A substantial contrast to SXSW (which was “too big to find” the signal from the noise), Verge embodied collaboration, smart people, rich content, and insightful examples, focussed on some big challenges (to that end it was closer to a TED event).
“VERGE is about what happens when technologies collide
to create a vast playing field for potentially game-changing innovation.”
I was struck by similar patterns I remember from the 1990s, when we were trying to work out what the point of the web might be, how to build it, and how people might use it (before Google, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter…). Hindsight is always 20-20, but before those answers emerged, a million ideas were born, tried, and failed.
But, however you cut it, the opportunity is here and now: we face massive threats to our sustainability. More than one delegate talked to me about impending “systems collapse” (and not only in developing countries). We also see new data, systems and networks emerging, and the people-on-the-ground are actively engaging with it at scale.
Ranging from U.S. Department of Defense “search and destroy” sessions on energy efficiency, to David Pogue, Global Director CBRE talking frankly about the current state of play and the scale of the challenges we face:
“Every building is managed to the capabilities of the LEAST capable engineer
[and] to the demand of the most demanding occupant”
Amory Lovins called for “DNS for the energy grids” (an idea I’ve been keen to see realized for years), and Code for America’s Jennifer Pahlka stated that “government is actually what we do together” (which is something we all seem to have forgotten).
Linking trends in social responsibility, sustainability and networked data led neatly into Tim O’Reilly’s “Building a global brain to solve sustainability puzzles” – but ensuring that the code behind the brain has the “right moral [code]".
As we know from watching all new innovations unfold, substantial patience is required - Steve Case reminded us how long it's taken from the Web to start to really unlock its potential (decades) - and we are still learning: things unfold in unexpected ways, and as most founders I've spoken to acknowledge : you don't really know where you're going until you get there. From my perspective;
"the Internet of Things is a technology looking for purpose:
and sustainability is that purpose."
I was delighted that my own contribution,"Shaping supply chain sustainability with the Internet of things" was so well received - I've never imagined being high-fived by audience members after a talk!