Collision roundup: AI, passwords, panels and more

The annual Collision conference, says its website, “brings together the people and companies redefining the global tech industry.” This year’s event attracted more than 36,000 attendees from 118 countries, with 1,727 startups and partners from 76 countries exhibiting. Industry giants like AWS, Stripe, Google DeepMind, GitHub and Shopify turned up for panels and fireside chats about their companies and the future of tech.

Here is a highlight reel of Collision-related events.

Opening remarks

Featuring Sunil Sharma, managing director of TechStars

The main stage at Collision 2023.

The Collision 2023 conference began June 26 in Toronto with a series of events and a diverse lineup of speakers attracting business owners, investors, and lovers of tech from around the world. The conference opened with a land recognition ceremony conducted by R Stacey Laforme, Chief of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations (MCFN), acknowledging the Indigenous territory.

Sunil Sharma, the managing director of Tech Stars in Toronto, welcomed the participants, expressing his enthusiasm for the event and the opportunity to connect with innovative startups. Founder and chief information officer of Web Summit, the company that organizes Collision and many other conferences worldwide, Paddy Cosgrave, then applauded the significant presence of women entrepreneurs at the conference, with nearly 500 women-led startups showcasing their ventures.

Deputy Mayor of Toronto Jennifer McKelvie, and Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Sean Fraser, also took to the stage to welcome participants and highlight the city’s tech ecosystem.

Panel: Generative AI: Understanding the reality, reach and risks

Featuring Bridget Moloney, senior director of product innovation at RBC; Patricia Arocena, head of generative AI innovation labs at RBC and Ilya Zheludev, senior director of data AI growth and innovation at RBC

Bridget Moloney, senior director of product innovation at RBC (left); Patricia Arocena, head of generative AI innovation labs at RBC (centre) and Ilya Zheludev, senior director of data AI growth and innovation at RBC (right).

In a panel discussion on generative AI, three experts from the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) explored the current state and future directions of this emerging technology. The discussion, moderated by Bridget Moloney, senior director of product innovation management at RBC, shed light on the potential applications and benefits of generative AI in various domains, including entertainment, healthcare, security and financial services.

Dr. Patricia Arrow, head of the generative AI innovation labs at RBC, highlighted the rapid growth of generative AI models in the market. She mentioned prominent players like Microsoft and Google, who are incorporating these models into various aspects of life and business. Additionally, she emphasized the democratization of generative AI models, making them accessible to both technical and non-technical users.

Dr. Ilya Zheludev, senior director of growth and innovation for RBC’s enterprise data and AI Platform, discussed the importance of responsible adoption and commercialization of generative AI tools. He emphasized the need for companies to consider ethical and risk-related questions before implementing these technologies. Building trust through rigorous testing and adapting to ethical standards were highlighted as crucial steps in responsible AI adoption.

While discussing the risks associated with generative AI, Arrow emphasized the importance of addressing issues related to bias, data privacy, and security. Understanding the data used to train these models and ensuring responsible and secure handling of user data were highlighted as essential considerations.

Looking ahead, the panelists discussed the skills and competencies needed to succeed in the generative AI world. Lifelong learning and a curious attitude were emphasized as key attributes. As generative AI becomes more prevalent, understanding and harnessing the power of these models will become essential for individuals across various roles, regardless of technical background.

Interview: AI and the future of passwords

Featuring Jeff Shiner, chief executive officer (CEO) at 1Password and Hessie Jones, contributor at Forbes

Jeff Shiner, chief executive officer (CEO) at 1Password (right) and Hessie Jones, contributor at Forbes.

In an interview conducted by Forbes contributor Hessie Jones, Jeff Shiner, the CEO of 1Password, a password management company, shed light on the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks and the role of generative AI in combating them. The discussion centered around the potential of generative AI to transform cyber attacks from indiscriminate assaults to targeted and highly believable threats, emphasizing the need for effective countermeasures.

One key concern raised was the possibility of generative AI guessing passwords by learning enough about individuals themselves. While Shiner acknowledged that popular or predictable passwords could be vulnerable, research conducted with the ethical hacking community found that for just one hundred dollars, attackers could obtain up to 10 billion password guesses.

Addressing the need for user education and accountability, Shiner emphasized simple but effective practices to lower the risk of breaches. These include keeping devices up to date with security patches, using strong and unique passwords and fostering a culture of open communication about potential security incidents.

The interview highlighted the need for both established companies and startups to leverage AI to enhance security as the technology continues to advance. AI can aid in threat detection, penetration testing, and evolving security strategies, making businesses more productive and efficient. Shiner stressed that while AI won’t replace humans, those who embrace AI will likely outperform those who don’t.

Announcement & Q&A: Canadian government invests $200 million into a University of Toronto initiative

Featuring Councillor Nick Mantas and Padraic Foley, director of strategy and partnerships at the Acceleration Consortium, University of Toronto

Councillor Nick Mantas (left) and Padraic Foley, director of strategy and partnerships at the Acceleration Consortium, University of Toronto.

The University of Toronto (U of T) has secured an investment of $200 million from the Canadian government to accelerate the development and deployment of technologies and solutions with a focus on “self-driving laboratories” that combine artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced computing to discover new materials and molecules in a fraction of the usual time and cost.

After opening remarks by Toronto city councillor Nick Mantas, the announcement was made by Padraic Foley, director of strategy and partnerships of the initiative, known as the Acceleration Consortium (AC). The AC brings together industry, academia, and government to drive innovation in various fields such as artificial intelligence, materials science, chemistry and more. By de-risking the adoption of new tools and technologies, the AC aims to create an innovation ecosystem that will aid in Canada’s transition from an extraction-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, meaning a collective shift away from the exploitation of natural resources being the primary source of growth and development.

With the federal funding, Foley said, “we would love to build a dedicated team of staff scientists of about 35 people who will be fully focused on developing robust, scalable solutions that can be deployed to those self-driving labs.” The labs, he said, will focus on six application areas, including organic materials discovery and inorganic materials for batteries and energy storage. The university also aims to replace animal testing by integrating lab-grown organoids – artificially grown cells or tissue that resemble natural organs – into the process of material compatibility testing.

The investment will also support the creation of a product development team and facilities that will enable the deployment of innovative solutions within the Greater Toronto Area. Additionally, the AC seeks to drive sustainable practices in the circular economy by focusing on the development of materials that are both environmentally friendly and compatible with efficient supply chains.

Panel: Less talk, more tools for an inclusive workforce

Featuring Jeff Ward, founder and CEO at Animkii Indigenous Technology; Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO at Kanarys; Rob Smith, founder and CEO at The Phluid Project; and IT World Canada/Channel Daily News’s very own Paul Barker!

Featuring Jeff Ward, founder and CEO at Animkii Indigenous Technology (left); Mandy Price, co-founder and CEO at Kanarys (middle left); Rob Smith, founder and CEO at The Phluid Project (middle right); and Paul Barker, IT World Canada writer and editor of Channel Daily News (right).

The workplace inclusivity session at the Collision tech conference shed light on strategies and insights for promoting total inclusion in organizations. The panelists, industry experts Jeff Ward, Mandy Price and Rob Smith, provided their perspectives on the future of inclusivity in the workplace and how technology can facilitate diversity and equity.

Jeff Ward, founder and CEO of Animkii Indigenous Technology, emphasized the importance of decolonizing tech and creating a workplace that embraces Indigenous worldviews. He discussed his company’s efforts to work with Indigenous and BIPOC communities, and highlighted the alignment between remote work and Indigenous cultural teachings of communal collaboration.

Mandy Price, CEO of Kanarys, stressed the role of technology in measuring diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. She urged organizations to move beyond gender and race representation data and consider other aspects of employees’ identities, such as sexual orientation, religion, and caregiver status. Kanarys provides tools to help organizations understand their workforce demographics and develop comprehensive diversity strategies.

Rob Smith, from the Phluid Project, focused on building a radically inclusive brand and workplace. They seek to de-gender fashion and embrace diversity in all its forms. Smith emphasized the importance of inclusivity in attracting and retaining young talent, particularly Generation Z, who prioritize diversity and inclusion.

The panelists also discussed strategies for combating unconscious bias and promoting fair hiring practices. They highlighted relationship-based hiring, anonymizing applications, standardized scorecards, video interviews, and skills-based assessments as effective methods for mitigating bias and finding the right candidates.

In terms of remote work and virtual collaboration, the panelists acknowledged the benefits of flexibility, while addressing the socio-economic disparities exposed during the pandemic. They stressed the importance of providing branded virtual backgrounds to maintain privacy, and the need for closed captioning and accessibility tools for individuals with disabilities.

Overall, the session emphasized the significance of creating inclusive workplaces by leveraging technology and implementing strategies for diversity, equity, and inclusion. By embracing these principles, the speakers said, organizations can support flexible work arrangements, meet diverse employee needs, and foster a culture of total inclusion.

Next year at Collision

Collision will remain in Toronto in 2024. Download an overview and sign up for the conference mailing list for updates.

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Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr
Breanna Schnurr is a recent journalism graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University. She loves writing about all things data, travel, tech, lifestyle and subculture. You can reach out to Breanna via [email protected].

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