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Rethinking Conferences in the New Decade

2020-03-23
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With the cancellation of Mobile World Congress 2020 — over health concerns related to the corona virus outbreak — just 12 days before it was due to take place, thousands of ICT professionals suddenly found that months and months of planning, and millions of dollars in budget spent, were seemingly laid to waste. Huawei was no exception in this regard.

Scheduled to appear at MWC for only the second time (the event has traditionally been more of a focus for Huawei’s Carrier Business Group), Huawei’s Enterprise Business Group (EBG) suddenly found itself challenged to find a new way to share the industry insights and updates that it had been planning to present.

To put it another way: In what way could EBG connect with the industry on a global scale without having to leave its home base?

That’s how the idea for EBG’s Industrial Digital Transformation Conference 2020 — Live was born.

Staged exclusively online, and matching MWC’s schedule — with livestreaming following Central European Time (CET) — the conference was hosted from Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters and focused on the idea of saying “Hi, Intelligent World,” as it covered digital transformation in the government, transportation, finance, and energy sectors.

With Shenzhen at the center, EBG widened its net, hosting speakers from all over the world, including locations in Canada, Dubai, Spain, the US, and Germany. Standing virtually shoulder-to-shoulder with decision-makers and thought-leaders from Huawei EBG itself, third party experts — from American research firm Forrester, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Economic Community, and research and analyst firm Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) — were also invited to present their ideas and thoughts.

A Vision for 2030

Kicking off with Huawei’s vision for the Intelligent World of 2030 — delivered by EBG Vice President Ma Yue — the conference was organized into five sessions, with day one focusing on “Industrial Digital Transformation,” exploring how new forms of connectivity, computing, platforms, and an industry ecosystem will enable progress over the next 10 years.

Other sessions zoomed in on specific products and solutions that will support the transformation toward an intelligent world. Here, EBG took the opportunity to launch its new lithium-ion SmartLi UPS product; a new generation of OceanStor Dorado storage; an expanded line-up of AirEngine Wi-Fi 6 Access Points (APs); and OptixTrans, a next generation Data Center Interconnect (DCI) product. All are designed to help enterprises embrace the intelligent era and digitally transform.

Enterprise campuses are at the heart of digital transformation, but as EBG Vice President Sun Fuyou explained, they are currently constrained by poor access experience, slow service innovation, and high energy consumption. However, in the future, user experience will be improved through the use of 5G-powered Wi-Fi 6. Meanwhile, all-optical network connections will reduce power consumption, and campus-wide network intelligence will vastly simplify Operations and Maintenance (O&M).

Similarly, as the influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) spreads, and Internet of Things (IoT) applications become prevalent, the proliferation of data will put immense pressure on data centers. The conference’s data storage session explored this pressing issue, looking to provide solutions to the challenges every organization will face.

And, in the spirit of cooperation and dialogue, every session and keynote of the conference featured a live chat function, allowing the global audience to interact — in real-time — with Huawei experts and staff.

Challenges and Opportunities

The famed theoretical physicist Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” That rang true here. Facing the cancellation of MWC, Huawei EBG’s bold experiment — and that’s really what it was — converting all of its content from offline to online not only reaped rewards, reaching a global audience of millions, but also taught lessons that can be taken into the future.

And while the value of face-to-face meetings is incalculable, there are questions to be asked when an online forum can produce tangible results. What, for instance, is the environmental impact of flying thousands of miles to deliver a speech? What are the logistical costs? And as nations across the world face uncertain and challenging times, what opportunities, as Einstein might have sought, are there for us to find?

More pressingly, how can this industry help? China is just one of the many countries, for example, currently engaged in the world’s largest experiment in distance learning by default, as schools and universities remain physically shuttered. Elsewhere, Huawei’s enterprise collaboration application — WeLink — has provided free video conference services to its users, to help people reduce face-to-face meetings. In this age of uncertainty, then, perhaps it’s time for our industry to step up?

If you missed the live broadcast and are interested in the Industrial Digital Transformation Conference 2020 — Live, visit https://e.huawei.com/topic/mwc2020/en/ to watch the keynotes and download all key materials.

We’d love to hear your feedback on any aspects of the conference. Please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below, or get in touch at web-ebg@huawei.com.

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