South by Southwest, or SXSW, is an incredible experience of learning, networking, learning, networking, and later, some adult beverages with industry leaders and some of the greatest critical thinkers of our generation. With such a broad range of disciplines and sessions to attend at SXSW, I had meticulously planned out what sessions I would attend—down to the half hour—months beforehand.
Of course, this goes out the window by the second day.
Don’t get me wrong; arrive with a schedule in mind. But soon enough you’ll realize you’re surviving by searching five to six different twitter hashtags just to keep track of the sessions, meet ups, lounge spots, happy hours, free swag, food and drinks across downtown Austin.
SXSW is a lot like college when it comes to managing your time; you have full control as to what you see, learn, and do during the day and night. You may find yourself attending a tech happy hour one night after your last session and waking up to yoga or a group run before the next day’s sessions. And in your (very limited) free time, you can walk around the many lounges located around the Austin Conference Center—including the Oreo lounge where you can create a unique filling design for an Oreo cookie and have a 3d printer print it out before your eyes.
Just like life should, the conference promotes balance. SXSW has found quite an organic balance that allows it to showcase multiple different disciplines.
Secure your data, hack your health
Cybersecurity seemed to be the biggest theme at SXSW 2014, with featured talks from Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on how individuals can protect their private data and push for government transparency. But just as popular was the future of tech in healthcare and biometrics: robots to secure and manage prescriptions, augmented reality medical applications, and wearables that will give you up-to-date, real-time information about your glucose levels, for example.
The yearly trade show at SXSW highlighted some of the other emerging technologies. As tech marketing goes, there’s no better testbed and direct communication channel to your target market then SXSW. Companies and vendors know when they feature a product at SXSW, their customer already has some base knowledge about the product featured; they better be succinct and hyper-specialized when it comes to the product they are offering. Some of the cooler technologies featured in the trade show included beacons, face-detection based marketing, and real-time social dashboards that would allow anyone to manage the brand integrity for the most stringent of brands and companies.
Work, Play, Care
After almost a full week back from the lovely city of Austin, I’m still recovering. I will have some follow up articles breaking down some of the technologies highlighted above once I catch up on sleep.
Before that, however, I wanted to share one last thing I learned: The care of others is as important as the care of yourself. In light of what happened last Wednesday night at SXSW, please always take a cab or public transit if you’ve been drinking. In Austin, you can really get anywhere in the area for under $20. Please always make sure that the ones around you are safe—especially when they are as kind as the people I met in Austin. Take care of others just as much as you take care of yourself.
By Dave Wolf, Senior Developer