This year’s Techsummit Technology Innovation Conference, which took place in Bratislava, focused on the fundamental directions of digitization in business and society.
These directions are mainly artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and Smart Cities. A separate program stream was dedicated to each of these areas at the fourth year of the conference. Leading experts in business, public administration and academia presented their views and experiences in the discussion panels.
How does the AI change the map of human activities and occupations
A stream with the participation of leading experts, especially from the corporate sector from Slovakia and abroad was devoted to the artificial intelligence and machine learning in the second part of the two-day conference. One of them was William Carbone, IBM’s Senior Knowledge Manager for knowledge solutions area and system Watson.
“Artificial intelligence is becoming one of the engines of further digital transformation in business area. It is estimated that the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning will generate $ 2.3 trillion in the world economy, ” said W. Carbone in a discussion.
“In the next ten years we will see major changes in employment. We know approximately where we want to get around. People’s work will improve. Everything based on repetition of activities will be done by machines, and people will be able to do what they can do better – where one needs to think where to put a person into a task.”
When does the artificial intelligence overcome the natural intelligence?
Italian-American expert W. Carbone spoke in an expert debate on Artificial Intelligence topic: Benefits and risks. His partner was Petr Plodik, a specialist in storage media from M Computers. He drew attention to the role of supercomputers and high-performance cards in the development of artificial intelligence, which involves the processing of huge volumes of data.
“It looks like that we will have a supercomputer that is equal in capacity and speed to the human brain in 2022,” says P. Plodik. “And it continues exponentially, so what will be the next step?” If we overcome the capacity of the human brain in 2022, then the next point sometime in 2015-2040 will be, that a single supercomputer outperforms capacity of the brains of all the people in the world,” he said.
Benefits and risks: AI as a double-edged weapon
“Artificial intelligence is a buzzword today, but when we start using it, we see it as another useful tool. That’s good news,” said Jakub Illner, Oracle system architect. The bad news, he says, is misuse of AI, for example, to create false information, photos, and video. “Or use AI to meet the needs of the Big Brother state, where all your steps and what you do are registered and eventually used against you,” he added.
According to Andrej Žlnka from Softec, the artificial intelligence is already “all around us”, which we usually do not even realize. “When we take a smartphone, we open up our social network, so what’s displayed there is no coincidence. It is according to our preferences and in the background is running – let’s call it – artificial intelligence,” he reminded. But according to him the motivation is positive.
“Algorithms help people choose better products that fit their needs. They also help companies get to know their customers because they have a lot of data from them,” he said. However, A. Žlnka also sees the threats of misuse of artificial intelligence, especially in the field of intelligent weapons. He sees the parallel in both nuclear energy and its dual use for both peaceful and military purposes.
The European Commission sees positives and also problems
The position of the European Commission (EC) on the development of artificial intelligence was presented at the Techsummit conference by Lívia Vašáková, head of the Economic Department of the EC Representation in Bratislava. “Artificial intelligence is becoming a big topic and potentially brings benefits in many areas, such as combating climate change, healthcare, education. At the same time, however, we already see situations where its use could be problematic, as people’s scoring is based on different data or autonomous weapons. Therefore, we must be very careful and create a good regulatory framework,” she said.
According to the non-binding opinion of the European Commission, the development of artificial intelligence should be guided by three main principles: respect for applicable law, respect for ethics – especially in terms of individual rights, fairness and traceability – and functional-security robustness.
Will we succeed to resolve Europe and Slovakia falling behind?
Several discussion participants in the AI conference stream talked about Europe ‘s strong falling behind the United States and China in this area. According to Lívia Vašáková, the development is mainly hampered by the persistent fragmentation of the European digital market and the obstacles to small businesses’ access to financing (in the US solved, for example, as venture capital).
This problem is also perceived by Emil Fitoš, chairman of the IT Association of Slovakia: “In terms of applications, I think Europe is far behind the US and China,” he said in a discussion on government support, investment and legislation for AI. At the same time, he pointed out that even within Europe, Slovakia is not one of the digitally developed countries, nor among countries where at least 20% of industrial firms have implemented artificial intelligence in some form.
Emil Fitoš introduced the artificial intelligence capacities in Slovakia, where the number of experts in this area is about two hundred. When counting staff in special areas directly related to AI, this number can then be tripled. “I assume that the number of companies involved in AI is double-digit. There are several companies that are practically based on artificial intelligence technologies,” said ITAS chief.
Techsummit also wants to be an AI platform
Industry 4.0 and the Future Factory
Another digital concept whose contours are created in these years of the 21st century is Industry 4.0. New production mechanisms, the involvement of advanced technologies and the development of robotics are bringing breakthrough opportunities for many industries. At the same time, the very notion of Industry 4.0 (Priemysel 4.0) can be viewed from various aspects.
“Industry 4.0 is based on the need to capture as many events from the company as possible and to be able to transfer them into better management, better business performance,” says Martin Morháč of Sova Digital company. “It is often associated with the concept of interoperability. This means take everything with everything, to have information about all the processes in the company and to manage a better company based on that information,” he said during the discussion on the “factory of the future”.
Interconnected ecosystem for customization of production
According to Martin Hummel of Soitron, the main purpose of Industry 4.0 is to meet customized customer requirements. The whole interconnected manufacturing environment within Industry 4.0 will then serve this purpose.
This idea was supported by Ivo Kovačič from Atos company – also in connection with the Internet of Things. “To make an individual device, you very often need to have direct access and interactive access in the chain of subcontractors and constructors – and at the end have data that is compatible with a robot or a line or with a production facility,” he explained.
PSA Group industrial innovation project manager Michal Gigač warned against self-enforcing process innovations that do not have to prove themselves. He pointed out that even from the term Industry 4.0 became a buzzword that led some suppliers to pursue a reference that would have this attribute. Manufacturers should be aware of this and build on a comprehensive goal-oriented perspective. “The company must have a global solution idea – I want to have a factory like that. And then, when I have such an idea, I can slowly and step-by-step make the innovative solutions so that it makes sense,” he said in a special panel on the automotive industry.
“By including the stream dedicated to Industry 4.0, we want to popularize the trend that is only slowly being promoted in Slovakia. According to the Industry4UM survey, only 14% of companies started to apply the Industry 4.0 elements last year,” said Techsummit conference organizer Davy Čajko.
The Techsummit conference also included a panel on data use and consumer confidence. From the economic point of view, the panel was addressed by analyst Vladimír Vaňo and from the economic point of view, the panel was addressed by analyst Vladimír Vaňo and Jakub Berthota from Dagital Legal company. In particular, the discussion resonated with questions about how data can be used to build business and customer relationships.
How do technologies and innovations change urban life?
As society is developing, cities are also developing. How do they react to new trends, technologies or threats? How does this itself manifest in relation to urban management and services for residents? The Smart City program stream was dedicated to this and similar issues at Techsummite 2019.
As indicated by the panelists’ speeches, there is a visible shift in the approach to digitization in the Slovak towns, which also results from the arrival of new people in the municipalities. Urban management creates a participatory environment and listens more to citizens, which is also due to a higher level of public control over the Internet and social networks.
From the government institutions, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Information and Investment took over competence for this area. According to the general manager of this office for central coordinating body of Denisa Žiláková, the concept of smart city can be considered a “key component in the process of digital transformation of local authorities in Slovakia.”
“Smart city concept that use different types of sensors to collect a variety of site data files that will then be used to manage equipment and resources efficiently, will allow for spatial planning and environmental protection, as well as achieving significant energy savings, improving the quality of citizens’ mobility and security,” said D. Žiláková in a speech to the participants of the Techsummit. This, in her opinion, will lead to an overall improvement in the quality of life of city residents.
Smart city and cyber security
Sophisticated systems interconnected in smart city solutions can also be targeted, as Frans-Anton Vermast one of the creators of these systems for Amsterdam, pointed out. During the first day of the conference he also talked about the protection of personal data. “We are also working with the private sector in the field of cyber security because it has much more knowledge and experience,” he said. He complained to distrust of the people who are willing to pass on their data to companies like Google and Facebook, but less to local government.
“Cybersecurity must be given extreme attention, as it may be disrupted in a place where you wouldn’t expect it,” warned on Techsummite Andrei Aleksiev of Israeli company Check Point, a specialist in the field. For example, in the context of ethical hacking, the company’s experts have managed to add a CT scan to an image generated by a CT device in a particular hospital or to control the illumination of an intelligent building.
Threats can also come through IoT (Internet of Things) devices connected to any smart city subsystem. For example, while an old fax machine in the internal network may be the place of attackers’ intrusion, the US had also seen a case of a Las Vegas casino hacked through an intelligent large aquarium shark control system. “What is smart is hackable,” said A. Aleksiev. And „smart city is hacked city,“ he added.
Offering of assistance from the resorts
Helping Slovak municipalities to develop the smart city concept and sustainable city agenda was also offered by the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic, about what informed Erika Horanská, her representative, on Techsummit conference.
František Kašický, who has at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic in the agenda foreign support financial instruments, informed participants about the possibilities of their use to support smart solutions. As he said, such resources are sufficient and the offer is further increased, although the term “smart city” does not necessarily have to be mentioned in the conditions of use. “Smart” solutions should therefore be integrated into broader concepts and contexts.
Among other things, Ján Kaššovič from the Ministry of Finance of the Slovak Republic presented the department’s intention to institutionalize adjustment in the crowdfunding area, which could also stimulate the development of smart city projects financing in Slovakia.
In particular, the final debate in Smart City stream assessed two key issues – what has been achieved so far in this area and, in particular, how to go on – what are the prospects for the future. Participants noted the need for more bottom-up approaches, but where the role of the national level as a mediator and provider of information on funding opportunities and institutional support is also important.
One of the practical results of this year’s Techsummit was the establishment of a “smart cities incubator” – a platform to help those interested in implementing this concept.
As part of the panel discussion Current and future forms of mobility, the core areas were: setting and promoting new trends in transport, such as autonomous vehicles, making public transport more efficient through innovation, urban parking and data processing for better public communication.
Zsolt Szalay from the Technical University of Budapest presented the project for the development and testing of an autonomous vehicle on the ZalaZone testing polygon.
Ľudmila Zajková from Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko spoke about how this company is focusing on applications providing a diversified portfolio of solutions to passengers in terms of the strategy for the transition to digitization. Other priorities of ZSSK include, for example, the use of technologies to increase the energy efficiency of operation.
Another issue concerning railways is the operation of autonomously controlled trains, which would probably first be implemented locally or regionally. Železničná spoločnosť SK is according to Ľ. Zajkovej prepared to negotiate with potential partners on testing of autonomous trains.
One City representative, David Bártha, emphasized the importance of public communication and the correct reading and evaluation of data as a prerequisite for the functioning and creation of smart cities. In them, vehicles with autonomous control, whose role there will grow in the next decades, will also have their place.
Cooperation with Austria is underestimated, Techsummit wants to change it
The accompanying program of the Techsummit conference also included the presentation of Austrian technology companies under the title Austria Showcase – Technology Wizards and related exhibition.
The motive for the organizers was still insufficient use of the potential of cooperation between Bratislava, more precisely its region and Vienna, which has been, besides other things, repeatedly evaluated as the highest quality city for life in the world in the last 10 years.
“The state and local government in Slovakia do not use the potential of our nearest neighbour – Austria. We are gradually building strategic partnerships in this country that should be an absolute priority for our region,” said D. Čajko.
“Austria has been for a long time at the forefront of global rankings – from GDP, tourism, quality of life to innovations. How do local leaders approach it? What kind of cooperation do we have created and create? Here is a world player interested in cooperation,” said the head of the Techsummit conference.
“The goal should be – in addition to inspiration – to define our position as a micro-player and to look for synergies in everything in which Vienna is at the top level. That is why we have started to solve these issues through B2B links.”
Europe is improving slightly in innovations
The European and regional innovation scoreboard 2019, recently published by the European Commission, shows that the EU’s innovation performance has been improving for four years in a row. For the first time, the Union has shown better results in this area than the US. However, the EU is still falling behind Japan and South Korea, and China is catching up with it.
The European Commission divides (based on points) the countries into 4 performance groups, which are: innovation leaders, strong innovators, moderate innovators and weak innovators. Especially Sweden is the innovator, followed by Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands, and Estonia belongs to this group for the first time.
The regional innovation scoreboard comparing the performance of 238 regions in 23 EU Member States showed Slovakia as a moderate innovator as well as 13 other Member States. Its innovation performance increased by 5.8 percentage points. The Bratislava region and western Slovakia are among the moderate innovators and medium and eastern Slovakia are rated as moderate innovators, where innovation performance has declined.
A platform for the innovator’s community and partners support
In its fourth year, Techsummit has confirmed its strong position on the innovation and technology map of events. “We have the ambition to create a community of experts and leaders motivated to place our Central European region into the league of those who co-determine technological developments and contribute their own innovative capabilities to them,” said Davy Čajko.
He expressed thanks to all partners and supporters of the event. The Techsummit 2019 conference was held under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic. The main partners were Check Point, ZSSK and Antik telecom, partners were Oracle, IBM, M computers, NVIDIA and Lynx. The Poláček & Partners office and Piql company had the status of special supporters. These include dozens of other promoters, production and media partners.
In the fourth year of the Techsummit, a record of approximately 400 interested persons from private companies, schools, state and local government institutions and other areas took part. They came from at least 43 cities in the world.
In addition to the Techsummit Events series, also other conferences are regularly organized in Slovakia, and according to D. Čajko, they will be followed by another format focused on innovations in Bratislava-Danube Region under the name Danube Valley Summit. And in terms of the interim agreement of this year´s Techsummit, an analogous conference should also take place abroad quite soon.