The perfect technology storm and ‘before and after’ polls

Keeping your audience engaged is key to getting your message across. Doing a quick poll at the start and another at the end of a presentation pulls your listeners out of ‘passive mode’, and can be the edge you need.

I recently presented to a group of IT professionals on the ‘Perfect Storm’ of next generation cellular networks (5G), the internet of things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence. AI is today’s big driver of digitisation and automation and is by many predicted to be transformative for society. But what drives AI? Right now it is the subfield of AI called Machine Learning that is creating headlines, and Machine Learning needs training data – lots of it. Google famously says that ‘it starts at a billion examples’. You can do a lot with less data than that, but it is a truism that modern deep-learning algorithms keep improving as data volumes grow. The bigger the data, the better (quality also matters  :)).

The next wave of data for AI will come from the millions – or billions if you believe the projections – of new, cheap sensors that will be connected to the internet over the next decade. These will report on position, temperature, humidity, acceleration and all sorts of other things. Let me give you one exiting example. The Norwegian and Finnish road authorities are working with Telenor to deploy cheap ‘weather stations’ along E8 in Northern Norway. These sensors will report temperature and humidity a few times every hour. The sensors will be connected up to Telenor’s NB IoT network, which offers cellular grade connectivity, security, low battery consumption in the device and tolerance for very weak signal strength (i.e. excellent range). Data from the sensors will be used to build models to predict road conditions based on sequences of weather reports.

Why is this important? In addition to the obvious of being able to warn drivers that conditions around the next bend will be icy – and not just as a general warning because we are in November and this is Northern Norway – but because we had a local cold spell last night, and an hour ago the fog lay low, but because the road is a major export route for Salmon from the pens outside of Skjærvøy, Norway and the airport in Helsinki, Finland. From Helsinki a freight aircraft can reach the salmon markets in Asia, be offloaded and return within 24 hours. This significantly impacts the economics of the business. Since we are talking about fresh, sushi-quality Norwegian Salmon you also want to delay the processing of the fish on the Norwegian side till the last possible moment. If you can predict the transit time because you know the exact road conditions, the whole production chain can be optimised to deliver optimum quality and low cost. This is the promise of IoT and AI for existing industries.

The final component of the ‘Perfect Storm’;  next generation cellular networks – or 5G – are designed to support up to one million devices per square kilometer. That is one thousand times as many as current networks (4G). 5G will drive IoT and IoT will fuel AI. Together they form a perfect technology storm that promises to transform most industries.

Back to the polls. As I was ‘miking’ up for my talk a few minutes before going on stage, I mentioned to the event manager that I had thought of doing a poll on ‘what technologies will be most important over the next decade’ before and then after I finished speaking – to see if my messages had any effect, but since I hadn’t discussed it with her, I hadn’t set it up.  Her reaction was; ‘That would be great, why don’t you do that?’. With three minutes to go, I was a bit stressed, but agreed – and set up two BeamWriter ‘Vote’ services and shared the projection link with the technical team so that they could put the linked-to web page up when I asked for it – with thirty seconds to spare.

As I got on stage I started the first ‘Vote’ and pushed the projection button (‘A’ in the image).

Beaming a Vote Service
A vote on the most important technologies the next ten years is beamed and projected to screen A


The event staff put the linked web-page up on the big screen, and the audience put in their votes. All took about a minute and a half.


At the end of the session I repeated the exercise and beamed the second Vote. As you can see – the presentation had effect :).


Setting up a BeamWriter poll is dead-easy. I am an experienced user, so discount for that, but still it literally took about a minute per service to set up – under pressure.

Running a poll before you start gives you an instant impression of your audience and their knowledge or attitudes. Repeating the same poll (but running two different beams to be able to document the change) at the end, tells you whether you have managed to shift them. It helps you tune your talk and it documents your effect. Last but not least – it helps engage the audience and make their experience more valuable.

Talk to you soon!

Bjørn Taale, CTO Verbatim Interactive

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