Your author, along with 6,000 other people, was able to behold the Victorian architecture of London’s Olympia Conference Centre when he attended TechEx last week. Billed as “a showcase of next-generation technologies”, over 200 companies and 150 senior level speakers from the likes of Meta Platforms, Salesforce, JP Morgan, Vodafone and more, were present to explore how best to deploy enterprise technology.

AI was inevitably front and centre of almost every presentation and informal discussion. To the extent that there was a common consensus, then it was around the idea that if 2023 was a year for experimentation with generative AI, then 2024 will be the year where there will be increasing real-world deployments. Greater familiarity with what AI can do (for example, summarising recordings of calls) coupled with a broader range of products coming to market (beyond just Microsoft’s copilot suite) were both cited as drivers likely to spur accelerated adoption.

Pragmatism rather than euphoria seemed to dominate many of the conversations your author had about AI – perhaps since he was largely speaking to those responsible for purchasing and then implementing the technology. Their views typically err towards the realistic. Common considerations related to the quality of existing data and data management tools as well as concerns aroundcyber protocols. Few wanted to rush to deploy unless they felt confident in the robustness of these critical infrastructure elements. “We can’t let data run wild” was the opinion of one executive.

Not every presentation or discussion fortuitously centred on AI. There was more commentary on the internet of things than your author might have expected. This is perhaps a reflection of the fact that the technological building blocks (particularly edge-to-cloud latency) had improved. Even more surprising was the fact that there remain a (small, and perhaps biased through self-interest) group of enthusiasts who continue to make the case for ‘defi’, namely blockchain, web3, NFTs and metaverse. Their time may come. One phrase, however, which cropped up with some regularity across many discussions was ‘intelligent automation.’ Take what you want it to mean, but certainly expect to hear it more in 2024.

6 December 2023

The above does not constitute investment advice and is the sole opinion of the author at the time of publication. Past performance is no guide to future performance and the value of investments and income from them can fall as well as rise.

Photos taken by the author

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Alex Gunz, Fund Manager

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