.

With this in mind, my takeaways from Web Summit are:

1) We have to be very precise with what we mean when we say ownership, especially of medical data. Right now there are no guarantees on data ownership especially towards governments (and institutions) handling your medical data. Does it mean access? Does it mean the ability to edit? What are the implications of such freedoms?

2) We need to see medical data as a way of moving forward because it has the power to do enormous good for all people.

3) Health tech is in its early days, and we are for the first time seeing how to manage patient populations with diverse needs, incomes, and backgrounds.”


A New Outlook on Health Data

Vibe Balthazar-Christensen, Senior Manager Public Affairs, LEO Innovation Lab

“I mainly followed the medtech track and talks around the impact of technology on society and democracy from which I want to highlight two points on health data:

1) Regarding ownership to health data, Mona Siddiqui, CDO at the US Department of Health and Human Services, emphasised the need to have a public explicit discussion about ownership of health data, and how consumers should be able to track the use of their information along the chain — especially when it comes to gathering data outside the public sector (where it’s not necessarily for the public good).

2) Regarding how to define health data, it was interesting to note how Mona Siddiqui emphasised that authorities need to start encompassing non-traditional sources of health data, for example from wearables, social media etc. So much data today is collected outside the traditional patient-doctor interaction. It’s a fast evolving landscape and the regulatory space will be much behind where the tech and data landscape is going. In Europe, this development (i.e. authorities’ inclusion of PROs collected from digital devices) is still in its very early days so this signal from US authorities is very interesting. In order to be able to get a full overview of a population’s health — as well as move from care to prevention and prediction — we need to start including this data in our healthcare systems.

From the tech and society/democracy angle, it was also interesting to hear EU Commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager, praising the entrepreneurial initiative and curiosity. She likened today’s technology to the Portuguese explorers 600 years ago pointing to all the benefits that technology has brought/brings us in our daily day lives. At the same time, she emphasised the need for safety and competition — that is, we need to know that the new technology doesn’t harm us, and we need to give everyone a fair chance to go ahead with their ideas ensuring fair competition. This requires regulation, so we can ripe the benefits of technology for society in full and minimise the risks.”


Palaeolithic Emotions, Medieval Institutions, and God-like Technology

Christina Kirk, Head of Entrepreneurship & Innovation, LEO Innovation Lab

“My key takeaways from Web Summit revolve around how technology can connect us as humans, how AI will affect the role of the physician in the future, and how blockchain technology can transform the healthcare sector:

1) I got very inspired and driven by the quote ‘The real problem is: We have Palaeolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and God-like technology.’ It’s stated as a problem but I see it as an opportunity for us to connect humans with technology.

2) AI is going to augment the role the physicians will play instead of replacing them. We can give more time back to physicians and re-humanise the processes. It doesn’t have to be either/or.

3) How some are using blockchain technology to meet the challenge of who’s owning healthcare data.”


Embracing the Benefits of New Tech

Mélanie Bourlioux, Product Manager, LEO Innovation Lab

“Web Summit reminds me of my job as Product Manager: a happy mess where you continuously zoom in and out. I could, in less than an hour, hear Azeem Azhar putting deep-tech into a historic-economic context, and try out otter.ai — a live transcription software that seems to (finally) do the job nicely and will save me tonnes of time in my work.

And, of course, then there was Margrethe Vestager. While giving goosebumps to the tech giants when she talked about the needs for more and better rules, she genuinely made me think when she highlighted the path from fear to wide-use of our everyday electric objects. The adaptation in our social contract that needed to be done for deadly wires to enter our homes has been successfully made because of the positive impact it could have on human lives. Let’s also level-up our social contract for health tech to benefit everyone!”