• Innovation

SXSW Festival: putting the human in digital

The SXSW festival was held in Austin, Texas from 11 to 16 March. First held in 1987, this event welcomes more than 35,000 visitors each year. SXSW is actually three festivals in one: SXSW Interactive (focusing on new technologies), SXSW Film and SXSW Music. The Trade Show – the “exhibition” component of the festival – takes place in parallel with the Interactive segment. It hosts startups from around the world and attracts around 70,000 visitors every year. SXSW emphasises the place and the role of human beings in technology, unlike CES in Las Vegas, which highlights the technical aspect of innovation. L’Atelier BNP Paribas sent an observer to report on the key trends presented at SXSW 2016. Overview. 

Virtual reality is moving from strength to strength

More than 190 events at the festival focused on this concept. And for good reason, as virtual reality is on the rise: in 2015, worldwide, startups in this area raised USD 658 million for 126 deals, compared to 52 deals in 2014. Virtual reality is no longer limited to video games, and it’s expanding into every economic sector. A few examples: Rebecca Minkoff is offering fashion shows filmed in 3D, while Google is reinventing the concept of green classrooms with its Expeditions Pioneer Program.

Government 2.0: using big data to make decisions

In this US presidential election year, the digitalisation of the government is seen as a critical issue. Barack Obama opened the Interactive segment of SXSW. The first US President to visit the festival, he spoke about the appointment in March 2015 of a White House “chief digital officer” and about the “Precision Medicine Initiative”, a genetic database intended to advance research into rare diseases. Approximately 200 SXSW sessions focused on new uses of big data by the government and the public sector as a tool for decision making and as a vector for citizen engagement. At the national level, however, the United States still has a long way to go. A report by Bloomberg Philanthropies revealed that only 28% of mid-sized American cities modify their programmes based on the analysis of the data that they collect. 

New modes of transport for a smarter city

Another prevailing trend: urban transport, developing smarter cities that optimise their resources and ensure a good quality of life for their inhabitants. It’s a major challenge in a world that’s facing rapid population growth. “Smart cars” and “smart transportation” are among the major innovations in this field. Among the most anticipated presentations was the one given by Dirk Ahlborn, CEO of Hyperloop, a company founded in 2013 that’s designing transport capsules capable of traveling 1 km in 3 seconds. East River Skyway has also generated a great deal of interest with its cable and gondola transport system, similar to those that have already been developed in La Paz in Bolivia and Rio de Janeiro. Ultra-fast, green and integrated into existing transport networks, its aerial cars will be able to hold up to 35 people. In New York, for Phase 1 of the East River Skyway project, studies have established that they could connect Brooklyn and Manhattan with a transport time of about thirty minutes. Or 25 minutes faster than now...

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