Harvey Nash Tech Event brings AI to the forefront

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Posting date: 03 February 2020

Harvey Nash’s 2020 Tech Survey is one of the broadest, well-thought publications in IT and was brought to life by the Newcastle office’s Tech Event on Thursday evening. See the photos

The Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle provided an appropriate setting for an evening of insight and thought-provoking dialogue, as Harvey Nash’s track record of providing flagship events to the North East tech scene remained in-tact.

Outside, gale force winds were ravaging the city landscape but in the warmth of the stylish multiplex, all thoughts turned to the largest tech survey on the planet and an awe-inspiring presentation on the future relationship between man and machine by Austen Atkinson.

Usman Shahid, Managing Consultant at Harvey Nash, opened the night after some welcome drinks and networking. He set the tone for the night with an introduction to the event and Harvey Nash, along with Steve Rake’s overview of NashTech services.

Rob Grimsey, Marketing Director and ever-present at Harvey Nash events, gave the audience a comprehensive synopsis of the survey, with a concise-yet-detailed presentation on the various trends.

Many of the findings certainly demonstrated an air of excitement over what’s on the horizon in the coming years, but the warts and all assessment of the industry also pointed out some areas of concern for the tech workforce.

Rob outlined that the survey demonstrated a lack of representation of women, with just 16% of tech teams made up by women, with no significant increase in recent years and even shows a fall in the 17% figure in the 2016 survey.

The survey also found that over half of UK technology professionals (600,000 people) have suffered mental health issues due to work, with overworking and unsupportive companies cited as the main issues behind this.

However, the presentation did bring cause for optimism, debunking the thought that low-code/no-code platforms would spell the end of the software developer. The out and out coder will still be a necessity, particularly as these platforms still needed to embed together.

Rob also touched on a point that showed just how much the tech industry has blossomed in recent years, with 58% of respondents stating they worked for a ‘tech-company’, even in verticals such as manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

Austen Atkinson, Director of Innovation at Lexicon and Visiting Professor of Immersive Technologies at Sunderland University,  gave a presentation of his own, on how AI & 5G will be further embedded into everyday life.

Austen, who himself has a wealth of experience in creative industries, demonstrated how companies are already deploying virtual humanoids to the front line of their organisation.

The cinema screen peered into the future of customer service, or rather the present in some institutions, displaying National Australia Bank’s virtual chatbot which recognises facial experiences and tone of voice when conversing with customers and possess people-like features.

As robots become more adept at reading human emotion, Austen was optimistic where others are fearful, stating that ‘if we get this right, the possibilities are incredibly exciting.’

However, he did acknowledge that data must be utilised in the right way to fully realise the potential of AI and for it to be consumed ethically.

For this to happen, Austen suggested Data Curators as part of the workforce going forward and ensuring that data samples are unbiased and do not lead companies down the wrong path.

At the start of the event the interactive poll showed that at the beginning of the presentation 54% of the audience felt that AI was dangerous. However, Austen’s level of knowledge and influence was palpable and you could feel that many in the audience were changing their mind on AI and an alteration of perception was clear in conversations in post-event networking.

Usman concluded the evening as he had started and gave the audience a snippet of what’s to come on the Harvey Nash event schedule. To get involved in our tech series or to find out more information, please contact Stephen.Linsley@HarveyNash.com or call 0191 249 4079.