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O2 Business Blue Door Conference 2019

Last Thursday we welcomed nearly 1,000 delegates from a broad range of business sectors to The O2 in Greenwich for O2’s second annual Blue Door Conference, a day focused on the technologies that affect the future of everyone working and living in the UK.


Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business at O2 opened the speaker programme by introducing the day as an opportunity for us all to hear and learn from industry leaders, network with our peers and share how organisations are balancing the competing demands of technology and people.

5G and Connectivity

O2’s CIO, Debra Bailey, pointed out that the one constant that every business faces, in every sector, is change. We are, she argued, in the third significant stage in technology, where every industry is becoming, first and foremost, a digital business.

Brendan O’Reilly, O2’s CTO, joined Debra to talk about where we are on our path towards 5G, O2’s plans to continue to invest in and improve the existing 4G network, and to highlight the economic benefits that the 5G rollout will bring for businesses.

Putting 5G in focus

The opportunities that 5G brings were put into perspective with a panel discussion, facilitated by Debra, comprising leaders from a broad range of industries and businesses that included Northumbrian Water Group, Nokia Bell Labs, the Millbrook testing centre, O2 and Mazak.

We heard about several exciting use cases for the technology, how organisations can prepare for the opportunities ahead, what exactly goes on at the secretive Millbrook testing centre and what Northumbrian Water Group are doing to become the world’s most digital utilities company.

Britain in 2025

Our keynote address came from Doctor of Technology, Spencer Kelly, who gave us an entertaining and thought provoking look at how connectivity will influence the future and what Britain will look like in 2025.

“Everything works better when devices are connected”

He showed us just a handful of the technologies that could reach a range of business sectors over the coming years, including mobile displays that float in a gaseous mist, sensors in soil that optimise growing conditions for food, or virtual assistants that use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to improve and program themselves without human intervention.

“Don’t be afraid of the change that’s coming”

But it is in transport where we may see the most rapid development, said Spencer. We are already witnessing tests in autonomous road haulage, and by 2025 we could have driverless cars and autonomous public transport on our streets. In fact, if our cars are merely picking us up, and driving us into work each day, do we really need to own them at all? Could technology actually reduce the number of cars on our roads?

“You don’t have to invent the innovation, but be ready for it”

Innovation City

Throughout the day a number of our partner organisations, including ten start-ups from our incubator hub, Wayra, demonstrated some of the technologies that the conference focused on, including:

Rotageek, a data-driven technology that uses machine learning to help businesses to predict and meet staff scheduling demand.

Sensing Feeling, that uses IoT technology, powered by deep learning AI, to deliver advanced human emotion sensing products for business.

Oysta, which offers monitoring and tracking services for lone workers, vulnerable people and valuable business assets.

Visionable, video and remote care technology currently being piloted in six smart, connected ambulances from the East of England Ambulance Trust.

Digital place making, experts in IoT technology and infrastructure that will help make the smart, connected cities and communities of the future.

From our own CEO

Before lunch Gareth Turpin, O2’s Director of Customer Service and Transformation, was joined on stage by CEO, Mark Evans, and it was fascinating to hear Mark’s vision for embracing digital transformation, the need for the shared Rural Coverage Partnership, and why we should prioritise digital inclusion, rather than simply put all O2’s investment and resources into 5G alone.

Mark was refreshingly open about the biggest challenges facing our industry, and noted that not one of the world’s top twenty technology companies is European. It’s a cultural thing, Mark suggested, and only by embracing scale and innovation, and being technology led, will we catch up.

“Disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things are going to fundamentally change how we live our lives, whether we are consumers or businesses.”

Deep diving

In the afternoon delegates took part in a series of deep dive discussion panels, each focused on the technologies our customers want to talk about.

This year the groups included the Digital Workplace, Customer Experience, Cyber Security, Small Business and Connecting Britain. For each group, we assembled an expert panel of contributors from the industry, who shared their opinions about some of the opportunities afforded by emerging technologies over the coming years, and the biggest challenges.

Connectivity and productivity

Jo Bertram returned to the stage to talk about the challenges British industry faces, and noted that we are the only major advanced economy expected to show slowing productivity growth this year. In a world where work is no longer somewhere we go, but something we do, what can we do to close this productivity gap?

Connectivity is absolutely key.

Jo talked about a new piece of research, commissioned by O2, entitled Business without Boundaries: The role of connectivity in business growth. It showed how better connectivity could have a transformative effect on UK business outputs, and could deliver productivity gains of as much as £34.1bn.

“Enhanced connectivity could deliver overall time savings of 3.14 hours per week for each employee – or an extra 18 working days a year.”

Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business at O2

The definition of success

Our final speaker of the day was the brilliant, former TV executive turned stand-up comedian, Cally Beaton. In a witty, inspiring thirty minutes, she gave us a light-hearted and honest review of her own career, while encouraging us to define and deliver our own version of success.

Her talk was punctuated with some of the better known motivational quotes such as “Do one thing a day that scares you” and “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”. But the quote that counted, and that every member of the audience will take away with them, was:

“Stop faffing and get on with it!”

A fitting way to conclude the day’s business proceedings.

And finally…

They say that every successful event should end with a ‘big reveal’. So it was a real honour to close the conference with a private set from Manchester rock legend Johnny Marr, who rewarded us with new songs, as well as Smiths and Electronic classics.

We’re already making plans for next year, and look forward to seeing you there.

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