The buzz. The hum. The sheer energy, busyness and progress is palatable.
Wrapped up in the sticky humidity, and the slightly sweet tang in the air, you can literally feel it as you walk through the streets of Hong Kong. And it hits you like a typhoon when you walk through the doors into RISE 2019.
Returning to the event after two years, it was obvious that things had moved on. The event now attracts 17,000 people from around the world - the small, the not-so-small, the soon to be big and the giants of technology were all in attendance.
Whilst the presentations were a bit like a fortune cookie (you never quite knew what you’re going to get), the event as a whole, with its strong focus on networking and connecting, was good.
So, get ready West, the East is coming. It might not be this year, possibly not the next, but it won’t be long until much more of our technology experiences come from this part of the world.
A few key points from the event:
- Trade war. What trade war? Trade war. What trade war?
- It’s the East’s version of Brexit. It was refreshing to be at a trade event and not to hear the dreaded B word. Rather the topic du jour was the Trade war, with a flipping and flopping of opinion on the extent of the issue. What was evident, in some of the companies in attendance, and some of the sizeable investments made recently (Hanson Robotics – chips), is that China doesn’t want to have to rely on the US to make its technology world go round. So it won’t.
- An inevitable force of numbers
- When a slide tells it all. A graph, shown multiple times in different systems, showed the number of STEM graduates being produced each year. In China, that’s a whopping 4.9 million. In the US, it’s just 500,000. Enough said.
- Two internets, two ecosystems
- The 2019 State of China internet report was launched at the event, which is well worth a read for those who want to see how Chinese tech firms have rapidly gone from copycats to trailblazers. The Asian internet is a mobile internet, and what’s quite clear is there is now a very clear experience for the “East” and an experience for the “West”. Two clear end-to-end internet ecosystems, with very little overlap.
- The West wants in
- Half of the speakers were from US/European technology companies, looking to demonstrate their partnership the region. It’s not surprising when you look at the data: rising middle classes, the sheer size of the population, and huge and growing mobile penetration. Asia is vital to the long-term success of Western companies looking to scale their customer base.
- Not the world’s technology dustbin
- Where our eWaste goes, and the amount of it we create, is a looming issue. For example, when you throw out your phone or your monitor it hasn’t really been “thrown away”. It’s just been “thrown somewhere”. And when it comes to technology, for the past 20 years it’s probably headed for China. This has, tragically, led to the nightmare stories of the children of Guiya.
Well, no more. China and a coalition of Asian countries have taken a stand. They will no longer import eWaste from the US and Europe. Unfortunately, other countries are now taking on this waste. And this problem will only stop if we all focus our efforts into developing solutions for longer-use hardware and local recycling.
- I hope all readers appreciate that 5G isn’t just an incremental improvement on 4G. It isn’t just about better internet access and getting content more easily. It’s much, much more than this, and at its core it’s about developing the new infrastructure for our hyperconnected, always on world. It’s the modern-day railroad; and just think about the impact that technology has had on our lives so far.
China gets this. It will be the first last-scale country to deploy it – and this will further accelerate some of the country’s technology companies (current and yet to be created) as they create the hardware and software that sits on-top of this new infrastructure. The rest of the world is going to be some way behind: building out a 5G network is not cheap.
- Feeding rapidly expanding populations with good quality protein needs technology solutions, as our organic “natural” solutions can’t scale quick enough without major consequences (i.e. the environment).
China is also caught up in a shocking outbreak of swine flu which is leading to shortages in pork meat, and is also leading a large demographic who are questioning eating meat in the first place. Companies like BeyondMeat, Impossible Foods and others that are recreating meat/meat alternatives synthetically are not just a US/European fad, Asia could be the big “cash-cow” (pun intended). Seeing an Impossible Burger fast-food shop in Hong Kong further cemented that.
- Scooters make the East go round
- Europe and the US has a car problem. We’re obsessed with them; they’ve become core to our culture and ways of being. We define ourselves by our vehicles and have built our communities around the car. Yet we also know that it’s one of the most inefficient forms of transport, but change is going to be hard.
Asia is very different. Scooters (mopeds) are huge in Asia, and this is creating a new marketplace for a range of innovative eScooter companies and sharing-economy companies to quickly take hold. There is less of a focus on needing to “own” a car, so that reveals a market who is more willing to try alternatives.
- Mobile wallets, the only wallet
- Explaining to a Chinese attendee from RISE how a typical Brit looks to pay for things, and then showing them my physical wallet to demonstrate the cornucopia of credit, debit, loyalty and identity cards enclosed within – brought out sheer bewilderment, which I imagine is akin to me trying to show my son how a VHS works.
The market has leapfrogged our now medieval like forms of managing commerce – super apps, with integrated wallets that help manage all forms of their money is the de rigor. Commerce is fast, frictionless and always virtual.