Manchester Digital Conference
Woodhurst were at the first Manchester Digital conference last week, which showcased the future of digital. Packed full of interesting content, I’m excited to share my three favourite sessions from Fingopay, DWP and Fuzzy Labs.
Fingopay’s Simon Binns delivered a fascinating talk on biometric payment tech, which has enabled making payments with your finger via vein recognition. This idea came about to allow you to have no phone or card on you at a festival, and represents a step beyond wearable payment technology. It has grown to include age verification, which has massive implication for retailers worried about underage customers. The product has already shown promising results with their Copenhagen launch and it’s really exciting that their next city is Manchester.
Just in case you’re wondering, the finger has to be attached to the hand for it to work!
Robots in the garage
DWP’s Intelligent Automation Garage (IAG) impressed us with a scalable platform that’s cleared operational backlogs (1 million items processed by 571 bots in January!), automated mundane work and now they’re looking at automating more complex problems. With everything built on the AWS cloud, they’ve achieved these results whilst reducing DWP’s hosting costs by 50%.
No surprise that the IAG have been winning awards for their automation, whilst paving the way for other companies looking to automate operations to free up their people’s time for higher value activities.
Fuzzy Lab’s Doing good with AI talk sparked an interesting debate on the lack of ethics principles that could cause problems with future AI initiatives. I think we all agreed that meddling in politics Cambridge-Analytica-style is morally dubious, but the question of ethics becomes less clear when you look at other examples, such as the Chinese social behaviour monitoring.
Maybe people with Philosophy degrees are going to be equally important as people with computer science backgrounds for the development of good AI? You’ll find scant reference to ethics in the Trump Administration’s executive order on “Maintaining Leadership in AI”. Perhaps there’s a niche for post-Brexit Britain to lead the way with ethical AI. I for one certainly hope we do! The £150m donation to fund a new humanities hub for Oxford plus an institute of ethics and AI is a good indicator of our potential.
Besides learning a lot, I came away with a great impression of Manchester’s Digital scene. A vibrant community of passionate people, developing innovative technology to solve problems old and new. Watch this space!