A report from hub.berlin and Big-Data.AI Summit 2019
“We need more strong, large-sized digital companies in Europe in order to compete with Apple, Google and Microsoft.”
This quote from Peter Altmaier’s keynote speech encapsulates the guiding vision of the digital conference recently organized by Bitkom in Berlin. With many prominent speakers and over 8,000 visitors, the conference was a great success, and not at all a “yawn fest” like one or the other similar gathering of “digital players.” Andy (Wenk), our head of Backend, is here to tell us about his impressions and offer a few highlights.
The conference took place at Station Berlin, an event location in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. The organizers really went the extra mile to ensure that visitors had everything needed for a great conference: numerous stalls offering drinks and truly delicious food, plenty of places to sit and a good layout for the various spaces. Particularly worth mentioning were the area for co-working and another for the mini stands of startups and smaller companies. And of course, there were the presentation stages in various sizes: eleven in total, featuring 350 speakers. The biggest spaces were the Red Arena and Black Arena, with keynote speeches in the former. So now let’s talk about the actual content.
The conference’s overarching focus – reflecting the merger of hub.berlin with the Big-Data.AI Summit – was on digitalization as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI and ML): here, the question was how these technologies can be promoted at the EU level, and what regulatory and legal frameworks are needed for their practical application. The aforementioned quote by Peter Altmaier underlined this strategic concern, which was further reinforced by Timotheus Höttges (CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG)on the conference’s opening day from the perspective of a Top 500 company, in his keynote speech entitled Europe at a Crossroads: Creating Value in a Digitized World. There’s still a lot to be done here, and time is pressing.
AI and ML
Unfortunately, the terms “AI” and “ML” (just like “blockchain”) have often become mere tokens in the latest round of buzzword bingo, as pointed out by Stephen Brobst (CTO Teradata Corp., former adviser to Barack Obama): “The hype around AI is overheated, and it’ll collapse just like the hype around Hadoop. Deep learning is not the answer for every question. Usually, there are cheaper and simpler strategies available.” Viewed in the clear light of day, this last point in particular is certainly true. Naturally, every modern and innovative technology company needs to keep forging ahead in its efforts and ideas when it comes to the use of modern technologies. But you always need levelheadedness and common sense here. In fact, maintaining this attitude is a basic tenet at sum.cumo, an approach that has ultimately spared us a lot of unnecessary sidetracks and helped us bring the most promising tools and technologies to our projects and clients.
Security has long been a major concern for the internet and the World Wide Web. But the attacks have increased even more in recent years. It’s an unsurprising development, considering the constantly expanding use of the web and of the many applications available there. However, there’s now even talk of a cyberwar. The possible dimensions of this were described by Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar (Estonia’s Ambassador-at-Large for Cybersecurity) during a panel discussion. “The 2007 cyberattacks on Estonia began on April 27, 2007, targeting the websites of various Estonian organizations, including its parliament, banks, ministries, newspapers and broadcasters, amidst tensions between Estonia and Russia concerning the relocation of the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, an elaborate war memorial from the Soviet era, along with a number of war graves.” This lends credence to the assertion that “investments in data protection and cybersecurity are always a good idea.”
The rest of the conference featured a lot of interesting presentations, including two more highlights worth mentioning.
For one, the benefits of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) were explained in person by Robert E. Kahn – one of the fathers of the internet, who invented with Vint Cert the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP). The DOI is a unique digital identifier that is permanently assigned to a particular object, be it physical, digital or abstract. Its usage can be found in the internet of things (IoT) as well as online newspapers and archives.
Another highlight was Torsten Hartmann’s presentation of The Periodic System of Artificial Intelligence. Here, the project’s goal is to clarify the terms used in the field of AI. It’s a kind of glossary to help prevent needless misconceptions in future discussions of the topic.
As with all conferences, hub.berlin also included few meta talk sessions. These covered various important issues, such as diversity and women in tech. Here, the presentation by Richard Gutjahr was particularly unsettling. During the 2016 terror attacks in Nice and Munich, the journalist and blogger Richard Gutjahr happened to be there both times, and reported each time. This provided grist for the conspiracy theorists and trolls, who began to constantly harass him. But Gutjahr will not be silenced: fulfilling his mission as a journalist, he also reports on himself and his family, describing the suffering that can result from the viciousness of trolls. His bottom line is that we need more digital empathy. Hear, hear!
In conclusion, this was an excellent conference organized by Bitkom – an association in which sum.cumo also happens to be a member. The many facets of AI, ML, big data and the digital arts were explored and discussed from every angle. Also featuring workshops, startup corners and meet & greets, this was a well-rounded, inspiring and informative event.
See you there next year!