First trip to RISE conference: My key takeaways

I’ve just returned from my first trip to the RISE (riseconf) conference in Hong Kong – and I must admit: I expected the largest tech-conference in Asia to be … slightly larger. Yet I quickly learned that while other conferences may be bigger, this one goes deeper

First: Dive Deep!

I had a couple of insightful discussions on the topic of Artificial Intelligence (AI), one on stage at RISE with reporter Lily Liu, which you can watch here, starting at 5:14:10 . And another with my old friend Guy Kawasaki while we explored parts of the fascinating city of Hong Kong.

Yet the deep dive into AI began long before RISE even started. And that’s thanks to your sharing ideas on how AI will change our world in the future. Thanks to everyone who left their comments on our #AI discussion here on my LinkedIn profile and across our global Social Media channels.

We’ve received several hundred good questions and insights. And during RISE we just scratched the surface of the rich content you provided.

Many comments evolved around the idea of AI making mobility more efficient and traffic safer. Our systems are getting better and better today – in the future, they will be able to help avoid accidents in the first place. So, once fully automated cars are here (for which AI is one key prerequisite), technology will likely provide for even safer driving.

Many people also asked how AI will enhance convenience for us, as it does today with services such as Siri, Alexa and Google home. Similarly, in a Mercedes MBUX supports and assists driver and passengers in a variety of useful ways – which also go far beyond standard driving functions. Considering the rapid improvement of all these systems, there is a lot more intelligence and assistance to come in the near future.

MBUX in the new A-Class

There was also a range of AI topics we didn’t see coming. One would be how AI can help in healthcare. Self-driving cars, for instance, bring mobility to the sick and elderly. AI can also help enhance overall wellness. The “Energizing Comfort” system in our cars today, for example, uses sensors, lighting, scent, heat and massage functions to elevate passengers’ physical and emotional wellbeing on board.

Another very suitable Hong Kong topic was this: How will AI change the design of our cities? Obviously, self-driving and shared cars don’t need to sit idle and wait for their drivers to return for most of the day. They can simply park themselves somewhere less congested. So, this will have an impact. Also, AI in general helps make dumb things, such as traffic lights, more intelligent. Altogether, AI will contribute to making life in the city even more attractive.

In sum, all of your input contributed to looking closer at various aspects of AI – long before I touched ground in Hong Kong. And once I was there, it continued. That leads to my second key takeaway: leave your bubble.

Second: Leave your Bubble!

Arriving at RISE, I thought for a moment: What am I doing here, again? There wasn’t much car content to discover at first glance. Then I changed my mind. Because that exactly is one really good reason to go: It’s about discovering new tracks and thinking in new ways. It’s learning about new trends and startup-ideas that work particularly well in the Asian culture.

Many years ago we started tailoring our hardware to the Chinese market. For instance we came up with a couple of long wheelbase models, as customers in China like to make their Mercedes a prime meeting area for friends and family. We keep adapting our software, too, of course, from natural dialect recognition to WeChat-integration.

And attending RISE is just one more example: Yes, we’ve been doing traditional Auto Shows the world over for decades – from L.A. to Beijing. And they’re great. Still, getting off the beaten trail to attend conferences like RISE every now and then – adds to a bigger picture.

I enjoyed my first RISE conference and it was great talking about AI with Guy Kawasaki – the full video will be here soon. It was even greater to meet so many passionate tech-people at RISE and get around in Hong Kong to talk to people. RISE to me was an excellent mix of focusing on one topic – and broadening my perspective. At the same time.

Those are my key takeaways. If you attended, what are yours?

Dieter Zetsche is Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.