Techweek Chicago 2014 Recap

Techweek Chicago was held in Chicago over 23-28 June. The event centred on new technological advances that are disrupting nearly every area of commerce. Every industry – from finance and health to packaged food and tourism – is being impacted by these technological developments. The event was a chance to discuss and present on what has occurred so far and on new ideas in the pipeline.

Beacons and Mobility Create New Possibilities

Mobility was a big topic at the conference, with presenters discussing the infiltration of electronics into all aspects of life and how this will create smarter consumers, businesses and cities. Ray Velez, Global Chief Technology Officer at Razorfish, explained that growth in the number of internet-enabled devices sold will soon outpace growth in the number of children born each year. A panel on the future of location-aware marketing discussed how these internet-enabled devices (especially the combination of beacons and smart phones) could be used to enable customers to see reviews of products simply by standing in front of them. These devices could also let consumers know that items they have previously viewed online are available in the store they just entered. Others cited their potential usage in high-end boutiques and hotels, which will enable employees to recognise loyal customers and provide a personalised level of service.

A New Path for Packaged Foods

Other presentations focused on how technology can help disrupt stagnant industries. Hampton Creek is a new company that is using a database of approximately 4,000 plants to disrupt the packaged food industry. Using its data analytics capabilities, the company has identified a varietal of the Canadian yellow pea that can be used as a substitute for eggs in various packaged food items, such as mayonnaise and cookies. The company has already had great success with its mayonnaise in retail outlets like Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart, Costco, and Kroger and has even started selling its products in Dollar Tree outlets. By using plant-based proteins, Hampton Foods is able to reduce input costs, rather than relying on the high-cost production of eggs laid by hens. This creates a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly product.  Going forward the company is looking to find more plants that can be used in a variety of packaged food formulations.




A GOGO Wireless vending kiosk

Overall, Techweek Chicago demonstrated the incredible progress of technology to date and its seemingly limitless future. There are few signs that the growth in technology will slow, as consumers are always looking for more. Two executives for GOGO Wireless, a company that allows consumers to get online while on an aircraft, demonstrated consumers’ voracious appetite for technology. They discussed that no matter how much they increase their bandwidth availability, it is never enough as consumers always want more. Along this line, consumers’ insatiable demand for technological advances will ensure that technology continues to play a disruptive force in all areas of commerce in the future.