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Why AI and voice recognition is here to stay – my takeaways from AWS Summit Sydney 2018

BY, MAHESH ASWANI, CLOUD ARCHITECT AT VERSENT

Wow, what an awesome three days the AWS Sydney Summit 2018. For the first time in Australia,AWS dedicated a day of the conference to innovation. Every time I attend one of these events, I realise how fast the world is changing with technology as a major influencer.

AWS only just released cloud-based AI platforms in November 2017, yet we saw throughout the conference, that these platforms have already been embraced by the technology community and people are out there creating and changing the world with it.

AWS has proven, yet again, how cloud computing can break down the barriers to entry and all we need is our creative minds to go from idea to reality.  

The theme of the Summit continued to re-iterate Jeff Bezos' "It's always Day 1 at Amazon" message, and this was demonstrated by the major AI / ML themes presented throughout the 3 days. 

The major takeaways I personally got from the conference were –

  • AI is the new norm.
  • Voice is the next major paradigm in computing.
  • Technology is at the slowest that it is ever going to be, and with barriers to entry so low, it is time to "Go Build"

If I was to award a session the "Best of #AWSSummit" it would have to be Dr Jordan Nguyen's presentation on the biomedical AI space. 

Nguyen is an AI expert who is developing technology using electrical signals in the brain and eye glances to help people with severe disabilities to operate computers, wheelchairs and cars. He showed a largely enterprise audience, on how cloud services were enabling a world to build solutions that can assist humanity. I doubt there was a dry eye in the auditorium of 8,000+ people when we witnessed the video of a nine-year boy with severe cerebral palsy being able to drive a vehicle with his eyes and mind - truly inspirational, truly human. 

"Technology is an ENABLER. Embrace the change, be creative, make it HUMAN. Rapid Change = Opportunity. Think DIFFERENT, Think BIG. We are only limited by our imagination," – Dr Jordon Nguyen. 

Other noteworthy sessions were:

  • Amazon's chief technologist of robotics, Tye Brady, described how the company uses robots and machine learning to move storage pods around Amazon's massive fulfilment centres efficiently. This has enabled Amazon to meet its customers’ needs in being able to get its products to them faster.
  • Marcel Dinger from Genome.one presented how his start up, through the use of cloud, has reduced the cost of genome analysis and the capacity that can be processed. Furthermore, he represented on the use of AWS underlying technology to capture and share clinical data and provide highly accessible software interfaces.
  • Flavia Tata Nardini, CEO from Fleet Space technologies, presented on the work they are doing on globally connected IoT devices (via mini-satellites) performing edge-based analytics to solve real world problems that are helping industries to become more efficient and deliver higher quality.
  • Joseph Redman from DarkNet demonstrated the use of Open Source Neural Networks and real time object detection using trained models that employ a YOLO model (You Only Look Once)
  • Oliver Klein, head of emerging technologies AWS, presented Open Pose's use of AWS Greengrass & an IoT enabled camera device in capturing body and hand co-ordinates for pattern and behaviour recognition.
  • Daniel Petre, from AirTree Ventures, thought provoking discussion on investing in emerging technologies as a nation can change Australia to be a leader rather than a follower. He encourages Australian corporations to spend more on innovation and R&D and governments to support and grow us as an innovation nation. He encouraged Australian organisations to step outside the oligopolies that the market has enabled them to operate in and look for innovations that can influence their products in 3-6 months, not in 10 years’ time.
  • AWS Chief Architect, Glenn Gore, continued his ability to inspire the audience, by presenting on Amazon's culture that is underpinned by 5 key tenets - customer obsession, high-velocity decision-making, experimentation, avoiding proxies and embracing external tailwinds. These tenets can be adopted by all organisations, no matter how big or small, to stay relevant, to stay in "day 1".

I also had the pleasure of attending the sessions presented by my fellow Versentonians, Rhys Evans & Evan McLean, presented in a jam-packed room of 800 people on deploying solutions in the right way, with quality in each deployment - getting it "Done, Done". The Back to the Future theme throughout the presentation created a light heartedness to such an important topic and created some memorable moments where the ‘breadknife moment’ was likened to kissing your mother(!) and changing your internal culture was likened to getting Biff to wash your car. Their 5 star talk also provided the two top quotes of the conference - "Snack not Slack" - encouraging staff to have face-to-face conversations over chat tools &"Mother Forking Auth"! 

Fellow Versentonian, Josh Lopez, alongside Mirvac's GM of IT, Swati Singh, presented on the successful migration of Mirvac's IT stack to AWS. Both Josh and Swati inspired the audience by showing the entry to get your workloads to the cloud does not need to be a long journey, and a simple approach is often the best. 

Naturally, the showroom floor was buzzing with excitement, the Metropolis of the Future layout was HUGE! I was excited to be part of the Stax stand and assist in questions that any passers-by had. It was fantastic to see the level of interest in the Stax offering, and often, both the Stax & Versent staff were swamped with attendees enquiring about the product. 

Needless to say, the partner awards were particularly special to us Versentonians, taking out both ANZ Consulting and APAC Partner of the Year 2018. The hard work the Versent team had put it for the last four years had paid off, and we certainly celebrated the much-appreciated win! 

During the 3 days, I personally stuck to the ‘innovate’ track of #AWSSummit, deep diving into the AI/IoT services that AWS natively provide - SageMaker, GreenGrass, DeepLens, Sumerian (with AR.js), Mechanical Turk. 

Leaving the conference, I felt AWS has truly broken down the barriers for me to start my AI journey, it inspired me to think of ideas I can promote to Versent's client and how AWS has armed us all with super powers to truly change the world.

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