The South by Southwest (SXSW) festival brings thousands of people to Austin, Texas each year to experience the latest and upcoming stars in music, film and technology. SXSW Interactive, the technology tradeshow, drew an estimated crowd of more than 30,000 people from 74 countries in 2014. Interactive is a place for people to discover and be discovered. Trends for the next year begin to form and business deals are made behind closed doors between members of the digital world. So what happened this year?
The most infamous breakout star from past SXSW festivals is arguably Twitter, who presented their new social media idea at the 2007 show and left with a huge following. This year, however, there wasn’t a large app presence at the show. Instead, the focus shifted to gadgets – especially those you can wear.
In 2013, gadgets such as fitness bands, Google Glasses and watch phones came onto the market and at this year’s show there was a whole room dedicated to items like these. The piece of wearable technology that people seemed to get most excited about was Skully, a motorcycle helmet that allows its wearer to see in every direction with a rearview camera in the back. Other displays included solar-paneled clothing that will recharge your phone and a wristband that detects the user’s unique cardiac rhythm, eliminating the need to type passwords on their mobile device.
The Startup Village at Interactive holds a competition each year, called Accelerator, where entrepreneurs compete for best in show of different categories. This year, featured winners were Waygo, meant to be used while traveling and can translate any printed text via photo without internet connection (e.g. take a picture of Chinese symbols and read what it says in English); Synbiota, a web platform that allows groups of any size to create a virtual research institute with a click of a button, complete with DNA development tools and much more; and Trustev, which provides real time, online identity verification to eliminate fraud from your eCommerce transaction.
Privacy technology came to the forefront this year, with Edward Snowden, infamous NSA leaker and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks both teleconferencing in to the show. Both stressed the importance of the public creating encryption technology that protects user web activity.
The takeaways? Technology is integrating a person’s communication and information experience on the most personal level. Gadgets are unplugging, individuals will have access to more information than ever, and at the same time, privacy of individuals is becoming more of a priority.