Dublin Web Summit 2014 Day 3: Centre Stage

In the third and last day of Web Summit, the enormous tech conference celebrated recently in Dublin, Ireland, we headed to the Centre Stage to attend the talks of some noted speakers arousing our interest. Here, our highlights.

A view from the audience at the Web Summmit Centre stage
A view from the audience at the Web Summmit Centre Stage

An hour of code

Hadi Partovi, co-founder of education non-profit Code.org, introduced us to the worldwide campaign “Hour of Code”, an initiative aimed to demystify computer science and inspire millions of school students to learn to code. The campaign, born in the U.S. in 2013, is backed by technology leaders like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and many others.

The Iran-born entrepreneur said that even if computers are everywhere, increasingly impacting every field of human activity, computer science is just on the recovery from a 10-year decline. In the U.S., there are fewer computer science students than 10 years ago, meanwhile in Europe only 11 countries have science/coding in the schools’ curriculum, at the same time as “every single industry is desperately trying to hire programmers”.

Initiatives like this Hour of Code try to address the matter. Even if anyone (teachers, parents, etc.) can host an hour of code anytime, the next milestone will be happening during the week of Dec. 8th – Dec. 14th, when they plan to achieve the goal of tens of millions of students around the world trying an hour of code.

Hadi Partovi introducing the "Hour of Code" initiative
Hadi Partovi presenting the “Hour of Code” initiative

Stuff that matters

Entrepreneurs Tim O’ Reilly and Liam Casey talked with Tom Cheshire from Sky News on a broad array of technology trends like wearables, Internet of Things, big data, 3D printing and hardware 2.0. In this short recap we summarize their thoughts on hardware issues. Below, you will find a link to watch the complete 20-minutes talk.

Liam Casey is the founder of PCH, an Irish company selling product development and supply chain management solutions. The company is a market leader in developing and supplying accessories to top companies worldwide like Apple or Samsung. In recent years, PCH has launched the programs PCH Access and Highway1 to assist hardware startup companies in the process of developing physical products. Talking about his recent involvement with startups, Casey pointed out the bold and innovative attitude of these companies, dubbing them the “generation Y Not”, as they are testing the laws of physics every time. He also said that startups coming to them want to work with all the platforms, therefore the development of solutions to allow that connectivity is really a huge challenge . He also underlined the importance of new technologies like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel Edison and the “phenomenon” of 3D printing as drivers of the hardware renaissance currently underway.

Tim O’Reilly is founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and Board Member of Maker Media. He is also an influential technology promoter and an advocate of open source movement. In regard to hardware development, he said that design involves not only the design of the device, but also the design of the service that goes with it.  According him, hardware should be thought as an entire service along the software running on it.  Once having the device, companies should ask themselves, what they can do differently to create real value from it. He envisioned that there will be huge opportunities in software enabled by the new devices.  He also reckoned the importance of what PCH is doing with startups, helping them to bring efficiency to develop hardware. He addressed the importance of cash in running a business. As he put it, “in hardware, cash is king; in every business, cash is king”. He finished advising startups to “work on stuff that matters”.

Going mainstream

Gavin Andresen, Board Member and Chief Scientist of Bitcoin Foundation, talked with Lisa Fleisher from The Wall Street Journal, on the current state and future challenges of Bitcoin, the fast-growing smart money project.  On the misconceptions still existing about Bitcoin, he said that even with Bitcoin starting to go mainstream now, the biggest misconception is to be still regarded as “some deep dark mysterious thing” for illicit markets. Maybe it was a “reasonable misconception” at its beginnings, he conceded, but the project has evolved up to a point where we can see now huge companies like Dell accepting Bitcoin currency. So, they are quickly transforming from something that was a little bit shady to something which is much more mainstream, accepted, and easier to use.

When asked to foresight the future, Andresen clarified that he is not good at predicting the future, but still he remarked that in 20 years the world will look mostly like it looks today. He compared Bitcoin with the Internet: a lot of things that people were saying about the Internet 20 years ago have come true, even though yet the world  today is pretty much like it was then. Certainly, he said, there are differences, for instance now we are carrying around those “wonderful little computers” to talk with anybody in the world, and maybe in 20 years we will be carrying around wonderful devices where you can pay anybody, anywhere in the world, immediately,  by using Bitcoin or some future kind of worldwide global accepted currency that has not been yet invented.

Nowadays, Bitcoin is a 5 billion dollars open-source software project. At the same time, it is a P2P system not centrally controlled by any company. On the issue of some Bitcoin failures happened in the last years, Andresen pointed out that certainly there will be more of those in the future. He doesn’t expect a “smooth sailing” for the Bitcoin ecosystem, so we should expect a lot of innovation, but also a lot of failures, with some great companies arising from it in 5 or 10 years.

Finally, he envisioned the smart property notion, where an Internet-connected object could know who its owner is. In that scenario, for instance, smart houses or self-driving cars could connect to Bitcoin to know if a person has the right to use it for a period of time.

Gavin Andresen interviewed by Lisa Fleisher at the Web Summit
Gavin Andresen being interviewed by Lisa Fleisher

For more Web Summit, you can read our recaps of Day 1 and Day 2 that we spent mostly around the Machine Stage. Moreover, during the event, we had the chance to speak with Internet pioneer Brad Templeton, and Arduino founder David Cuartielles. We will publish their interviews shortly on this blog.

In conclusion, Web Summit was a vast, humongous event: from pop stars to tech visionaries, everybody exposed their ideas and points of view about where new tech developments are driving us.  This annual Dublin event has something to offer to everybody, no matter which your interests are: for sure you will find someone with an enlightening idea or a brand spanking new project glad to tell you about it. Ultimately, as usually happens, the best of this kind of event is the rousing people you met there, the real driving force of our future.

PostDigital Node

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