Access Partnership was at London Tech Week’s flagship event TechXLR8, which brought together eight conferences, 300 exhibitors and several live demonstrations at the ExCeL exhibition centre in London. Ivan Ivanov was among the crowds to report on the event’s most important conversations.
UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock kicked off the event with a speech on digital Britain’s optimistic outlook. He praised London as the start-up, AI and fintech capital of Europe, with its tech firms attracting over GBP 4 billion of investment; twice Paris and Berlin combined. London looks to keep this crown, according to Hancock, as he noted that the big difference at London Tech Week this year is the scale of international investment. To encourage this trend, he assured that the UK will offer start-up visas for foreign innovative companies that want to set up in the UK.
A recurring topic during the event was the digital transformation of the public sector in the UK, which has seen mixed success. Sam Shah, Director of Digital Development for the National Health Service (NHS) shared that the biggest challenge for the NHS is collectively digitalising the different scales of organisations involved in the NHS, from enormous teaching hospitals to local practices. As Andrew Lawson, EVP of Salesforce UK added: ‘fear of change and the speed of change are the main reasons organisations are failing to innovate.’ Added to this is the need for the NHS to consider the enormous security, safety and privacy requirements for any system they implement. However, the rewards outweigh the risks, they agreed, as digitalisation could reduce inequality and improve accessibility.
Shashi Verma, CTO of Transport for London (TfL) shared his experience on modernising the oldest underground system in the world with the Internet of Things (IoT). He argued that no matter the technology, the key is to collect and analyse data. In the past, TfL’s data was collected by humans walking the platforms, but today 99% of the data collection is digitalised. He called TfL’s experience with digitalisation and automation a success story, pointing to the Victoria line — automatic since 1969 and the first automatic train operation in the world — and London buses, which have used a form of IoT to send GPS information on their location for live timetables for 10 years now.
Another hot topic was the integration of satellite networks with 5G. Very high-speed satellite links can complement existing narrowband terrestrial connectivity where available. As a result, the opportunity now exists for the satellite industry to promote satellite use cases for 5G that will dramatically reduce the cost of connectivity. According to Omar Iqbal, CTO Advisor at Avanti, converged satellite-terrestrial 5G services can open new markets and extend existing ones by providing connectivity to rural and remote areas, as well as mobile platforms like cars, trains, ships and planes. All of these services will ultimately facilitate big industrial projects such as smart cities.
The event ended by looking up at the stars… for space technologies, which are developing with incredible speed as costs have fallen 100-fold in recent years. With satellites weighing as little as 5kg and costing as little as USD 100 000, space’s “PC moment is now” according to James Bruegger, Investment Director at Seraphime Capital, a venture fund dedicated to financing the growth of companies operating in the space industry. These incredible changes have fuelled the record number of start-ups operating in the space sector, which won’t only advance space exploration, but can also provide new services on earth, as well as helping connect underserved populations in rural or developing areas, bringing the benefits of connectivity to entirely new demographics.