2020 Tech Connect Conference Recap
MN Women in Tech
This week was the virtual “Tech Connect” conference, hosted by the Minnesota Technology Association. It was a day full of discussions surrounding innovation, data, solutions, and most importantly, community. A full morning schedule, jam packed with high quality, quick sessions, brought together a mix of pre-recorded and live presentations from some of the brightest minds in Minnesota technology companies. It was well planned, well delivered, and had all of the excitement of an in-person conference.
“The more you lean in, the better experience you will have at a virtual conference.”
For those who may not have experience attending a virtual conference, Jade Denson of mntech.org gave some compelling tips for making the most of the event. Focus your time and attention on the conference, not multitasking, connect with others just as you would in-person, and take lots of notes.
Tech Connect made it very easy to do all of those things. Particularly the act of connecting with others. It was encouraged at all points throughout the conference, and the platform was really intuitive to navigate.
Most of the presentations focused on how Minnesota companies are using technology to navigate new challenges in these unprecedented times. There were presentations on the new ways companies are using technology to stay afloat, how AI and machine learning are being implemented to make data-driven decisions in an unsure market, and how companies are using technology to pivot and deliver innovative solutions to their customers.
“Modern hearing aids have become an ‘overnight sensation’ in the last 40 years.”
Dave Fabry of Starkey presented on “Disruptive Innovation” and how Starkey is using AI and machine learning to turn hearing aids into multi-function devices which connect directly to user’s smart phones.
As of one the five incumbent, worldwide manufacturers, they have created the “Thrive Care” app, which ensures health and safety for their users.
The app can track steps, notify someone if the user takes a fall, and can also track biometric data to aid caretakers in tracking the health of their patients. While it doesn’t record conversations, it can track whether the wearer is speaking in order to track social interactions in older adults. According to Fabry, the ear can be the barometer for cardiovascular health, and there can be a “reduction in risk of hearing loss by increasing cardiovascular activity.” These are some pretty innovative transitions for one of the first wearable devices to hit the market for people in need.
“I’m waiting for the locusts…”
Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’ Lakes discussed the technology needs of rural america, and how Land O’ Lakes is helping to address some of those problems.
The perpetual instability of 2020 and the struggles that people are facing have caused people to feel hopeless at times. Ford joked, “I’m waiting for the locusts…” But in all seriousness, the threat of food insecurity is real and increased access to technology can help. Ford said, “If we don’t get in front of things using technology, we will be left behind… left food insecure.” Land O’ Lakes has made it a mission to connect technology with rural communities in many different ways.
Through a program called “American Connection” they are putting money and resources into expanding the broadband connections to our rural neighbors. This will enable more telemedicine to areas that have seen a sharp decline in clinics and doctors, and encourage more people to take better care of themselves. According to Ford, after implementing telemedicine services due to COVID, they had, “more appointments made in one day than all of last year.”
An broadband is not the only focus Land O’ Lakes is working on to strengthen rural communities. They are also working on a skills training program with farmers, building up a talent pool. They partner with businesses within the Land O’ Lakes co-op, who provide consultation and project work within the community for interns and trainees to upskill. While 2020 has been a mix of uncertainty and hardship, Ford says that her team is making the most of the times. “Our team showed up, focused on the mission and technology… we’re working together to make it to the other side.”
“73% of organizations say that work flexibility will make their companies better in the long run.”
Jen Kaplan, Director of Project Marketing at Jamf presented on how the company is driving digital transformation, as more and more things go virtual.
From remote workplaces and distance learning in education, to telehealth needs in patient care, 2020 has highlighted how Jamf software can help people stay connected using Apple products.
Kaplan explained how devices can be “personalized en masse” by using Jamf’s tools, and remote IT departments of any size organization can easily set up correct user profiles for new employees so they can access every tool they will need on their device. Using “zero-touch” deployment, IT orders what they need, and it is then shipped directly to the employee. As Kaplan said, “Every minute an employee can’t access the tools they need is productivity lost.”
Jamf is also making huge impacts in the world of healthcare. Kaplan expressed the need for connectedness, particularly for people spending time in hospitals with no visitors due to COVID. “Maintaining personal communication with loved ones is crucial for patients.” New updates to Jamf software allow for third party meeting platforms to be easily implemented on Apple devices, allowing doctors and nurses to remotely connect with patients and their families, keeping everyone a little safer, while still connected and getting critical information. These updates also allow patients to easily create a meeting link to be sent to their family members, so they can remotely meet with each other any time they desire. This helps fight the pains of isolation and disconnect that many are experiencing.
Overall, the conference went by far too fast, and as with any good conference, there were many amazing sessions happening at the same time, making it difficult to choose which ones to attend. Lucky for all of us, all of the sessions were recorded and will be archived on mntech.org for everyone to see.