5 Technology Trends of The Web Summit 2021

8 November 2021, By Catarina Oliveira, Director of Canela Portugal

After the pause caused by the pandemic, the Web Summit 2021 has just closed a new on-site edition in Lisbon with more than 40,000 attendees. This makes it the largest technology event in southern Europe, along with the MWC in Barcelona. From Canela’s office in Portugal we have followed the main innovations that were presented. Below you will find a selection of the most interesting ones from our point of view.

The metaverse and the perverse side of Facebook

Facebook (now Meta) has been doubly present at the Web Summit 2021. On the one hand, Frances Haugen, the former employee and data scientist who leaked tens of thousands of internal documents about the ins and outs of this social network, was one of the most prominent speakers at the event. In her presentation and interviews with the media, she reiterated her denunciations of the most perverse effects of the algorithms that regulate its content.

On the other hand, the social network created by Mark Zuckerberg has “counterattacked” by presenting Meta. This is a new approach that aims to turn the platform into a “metaverse”, a virtual universe halfway between Second Life and the OASIS from the film Ready Player One. Although the move seems to have been precipitated by Facebook’s reputation crisis, experts see potential as virtual reality becomes more popular.

Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Web Summit via Sportsfile.

Artificial intelligence goes ambient

Amazon has presented us with a new concept that could revolutionise the way we understand the increasingly omnipresent virtual assistants: ambient intelligence. Instead of asking Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant to do things all the time, this trend is committed to the creation of intelligent environments that are capable of anticipating our needs at home, in the car, or at work…

Did you know, for example, that Alexa is already capable of performing more than 13,000 tasks, from playing music to regulating the heating? Next it will be able to do it without you having to ask, thanks to the incorporation of all kinds of sensors connected to the Internet of Things.

The next threat comes from app stores

Apple, who rarely attends other people’s events, also stopped by the Web Summit to warn us about the dangers of unsafe mobile apps.

With more than 5 billion apps available for download on the App Store and Google Play, the risk of our devices being infected by a download is greater than ever. That’s why Apple recommends not downloading apps from unofficial sites. At the same time, they are also criticising the European Commission’s plans to force manufacturers to allow the installation of third-party apps (known as sideloading).

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Web Summit via Sportsfile.

The money of the future: cryptocurrencies, tokens and NFTs

With cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum breaking trading records, the future of the digital economy was also very much in the spotlight at Web Summit 2021. The CEO of Sorare, a French fantasy games platform based on blockchain technology that is valued at more than $4 billion, explained how so-called non fungible tokens (NFT) are creating a new concept of ownership in the digital universe.

Music, art, finance – anything that has value in the real world will eventually have an equivalent digital certificate on the internet. But NFTs and cryptocurrencies will also be used to trade digital-only goods: from video game upgrades to virtual goods and services in the various metaverses to come.

Live commerce, the new way to sell online

Of course, at the Web Summit 2021 there was also a lot of talk about digital marketing and e-commerce. One new feature that promises to be a big hit in 2022 was mentioned: live commerce.

Live commerce consists of an influencer or celebrity presenting a product live to their followers via streaming. During the session, attendees can watch demonstrations, get feedback from other users, ask questions and, of course, buy with just one click. This sales system is all the rage in China, through platforms such as Taobao Live, and promises to give influencer marketing a new twist.

And what's more... startups are making way for the giants

Apart from the big tech giants, more than 1,500 startups from 128 countries were present at this year’s Web Summit 2021. Some of them, such as Spotify and Proton, have warned about the excessive market power of the Big Five (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft), which in practice makes them an oligopoly.

We have also seen innovations from Portuguese and Spanish companies: from the smart toilet that saves water and analyses your urine proposed by Ablute; to the online heart monitoring platform Idoven, presented by Iker Casillas.

And beyond the media showcase (this year celebrities such as the footballer Thierry Henry, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, Ayọ Tometi, and the actor Nikola Coster-Waldau, who plays Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones, have attended the event), the Lisbon Web Summit is above all a meeting point for investors and entrepreneurs, where some of the “unicorns” of the coming years come to light.

Which of these new trends do you find most interesting? Share the post and comment!

Catarina Oliveira is the director of Canela Portugal.