Microsoft Future Decoded 2019: Key Takeaways

Microsoft Future Decoded is an action packed two day event with keynotes and breakout sessions from industry experts to help business and technical decisions makers leverage the latest Microsoft technologies.

It’s a wrap! Microsoft Future Decoded 2019 took place this week from the 1st-2nd of October and this blog post will cover our key takeaways and highlights from the event.

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Day 1 – “Explore Technology as an Enabler” 

Day 1 provided an overview of the most prevalent tech trends impacting the future of our work, with technology ranging from from chatbots transforming the customer experience and delivering personalised patient care, to robotics increasing efficiency in construction sites and factory floors.

This year’s Microsoft Future Decoded event focused heavily on Artificial Intelligence (AI), with Microsoft stating that organisations may be left behind if they do not adopt AI soon. The company also announced that it will work with organisations in the UK to develop artificial intelligence that helps the planet and people with disabilities, showcasing the new “AI for Good” program.

The AI for Good programme will accept applications from companies developing AI in one of four areas:

  • AI for Earth – For organisations creating AI to build a sustainable future and address global environmental concerns spanning agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and water
  • AI for Accessibility – Focused on organisations with AI solutions that help people with disabilities in their daily life, employment and communication and connection
  • AI for Humanitarian Action – For non-profit and humanitarian organisations providing disaster responses, human rights protection and support for refugees, displaced people or children
  • AI for Cultural Heritage – This category aims to empower people and organisations focused on the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage

Cindy Rose – Thoughts on Tech as an Enabler

Cindy Rose, Chief Executive of Microsoft UK, delivered her keynote to share the view that technology was a great enabler, shaping workplaces across industries and improving lives. The UK is one of the top countries in the world for developing AI tech and raising investment in AI, with Cindy stating:

It is impossible to underestimate the importance of being thoughtful and proactive on ensuring artificial intelligence (AI) has a positive effect on the world. As AI capabilities rapidly advanced and usage scales, it’s critical for organisations to design, develop and deploy these technologies in a way that is ethical, unbiased and inclusive.

By facing the AI demand head on, the UK can maintain its global leadership in the development of AI and reap the economic benefits, pointing out that PwC believes AI will contribute up to $15 trillion to the global economy over the next decade. With 56% of organisations in the UK using some form of AI, it is crucial that the UK “really maximises the economic growth opportunity in the years to come.” Organisations using AI were also found to perform 11.5% better on average, highlighting the opportunities for organisations to transform and embrace the growing technology.

Application Modernisation

Version 1 representatives Roger Whitehead, Advisory Services Lead, and Niall Diggins, Digital Transformation Consultant, presented on Day 1 to demonstrate that there is a way to rapidly deliver new business value in the digital domain whilst retaining much of the value of previous technology investments. The session covered the approaches that can be optimised to allow organisations to modernise core business systems and legacy applications to work in the way that works best for their customers, citizens and stakeholders.

Version 1 Microsoft Experts were also on hand at stand number 65, where we spoke to customers about their business needs and the impact that application modernisation could have for them.

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Stay tuned to Insights at Version 1, where we will be showcasing a webinar of this session for anyone who couldn’t make the event.

Find out more about modernising with Azure in our video below.Day 2 – “Prepare for the future of work”

Day 2 focused on preparing for the future of work, fostering a culture that supports innovation and enabling organisational workers to obtain the skills necessary to adopt and benefit from the trends impacting our work, now and in the future.

Dr Chris Bishop & Jenny Lay-Flurrie

On Day 2, Dr Chris BishopDirector of the Cambridge Research Lab delivered his keynote focused on ensuring that people do not lose sight of the benefits artificial intelligence can bring to the world amid public concerns about its future use. The head of Microsoft’s UK research lab said AI must be developed with trust and ethics in mind, but that the failure to use data to improve society may be “unethical” and could even put lives at risk. 

“If we focus too much on the fear (of AI), the pessimism and the risks, we risk turning our backs on this technology. The failure to capture data and to use that data will literally cost lives. In fact, it may even be unethical not to deploy this technology in many cases.

Dr Chris Bishop also highlighted the lack of preparation for AI from UK organisations, stating that:

  • Only 24% of organisations have an AI strategy
  • Only 21% of organisations have completed AI training, meaning only 21% can meet the skills staff need to utilise the benefits of AI for businesses.

Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft’s Chief Accessibility Officer also spoke at the keynote, highlighting how Microsoft tools and technologies are empowering those with disabilities. With new accessibility tools being introduced such as Background Blur in Teams, Immersive Reader and the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Jenny called on organisations to embrace these tools in the workplace.

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During Day 2’s keynote, Microsoft also outlined the timeline with which human parity has been achieved, showcasing the staggering speed of cognitive AI development:

  • 2016: Vision (object recognition)
  • 2017: Speech recognition
  • 2018: Reading comprehension
  • 2018: Machine translation
  • 2018: Speech Synthesis (near-human parity)
  • 2019: Language understanding

Accelerating competitive advantage with AI

Microsoft unveiled their latest report during the event, titled Accelerating competitive advantage with AI. The report reveals that AI technologies used by UK organisations is growing year on year, with the latest forecasts from McKinsey Global suggesting that the technology will add $13 trillion to global economic activity by 2030. The financial sector is leading the UK in the use of artificial intelligence, with almost three-quarters of banks, insurance firms and other financial institutions using the technology. The full report can be accessed online here.

Microsoft's AI report