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Epic keynote kicks off SAPPHIRE NOW

by Laura Casasanto

May 16, 2011

SAPPHIRE NOW kicked off this morning with an impressive keynote address that began with a talk about the future of science and technology and ended with a panel discussion of where the technology world will be in 10/20/30 years from now.

Actor Gabriel Byrne, of "Usual Suspects" fame, began the keynote with an epic discussion of the importance of innovation and how advancements in in-memory computing will affect different industries. Medicine, for example, he said will benefit from immediate test results that can be cross-checked against vast databases of patient histories to have immediate, accurate answers to almost any medical occurrence. The advancements in medical technology may even deliver the ability to diagnose complex medical issues to citizens of third-world cultures who have no medical training at all.

Following Byrne's talk was a panel discussion ("Business in the Future -- A View to 2015 and Beyond"), led by Todd Stewart, chief marketing and knowledge officer at Booz & Company, and included Michio Kaku, co-founder of the string field theory; Michael Schrange, a thought leader in the world of innovation; Isabel Aguilera, a former executive at General Electric, Google Iberia, and Dell; and Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation.

Though the majority of the panel was dominated by Schrange a nd Kaku heatedly "discussing" (or as some would say, "fighting") about a range of topics including the importance of higher education (Schrange thinks too many people go to college, Kaku believes the American education system is just fundamentally flawed), Stewart wrapped the discussion by posing this question to each panel member: If you had a significant amount of money to invest in an industry for the future, what would you choose? Interestingly, with all the attention given to systems and smart technology, the panelists invested much of the hypothetical money in the human aspect. Schrange assigned his investment directly to peopel, and moving "systmes integration" to "interoperable systems." Kaku split his between biotech (he sees medicine as being computer science in time), and entertainment, which he described as "intellectual capital." He said that entertainment is something that can't be automated but will always be necessary. Aguilera tangentially choose to invest in people, spreading the money between learning, recycling, and disease prevention. Diamandis was the only one who focused his investment squarely on the machine side of things, choosing biotech, cloud, and embedded network systems as his benefactors.

The keynote was a great kickoff for the show, which looks like it will be focusing on the future in a big way -- not only what innovations will be coming down the line, but also how SAP's current initiatives and solutions are driving advancements. I'm looking forward to seeing what else is in store.

-Laura Casasanto, Project Expert

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