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What have we learnt from #SXSW14 Interactive?

With so much hype and excitement happening across the Atlantic in Austin, Texas where the annual South by South West Festival is taking place, I wanted to have a look at the hot topics and new trends that have emerged from the festival. For anyone who isn’t familiar with #SXSW14, it is an annual music, film, interactive conference and festival where the brightest minds in emerging technology come together to explore cutting edge technology and digital creativity. It is a labyrinth of networking events, keynote speeches, presentations and panel discussions as well as a host of late night parties and events for those not wanting to retire to their hotel room. It is now in its 21st year and has been a catalyst for many of the technology advances we see today, it can be the starting point for a process/product that will change the way we communicate and live our daily lives (most notably Twitter in 2007 and the launch of Foursquare in 2009). This year amassed more than 30,000 delegates and over 1.2 million twitter conversations giving you an idea of the sheer size of the event. So what are the key things that people are taking away from this year’s festival? Data Security and Privacy An appearance from whistleblower Edward Snowden via video link and a talk by Julian Assange shows how important online privacy and data security is – a global concern, many will argue that we can no longer sit back and allow this huge breach of human rights to continue. Eric Schmidt at Google also joined the debate and spoke at length on the dangers of the misuse of online data the day before. As Snowden said: “They are setting fire to the future of the internet. It’s the maker community who can create solutions to make us safe.” The future is uncertain but one thing is clear, it will not be tolerated. Wearable Technologies Last year was all about the emergence of 3D printing, this year was all about wearable technology. From the Google Glasses to The Talking Shoe, it was about demonstrating the technological advances of the tech power players. Although some concerns are circulating regarding privacy issues around the glasses, the tech world still seems to be embracing them. Technology and biology are emerging Bioengineering was one of the most innovative ideas that came out of the festival, with Joi Ito saying we will need to know about this just as much as the internet in the near future. This concept is fascinating and shows amazing ways that biology and technology can work together to benefit our existence – in a talk “Full of Tomorrow” Paul Kemp-Robertson and James Kirkham spoke about the “Human Body as the next Interface”, explaining technologies like functional contact lenses which augment your world with visual data through to epidermal electronics, which can read tiny changes in body temperature to give us signals about our health. Wow. 3D Printing is getting bigger and bigger From everyday objects, to food and even buildings – yes the 3D printer is advancing in a phenomenal way. It emerged that the MIT media lab had developed a cable suspended robotic crane for 3D printing buildings. 3D printed food came in the form of the ChefJet printer which churned out colourful shapes of food and with Cadbury-owner Mondelez International pushing the boundaries and debuting a new 3D printing machine that makes Oreos. How businesses spring up to monetise amazing innovations such as these will be fascinating to watch. It has certainly been an awe-inspiring few days and there have been some hot topics and interesting technological advances coming out of the festival once again. I think this quote from the guys at iTech pretty much sums up the festival... As the Internet and mobile devices grew in importance, the SXSW Interactive Festival became its own entity, introducing some of the tech world’s largest forces over the past few years…This year, the trend continues as some of today’s biggest names in technology rub shoulders with the world’s best musicians and film directors. I am sure the unforgettable inspirational experiences that only SXSW can deliver will only continue to get bigger and bigger in the future. I for sure, will be working on my MD to secure us tickets for next year. Until then...  

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