Emerging innovations at SXSW

The emerging technology sector is a big part of the SXSW festival, which takes place annually in Austin, Texas. This year, Mattias Forsberg, the head of SAS’ digital innovation, was there to find out what trends will impact the aviation industry.

Getting on top of 
Artificial Intelligence

“Most large businesses, including SAS, are starting to use AI,” says Mattias Forsberg, SAS Chief Information Officer. “At SXSW, the discussion had changed from if we should use AI to how to use it in the best way. We also need to accept that with AI, mistakes will happen, just as with people. So we need to create robust systems and processes. Another challenge is that you need real data for training and to make AI work, but you only get that through real customer interaction. That’s why we’re rolling out the SAS digital travel companion Turi gradually. As we get more data, it will be expanded.” 

The fall of the tech giants

“There was a lot of buzz at SXSW about whether the tech giants might be split up, as they’re too dominant,” Forsberg says. “This will affect SAS as we make lots of sales through our direct channels, and Google, for example, is very dominant when it comes to sending us traffic. So the future of the tech giants affects who we do business with. We need to understand what’s going to happen and be careful about it.”

Unlocking data

“Companies like SAS digitalized their business many years ago,” Forsberg says. “And in the process, they unknowingly locked data in many different systems which operate as silos. At SXSW there were lots of ideas about how to unlock that data. We can’t have silos anymore. And we need to make sure we can use data to give better service to our customers, by, for example, providing information via digital devices, which today, every customer has. We also need to work with data security, to avoid being vulnerable to attacks and to prevent data from being misused.”  

Self-driving electric cars will be with us very soon.

Transportation will never be the same

“The arrival of autonomous vehicles created one of the biggest buzzes at SXSW this year,” Forsberg says. “Self-driving electric cars will be with us very soon. They’ll provide opportunities for commuters to work en route, meaning people will be happier to spend time in cars. This could have an impact on our short-haul routes. The development of Hyperloop trains, which operate in vacuums created in tunnels and could mean train journeys between Stockholm and Helsinki of 30 minutes, will have a similar impact. Uber, meanwhile, aims to have flying taxis in the air in five years. Electric flying vehicles could be a big opportunity for SAS. We need to understand all the trends and dramatic changes to the transportation industry discussed at SXSW and prepare for how they will impact our business.” 


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