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Ideas for life

August 10, 2016

Vinod Kumar   

Blog contributor

Last month’s CEO Summit in Ascot concluded with the CEO Hackathon.  This came after an intensive 24 hours in which approx. 50 CEOs were informed about the latest developments in Artificial Intelligence and debated what must be done to ensure AI has a positive impact on business and society.

Split into teams of six, the CEOs were tasked to pick any problem, in business or the wider community, and come up with an idea in which all or some of the things they’d learnt about at the Summit could be part of the solution.  They were given an hour to brainstorm their idea supported by AI and technology experts.  They then presented their ideas – a total of ten was tabled – and the delegates themselves voted for the ideas that would go forward to a Moonwalk.

The two ideas selected aim to tackle two of the fundamental issues facing our global village – an ageing population and the scarcity of water.  They are as ambitious in their goal as they are ingenious in their concept.  I was particularly pleased that the CEOs chose two topics that will leave the world and our society in a better place, focusing on the planet’s bottom line and not just their own company’s P&L.


Team “We-R” recognised the gap developing between the fast growing number of people who need to be cared for and the shrinking number of people and resources available to care for them.  “We-R” could see the potential for AI to add that critically important human dimension to automated care – which in itself is the key to closing a gap which is proving to be as wide as the digital gap.

The team’s idea is to create a caring companion to work with the family and professionals charged with looking after the well-being of an individual.  There exists today a growing family of apps and devices that provide self or remote monitoring of people in care, but We-R’s idea is to take this one step further by creating an automated entity that does not just monitor, but also engages, interacts, guides, supports and entertains the person it is working for – while gently and sympathetically sharing the information it gathers with duly appointed friends, family and professionals.

‘Water for life’

“Water for life” chose to address the worldwide shortage of water and believed that AI held some of the answers.  This team realised that with the use of intelligent systems the world could operate an entire economy underpinned by the value of water.  After all, if we can build an economy based on rare and precious metals, then surely we can create one based on what will be our future’s most precious resource – water?

With one third of the world’s fresh water in Canada, the problem is not so much a net global shortage as ensuring this precious commodity is most efficiently used where it is in relatively short supply.  So the Water for Life team conceived of a system where people, businesses and governments were awarded credits for the good husbanding of water while those who wasted it received debits.   Such a system would depend on a global, secure, multi-faceted intelligent metering and transfer system – not unlike the highly complex and intelligent banking systems that controls the flow of the world’s money today.

Looking ahead

These two ideas are very broad in scope and quite loose in their definition.  To that end they are the perfect fit for a Moonwalk the purpose of which is to tighten the definition, further explore the possibilities and take viable elements forward to detailed specification and – who knows – product development.  While the Moonwalk itself may not produce something that entirely solves the problem, it may well enable the next vital step toward that solution.

Over the next three to six months, teams comprised of delegates from the conference and Tata Communications people will conduct the Moonwalks and I can’t wait to share with you what develops as they unfold.

While we may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, the least we can do it try to tackle one or two of the big ones.

How do you see new technology challenging the biggest problems faced by society and the world? Let us know in the comments below.