My experience at the Canterbury Tech Summit

21 September 2017

Ella tech summit4

Blog written by Ella Mroczek, Graduate GIS Consultant at Interpret

This year I was fortunate enough to attend the Canterbury Tech Summit, which was held at the Wigram Air Force Museum on Thursday 14 September. The summit is an annual event held in Christchurch, where the people from the tech industry meets for a day to share ideas, network, and engage with each other. I want to share five thoughts that I had from the day:

  1.  In my opinion, the most popular booth at the summit was Cryptopia. With a tagline stating that they had ‘$20,000 worth of digital currency to give away’, punters were lining up all day. I am now the proud owner of 0.001 bitcoins (about $5 NZD, so I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon!).

  2. Andy Cunningham, founder of Cunningham Collective, marketing consulting firm based in Silicon Valley (USA), was a key note speaker at the Summit.  You could say her job is to discover ‘The Next Big Thing’. In my bloginion, if you want to be the next Steve Jobs or tech guru, Machine Learning is not a bad place to start. Kick off with tensorFlow or by taking a Machine Learning course.

  3. Blockchain; This. Is. The. Future. Imagine a ledger containing medical records for every New Zealander, one that is not only complete but verifiable, secure and that does not rely on a centralised system for transactions. In other words, there's no “middleman”.  As Stephen Macaskill (CEO of Dasset) touched upon in his presentation, the rise of virtual currencies that are underpinned by blockchain technology could feasibly supersede services provided by companies, such as Uber, that make money by facilitating a currency exchange.

  4. A major theme at this Summit was Artificial Intelligence. So, what is AI? As Erich Prem (CEO, eutema) noted during a panel discussion, as soon as AI solves a problem, it stops being AI. For example, the first time a computer beat a human at Chess was in 1996, now Chess programs are ubiquitous and the programming responsible for winning against a human is not perceived as comparative to actual human thought, but is seen for what it is, purely a set of algorithms. Phew! I say skip the brain gym and focus on not how something is done but instead what it achieves. In my books, any computer that beats a human at their own game is doing well.

  5. Lastly, as a GIS professional it was encouraging to see GIS popping up all over the conference. GIS and tech are one and the same, just think Google Maps, Augmented Reality and 3D. I can only foresee a continued presence of GIS at tech conferences like the Canterbury Summit and, coupled with this, a growing recognition that GIS is part of the tech world.

The theme for the summit this year was “Grow” and my overwhelming impression of the day was that the tech industry is not only growing, but thriving. The calibre of speakers, with those from abroad sharing their ideas alongside equally talented local techprenuers, was high. Thumbs-up and thank you to the organisers, you did a great job bringing so many smart techies together.