This was the year SXSW got its proptech on

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Alice Cruickshank

South by Southwest has always provided important conversations on the future of technology, and the 10 day music, culture and innovation festival in Austin, Texas was more relevant to the property industry in 2018 than ever before.

There were over 100 talks and panel discussions in the Intelligent Future track, covering topics such as AI, cryptocurrencies and IoT. Driverless cars dominated the conversation, with 11 separate sessions covering the topic.

This year also welcomed the festival’s inaugural Cities Summit. This new track was built around discussions covering the roles culture, design and innovation play in shaping cities of the future.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversations set to influence the proptech sector in 2018.

Keynote discussion: The power of ideas to transform the world

Speakers: Futurist and Google director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, in conversation with Mashable editor-in-chief Jessica Coen.

Ray Kurzweil’s discussion, shown above, is a must-watch for anyone interested in the future of tech. He predicts 2029 for the year when AI will achieve human levels of intelligence and believes machines will have surpassed the human brain by 2045. He also predicts our brains will be connected to the cloud by the 2030s. Fascinating, yet terrifying, stuff.

Technology and buildings- creating a new experience

Speakers: Luz Bratcher, Amazon; Daniel Davis, WeWork; Dr Joseph Paradiso, MIT Media Lab; Marc Syp, NBBJ architecture firm.

The focus of this session was sensors, and how they are improving the work environment. MIT Media Lab’s Joseph Paradiso spoke of ambient spaces where rooms learn the conditions for an individual’s best productivity, while NBBJ’s Digital Compution leader Marc Syp shared his firm’s idea of a ‘sound map’, which predicts noise levels in open office space, hence shaping its build and furnishings. Dan Davis from WeWork argued architecture is currently space-focused rather than experience-focused due to a long lead time between the build and occupation, and highlighted his company’s office space feedback app which is shared directly with designers each day.

Listen to full discussion here

The World’s smartest city

Speakers: Theo Blackwell, Greater London Authority and Katherine Oliver, Bloomberg Associates.

London’s chief digital officer Theo Blackwell shared the challenges the city is facing to become the world’s smartest city. He explained the five sections in London’s digital plan: city-wide collaboration and innovation; a new deal for city data; world-class connectivity focusing on 5G; digital capability and skills for London’s residents and openness and responsible tech by collaborating with tech companies and other cities.

Read more here

How cities will drive autonomous vehicles

Speakers: Jennifer Bradley, Centre for Urban Innovation, the Aspen Institute; Brian Kenner, planning + economic development, Washington DC; Karina Ricks, department of mobility + infrastructure, Pittsburgh and Rob Spillar, Department of Transportation, Austin.

Discussion chair Jennifer Bradley highlighted how the growth of the “traditional” car industry meant cities were remade in service of cars, and that the rise of autonomous vehicles offers a chance to revise our infrastructure to show people are more important than machines. Karina Ricks shared the experiences of people in Pittsburgh, a city quick on the uptake of driverless cars, and explained that generally user experience was positive but that she’s sceptical this technology will reduce transportation costs. Washington DC’s Brian Kenner highlighted that we should not be so blindsided by this new innovation that we forget other modern transport methods, such as dockless bikes.

Listen to the full discussion here

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