In a year of unprecedented challenges for people in all walks of life, Orange Silicon Valley took its annual summit completely virtual in October, bringing together Orange Group leaders, partners, and other thought leaders to spotlight innovative solutions on the road to a responsible future at Hello Show by Orange Silicon Valley. Over three days, more than 25 speakers from enterprise companies and startups discussed technologies and collaborative efforts that will underpin efforts to improve lives and connectivity across the world. These ideas were on full display throughout the keynotes, breakout sessions, and demos made available to attendees.
Orange Group CEO Stéphane Richard laid out attributes that should be associated with a responsible future, explicitly tying the vision to responsible use of customer data, especially in the contexts of education, health, and safeguarding financial transactions. Richard was welcomed to the first day of the event by Orange Silicon Valley CEO Mireille Helou, who gave opening remarks.
Next, Gené Teare, an editor and data evangelist at Crunchbase, discussed the state of the market in a world transformed by the pandemic with Lauren Kolodny, a founding partner at Acrew Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm. “In every crisis we refer to the last crisis,” Teare commented, reflecting on how the crisis in 2020 compares to the events associate with the dotcom bubble and 2008 financial crisis.
“What we’ve seen is that there have been huge opportunities for tech companies,” Teare said, noting that some of the largest tech companies grew tremendously coming out of the last crisis. Kolodny echoed that even now new solutions are coming to light as businesses and consumers search for new ways to operate and live while dealing with conditions caused by COVID-19.
“In spite of how challenging and awful” current conditions may be, technology is “finding new ways to help people live their lives,” Kolodny asserted. Digital-first banking alternatives and collaboration tools that enable work in hybrid remote and on-premises situations were among areas where she sees promise.
The day continued with a conversation between Orange Group Executive Director of Strategy and Cybersecurity Hugues Foulon and Ariel Tseitlin, a Partner at Scale Venture Partners. In this fireside chat, consensus emerged that 2020 has been a year where existing trends accelerated during the crisis. Specifically, Tseitlin pointed to the need for improved authentication becoming much more important as workforces become more remote.
Conditions during the COVID-19 also took center stage during a talk from Arun Sundararajan, a professor from New York University’s Stern School of Business, who elaborated on his concept of “scale without mass” business models that he sees gaining traction in 2020. He cited a dramatic rise in ecommerce activity, which he said was double what would have otherwise been expected in April. He predicted that the new pace of change would continue and proposed that there is a massive opportunity now to create an interface that enables consumers to interact with local retailers, echoing what Uber was able to accomplish entering the restaurant delivery business.
“The idea that things are going to be different in a couple of years is going to be an ongoing theme,” Sundararajan stated. “We’ve got to put ourselves in a mindset … that transition is a stable state.”
Moreover, he expressed optimism that this change would provide a net good to society. “I truly believe that digital is inequality reducing,” he concluded.
Sundararajan was followed by a presentation from Keith Strier, VP Worldwide AI Initiatives at Nvidia, who framed what he sees as Nvidia’s role in democratizing artificial intelligence (AI) globally. This infrastructure will determine the extent to which countries can participate, if not lead, the digital economy, Strier assessed. He outlined the rising importance of AI policy, explaining that in June 2017, no country had an AI policy; now, however, nearly 60 countries have adopted policies at high levels, seeing the need to regulate or leverage the technology in various ways.
The final sessions of the summit’s first day brought in advocates for new technology alternatives, including Helium CEO Amir Haleem, whose wireless network for IoT devices leverages blockchain technology; Oasis Labs CEO Dawn Song, who envisions a responsible data economy where technologies protect data while it’s in use, not just in transit; and Waymo Chief Product Officer Dan Chu, who told the Hello Show by Orange Silicon Valley audience that he sees Waymo’s driverless car technology as an enablement tool for preventing vehicle crashes caused by human error.
The second day of the summit went deep in eight separate breakout tracks covering retail tech, entertainment, cybersecurity, sustainability, industry 4.0, smart mobility, smart ecosystems, and fintech.
Taking center stage in the morning, Orange Business Services CEO Helmut Reisinger talked about co-innovation across companies with Dennis Hoffman, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Telecom Systems Business at Dell Technologies. They cited Orange’s work with Dell Technologies on 5G-ready Latitude notebooks as a prime example of the results that co-innovation can achieve.
Reisinger later returned for a question and answer session at the close of the summit’s second day. Topics included ongoing opportunities to capture value in digitalization, as well as industrial Internet of Things technology being put to use with Schneider Electric, and challenges being confronted as companies rely more heavily on remote workforces.
On the final day of the event, Orange Group Chief Technology and Innovation Officer Michaël Trabbia led the morning sessions with an interview about what’s at stake with 5G. “Real-time data management for businesses,” along with social and economic impacts stemming from the “means to dramatically reduce” material consumption were just two of the points that Trabbia highlighted. He then revealed a new collaboration between Orange and Nvidia that will involve GPUs for 5G applications.
The next two sessions turned to robotics, with iRobot CEO Colin Angle showcasing an underwater unit designed to stun and capture lionfish in the wild. Next, Silicon Valley Robotics Managing Director Andra Keay discussed ethical considerations that should guide robot designs and deployments.
“This is a technology that is going to have an impact on everyone in the world,” Keay said, arguing that people impacted by robots should have a say in deciding how they are developed and operate. Moreover, she proposed that robots operating in public should be clearly identifiable with information visible regarding ownership and purpose.
Heading into the final sessions of the summit’s final day, attention turned toward teleoperation and remote work.
“Everybody wants to have a safer workplace,” said Bear Flag Robotics COO Aubrey Donnellan, who discussed goals and hurdles related to teleoperation and robotics machines with Keay and Phantom Auto Director of Business & Operations Jordan Sanders.
“Robotics are only as good as the humans that are working with them,” Sanders, stated, agreeing with Donnellan on that human-in-the-loop robotics are necessary and ideal for safe and effective work environments.
To end the day, Jack Mardack, a cofounder at Oyster, and Cro Metrics CEO Chris Neumann brought the conversation back to humans and collaboration and management issues. Neumann posited that many remote management challenges can fundamentally be analogs for management issues that would result in onsite situations as well, going on to say that operating a company that primarily operates remotely has enabled him to focus resources in targeted ways — one example being when company retreats are held and employees will be flown to a destination together to focus on in-person team-building in a vacation-like atmosphere.
“Build trust and safety by actually bringing people together,” Neumann recommended. In keeping with other themes from throughout the week, he strongly supported embracing new modes of work while at the same time recognizing the human dynamics and needs that remain constant even when technology enables innovative means of collaboration.
In parallel with these sessions through the week, the Hello Show by Orange Silicon Valley also made online demonstrations available, highlighting work from Orange Silicon Valley and companies such as Cavrnus, Liqid, Helium, Croquet.io, Birdie, Orca Security, Oyster, and others. These demos encompassed virtual reality, fintech, artificial intelligence, and many more technologies that Orange Silicon Valley experts work with every day.