Climate change, poverty, gender inequality, no or little access to reliable healthcare. These are just some of the challenges that many societies across the globe are facing today. It all sounds doom and gloom, but the reality is that there is a lot of great work taking place in these areas.
That is why we convened a panel of experts at VMware Explore Europe in Barcelona to have an open and optimistic discussion around how technology could help solve some of these pressing issues. There is a wealth of emerging technologies such as AI, 5G, blockchain, cloud and edge computing that is already benefiting everyone on the planet. But we’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible.
Joe Baguley, VMware’s EMEA CTO hosted the discussion with Professor Sally Eaves (expert on emerging tech), Professor Felix Nensa (radiologist and leader of the AI team at University Hospital of Essen) and Laurence Kemball-Cook (Founder and CEO of Pavegen).
If you weren’t there in person – here’s a summary of the key discussion points:
Prof. Felix Nensa, Univ. Hospital, Essen: “Healthcare is behind in technological advances compared to other industries”
Felix highlighted that there are significant lags in the adoption of new technologies in healthcare. Healthcare IT systems tend to be siloed and messy, even within individual hospitals. This means that integrating new technology and apps into these systems is complex, expensive and time-consuming. But he sees hope and an openness to collaborate with third parties to develop new solutions to support patient care. He calls this the ‘bits to bedside’ approach.
Felix gave a great example which the whole panel leaned into – surgical liver transplants to children. When a child receives a liver transplant, they don’t receive a whole liver, but a small portion of the donor’s liver. However, the section that’s taken from the donor must be carefully identified (both in terms of size and location of where within the liver it sits). Traditionally, the process of working this out has been manual and can take around 30mins. By training an AI tool to understand the nature of the individual patient case, it can work out the details in seconds and with more precision – freeing up valuable time of radiologist and leading to better patient outcomes.
Watch Felix’s takeaways from the panel below:
Laurence Kemball-Cook, Pavegen: “Technology shouldn’t be siloed”
Away from healthcare another area exploring technological solutions is city development. Pavegen is taking a new approach to creating sustainable and smart cities, by creating technology that harnesses the kinetic energy of footsteps. The kinetic energy from these individuals is turned into electricity which can then power whole buildings. A fully renewable approach.
The beauty of this process is that it empowers individuals to make a difference through the power of a simple footstep and brings people along on the process of using technology as a force for good. Something Laurence discussed in detail as he believes it is an important way of building up trust. “Technology shouldn’t be siloed”, commented Laurence when asked about the relationship between tech and people. His company adopts a permission-based rewards system. Individuals who sign up to the Pavegen app, opt in to share their data in exchange for gifts or to donate their energy to important causes.
Watch Laurence's takeaways from the panel:
Prof. Sally Eaves, Emerging Tech expert: “We should learn from what has and hasn’t gone well from existing technology, before we can design the future”
The topic of trust led the discussion to look at data ethics. As an expert in this area, Sally explained that we need “shared responsibility to make a difference” and that “we should learn from what has and hasn’t gone well from existing technology, before we can design the future”. Joe talked about VMware’s own approach called Privacy by Design that is embedded into all organisational processes and technologies that touch personal data. Sally agreed that measures like these are critical for the greater adoption, acceptance and curiosity of technology will happen responsibly. Even down to the team or individuals building the tech, and ensuring we consider things like neurodiversity to reduce implicit bias later down the line.
The final topic on the agenda was technological singularity. A theoretical concept where technological growth becomes uncontrollable for human beings. Laurence pointed to the remarkable progress of robots in recent years from barely walking to balancing on tight ropes, and more recently robots ‘duplicating’ in real time. Felix took a different perspective, reiterating that hospitals are still battling with paper-based systems, so he sees robots running hospitals as something unimaginable at this stage. Sally’s view was that we’re still a long way from singularity and we have a collective responsibility to make sure we don’t get there. “We must keep reflecting and learning from the past” she said.
Here are Sally's takeaways from the panel:
While none of the panellists proclaim to have all the answers, they were all united in their optimism about where the future is heading. We need to ensure we tackle the barriers around trust and privacy, that we have the correct frameworks to measure and feedback to improve future designs, and instil the right training to help individuals understand the benefits.
At VMware, we recognise the responsibility we have, to help guide the course of tech innovation alongside industry, academia and governments. The pace of tech evolution isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Nor should it. Tech innovation is arguably one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to solve these challenges. We must embrace it to ensure it’s used responsibly to hopefully deliver on its full potential for the greater good.
Read more about how VMware is building a more sustainable, equitable and secure future by integrating Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals across the company here!